Seesaw for EAL and young learners

Someone contacted me last week in a panic. ‘Aaargh, we’re going to start using Seesaw – any tips? Is it easy? Can you do a lot on it?’ etc.

I find Seesaw really easy to use as a classroom learning app for EAL. The functionality for slides and templates is like a Jamboard +1 (you pay for the privilege). You can do quite a lot with it – here are some random (very random) screenshots from my Year 4/5 lessons just to give you a general idea. These aren’t all-singing-all-dancing, I just want to reassure the person who contacted me that things will be more familiar than you imagine.

In no particular order…

It’s really easy to model activities/tasks when not doing a live lesson. In this example, I wanted learners to predict the captions for a load of images. I can record myself doing the task and add a voiceover with instructions too (students just click play button to view).


Jamboard (so far)

Jamboard mentioned a lot recently. I decided to give it a go with my Secondary classes. Started using it last week so this is all new to me. Early thoughts.

Jamboard versus (e.g.)

This was the first step for me – working out which one I might find more useful. There were far more tools on (wait), but Jamboard won straight away because it integrates well with Google Classroom (wait), so that was that really.


How to get a PGCEi Distinction

I’ve just finished a PGCEi through University of Nottingham. I got a mark of 78 for each of the three modules, which basically means ‘your writing is okay, but your stuff’s not really a contribution to the field or anything; solid but unspectacular’. Spot on, I’d say.

Here are the macro indicators for assessment.

The differences between a Merit and a Distinction might seem subtle/subjective – things like ‘broad knowledge’ versus ‘broad and detailed knowledge’, or ‘originality’ versus ‘considerable originality’. However, based on the conversations I’ve had with PGCEi candidates from my own/previous cohorts, I can say there are three clear areas that set your 60s apart from your 70s. They are:


Bad teaching

A ramble from last year. Just came across it again. Ha! When I re-read it I thought, ‘actually Pete, it was pretty bad teaching! What were you on about?!’ Meh. I don’t just post the good. Enjoy.

I’m such a bad teacher sometimes. I’m prone to slack/lazy practice. I mean, take this list of things not to do when teaching vocab (shared on twitter by @bwileducate)

Now consider this dialogue in my class over the weekend…


Be like Walton Burns

There was a good post from Russ Mayne recently on the importance of criticism. He mentioned overly unpleasant criticism and unnecessary venom that might accompany it. Russ mentioned both academic and social media contexts. This post is about the latter, and mainly blogs.

I’ve directed unnecessary venom and ad hominem attacks at somebody in ELT before. I once called Geoff Jordan a false idol and even referred to him as, quote, ‘the Bam Margera of ELT’. That was poor form – I don’t even know if he owns a skateboard. Honestly, it was in the heat of the moment and I apologize.


Research in brief: Critique of BICS and CALP

BICS and CALP in a nutshell

BICS and CALP was an idea first proposed by Prof Jim Cummins in the early 1980s. BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, and CALP is Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. Here’s what they are:

‘BICS refers to conversational fluency in a language while CALP refers to students’ ability to understand and express, in both oral and written modes, concepts and ideas that are relevant to success in school’ (Cummins 2008: 108).


Monetizing your teaching blog

WordAds… ah, go on then.

I didn’t want to make money from my blog. I had my reasons for that, which were basically…

  • I’ve always felt bad, kinda guilty about the idea.
  • My content is random and rambling – I couldn’t see it as a way to generate income. I’m surprised people read this stuff tbh.
  • I didn’t want money to change my content. As it stood, I wrote what I wanted, when I wanted. I was worried that monetizing might lead me towards more clickbait.
  • etc

What changed?


New teacher induction

I had to induct a new teacher at school once. They were fairly new to teaching and unfamiliar with our in-house product at the time (called myClass). I thought that listening to me ramble on for half an hour about how to approach the planning would be boring. So, I decided a one-page ‘try it like this’ would be better. And a tad less condescending*. Here was that one page.