It’s the start of the new year and everyone is busy making resolutions. The internet is filled with apps to help you learn a new skill or give up bad habits, blogsites and articles to encourage you to read more, and websites encouraging you to travel and enjoy the outdoors. Ultimately, we all seem to have similar goals: to improve ourselves and to live our lives to the fullest by trying out new things, seeing new places and simply making life more enjoyable.
So what resolutions can the English language teacher set for themselves so as to make 2017 productive, fulfilling and enjoyable?
Here are 12 suggestions…one for each month of the year.
1. January: Use a film or video clip in class
Please note that I am by no means talking about putting on a full feature-length film for the entire duration of your lesson because you couldn’t be bothered to interact with your students. But videos are a great way of engaging and motivating students, and providing an interesting context and platform for a lesson. Consider using YouTube videos, TED talks, scenes from films and short films as a basis for your lesson. If you are stuck for ideas, Kieran Donaghy runs an award-winning site that provides ideas and lesson plans designed around films and video clips.
2. February: Add some drama
Try your hand at doing some drama with the students. This can range from simple drama activities to improvisation and an actual class project of putting on a play. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
3. March: Dabble with new technology
Use a new app or programme that you’ve never used before in your teaching.
Here are some ideas: Start a class Facebook group or a class blog; Use Google docs to share information, have discussions, and give out homework; use a live polling app; help students to create study sets and quizzes to encourage learning; gamify your classroom and use fun games to engage students; video your lesson and watch it back when you are on your own.
4. April: Incorporate work with a travel experience
Go to a conference in a city you have never been to (IATEFL 2017 will be held in Glasgow in April, and ETp Live! will take place in Brighton in June); do a course in your favourite country; become an examiner or assessor who is required to travel to schools in different towns; deliver a workshop or course for a local teaching association or a school based in a different city in your county. Travelling does not have to incur more of your precious annual leave.
5. May: Find alternative ways to teach grammar
Research methods of teaching grammar in a different way from the one you’re used to. Here’s a good place to start: From Rules to Reason.
6. June: Design a field trip
So many New Year resolutions involve being more active, getting fit, and enjoying the outdoors more. Consider incorporating this into your lessons and create a lesson plan that takes your class outside of school.
Send students on a treasure hunt where they have to solve puzzles for clues to the next location; Have students give presentations at monuments or places of interest; Work with students in an Escape The Room experience; plant a tree as a class; take your regular lesson to the park and have a picnic. Click here for more ideas on field trips.
7. July: Take a course
Aside from the formal qualifications like the CELTA, DELTA, Cert IBET, and MA TESOL, you could also look into Erasmus+-funded week-long courses (like this one) that could refresh your teaching and provide new ideas for you to experiment with in through new year.
There are also many courses you can also take online while remaining in the comfort of your own home. Consider participating in EVO 2017 for free workshops for English language educators or search for free ELT MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) online and you might find a few that interest you. Udemy also offers a wide range of courses (not just on English language teaching) that might inspire you.
If you feel like you are unable to commit to doing a course for a period of time, you could attend an online webinar instead. Many teaching organisations like IATEFL or the British Council, and publishers like Macmillan, OUP, and CUP all offer free webinars for professional development. Keep a look out for them on social media.
8. August: Read something useful every day
This sounds more intimidating than it really is but the truth is many of us read on our smartphones every day: a Facebook update, a short article about the top 20 celebrities who look like animals, a list of potential Amazon purchases to add to your wishlist, etc. Some of us are guilty of spending the last few moments before we sleep scrolling updates on people/things that we are not even that interested in.
While we don’t want to inundate our brain with heavy reading about Chomsky or systemic functional grammar, we can still make bedside reading an interesting and useful one. Consider blogposts and short articles from teaching magazines/journals like Voices, Modern English Teacher or English Teaching Professional. (I will admit to always having a copy of the latest issue of ETp by my bedside, not because I work with ETp, but because I genuinely enjoy flipping through the magazine before bedtime.)
9. September: Help your students with soft skills
While our main job is to help students learn a language, essential skills such as critical thinking, intercultural communication, presentation and negotiation skills are key to helping students put the language into effective use. For every week this month, read something about teaching one of the soft skills and incorporate it into your lessons.
10. October: Give course books and ELT materials a rest
Make use of authentic materials not just to provide lexico-grammar and reading practice but as a springboard for interesting discussions. Consider giving students tasks with real world consequences and tasks that might involve them interacting with the real world in English (e.g. Skyping someone from another country, emailing someone for information, writing a comment to a blogpost, writing a letter to the comments section of a paper); Walk into class one day with nothing but a pen and use the students as your resource. (see: Dogme)
11. November: Share your ideas
As you experiment, learn and develop, don’t forget to share your new-found knowledge and skills with your colleagues. Consider conducting teacher development sessions for fellow teachers in your school and use the opportunity to share ideas, gather feedback and discuss potential paths of development.
But don’t limit your definition of colleagues to those in your physical environment i.e. your school building. Consider how you can also share with fellow teachers you might meet online (and if you haven’t met any teachers online, consider joining an ELT social media group e.g. Facebook or Google Plus and grow an online Personal Learning Network (PLN).
Share your journey with the global network of English teachers by writing blogposts, providing a voice when they crowd-source, giving conference talks or webinars, or simply being there via direct messaging to encourage and lend a listening ear.
12. December: Get published in a magazine or publication
Many ELT magazines and journals are looking for contributors. Consider writing for your school newsletter, Modern English Teacher, or English Teaching Professional. Go here to find out about writing for ETp and here for MET.
So what will you be getting up to this new year?