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Hear it through The Grapevine…

a new way to share teaching ideas

by Robert Stroud

The world changed dramatically for classroom education after the start of the pandemic. It felt like going back to the drawing board in some ways as a language teacher and very isolating. Even though teachers could not meet each other or teach their students face-to-face, they were still around, even if that meant being stuck behind a computer screen and feeling frustrated.
Teachers have most certainly been the creative driving force to pull us all out of this era of great change. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, teachers have been working hard to find ways to get themselves and their students through these difficult times. So how can we learn lessons from each other and build a stronger community which is relevant to the times we live in?

Challenges sharing ideas right now

The pandemic left us with a lot of questions about the future of teaching idea sharing. Some of the main ones which troubled me were…
  1. How can teachers share practical ideas of good quality without them getting buried within blogs or chats (as just comments)?
  2. How can teachers publish these ideas within a reasonable amount of time without going through extensive and challenging peer-reviews processes?
  3. How can the ideas shared be explained in a practical way which is easy for teachers to relate to their own situation and easily apply to their own classes?
  4. How can teachers understand the pros and cons of shared ideas from a teaching-standpoint and assess how to adapt them to better suit their own classes?
  5. How can teachers follow up on ideas that they read about to ask further questions and help them improve even further?

The Grapevine takes root

This led me to take the initiative to start a new type of newsletter for English language teachers within higher education around the world. I wasn’t sure of the response I would get, but after six months, it has grown enormously and now serves hundreds of students, teachers, lecturers and professors from over 30 countries. As it was created for spreading the word about ideas, I called it… The University Grapevine
The Grapevine really is powered by teachers. That was its intention and always will be. A great way to connect the true experts and leaders in how our classrooms should look in the coming years. It has been an honor to watch it grow so quickly and a true learning experience as the editor. 

Voices of real teachers

As a kind of hybrid approach to publishing, The University Grapevine focuses on lesson plan and activity ideas which teachers have actually tried applying to their own classes. These reflect the real world of teaching which we exist in today and have been of great interest to the increasingly large group of readers. A lot of topics at the moment focus (unsurprisingly) on online teaching tools and methods, as well as ways to motivate students in higher education. Articles are written in the first-person and always include a pros and cons reflection of the approach used. This helps teachers get a real ‘feel’ for what is being explained and how it could be right (or not) for them.

Practical and fast

There is a very simple template which ensures articles are easy-to-read, practical in terms of applying to them actual classrooms in our current world, and fairly short in length. This makes the reviewing process (and decisions on reviews) simpler and faster, ensuring ideas get shared before they become ‘old’. It also makes it very easy to become accustomed to the style of article and quickly seek out ideas which you may or may not be interested in without the need to scan through pages upon pages of writing. This is further assisted by the use of hyperlinks rather than long explanations or unfamiliar citations. As ‘practicality’ is the key word, articles are more like demonstrations than data-heavy research articles.
This link can be used to access the template and guidance… Submit an Article

The growing grapevine community

As with most newsletters I’m sure, the ‘family’ feeling created by The University Grapevine was perhaps the most gratifying outcome from starting the whole thing. It has been very hard for students and teachers to find their feet during the last 18 months. Communication and creativity bread motivation and that has become the vision of the newsletter. Please join us by reading ideas, applying them yourself (or just thinking about yourself as a student even!), or taking one more step and sending in an article. Authors are also encouraged to leave their own contact information at the end of their articles so that readers can reach them to exchange more ideas or even request actual worksheet, etc. Readers are continuing to grow the grapevine across social networking services, including LinkedIn and Facebook and let’s hope it can be of as much use as possible in the coming years.


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More on the world of English teaching : see Teaching English in a world after Covid

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teacher resource

A selection of teaching resources in graded English
Selected pages
Advanced level reading :
Charles Babbage, the father of the computer
Who killed Martin Luther King?
USA - Discovering Route 66
London's Notting Hill Carnival
Stephen Hawking - the world's greatest brain
America's drive-in movie theaters
More advanced level short stories:
Blue Gum Tree
Lucky Jim
More: More advanced reading texts 
Intermediate resources :
Mystery - the Titanic and the Temple of Doom
Who is James bond ?
Sport: Sports, American style
Big red London buses
USA: Who was Buffalo Bill?
USA: The story of blue jeans
Dialogue: Talking about fast food
USA: Close encounters with a Twister  
More:   More intermediate reading texts  
Selected grammar pages
Online English grammar
Noun groups in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English
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