Thursday, 4th August

1. A good blog post by Bill Bowler for Oxford University Press (with some acceptable product placement!), 5 Golden rules to help students read English in their free time

“It’s better to read four short, simple, fun books than struggle with one long book that’s too hard”, says Bill.

2. Reading, it turns out, was the only area where attainment went up during the pandemic, according to the Department (Ministry) of Education for England’s ‘national headlines’ for Key stage 2 attainment  Everything else went down, in some cases quite a lot … PDF below.

3. The other three countries in the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland Scotland and Wales all have their own departments of education. None of them seem to have done a similar exercise to the English one, though, or not that I can find.

4. And, finally, six short (five- or six-minute) videos in the English Teaching Talks series by Renee Selikowitz to watch on your own, with colleagues or with trainees, to help you select and use effective resources with your students, Managing resources

Other topics in the series include Integrating ICT with Nik Peachey

Assessing learning with Carolyn Westbrook and Richard Spiby

Learning Outside the Classroom with Claudia Rey

and Inclusion with Susan Douglas

Recommended dosage? One a day on the journey home from school!

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Tuesday, 2nd August

1. ’On disadvantage’ is a thoughtful blog post by Birmingham Teacher, a.k.a. Claire Stoneman

“But yes, the term ‘disadvantaged’ is rubbish. I don’t think any labels are helpful. Thankfully, when I was at school, I was not labelled. I could have been ‘Free school meals Claire Stoneman’ or ‘Disabled parents Claire Stoneman’ or ‘Young carer Claire Stoneman’. I am forever grateful to my school for not making assumptions about me, other than the assumption that I could and would achieve.”

2. Several good pieces from the Farnam Street Brain Food weekly newsletter:

i) The Two Types of Knowledge: The Max Planck/Chauffeur Test read it just for the ‘Munich lecture’ anecdote with which the piece begins, if you don’t already know it;

ii) an interview with Kunal Shah about Why choosing your friends matters

iii) an excerpt from “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest.”

iv) “The Art of Being Alone” “Loneliness has more to do with our perceptions than how much company we have. It’s just as possible to be painfully lonely surrounded by people as it is to be content with little social contact.”

You can sign up for Brain Food here

3. Here’s the latest edition of a new weekly newsletter, The Knowledge, which begins with a wonderful video of the England women’s football team gate-crashing (and much enlivening) the post-match press conference after their victory over Germany on Sunday

You can sign up for The Knowledge here

4. And, finally, this year’s Noirwich Crime Writing Festival runs from September

You can find recordings of all the previous two years’ events here Scroll down for a favourite of mine, David Peace, talking about his Tokyo trilogy.

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Thursday, 28th July

1. A ‘golden oldie’ on translanguaging from NALDIC that I stumbled across the other day

This is the NALDIC home page

2. One from Mel B (who, thus labelled, may now never speak to me again) on How our brains cope with speaking more than one language, prompted by her memory of my telling her how years ago I’d become exasperated with a Paris waiter who, simpleton that he was, couldn’t understand my simple order for two beers and an apple juice – that I was making in Croatian!

3. This one is not from Mel C, as you might have expected, but from Ann V, Bringing the outside in: merging local language practices to enhance classroom learning and achievement

On the ‘project blog’ page, you can find the recordings of a number of interesting webinars  that the Bringing the Outside in project have hosted

4. My erstwhile – great word that I can now use! – colleagues in China have an interesting job on offer

Closing date 8th August. Please share with anyone you think might be interested. (Open to UK and China nationals only for reasons to do with local employment law.)

5. And, finally, loath though I am to praise the monster that is Google, this is fun! Best on a laptop or tablet, maybe?

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Tuesday, 25th July

1. As my mother might say, I wasn’t born yesterday, nor did I come down the Swale in a tub, but this is the first I’ve heard of the terms em-dash and en-dash: I rather like The Punctuation Guide!

2. So what did you think ‘kitchen’ meant? Nope! Someone let me know if this is subscriber only, please.

3. One possibly unexpected consequence of the pandemic is that many young school pupils can’t really write any more My own writing dropped off a cliff many years ago!

4. A poignant piece of writing from Mieko Kawakami in a new magazine I’d not come across before, Astra

5. And, finally, another reason for not going back to university or work – too much CO² in the lecture theatres and meeting rooms! The whole, rather technical Twitter thread on CO² meters is here

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Thursday, 21st July

1. Free access to a wide range of resources for ninety days from Oxford University Press: Nothing to lose on this one except your e-mail address, as far as I can see!

2. A thoughtful piece from Devi Sridhar of Edinburgh University, As Covid deaths in the UK pass the grim milestone of 200,000, what have we learned?

plus a review of Unvaccinated – ‘the most infuriating TV show of the year so far’ – in which the scientist Hannah Fry tries to reason with seven vaccine refuseniks

3. Just started on TeachingEnglish, a new ‘Teaching Pathways’ course, Online skills for 21st century teachers

I like the course description: “Enhance your understanding of digital citizenship and your ability to help learners protect themselves online, be kind to others and assess information they find.”

4. And, finally, three pieces from The Conversation:

one on very early language learning

one on our herd instinct

and one that suggests that Big Pharma’s cure for depression was and is too good to be true

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Tuesday, 19th July

1. Here’s the latest two episodes in Alexandra Mihai’s “Around the world” podcast series: Jenny Frederick from Yale University on Leading an Integrated Center (sic!) for Teaching and Learning and Simon Beausaert from Maastricht University on A Research-Based Approach to Faculty Development.

Here’s her latest blog post, on What’s next for online education?

“It is perhaps a good moment to try to emerge from the “pandemic fog” and think – realistically, with all the cards on the table – about our options for providing quality Higher Education in the future,” Alexandra observes.

2. And here’s the latest Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) ‘Evidence into Action’ podcast, in which an expert panel discuss the evidence around how to prepare pupils for exams effectively, Supporting pupils during exams Scroll down for all the other episodes.

3. I listened to the latest episode of A Good Read on the way home from Yorkshire this afternoon and enjoyed it as I nearly always do – when I remember to listen! Today’s episode discussed books by John le Carré, Robert Macfarlane and Janice Galloway.

Six hundred and twenty-two (!) other episodes archived here

4. And, finally and divisively, Marmite! Now proven to be good for you, like it or not!

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Thursday, 14th July

1. Next Tuesday, 19th July, at 12:00 UK time, Simon Borg’s leading a webinar for teacher educators, looking at the competences they need to develop to support teachers online

It’s based on a research paper Simon wrote for the British Council PDF below, just in case.

2. And next Thursday, 21st July, at 12:00 UK time, George Chilton, the Creative Director at Hubbub Labs, is leading a webinar looking at going beyond teaching into a career in materials writing

“The question is,” says George, “is writing the pathway for you?”

3. I did my first f2f training session (for many years!) earlier today for NILE in Norwich with a group of French teacher educators, a comparative look at the Eaquals, Cambridge and British Council frameworks for teacher and teacher educator professional development. I put together a handout with the key links and I’ve attached it below. Some similarities; some differences!

4. And, finally, a podcast that will delight some of you and confuse slightly more of you completely, The Nightwatchman

And, no, a nightwatchman does not look after a factory overnight!

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Tuesday, 12th July

1. Three pieces from the international edition of Der Spiegel:

i) a very forthright piece on Boris Johnson’s fall from grace

ii) a visit to Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s home town

iii) an interview with the Afghan Minister of the Interior, Anas Haqqani

2. Is this a development that we should welcome, notwithstanding its genesis?

3. The UK National Poetry Day website has had a revamp in preparation for this year’s celebration on 6th October Lots of individual poems here and resources and lesson plans here Try this one from the new Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho or James Carter’s suggestions for using his poem, Kennings, in class PDF of the Kennings resource below.

4. And, finally, how about some window shopping on this photography site? Here’s one of my favourites, a goose-stepping bird What I didn’t know, though, is that the goose-step has absolutely nothing to do with geese (or any other kind of bird)

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Thursday, 7th July

1. NATESOL’s next free webinar is this Saturday, 9th July at 10:00 UK time with Marijana Macis from Manchester Metropolitan University: Teaching Collocations in the EFL Classroom: New Insights from Research. How are collocations best taught?

More info and registration here

2. Also on Saturday, at 15:00 UK time, Gamification and Language Learning is the title of Deborah Healey’s Facebook Live event for Eduling International. What are the important considerations when games are used in the classroom?

More info and registration here

 3. The next Eaquals webinar is next Tuesday, 12th July at 10:00 UK time: Sue Hackett will be talking about Academic Integrity: issues, challenges and considerations for an online world. What is academic integrity and what does it mean for an international student in particular?

More info and registration here

4. And, finally and with apologies to those of you who never want to hear another word about Boris Johnson, something that may seem a little eccentric. I was walking home from the supermarket yesterday evening, listening to Far from the Madding Crowd and came across this description of Sergeant Troy, Bathsheba’s cad of a suitor, which rang a contemporary bell PDF below.

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Tuesday, 5th July

1. Here’s a piece from Nature Neuroscience with no fewer than 24 credited authors, Shared computational principles for language processing in humans and deep language models (DLMs) Worth persevering with: not as difficult a read as it might seem at first sight.

“DLMs learn language from real-world textual examples ‘in the wild’, with minimal or no explicit prior knowledge about language structure. Autoregressive DLMs do not parse words into parts of speech or apply explicit syntactic transformations. Rather, they learn to encode a sequence of words into a numerical vector, termed a contextual embedding, from which the model decodes the next word. After learning, the next-word prediction principle allows the generation of well-formed, novel, context-aware texts.” Much the same as we do, apparently! PDF below.

Thanks to EL Gazette for that one – their latest issue is here:

2. Something we all knew instinctively? Struggling to learn a language? 6 tips on how pop songs can help by a team from Charles Sturt University in Australia in The Conversation

Includes as an example task the song These Days by a group from South Africa that I’d not heard of before, The Rudimentals,

One of the authors’ six tips is, ‘Avoid using textbooks or sources that don’t interest learners or they are less able to relate to.’ Easier said than done for most teachers?

3. Two summaries from the latest OASIS research database update next:

1. Examining non-native second language teachers’ decremental beliefs toward their target language proficiency ‘Decremental’ is a new one on me! PDF below.

2. Teachers misunderstanding of translanguaging in preschool Good intentions on the part of the teachers that seem to have gone well off track. PDF below.

4. And, finally, a wonderful discovery made yesterday, Dancing at Dusk: a moment with Pina Bausch’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ performed on a beach in Senegal by a specially-recruited ensemble of 38 dancers from 14 African countries Only available till midday UK time on 11th July.

There’s a bit more background to the project from Sarah Crompton of Sadler’s Wells here Even in lockdown, you can dance on the beach!

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