explore

Reasons to explore your staffroom

What’s your staffroom like? Do you know what’s in all those cupboards and drawers? Is there dust collecting on most of the supplementary materials? What’s in that unlabelled ring binder?

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copyright OUP

I’m lucky to have worked in some really well-stocked staffrooms. I mean, the one in LTC Eastbourne had EVERYTHING – they were hoarders. Never had they thrown out a cassette tape(!), a freebie, a flashcard, a material produced in-house… it was a veritable ELT jungle. Despite the abundance of materials, I rarely explored the bookshelves and cupboards. The day I did… wow! Thirty minutes of rummaging saved me about 10 hours planning in the long run. It also resulted in me trialling ‘Teaching with Bear’, which wasn’t my finest hour. I can’t think why my intermediate adults didn’t take to it…

If I were inducting new staff I’d certainly schedule half an hour of staffroom rummaging. We don’t really make the most of the staffroom resources in my centre. We prepare almost everything on our computers, and search for supplementary materials online. Sure, it’s more convenient. It just that there’s a whole other wall of lesson inspiration just sitting there, and most of us have our backs to it!

So, yesterday I finally turned around. I was right, I knew I’d find something worthwhile. No ‘Teaching with Bear’ though…

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This book by Jamie Keddie was mentioned during my MA module in Materials Development. It’s full of great tasks for making the most of images and sometimes building whole lessons around them. ‘Noun Marriages’ looks like a good task, might give it a go soon…

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This ‘Top Tips for IELTS’ book is quite good too. It’s full of short tasks for practising different skills and strategies. It summaries key information about the course, and has quite a few of those tiny tips that really count for a lot of marks…

Most of the tips are also in IELTS course books I’ve used, but it’s nice to have them packaged in a self-study guide. There are about 10 copies in our cupboard… *mental note for my next IELTS course*

There are 10 of these in the cupboard. I’ve never actually used graded readers (shock!). Our ‘summer school’ is around April time here so I can see these coming in handy.

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I’ve been chatting about intercultural communication a bit with one of our senior teachers. Saw this book tucked away among the frequently used Speaking/Reading/Listening/Collocations Extras…

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Not sure how I can get these activities into my adult classes as we have a set syllabus. Still, a quick flick through revealed loads of topics I didn’t know about (embarrassing), so I better get learning!

Hofstede model, hmmm…

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Old looking book = probably quite good but been overlooked for too long. Another interesting activities bank. I like the way the book is divided, particularly into ‘controlled activities’ and ‘awareness activities’. The awareness section has a tasks on pronunciation, cultural awareness, and discourse which will be useful for my learners…

I also found a book called ‘Homework’ by Lesley Painter (OUP, 2003). It was in pristine condition. I can imagine why, as who would want to pick up a book with that title?!

Turns out it’s got a lot of good activities in it, and they don’t all have to be for homework either!

I liked this task the best, useful in a city like Bangkok:

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This is a good reference for introducing new vocabulary. I wish I’d found this when I first started out. It’s less useful for me now, but it’ll still provide a good way in for basic topics I’ve never taught. Good for teaching ‘starter’ classes in our centre for sure…

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About ten years ago somebody wrote this awesome self-study pronunciation programme at our centre. I found this tucked away on a random shelf. Researched it – apparently the authors won an Elton award for the book in 2006.

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Full of great activities, segmental and suprasegmental tasks. It will help me come up with tasks when materials writing I’m sure – no point reinventing the wheel.

Certainly a worthwhile rummage. I expected nothing less in a British Council staffroom – there are books aplenty.

So, what hidden gems will you find in your staffroom?

#exploreyourstaffroom

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8 comments

  1. “Teaching With Bear”, that brings a lot of memories back when you decided to use bear a lot to supplement your lessons one time! 😂

    Good to see a useful idea about taking some time to check out a Centre’s resources. I would highly recommend it, particularly for a Centre who has never decided to throw anything away.

    I would also recommend Centres to look after resources, especially the more popular titles. In our case the spiral bound photocopiable materials are most popular with these being used by teachers and I decided to laminate these so that they would not deteriorate or tear. Seems a very good idea and surprised our Centre hadn’t done it before. It would save them a lot of money in the long run.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Never taught kids young enough to really give Bear a proper go, would be fun though. During my rummage I noticed we had a YL book written by Mary Slattery (of Bear fame to me), which looks pretty useful too.

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  2. Hi Pete,
    Really like this post and it’s reminded me of a few things we’ve got 🙂 I read the Homework book a few years ago and never did anything from it! Should probably take another look, although I don’t think we have a copy in my current school – I’ll be interested to see what you try from it.
    Last year we did a resources swapshop because I was aware how much stuff we have that nobody uses. As most teachers at our school are new to the career, the amount of books on the shelf can be so overwhelming that it’s easier never to go near it. The idea behind the swapshop was for everybody to bring one resource and share what they liked about it – it could be an activity, a book, a teddy bear, whatever… It went really well and I think it’s probably about time we repeated it.
    We’ve also tried to weed the staffroom, meaning there’s a massive pile of books in my office waiting for a book sale. We’ve labelled what’s left with levels where relevant and categorised them as general, YL, teen, business etc, again to make it a bit less scary when people are looking for something. Need to get some feedback on whether it’s actually helped or not though…
    Thanks for the reminders!
    Sandy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Sandy. Yeah Kate Lloyd was doing a ‘staff room weed’ recently and showed me some of the funny, archaic resources that she’d found! Swap shop is a great idea, was thinking that something along those lines might be good for my centre. Think I’ll do the same this term. If you happen to do one yourself will you share any interesting resources? Might find we have some crossover… Happy new year by the way!

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  3. Goodness what a useful post. I’ll go in on Monday and
    1.have a good look
    2.prompt everyone else to do the same.

    The staffroom shelves are in such a mess!

    I was also wondering about ways to record and alert colleagues to useful ‘finds’. I had an idea a while ago for a ‘Task Diary’ on which you’d write useful tasks and what you’d used them for.
    It would be a quick prompt for teachers who were short of an idea or needed a different take on teaching some language, for examples.

    Maybe there’s an idea here for bringing resources out of the gloom and getting good things used? Staffroom notice boards?

    Nicky

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