A Quick Review of Maple Leaf Learning Library 

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Maple Leaf Learning has always been one of my goto YouTube channels for teaching young learners, as I have written about here, here, here, and here. To date, I’ve always just considered them a maker of cute videos. Recently though they’ve really stepped up their game with a colossal new site called Maple Leaf Learning Library, positively filled to the brim with worksheets, booklets, and songs ideal for teaching English to young learners. The site has a free and a paid section, and I’ve had a chance to play around with both.

In the free section you’ll get access to their extensive collection of flashcards, as well as various activities, crafts, and worksheets. There’s a fairly comprehensives list of topics to choose from like animals, colors, body parts, counting – comprehensive for young learners, that is. There are some really cute and colorful activities to choose from which would complement most lessons. All in all it’s definitely something you’ll want to have in your bookmarks.

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Now, if you’re willing to cough up their annual fee of 50 USD then you’ll also get to try out their complete collection of music albums, as well as whole textbooks, craft books, and piles of games. There are some pretty great phonics books in here that I plan to make use of as extra work for my young learners. But if you’re looking for a way to do away with course books from the big publishers altogether, then this could be your ticket. What’s really cool are the five music albums that you can now download as part of your subscription. There are a lot of musical gems in here that I’ve unfairly neglected in favor of Super Simple Songs or Genki English.

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All in all, the site is pretty new and obviously has lots of room to grow in the years to come, but you should definitely check it out sooner rather than later.

ELT Research Bites, an Intellectual Blog for Non-intellectuals Like Me

To my discredit, I’m all about the practical when it comes to teaching English. I tend to value my own experiences above those of other teachers, which I in turn value more than theoretical tracts written by Rapunzel-like figures in ivory towers. 

If you’re familiar with the work of the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, you’ll know he half-disparagingly, half-humorously describes theoretical economics as “Greek letter economics.” That pretty much sums up my opinion about reading academic work on teaching. It just does not feel relevant to me in my day to day work in South Korea.

Admittedly, that probably means I’m just lazy.

In light of this deplorable tendency of mine, I was delighted to come across the excellent blog ELT Research Bites by Anthony Schmidt, Clare Fielder, and several other ELT professionals. Together they comb through the professional literature and summarize interesting pieces into very readable blog entries. It could easily have been titled ELT Research for Dummies.

Some of their most recent works include: 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some reading to do.

Voices in Your Head!  The TEFL Show, Intelligent Discussion About Teaching English


To unwind from work some people drink, some play online games, others practice mindfulness.  I listen to podcasts. A lot of podcasts. In the car, doing the dishes, going out for walks. Quite frankly it crowds out a lot of other media that I could otherwise consume. 

The thing is though that since it’s my unwinding time I never listen to work-related podcasts. I avoided them like the plague, until recently when I started listening to The TEFL Show. It had been downloading to my phone automatically for months but I would promptly delete those episodes to make space on my phone for more important things like The Film Review and photos of my wife. But then one day I began listening to it by accident while driving and got through two or three episodes before finally turning it off. It wasn’t bad, even if the witty banter didn’t quite reach the level of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo.

Hosts Marek Kiczkowiak and Robert McCaul discuss a variety of issues related to the teaching of English. Some of the most recent topics include:

They have a neat blog with all sorts of tutorials for using Internet doohickeys in the classroom. In fact, don’t waste any more time reading about it here. Just go check it out.

Immersivities, the Motherload of Original Classroom Activities

I was looking for a bit of this and that the other night while laying in bed when I came across Adi Rajan’s excellent blog Immersivities. I was really taken aback. The blog is professional in both appearance and approach in a way I could only aspire to be. Rajan himself is also annoyingly prolific in his writing (no blogger wants to be reminded of the fact that they aren’t writing enough).

From what I can tell so far, Immersivities appears to combine reviewing books with introducing original activities that can be used in the classroom. While the former is of less interest to me than the latter, I can definitely recommend it as a blog that should be on everyone’s radar.

Just some of his most recent ideas for the classroom include:

Check it out when you have a spare moment.

A Beautiful Series of Alphabet Pictures I Discovered When I Should Have Been Sleeping

I came across these adorable images on Facebook during the wee hours of the morning and thought they were perfect for tuning into the artistic side of my young learners. The actual artist of these pictures is still unknown to me but I am attempting to figure out who they are. 

Comic Strips in the Classroom

Most of my students like comic books of one kind or another. That’s why I like to include a few worksheets like the one below in my lessons. It gives the children a way to do some structured writing and drawing in the classroom.

 The more creative and confident ones of course would prefer I just give them a blank piece of paper to scribble away to their heart’s content (which means I get a lot of Iron Man’s talking to Spongebob). Sometimes though children need the structure of a few sentences and a background image.

The above worksheets comes from my unit 7 worksheet bundle for Let’s Go 1 which I just uploaded this week. 

You can check it out here.

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Make Your Own Word Search Puzzles for Free

스크린샷 2014-05-17 오후 4.02.27In November of last year I wrote about how to make your own crossword puzzles with the Discovery Puzzle Maker. As that piece has since become one of my most popular posts, today I’m going to show you how to make your own word search puzzles. Most of my students go nuts for these kinds of worksheets, and can find the words much faster than I. They’re also a good way for children to memorize vocabulary words without feeling like they are, you know, memorizing vocabulary.

Now, I should tell you that there are plenty of alternate puzzle generators available, including this excellent one from Super Teacher Worksheets, which I also make use of from time to time. But what I’m going to show you now probably gives you the most flexibility in how you choose to make it as well as for keeping it for future use. So without further ado..

1. Choose the words to appear in your puzzle. For this example, I am using the vocabulary words from the amazing I like Vegetables song from Genki English.

This catchy tune was composed and sung by Richard Graham, the creator of Genki English, and teaches children the sentence pattern, “I like…” as well as the vegetables: onions, peas, carrots, beans, mushrooms, potatoes, pumpkin, and tomatoes. Next, write the title that will appear at the top of the page.

스크린샷 2014-05-06 오후 4.22.462. Now choose the dimensions of your puzzle. For most puzzles I use 12 x 12, but for puzzles with words of more than twelve letters you may have to adjust the size across to fit. For example, if you want to use the word Tyrannosaurus Rex, you will have to change the value in the across box to at least 15, otherwise it won’t show up in the puzzle.

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3. Choose how often the words in the puzzle share letters with other words. The default settings are usually just fine.

스크린샷 2014-05-06 오후 4.29.364. Despite what the options below say, I have always found it best to just leave the output on HTML.

스크린샷 2014-05-06 오후 4.36.435. Next type in the vocabulary words that will appear in the puzzle.

스크린샷 2014-05-06 오후 4.39.196. Lastly, press Create My Puzzle, and voilà! Now just print as many copies as you need.

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Of course you have probably noticed that the output isn’t all that nice. So to spruce it up, highlight the puzzle text and then copy and paste it into Word. Then, center it on the page and choose a font and text size of your liking. My example uses comic sans 12.

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Underneath the puzzle you can then type in a word box. My no-nonsense method places the words in a 2 by 4 table, like this:

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If your puzzle uses vocabulary from a course book, label the puzzle so that both you and your students know where it’s from. Don’t forget to make a place for students to write their name.

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And with a little more tweaking, here’s what the finished product looks like:

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Now just save the puzzle and use it again when you teach the same vocabulary to another class. 

A Free Site You Never Knew You Needed: PaperZip

A few months ago, I was teaching some of my elementary students using the excellent Spectrum Writing series. If I remember rightly, we were imagining what it would be like to appear in the newspaper and what such an article might be about. The class was composed exclusively of baseball nuts, so the articles they had in mind all involved themselves winning the world series, hitting multiple homeruns, or throwing a perfect game.

After having written their drafts, a little editing and feedback, it was time to publish their work. The thing was, these kids weren’t *ahem* really into the extra effort it would have taken to actually craft a newspaper out of their work. They needed a little motivation. That’s when I came across these great newspaper templates from PaperZip, a Scottish site with some of the most beautifully made, FREE classroom materials I’ve ever seen.

You can click on the images below to check them out for yourself.

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Having something that looked like a real newspaper was great inspiration for the kids to write articles that felt like they were from a real newspaper. They scoured other newspapers at home for ideas, pasted images of real baseball stars, and even wrote additional, unrelated articles to fill up the extra space. There was a certain buzz that the kids got from having these templates.

Woah!”, I thought. “Where have these been all my life?”

It later started to grow on me that I had stumbled across a chest full of teacher treasures, like these beautiful templates for writing storyboards, fairy tales, postcards, and comic books.

There isn’t yet a huge a selection to choose from (say compared to Super Teacher Worksheets), but what PaperZip lacks in volume, it makes up for in quality. Their files are beautifully crafted, easy to download, and free – never something to be sniffy about. There is even a wonderful blog with plenty of food for thought for teachers wishing to up their game in the classroom.

Scroll down and click on the images to check out just some of the great materials at PaperZip.

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EFL Sensei, Readymade Activities and Lesson Plans for the Busy English Teacher

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If you’re not in the know, EFL Sensei is a very usable resource for first timers and pros alike; the creation of Becki Benedict and Shawn Weldon, two EFL teachers with a decade of teaching experience each. The site offers ready to use activities, games, handouts, and lesson plans that can be easily downloaded, printed, or shared. What’s more, it’s nicely designed and easily navigable, which is not always the case even among some of my favorite EFL sites

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While a lot of the activities and games seem more geared toward teens and adults, many could easily be modified for use with young learners. Benedict has also condensed her years of experience into easily digestible and convenient EFL folk wisdom on the Tips page, which is very readable and divided into topics that any teacher would be interested in learning more about. And if you’re nostalgic for the days when Friends was still on the air (which I admittedly am not), and you’ve always wanted materials to teach your students, then you’re in luck (click the link and scroll down)

I’ll be writing again on this site after I’ve tried some more of their activities in the classroom but EFL Sensei has definitely made its way onto my “go to” list for whenever I need a few new ideas.

Free Flashcards from MES English

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Earlier this week I wrote about the great flashcards available from ESL Kids, but I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention another valuable site called MES English. If you’re not in the know, this site is a smorgasbord of freebies that include worksheets, worksheet generators, flashcards, flash games, videos, phonics materials, and even its own FREE curriculum which I’ve briefly written about.

But as for the flashcards, there is an enormous variety to choose from.

Flashcard topicsadjectives, animals, bathroom, bedroom, body parts, buildings, chores, Christmas, classroom, clothing, countries, daily routines, days, descriptions, Easter, family, fantasy, feeling/emotions, food/drinks/desserts, fruit, future tense Halloween, health, hobbies, house, insects, kitchen, living room, months, music/instruments, nationalities, nature, numbers, part-time jobs, passive verbs, past tense, people/jobs, phrasal verbs, places, the playground, plural nouns, prepositions of place and movement, pronouns, object and possessive pronouns, question words, recess activities, school building, school subjects, science, the five senses, shapes and colors, signs, sports, St. Patrick’s Day, super powers, Thanksgiving, time, tools, transportation, Valentine’s Day, vegetables, verbs, and weather.

The cards come in the standard A4 size in pdf or powerpoint format, but there are also mini cards that can be used to make games of concentration as well as simple bingo cards. There are student handouts as well.

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Best of all, you can use all these vocabulary words to make your own word search puzzles, crossword puzzles, and board games, as well as listening tests, where students either match, write, or circle the answers.

One drawback, though, is that the flashcards from MES English are not labeled on the front, back, or margins with what the card is supposed to be describing. Mark Cox, the creator of MES English, writes on his site that:

This is a personal preference as my experience has led me to believe it is more of a distraction than a benefit. I want the students to see the images and associate the words they are producing with the concepts or objects they are studying. With the words on the cards, they become reliant on reading as opposed to remembering.

Fair enough, but I would prefer to have the option. In the heat of teaching sometimes you can forget what the flashcards are supposed to be and it can be embarrassing to be umming and ahhing in front of the class, even if only for two or three seconds. But then, maybe that only happens to me.

Now having said all that, I do like the way Mark has included the indefinite article on this set of animal flashcards. It’s obvious to the experienced teacher what a help that could be to a young learner. So maybe Mark has is right after all.

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And if you’re interested, Mark had a podcast called ESL Teacher Talk that ran from 2007 to 2010 which is still available for download from iTunes.