ChatGPT: Tool or Tyrant?

'Welcome to the future', wrote Sal. This thing blew my mind. Only launched as a prototype on 30th November 2022, it could have wide-ranging implications for students and teachers, for written communication of any kind. Welcome to the red pill: ChatGPT. ChatGPT is a powerful language model developed by OpenAI that has the ability to [...]


Mark Me Absent, by Caterina Cardarelli

Caterina, 18, has been a student of mine for over four years now, and she's currently completing her final year of high school here in Rome. The following thoughts are her reaction to Neil deGrasse Tyson's podcast with Theo Von, particularly the section (1.07.52-1.10.30) in which Tyson, echoing Ken Robinson in his famous TED Talk [...]

Self-Talk to Self-Torque

"How does talking to yourself in a foreign language change the way you talk to yourself? How does it change your emotional experience?" The inner voice can be our best friend or worst enemy, and everything in between. But in which language do we talk to ourselves - our mother tongue or a foreign language? [...]

Education in ‘A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life’ by Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein

The following quotes were lifted from chapter 11 of this great book I finished last week; the chapter titled 'Education'. I hope they provide you with as much food for thought as they have for me, challenge accepted assumptions, and even make you ask yourself what you might be able to improve. The premise of [...]

Find your Clouds and Clocks in ELT

The following is a written description of the presentation I gave in Moscow at the Trendy X conference on Sunday 28th November. Thanks so much for having me over - it was a real honour! Slides: Finding your clouds and clocks in ELT A few questions that fascinate me: Why do some students get closer [...]

F2F or M2M? Face-to-Face or Mask-to-Mask?

There seems to be some confusion. Masked teaching is mask-to-mask (M2M), not face-to-face (F2F). The physical classroom and the online classroom both have pros and cons, but the only face-to-face option available is online, at least here in Italy and in many other countries around the world. Under Covid-19 restrictions currently in place here in [...]

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher

Language learning should be an adventure. I read this book by linguist Guy Deutscher on the beach in August as a follow-up to my exploration on language learning and identity, inspired especially by Zoltán Dörnyei's L2MSS (Second Language Motivational Self System - for lesson ideas on this click here. Who will you be in English?). I've [...]

Dr Huberman and the **Super Protocol** to Learn Anything

The advert I'm a strong proponent of including hard-won scientific knowledge in our everyday teaching (see Mindset section). Not many things can rouse my interest after 21.00 on a Thursday evening, but Dr Huberman's talk certainly did. It was outstanding (as usual from Andrew Huberman) and I'd like to share a few notes from the [...]

New Term, New Ideas #2 L2MSS: Who Will You Be in English?

“What’s the Idea?” L2MSS = Second Language Motivational Self System (Dörnyei 2009). The L2MSS asks learners to create and visualise three future selves: Ideal L2 self: A vision of the best version of themselves with improved L2 proficiency.Ought-to L2 self: Societal expectations from peers, teachers, family and friends.Feared L2 self: A vision of failure, imagining [...]

New Term, New Ideas #1 Fight the Forgetting Curve

"What's the Idea?" Leitner System of Vocabulary Boxes The following is knowledge I gained in the Spring during my MA Applied Linguistics and ELT module on Learning and Teaching Vocabulary. It's knowledge that I want to make the most of in a practical way, and there's no time like a new term to set new [...]

Video Introduction: ‘Psychology 101 for ELT’ course – Autumn 2021 Interested? For further information, click here. Want to attend? Contact me via email at Remember that the early bird offer ends on Monday at 23.59. Don't wait for later! 🙂

‘Psychology 101 for ELT’ course

I've believed every day of my decade in teaching that an understanding of basic psychology should be in the skillset of every teacher, but it isn't YET an explicit part of the most popular mainstream teacher training courses such as CELTA. To start filling that gap, below you'll find news about a 100% online course [...]

Rickson Gracie’s Teaching Philosophy

Miyamoto Musashi: 17th Century Japanese swordsman, philosopher, strategist, writer and rōnin. In his outstanding book Range, David Epstein wrote: ‘Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization. It is the ability to integrate broadly. According to Gary Marcus, a psychology and neural science professor who sold his machine learning company to Uber, “In narrow enough worlds, [...]

’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ Revisited

While I read this book at the start of 2019 and harvested my favourite quotes on a blog post (click here), I was nudged to re-read Chapter 19 ('Education') thanks to an email from my former CELTA trainee Fabiana Sforza. Here are my favourite bits from that chapter, all of which gave me an extra [...]

‘Psychology 101 for ELT’ Course: Podcast

It was a pleasure to chat about the course with my friend and ex-IH Riga colleague Alister on his YouTube channel Al's Action English. The 'Psychology 101 for ELT' course (all session and sign-up information here) starts this evening (Tuesday 22nd June), so don't delay if you want to take the full 8-session option. In [...]

‘Psychology 101 for ELT’ Course

I've believed every day of my decade in teaching that an understanding of basic psychology should be in the skillset of every teacher, and by extension should be an explicit part of every teacher training course. You talk the talk but do you walk the walk? As a teacher and teacher trainer, I try to [...]

A Sense of an Ending: The Post-Ride Slide

As exam season fades into summer holidays across the northern hemisphere, this piece is a reflection on the shadow often cast by great goals. We chase them in the light but can plunge into darkness on the other side. More literally speaking, we are evolutionarily wired to be much more motivated by an objective in [...]

Gaslighting (Listening + Functions Lesson Ideas)

Kal's Cartoon, The Economist, 8th May 2021 "Sorry...Reasoned debate is in short supply these days..." Kal's cartoon in The Economist hits the nail on the head. Information wars are nothing new of course, but the bombs on each side are all the more powerful on today's battlefield given the uninterrupted streams of 24/7 Internet sites, [...]

Revise Smarter, Not Harder: Suggestions from a Neuroscientist

Listening/reading time: 5 minutes. Potential benefit: Hundreds of hours. Just in time for exam season. 'Everything you do, all day long, requires learning; this remains true throughout your life. Children learn at school, and adults learn new life skills or improve their performance on the job.' (Satchin Panda, 'The Circadian Code'). It would make sense, [...]

Coursebook or Coarse Book? #2: 7 Principles for Vocabulary Learning

While the first focused on fault-finding, this blog post aims to offer a more constructive range of principles to the coursebook-influenced status quo on vocabulary instruction. Although I’ll reference my current EFL teaching context in Italy to contextualise my findings, bear in mind that these principles should be adapted to your teaching environment. The seven [...]

Coursebook or Coarse Book? #1: 5 Ways ELT Materials are Failing Vocabulary Learning

This two-part blog (part #2 here) is written for EFL teachers keen on boosting their students’ vocabulary learning. Utilizing the work of the world’s foremost scholars in vocabulary studies, the first piece will outline five common failures in vocabulary learning in international General English coursebooks; the second will offer seven key principles to optimise vocabulary [...]

3HH Podcast: Idioms and Expressions

3HH idioms and expressions worksheetDownload Possible answers - 3HH idioms and expressions worksheetDownload This idiom and expression activity is based on a podcast we (3HH = the Three-Headed-Hydra) recorded for our YouTube channel with a very good friend of mine Josh Brock, all about his work in the farming and farming technology industries. It's a [...]

It’s Raining on Prom Night

It was a real privilege to be invited by Zorica Kovacevic to present at IH Belgrade's online conference on 16th April 2021. My friend and Teacher Training Co-ordinator at IH Rome Gianni Licata and I had been riffing on a presentation based on the theme 'It's Raining on Prom Night' for many months, so this [...]

5 Tips to Combat Cognitive Dissonance (CD#2): Listening Lesson Plan

The following is a sidekick for the Cognitive Dissonance reading lesson posted last week (click here). I'd recommend it as an assistant to the reading, a Robin to its Batman, but this listening lesson could also stand alone. Cognitive dissonance is an ever-present psychological phenomenon as old as humanity (particularly salient and harmful during the [...]

Cognitive Dissonance (CD#1): Coronavirus Reading Lesson Plan

As we enter another 'red zone' lockdown here in Rome (15th March 2021), the general atmosphere couldn't be more different from March 2020. Gone are the daily 6pm balcony karaoke sessions and public cries of unity ("Ce lo faremo!" = "We'll get through it!"). In their place, fatigue and resentment reign. Some take it a [...]

Growth Mindset: The Science of Failure and Neuroplasticity

Trying to encourage students and CELTA trainees to frame the learning process through the prism of a Growth Mindset can really boost motivation and learning (links to more information at the end of the post). According to Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck's Mindset Theory, Growth Mindset beliefs state that learning from failures is an important [...]

The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

It was Alain de Botton's outlook that immediately spoke to me as he chatted with Tim Ferriss: philosophy is wasted when locked up in the ivory towers of academia or only bottled up to pop as shallow one-liners to impress a stranger at a dinner party. Philosophy, as the Stoics suggested and Alan de Botton [...]

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor – 4 Techniques

Deep, steady, bated, shaky, dulcet, long, steadying, unsteady, slow, sharp, heartfelt, pained, suspended, faint, gasping, powerful. How we breathe is not a back-seat passenger in our physiology and psychology, it's a driving force. Need to calm down? Breathe! Need a kick start? Breathe! We breathe 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so a [...]

Propping Up Self-Narrative: Lesson Ideas (Part 2)

The first blog post addressed Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale, its influence on the wider academic community of narratology and its diverse application in storytelling across different cultures and time periods. This time we’ll delve deeper into why positive self-narratives can boost learner motivation, and outline how you can help your English learners to tell [...]

Propping Up Self-Narrative: Propp’s Morphology (Part 1)

This two-part blog series is for teachers who are interested in boosting their teenage learners’ motivation and autonomy using the tool of learner-authored narratives. It aims to briefly outline a narrative structure using Vladimir Propp’s work (1968), link the formation of a compelling narrative to learner motivation, and provide some practical lesson ideas to help [...]

Carrot or Stick? By Sofia Frattini

The following article was written by Sofia Frattini, a 16-year-old student of mine, in reaction to the following video from the great and good Alister at Al's Action English: Take it away, Sofia! Teachers nowadays often struggle more than ever to understand which is the best way to teach and educate their students. For [...]