Spelling Sets: a phonics-based spelling activity

So you’ve been giving your students explicit phonics instruction. You’ve made nice, clear connections for your students between letters (graphemes) and sounds (phonemes).   Good for you.    But …    I don’t doubt that there are times when the best thing a teacher can do for their students is to present the learning target … Read more

Grammar Sets – a grammar game

Think back for a moment to when you were a young student in school learning your own native language. Remember how much you loved studying grammar, how much you cherished your grammar book? Remember how much you looked forward to your next grammar lesson? How excited everyone in the class would become in anticipation of … Read more

Rattlesnake – fun with long phonics chains

  We know that repetition is a powerful tool for attaining fluency. That includes the phonics decoding fluency our students need to develop in order to become strong readers of English. But we also know that repetition can be deadly dreary drudgery. (Known by language teaching professionals as DDD. 😁)  If only … If only … Read more

Tri-It — Fun with C-V-Cs (early phonics)

In the early stages of phonics training, children will benefit from making lots and lots of C-V-Cs (consonant-vowel-consonant combinations). But there are only so many C-V-C words in English that will be meaningful to young non-native English speaking learners. One solution is simply to let them practice decoding random C-V-Cs without worrying about meaning. We … Read more

Some Final Thoughts — And Adventure Ahead!

I’ve said a good deal here in the past about using puzzles as language teaching and learning tools, but there are a few more points I think are worth making. Then, having addressed theoretical and philosophical considerations, I plan to focus on posting very specific and practical ideas for puzzles and games and other activities, … Read more

Magic Dust for Learning: Intrinsic Motivation

Magic Dust for Learning: Intrinsic Motivation Imagine you’re a student and you’ve signed up for an elective class at your school, a class called Sudoku. Cool. Sudoku is a math puzzle, and puzzles are fun and math is important. But that’s all you know. You don’t know how sudoku problems work—only that it’s something about … Read more

Scramble Puzzles to Engage Your Students

I used to love it when my mother made scrambled eggs for breakfast. And now scrambles are one of my favorite kinds of language puzzles to create for my students. A coincidence? I think not. You can take any language target you want the students to conquer, and cut it into manageable, manipulatable pieces. The … Read more

The Guiding Principle of My Teaching

So there I was, having lunch with another teacher of English here in Japan. He was someone who had been more than generous in sharing his knowledge and the benefit of his experience (largely via the ETJ email lists), someone from whom I had learned a great deal, someone to whom to this day I … Read more
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