Category: professional development

What is a Systematic Review?

I’m doing an M-level course on Systematic Reviews for Public Policy at the Institute of Education in London.  The first task was to create a four slide presentation, aimed at colleagues and peers, characterising systematic reviews, what they can and can’t do and why we should care.  I’m not keen on text heavy presentations, preferring to use images as triggers for an accompanying talk – but there was really no way around this on this occasion.  So, here is my stand alone presentation on what systematic reviews are:

For a much more comprehensive introduction to systematic reviews – but still only two sides of A4 – this leaflet from Sense About Science is great.


Comprehensible Input – Krashen makes the case

In this three minute clip, Stephen Krashen, celebrated scholar of linguistics, language acquisition and teaching, makes the case very clearly for comprehensible input.

The lesson still stands thirty years or so after this speech was made.  Your students will stand a far better chance of acquiring English if you make the content of your lessons comprehensible.

The SIOP books in our professional library and resources online are the perfect starting point to understand how you do this.  Drop by the EAL office if you want to explore some ideas.

Why we need to teach academic vocab

The two videos below make an excellent case for why we need to teach academic vocabulary explicitly.

Firstly, John Cleese gives us a tour of the inner workings of the human brain…

… then we are treated to a game of cricket through the eyes and ears of our American cousins.

While these two clips do a great job of satirising two situations where the language can sound utterly incomprehensible to even the most proficient user of English, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that many ELLs risk finding ‘normal’ mainstream lessons just as baffling as what you have just watched.

There is a good summary of why and how we should teach academic vocabulary here.

An invaluable resource for delving deeper is Pauline Gibbons’ book ‘English Learners Academic Literacy and Thinking‘. We have a copy in the EAL office, which colleagues are welcome to consult.


This year we hosted the FOBISSEA EAL job-a-like workshop and conference.


We were joined by delegates from all over the region; from Kathmandu in the west to Ho Chi Minh City in the east, from Beijing in the north and Jakarta in the south and many many, many places in between, for two days of sharing good practice, establishing networks, and discussing developments in the field of English language learning.

The workshops were led by peers and included ones on key assessments, co-teaching and co-planning, teaching academic language, and approaches to outreach within and beyond school to promote English language learning in a wider context. The quality of the presentations and discussions was excellent and served as a reminder of how collaboration across the Federation, among staff with similar responsibilities, is critical to driving practice forward and helping to ensure that it is informed by the best principles and the strongest evidence.

We were really proud of how the conference was received and want to share the comments of some of the delegates who made it the success it was.  We are really looking forward to next year’s event.


Many thanks to you for organizing such a rewarding JAWS. It has definitely surpassed my expectations and the discussions have triggered a lot of food for thought and I will be sharing them with my EAL Faculty members very soon. Hopefully with all the ideas and strategies, we will be able raise the awareness of how significant the EAL Unit is in ensuring the success of our Second Language Learners. Thank you again for your hospitality and for organizing such a successful JAWS. – Garden International School, Kuala Lumpur

Thanks to you for extending your invitation to me as I, too, not only had the opportunity to present my work but I also walked away with a lot to think about as I move forward in my role here. Thanks once again for your flawless organisation and hospitality. NIST has a long way to go to even begin to rival what you put together for us this past weekend. – NIST International School, Bangkok

A big thank you to you for hosting/organising such a great event! I got so much out of it – so many great ideas and tips to feed back – so much inspiration to make EAL more effective. And I’m sure I’m not alone! Keep up the good work. – The British School, Kathmandu

Thank you formally for hosting the event and making it such a successful learning experience for everyone. It was clearly well organised and seemed to go seamlessly. Thanks also to your team who worked tirelessly to make us all comfortable with our surroundings and they were all so helpful and patient with any issues I had like ‘How do I get to Tescos?’ – British International School, Beijing

Looking around the room I think everyone was engaged. The immediate feedback we received was positive. I enjoyed my first JAWS experience and have taken away a lot of ideas. Thank you to you and your team for all the organisation that went in to it. Please pass that on to the others. – Bangkok Patana School, Bangkok

Many thanks for everything this weekend. Not being an EAL specialist I thoroughly enjoyed the course and certainly learnt a great deal so thanks to you and your team for their support throughout the whole event. – St. Christopher’s International School, Penang

I was going to write and say how much I enjoyed coming over to Shrewsbury and meeting all the other teachers. It was great! It has certainly given us food for thought. Thank you for all the great organisation. You made us all feel very much at home. – St. Andrews, Bangkok

Thank you.  Everyone was talking about how useful, motivating and professional the conference was. Hopefully the next one will be equally as good – but they have some big shoes to fill now! – Alice Smith School, Kuala Lumpur

A big thank you to you too for a very constructive two days. As you know I was one of the doubters for putting Primary and Secondary teachers together but I found we did complement each other nicely and it was good to have a better understanding of where the students are coming from lower down the school. – Garden School, Kuala Lumpur

I’ve just got back to Beijing and wanted to thank you very much for a fantastic 2 days.  Met so many great people and am now armed with many more fab ideas to use in the classroom.  Thanks again and hopefully we can catch up next year. – Harrow International School, Beijing

Google Docs for Joint Construction

This week we have been experimenting with joint construction of texts using Google Drive.

photo 2

The idea here is to allow students to share their ideas on-line then each take a specific role in using those ideas to create a text after a particular genre.

In the Year 7 class pictured, students were first asked to brainstorm ideas using a virtual bulletin board at for a balanced argument for eat or banning shark fin soup.  They then deconstructed a model discursive text that had been shared with them on Google Drive.  The students were then given specific roles to use the brain-stormed ideas to write either the introductory paragraph, the ‘arguments for’ paragraph, the ‘arguments against’ paragraph, or the conclusion.  Each student could see the work of their peers being created as they worked on their own.  They were able to mold their contribution to the evolving document and could share ideas using the chat feature of the software.

Once they had finished their first draft they shared the document with other groups in the class for proofing and editing.

It’s fairly early days for us with this approach, but we are finding it a very interesting way to get all students working together and sharing ideas and expertise in the pursuit of a common goal.

We’ll post some of the resulting work in due course.