Of Elvis, Homer and The Gruffelo

Do you know how to get a bunch of English teachers fanatically holding bricks and ropes up into the air? Give them some sounds from “The Sick Note” (The Dubliners) and picture cards and they will be fine. “Music on my mind – music in the English classroom” was the first workshop I took and I left it completely inspired and with a catchy tune for the day. I learned that music can have the same effect on your brain as praise or reward. So it’s not surprising that songs can serve as perfect teaching material – but keep in mind the golden rule “Go with the flow – find out what interests your students and if they don’t like it, don’t do it!” But would you have guessed that “Dear Future Husband” is perfect for introducing personal letter writing? Or Ed Sheeran’s “Nancy Mulligan” for linking to the tragedy of Romeo&Juliet? So tune up music in the classroom!

Next, Mike Riley showed me what Elvis and The Gruffalo can teach us all about enganging students – and thereby masterfully managed to also engange his audience. Here are his quick tips with useful resources:
1) Make it interesting for your learners! (Elvis)     – Have a look at onestopenglish
2) Make it a shared experience! (The Gruffalo)    – Macmillan Book for Teachers – 500 Activities for the Primary Classroom
3) Do it with feeling! (Maja Angelou, poet)    – Macmillan Book for Teachers – 700 Classroom Activities
4) Be yourself (Homer Simpson)   – Have a look…in the mirror
5) Be curious! (Richard Feynman, nobel-prize winner)   – dive into NILE courses
6) Take risks! (Evel Knievel, stuntman) – Have a look at a Macmillan Book for Teachers that you have always avoided
7) An element of mystery (Mona Lisa)  – onestopenglish, search “mystery”
(Yes, Mike Riley works for Macmillan ;-))

Edward de Chazal focused on “Lose those words – how to write shorter, more effective, texts” and thereby addressed a common problem among students. He showed us how to shorten a text of 300 words to an abstract of only 100. I was delighted to find out that his 7-step-technique is based on English for Academic Purposes (Oxford University Press), a book that is commonly used in the EAP courses at Graz University. One especially useful tip he gave us was to print out the final draft of a text with changed font, size and colour and check it for a last time. Just try it!

Last but not least, I had the honour to meet the gorgeous Penny Ur and find out about useful hints for giving homework. Check out her “100 Teaching Tips” if you’re interested!

Before I say good night after such an inspiring day, I want to pass on my catchy tune of the day 😉 So, if I was the student, would you be the teacher? (And teach me if-clauses with this song?)

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