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Using e-books to enhance the learning experience for your students

webinarpicAhead of our webinar on using e-books in class, Stacey Hughes, an Oxford teacher trainer with 20 years teaching experience, looks at how using e-books can enhance the learning experience for your students.

As e-books become more popular, you may find yourself asking what all the hype is about. After all, an e-book is just a book on a screen, right?

Not anymore. While early e-books just replicated the print book, today’s e-books have enhanced features.  Video and audio plays straight from the page, and some e-books let students slow down the audio, record their own version, and compare to the original.  Students can answer questions, and then check if they’ve got the answers right straight away with automatic marking.  They can create written or voice recorded notes, draw on the page, and highlight words they might be struggling to pronounce so they can go back later to practice them. And if you set your students a page to complete for homework, once they’ve finished the student can email the page to you for marking.

All these interactive features are great, but pose a challenge for teachers who are new to e-books. How do you teach with an e-book?  How do you manage the class?  How do you balance the activities in class to include pair and group work alongside the e-book?

In my upcoming webinar I will talk about different types of e-book and how you can start using them. I will highlight common interactive features and tools and give practical ideas on how to exploit these for learning. I’ll also give tips for how to effectively manage the use of e-books in a class.

e-Books have been shown to increase student motivation and their popularity is on the rise, so now is a great time to see what they’re all about and whether they’re right for you and your classes. Join me for my webinar entitled ‘Using e-books in class: practical tips and ideas’ on 9th or 10th September 2015.



21st Century Skills in ELT Part 2: the question-centred approach

classroom_students_teenagersShaun Crowley has worked as an EFL teacher and a marketing manager for an international ELT publisher. He is the founder of www.linguavote.com, an e-learning platform for learners of English that features social learning and gamification. Follow Shaun on Twitter: @shauncrowleyIn Part 1 of this series, Shaun Crowley considered the importance of 21st Century Skills in ELT, concluding that the group of competencies that define this term are indeed important to English language learning. In the next four posts, Shaun continues by offering ideas to help you integrate some of these skills into your classes.

Critical thinking skills are some of the key “21st Century” competencies, so it’s no surprise that we’re starting to see publishers position their course books with this benefit up-front, from primary to tertiary level.

Here is an idea to help you maximize opportunities for critical thinking, so that your students are better prepared for the rigours of university education and the professional workplace.

Adopt a “question-centred” approach to your classes

Since the recent curriculum reforms in the US, a question-centred approach to teaching has been gaining popularity in schools. Teachers start a module with a big question. Students consider this question critically, and over the course of the module they synthesize information to form a conclusion in the form of a final homework assignment.

This approach first made its way into ELT with the publication of Q Skills for Success. But whatever course you are using, so long as you have enough time to step out of the materials, it should be possible to customize your lessons to feature an “essential question”.

For example, Headway Elementary Unit 4 is called “Take it easy” and follows the topic of leisure activities. Before you start this unit, you could write this question on the board:

“What makes the perfect leisure activity?”

Perhaps search for a YouTube video that offers a nice way-in to thinking about the question… here’s one I found following a quick search:

Pre-teach some of the main vocabulary items that fit into the question theme. Then spend a few minutes discussing the question and gauging students’ opinions before you open the book.

As you go through the unit, use the various listening and reading texts as opportunities to return to the big question, encouraging students to synthesize and evaluate the different input.  For example, in the “Take it easy” unit, there’s a text called “My favourite season.” Here you could ask:

Is the perfect leisure activity one that you can do in any season?

Return to the big question any time you see a link to the course material you are using. Then at the end of the unit, have students write an answer to the question for homework. If students are not in the routine of doing homework, round off the question with a class discussion.

Have you adopted a similar approach to your classes? If you have, we’d love to hear how you apply the question-centred method.

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Back to basics: can we teach ‘unplugged’?

shutterstock_248203858Andrew Dilger is a freelance teacher, trainer and editor. He graduated from Oxford University and has 25 years’ experience working in ELT. He is a CELTA- and DELTA-qualified teacher. He has taught English in Italy, Croatia and the UK and has given training sessions in over 10 different countries. He has also edited a wide range of materials for major ELT publishers, as well as having been Managing Editor of the Professional Development list at Oxford University Press. Ahead of his webinar ‘Published resources vs. teaching unplugged’ on July 23rd, Andrew summarizes what he’ll be covering during the session.

Published resources these days are incredibly useful … and SO multimodal! But do you sometimes hanker for something a bit more simple and ‘unplugged’? This webinar will consider ideas for creating more learner-centred moments in your lessons to sustain motivation in both you and your students – all with a minimum of preparation!

As the well-earned summer break approaches, perhaps you’re looking to re-evaluate how you teach. Maybe even restore some of that idealism you had at the start of your career? Or perhaps you’re looking to simply get a handful of cracking new ideas to try out when you start up again in September. Both of these options are possible in this webinar, which will focus firmly on practical issues arising from our continuing ‘journey’ as English language teachers.

We’ll evaluate why published resources are so important but also what their potential limitations are. In addition, we’ll assess how possible or advisable it is to ‘unplug’ your lessons completely in an age when our students (and school management) expect us to be technologically up-to-date.

Topics which will be covered include:

  • Your ‘desert-island’ coursebook
  • What does ‘unplugged’ really mean?
  • The teaching-learning space
  • Grammar (the ‘G-word!)
  • The mother of all lesson plans
  • Activities guaranteed to put learners at the centre
  • The power of the infographic
  • Digital-only resources

During the webinar, there’ll be opportunities for you to share experiences, insights, tips (and even grumbles!) with teaching colleagues and members of the ‘OUP family’ from around the world.

To find out more and join Andrew at this free webinar, please follow the link below and register.



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21st Century Skills in ELT Part 1: The rise of 21st Century Skills

Blended and cooperative learning in EAP

Shaun Crowley has worked as an EFL teacher and a marketing manager for an international ELT publisher. He is the founder of www.linguavote.com, an e-learning platform for learners of English that features social learning and gamification. Follow Shaun on Twitter: @shauncrowley

In ELT we often regard our profession to be independent of teaching subjects like maths and science. That said, many of the approaches and materials we use are influenced by wider trends in education – from constructivist thinking in the 80’s that influenced the publication of Headway, to the recent “flipped learning” approach that’s inspiring some EFL teachers to rethink blended learning.

In American mainstream education there is an increasing emphasis on a concept referred to as “21st Century Skills” – a collection of various competencies that are regarded as being important for success in life, such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, digital literacy, creativity, problem solving, environmental awareness and self-expression.

Now let’s be honest – it’s a bit of a buzzword, with a meaning that’s open to interpretation. But the essential concept is pertinent: the ability to combine the subject you’re learning, with the skills and awareness that you need to apply your knowledge of the subject successfully.

In ELT terms, I would interpret 21st Century Skills as:

  • Analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating materials written in English
  • Developing a “voice” on a topic and expressing it in English
  • Researching materials and solving problems that are presented in English
  • Being creative in English and taking communicative risks in pursuit of fluency
  • Collaborating in diverse international teams, communicating in English
  • Respecting international cultures and sensitivities
  • Presenting yourself professionally in English
  • Being able to use software to express yourself in English
  • Being able to navigate software and digital content that’s presented in English
  • Having the self-discipline to study English independently, and “learning how to learn”.

This probably isn’t an exhaustive list but already it is clear how relevant 21st Century Skills are to ELT, particularly in today’s interconnected world where English is the lingua-franca.

And when we look specifically at the expected outcomes of English classes in schools and universities, it is even more evident that 21st Century Skills have increasing importance.

21st Century skills and the changing ELT landscape

When I first started promoting ELT materials 10 years ago, there was a sizable market of end-users we playfully referred to as “EFNAR” (English for no apparent reason).

These days, English is considered in most places as a foundation subject, a universal requirement for success in later life. Students are aware that English is a necessity for their CVs, particularly if they harbour ambitions to work for an international company.

In many countries, English has become a preparatory subject in universities, partly because of the rise of English medium instruction on undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

These trends have implications on the type of English students must learn, but they also have implications on the interpersonal, cognitive and technical skills that students need to apply to function effectively in English.

Meanwhile, our students’ online worlds are bringing 21st Century skills to the surface even when they are at home… in gaming (collaborating as part of an international team on the Xbox), social networking (sharing thoughts with an international audience), and internet browsing (being able to quickly evaluate the validity of English websites found on Google).

So if we ask how ELT will be influenced by future trends in mainstream education, I would suggest that 21st Century Skills will become a lot more integrated into the language learning process.

What might that look like?  In my next posts I will offer four ideas for integrating some of these competencies in class and as part of a blended learning curriculum.

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World Environment Day: Going paper-free in your EFL Classroom


This Friday, June 5th, marks UN World Environment Day, a day recognised to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the environment. With the theme this year being: ‘Seven Billion Dreams. One planet. Consume with care’, it’s worth looking at our every day practices, particularly in the classroom, and asking where we can conserve and reduce our consumption of resources. With the online resource of our Oxford Teacher’s Club and thousands of digital materials ready for download, we thought this week would be a great time to put together a collection of articles supporting paper-free and digital English language teaching. 

Teaching a lesson with e-books

Teaching with Web 2.0 Tools (Part 1)

Teaching with Web 2.0 Tools (Part 2)

Teaching with Web 2.0 Tools (Part 3)

Flipping and Creating Video Presentations

Getting English language students to practise out of class

How do you use OUP digital resources in your class?

Using Social Media and Smart Devices effectively in your classroom

#EFLproblems – Facing your technology fears

The value of Virtual Learning Environments for Business English

Edmodo: Introducing the virtual classroom

5 Apps Every Teacher Should Have

So you want to teach online?

White paper on Tablets and Apps in School

Adapting online materials to suit your students

Using blogs to create web-based English courses


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