Emily Bryson ELT

Emily Bryson

A visual template by Emily Bryson ELT. A visual tool for facilitators and teachers to use to support learners and pairticipants to set goals, consider challenges and how to overcome them. The template shows ahand drawn mountain, and a hot air balloon, each with space for people to add thoughts and ideas.

What’s a visual template and why are they so special anyway?

There’s much more to graphic facilitation than just simple doodles. It’s not just drawing in or with a class. There is a whole world of visual metaphors, storytelling, templates, visual vocabulary containers and all sorts of other magic!

One of the most important tools is the visual template. In this post, I’ll explore what a visual template is and why they are so much fun to use.

What is a visual template?

A visual template is a graphic facilitation tool. It creates a hand-drawn space for people to add ideas, thoughts, information or doodles. The aim is to use it to guide a task, project, meeting, class or to help solve a problem.

In many ways, visual templates are similar (or perhaps even are) graphic organisers. A graphic organiser provides a space for people to answer questions or focus their thoughts too. They tend to take the form of tables, diagrams, or a series boxes.

Since starting my graphic facilitation journey, and applying it to all things English Language Teaching, I’ve been pondering what the difference between a graphic organiser and a visual template is…

What’s the difference between a graphic organiser and a visual template?

I’ve spoken to quite a few other visual practitioners at length on this and have come to the conclusion that:

  • a graphic organiser uses simple boxes, circles, squares and diagrams to create a space for thinking. They can be quite plain, simple and functional. They usually have text to guide thinking because there are no other visual clues.

For example:


  • a visual template uses visual metaphors, storytelling and hand drawn icons to provide an inspiring space to add ideas. There’s an added magic to a visual template because, instead of a box, a visual template will use an icon such as a mountain, a hot air balloon or a lightbulb as a blank space to add ideas. They don’t need to use text to guide thinking, because the imagery allows the brain to connect with the story behind it.

In short, visual templates are snazzier, more fun and more visually engaging than graphic organisers, in my humble opinion.

Here’s an example from my book Pathways to Success: Visual Tools for Goal-Setting, Self-Evaluation and Progession.

In this visual template, there are a few visual metaphors. These help to de-sensitise tricky topics, inspire and add a fun visual story.

  • The mountain – is often used to signify difficulties, challenges or working towards a goal. The summit of the mountain could be an aspiration or objective.
  • The hot air balloon – can be used to represent a method of reaching goals. Adding hot air, positive thoughts or tasks can help the balloon rise and move upwards. Adding more weight, baggage or negative thoughts could have the opposite effect.

The beauty of visual templates is that they can be used in many ways for various purposes. I’ve used the mountain in class, in webinars and to plan my own business. It’s perfect for printing, drawing, interactive whiteboards and online use. And it can be adapted for personal goal-setting, business goal-setting, reflecting on wellbeing and a multitude of other topics, so it’s a winner in terms of minimising preparation time!

If you’d like more ideas like this, you can buy my Pathways to Success: Visual Tools for Goal-Setting, Self-Evaluation and Progession. It has sixteen visual templates which you can use, re-use, adapt and re-purpose in as many ways as you can possibly think. I’ve provided some usage notes to get you started, as well as a printer-friendly and a colour version of each template.

Front cover of teaching resource pack by Emily Bryson. Title: Pathways to Success: Visual Tools for Goal-Setting, Self-Evaluation & Porgession. The cover illustration shows a mountain with people finding different ways to get to the top (e.g. a hot air balloon, a cable car, a bike, etc).
Emily Bryson ELT – Resource pack for students, teachers, leaders and teams.

If you’d like to try before you buy, check out this webinar recording (start at 7.45 mins to skip the intro).

And, if you’d like to create your own visual tools like this, I have various courses which can help you. You might want to start with Dis(?)Organised Graphics and Graphic Organisers with the fabulous Clare Hayward, where we share some cool teaching tips on using canva, graphic organisers and visual templates!

What’s a visual template and why are they so special anyway? Read More »

Thumbnail of six sketchnotes by Emily Bryson. Created as visual summaries for the IATEFL Young Learners special interest group webconference in January 2024. The sketchnotes provide visual records of a variety of English language teaching topics.

Six Sketchnotes for Teaching Young Learners

I was absolutely honoured to be asked to visually record the IATEFL Young Learners’ Special Interest Group Webconference in January.

It was an incredible event, with a vast array of top ELT Professionals sharing their expertise.

I had the pleasure of visually recording the following sessions:

  • The power of self-regulation: a lesson from Captain Marvel by Andre Hedlund
  • Unlocking potential: exploring play based learning for young learners by Marie Davou
  • Making English language learning socially just by Dario Banegas
  • Empowering Education: nurturing hope and equity in underserved communities by Anju Moses and Dinesha Sinaratne
  • Understanding & embracing uniqueness: nurturing mental wellbeing in education by Nicky Francis & Candace Donovan
  • Extending the walls of the classroom: across the sky by Michael Lacey Freeman

Here’s a quick peek at what I created. If you’d like to know more about each session, sketchnoting or my design choices, check out the blog post I wrote for IATEFL YLTSIG. You can also see the sketchnotes in large size there too.

Thumbnail of six sketchnotes by Emily Bryson. Created as visual summaries for the IATEFL Young Learners special interest group webconference in January 2024. The sketchnotes provide visual records of a variety of English language teaching topics.

If you’d like me to create a sketchnote of one of your sessions, or an event you’re organising, just get in touch via socials or my contact form. I also take commissions for summarising complex reports and research OR making presentation slides snazzy!

Six Sketchnotes for Teaching Young Learners Read More »

Emily Bryson ELT Blog posts: a collection of English Language Teaching topics

Emily Bryson ELT blog posts: a collection of English Language Teaching topics!

One of the things I love most about blogging is the opportunity to explore different ascpects of teaching English in more detail. It’s a great way to learn and share teaching ideas with the world.

Over the years, I’ve been writing blog posts less for my website and more as a professional blogger. I’ve now written for Ellii ( formerly ESL Library), British Council, Cambridge University Press and National Geographic Learning, not to mention all the magazine articles.

As I feel like I’ve been neglecting my own blog here, I thought I’d write a post collating some of the articles I’ve written for other organisations.

Resident blogging for Ellii (formerly ESL Library)

I’ll start with Ellii, because I’m thrilled to be writing fortnightly blog posts for them. I love their approach to language learning, and their engaging and accessible resources. Their blog is full of ELT related topics from teaching tips to wellbeing advice.

Here are a few of the posts I’ve written them:

Translanguaging: Embracing the Power of Multilingualism in Your Classroom

The Power of Differentiation: Effective Strategies to Support Learners with Mixed Abilities. 

A Quick Guide to Universal Design for Learning

Speaking at an ELT Conference: Top Tips for Successful Presentations

How to Simplify Complex Tasks with Visual Prompts

The What, Why and How of Sustainable Development Goals

Using Graphic Organisers for Language Skills Development

Graphic Facilitation 101: Teaching English through Visual Communication

What’s the Story? How One Image Can Develop Visual Literacy and Critical Thinking Skills

Six Ways to Support English Learners from Refugee Backgrounds

Sketchnoting 101: Supercharge Professional Development with Visual Notes

It was pretty tricky to decide which ones to share here! I think I might have got a bit carried away! I also wrote a series of posts on accessibility, which shares ways to support learners with dyslexia, ADHD, low vision and limited digital literacy.  And you’ll find a lovely hand drawn activity about banishing your inner troll and embracing growth mindset there too!

You can check out my other posts for Ellii by clicking the image below:

Screenshot of a selection of blog posts Emily Bryson has written for Ellii (formerly ESL Library). Posts include topics such as accessible learning, wellbeing. mental health, end of term activities, teaching learners from refugee backgrounds, digital literacy, using images as grammar prompts.
A screenshot from Ellii.com. Click to view posts.

National Geographic Learning Voices Blog

I am proud to be one of the authors of the Voices series for National Geographic Learning. I love its global and inclusive approach to language learning. It seeks to develop students’ voices in English through intercultural communication, engaging topics and impactful images.

It also follows a pronunciation syllabus which embraces accent diversity. As a language teaching professional with a Scottish accent, this is incredibly refreshing for me. For years, I felt my accent was ‘wrong’ but in reality the way I was taught to teach pronunciation was wrong! Every accent is beautiful and intelligibility is the key!

You can read more about the ethos of Voices in these blog posts:

  • Marek Kiczkowiak shares how to teach pronunciation for global communication.
  • Lewis Lansford discusses the importance of teaching authentic listening skills.
  • Chia Suan Chong gives advice on intercultural skills for the real world.
  • Alex Warren provides eight tips for best practice leasson planning.
  • And I share ways to make learning accessible.

Click the image to read the articles:

Images of the front covers of the Voices series of English Language Teaching Coursebooks for National Geographic Learning
Click to read the articles.

Cambridge University Press World of Better Learning Blog

The World of Better Learning site is absolutely full of English Language Teaching related content. It has fantastic posts from Jade Blue, Rachel Tsateri, Peter Fullager and Jo Szoke, to name but a few experts in the field.. So whether you’d like some teaching ideas for Pride Month or ideas for developing Digital Literacy, this is a treasure chest of info.

I was honoured to be asked to write about Graphic Facilitation for them. Here’s a link to my article:

Graphic Facilitation: Getting Creative with Hand-drawn Graphics

British Council Teaching English Blog

The British Council Teaching English site is an absolute staple of any TEFL or TESOL teacher. It has been a tried and trusted throughout my whole career. This site covers every imaginable ELT topic under the sun.

In this post, I share simple ways to use graphic novels, simple drawings, emojis, story graphs and the language experience approach to help students tell their stories.

You can read it here:

How can I celebrate diversity through storytelling? 

Love these posts? If you’d like to know more about graphic facilitation or adding a visual or hand-drawn twist to your lessons, check out my courses. Click the laptop image below.

Hand drawn image by Emily Bryson ELT. The visual shows a laptop screen. Inside the screen a teacher is teaching while students look on in amazement.

Emily Bryson ELT Blog posts: a collection of English Language Teaching topics Read More »

Emily Bryson ELT FREE Active Meditation download

Switching off the overactive mind: an active drawing meditation!

Do you have a brain that won’t be silenced? 

Have you tried (and failed) at guided meditation? 

I have! You’re not alone. 

For years I struggled to quieten my mind. I attended lunch time mindfulness sessions at my college. I downloaded numerous meditation apps. I tried sitting quietly in an empty room. 

Nothing worked. 

I even got into the habit of arriving fifteen minutes early for my yoga class. This just meant that I was usually asleep by the time the instructor arrived! 

An enlightened yoga instructor!

When I told my yoga teacher about my struggles she just looked at me knowingly. She knew me well, and she instinctively knew that meditation wasn’t for me. 

She said ‘You need to get out on your bike. You’re an active meditator.’

Something clicked that day. She was so right. And it was so refreshing to hear that meditation wasn’t for everyone. 

Another muse!

Then Robert Stroud contacted me. He’d seen my work on graphic facilitation for English language teaching and wanted me to write an article on wellbeing for the University Grapevine magazine. 


Emily Bryson, University Grapevine Article, active drawing meditation, doodling for mindfulness

He got me thinking. If I can’t quieten my mind through sitting still, why not doodle my way to tranquility? 

So I got my pens out!

Doodling a body scan meditation

I’d attempted enough mindfulness techniques to know the script. Start by focusing on how your body feels, then bring your attention to the sights, sounds and smells, then consider what you can taste and any emotions. 

I drew an ear, an eye, a nose, a hand, a mouth and a heart. I drew each one big enough that I could add notes and doodles inside it. Then I added what I could hear, see, smell, touch, taste and feel. I added more doodles as I went. 

The relaxing effects of drawing

Drawing is well known for being therapeutic and the aim of meditation has a similar effect. Once I’d spent ten minutes doodling and focusing my thoughts on the present moment, I felt much calmer. 

It was definitely a tool I needed to share with the world, so I tidied it up and sent it on the University Grapevine. 

The calm classroom

I teach learners from refugee backgrounds. When they arrive in class, they can be thinking about a multitude of worries; the safety of their families in other countries, their home office case, homeless, work, children, etc. Focusing on grammar and vocabulary aren’t always top of the list. 

When I did this with my learners, I demonstrated how to draw each icon on the whiteboard. They then took a minute or so to think, listen, feel and add their thoughts in the relevant place. It went down well, and many said that it was an enjoyable activity. 

If you’d like to try it, you can download it and other freebies here: 


You can read the original article in Issue 13 of the University Grapevine Magazine here: 


If you’d like more ideas like this or to develop your doodling skills for the classroom, check out my courses:


Switching off the overactive mind: an active drawing meditation! Read More »

Awesome Alumni!: Eve Sheppard!

Awesome Alumni: Eve Sheppard!

Need some inspiration? Keep scrolling!

Eve Sheppard is an ESOL and functional maths teacher at Oldham College. She’s also a graduate of my Engaging Learners with Simple Drawings course and a regular #DrawingELT (see Twitter) participant. 

I asked her a few questions about how she uses simple drawings in the classroom. Her response blew me away. 

What attracted you to my course?

I wanted to do something creative for myself and for my teaching. Earlier in the year I’d been to a workshop on using comics to teach and had some success using hand-drawn cartoons in Functional Maths classes. I wanted to improve my drawing skills so that I could use them more confidently in the ESOL classroom.

How has your professional practice changed since my course?

Drawing has permeated every part of my professional practice. It is an incredibly useful tool for so many aspects of my work. When I’m planning how to communicate with students and colleagues it’s become a habit to think ‘how can I draw this?’.  I’ve used drawing in student profiles, staff bulletins, templates for gathering action research reflections, event publicity and of course in my classroom.

What have you used your graphic facilitation skills for? 

In classes I often use it to support speaking and writing activities. For example, in one lesson, students were practising using present simple to discuss culture. They talked with a partner to find similarities and differences in their lifestyles. I displayed a slide with lots of simple icons to help generate ideas. As they spoke they made a visual record of their conversations using a Venn diagram. Note taking is a skill that many of my students struggle with, but the Venn diagram and simple drawings allowed them to record their discussions without getting bogged down with lots of writing. They were able to use their notes to report back to the group and complete a writing activity. It worked so much better than written notes as the images were quick to copy and students were able to focus on the spoken element of the task.

I’ve also used drawings as a prompt for writing and to provide a context for grammar points, as in the examples below:

Aside from teaching, graphic facilitation has been invaluable for organising my thoughts and gathering data for action research. When I did an OTLA Action Research project, this visual template gave participants a clear understanding of the kind of information I wanted to capture:

On a personal level, when I was writing my reflective journal for Advanced Teacher Status (ATS), this hastily scribbled visual template stopped my head spinning and helped me to write coherently. 

Eve Sheppard. Graphic Facilitation for ELT. Emily Bryson ELT Alumni. Action Plan.

How are the students responding to your simple drawings and graphic facilitation tools?

They understand me more easily and tell me that they enjoy seeing my drawings. The drawings often make us smile and I think they make grammar topics feel more approachable. Students have more opportunities to speak, because I can communicate ideas quickly without unnecessary teacher talk.  My students also appreciate opportunities to draw themselves and have said that it helps them to record and remember vocabulary.

Have you used graphic facilitation for any other aspects of your life?


Yes, it creeps into everything 😀. I created this visual to help my children tidy their bedroom and it actually worked! 

Eve Sheppard. Graphic Facilitation for ELT. Emily Bryson ELT Alumni. Encouraging children to tidy their rooms. Hand drawn checklist.

What would you say to anyone thinking about doing my course?

Go for it!  It’s so useful and doing something creative is great for well-being. It has enhanced my professional practice in so many ways and been a source of joy and pride in my work.

Anything else?

I think the feedback fairy says it all 😀

Eve Sheppard. Graphic Facilitation for ELT. Emily Bryson ELT Alumni. Feedback Fairy.

Isn’t Eve’s work just so incredibly inspiring? I absolutely LOVE all of it. 

If you’d like to learn to use graphic facilitation skills like these in the English language classroom, check out my courses! 



Awesome Alumni!: Eve Sheppard! Read More »

Self-portrait profile image of Catherine Lindsay, ESOL Lecturer at Clement James Centre

Awesome Alumni: Catherine Lindsay

Awesome Alumni: Catherine Lindsay

Self-portrait profile image of Catherine Lindsay, ESOL Lecturer at Clement James Centre

The more courses and webinars on Graphic Facilitation for ELT professionals that I run, the more awesome alumni I have. 

I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts featuring my AWESOME ALUMNI. 

First up is Catherine Lindsay. She is an ESOL Lecturer at the Clement James Centre. 

When I launched my first group programme, she was the very first person to sign up and make me feel it could be a winner!

Here are her reflections on the course and some great teaching ideas she’d like to share with you. 

How has your professional practice changed since my course?

I now have a new tool-kit of ‘ready-to-draw’ images, which enables me to foster spontaneity in my ESOL classes. I can also help my students to express themselves using drawings, and so encourage creativity in classes. 

How are the students responding to your simple drawings and graphic facilitation tools?

Students have remarked that they really enjoy my sketches and they bring joy into the classroom. When one student left at the end of a course just before Christmas 2021, she said she would miss my drawings!

Can you describe a couple of ways you’ve used your skills in class?

Emily taught us a variety of simple ways to draw people. I felt that each could show a different emotion, so I was inspired to draw them on the whiteboard at the beginning of class when I wanted to check in with how they felt. I left ‘C’ blank to allow students to add their own. This worked really well, as students were free to express themselves and could say more than they would with words alone. 

In one female class, the Muslim women responded by drawing their hairstyles! It was a lovely moment as the students connected with each other in a new way.

Catherine Lindsay Graphic Facilitation for ELT Emotions

Using simple drawings has also been helpful for clarifying language points and pronunciation. For example, students were confused between ‘quilt’ and ‘kilt’. It took me only a minute to quickly draw each on the whiteboard; they could then copy the drawing into their notes because it was easy to copy. The students enjoyed it because it was fun and spontaneous!

Catherine Lindsay Graphic Facilitation for ELT Kilt or Quilt

Isn’t Catherine awesome? I love all of her incredible work. 

If this post left you feeling inspired, why not join one of my courses? I always have something exciting on the go! Click the link to find out more! 



Awesome Alumni: Catherine Lindsay Read More »

Emily Bryson ELT sketchnote IATEFL 2022 John Hughes 7 steps to creativity in the classroom

Sketchnotes from IATEFL 2022

I think IATEFL 2022 may have been my favourite IATEFL so far! A bold statement, I know. But:

– I raised over £2000 for Amala Education by cycling from Glasgow.

– I saw Voices (the coursebook series I’ve been working on,) in all its finery on the National Geographic Learning stand.

– My session on Graphic Facilitation for ELT was well received, as was my Pecha Kucha.

– Doroth Zemach of Wayzgoose Press sold every copy of my 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills book at the Indie Authors stand.

– I caught up with long lost friends and met people I know from working online.

– I had the opportunity to create lots of sketchnotes.

Usually, when I create sketchnotes, I’ll use my touchscreen laptop or an A3 sheet of paper. This year, I cycled to IATEFL so I didn’t have such a luxury. Instead I had a black pen and a bendy A5 notepad. But, as I keep telling everyone, they’re not art, they’re communication. So here they are!

Meri Maroutian sketchnote by Emily Bryson ELT - The future for non-native speakers IATEFL 2022
Meri Maroutian – The future for non-native speakers.

Meri is a world changer. I wish she didn’t need to stand up at an International TEFL conference and talk about how so called ‘non-native teachers’ are being discriminated against for jobs. But the sad truth remains that they are. A lot. English is a global language yet still, so called ‘native speakers’ get preferential treatment. I hope that this changes in the very near future. After all, 80% of English language users are ‘non-native speakers’. The demographic of language teachers should reflect this reality. Meri, myself and all the Voices team are with you!

Emily Bryson ELT sketchnote - Paula Barrowcliffe - How diverse are ESOL departments?
Paula Barrowcliffe – How diverse are ESOL departments

The answer? Not very. This is something else that needs to change. The problem is, how do we change it?

Emily Bryson ELT Sketchnote Ola Kowalska IATEFL 2022
Ola Kowalska – How to successfully venture into online ELT-preneurship
Emily Bryson Sketchnote of IATEFL. Charlotte Ellis
Charlotte Ellis (featuring Kath Bilsborough) – ELT & the climate crisis – developing sustainable students.
Emily Bryson ELT sketchnote - Margarita Kosior - Tales of strays
Margarita Kosior – Pick a cause and fight for it. Introducing Tales of Strays.
Emily Bryson ELT sketchnote Harry Waters Macmillan Education How to develop a respect for sustainability that sticks
Harry Waters – How to develop a respect for sustainability that sticks
Emily Bryson ELT sketchnote Andy Cowle Brave New world IATEFL 2022
Andy Cowle – Brave New World – Ready for Planet English
Emily Bryson ELT sketchnote IATEFL 2022 John Hughes 7 steps to creativity in the classroom
John Hughes – 7 Steps to Creativity in the Classroom

Massive thanks to every single one of these speakers. I loved every second of your sessions. You are all amazing at what you do. Keep up the good work.

If you like these sketchnotes, why not join one of my courses and have a go yourself? Click the link to find out more! 


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A visual template by Emily Bryson ELT.A hand drawn sign post in the shape of an arrow facing right, to signify the future. Inside there is space for students or participants to add their ideas: a thought cloud with stars to add dreams and ambitions, a target to add goals and five arrows to add mini-goals or tasks to complete to achieve those goals. This is taken from Emily's resource pack Pathways to Success. Available on her website www.EmilyBrysonELT.com

A graphic for goal setting.

At the beginning of the year, I find it helpful to think about my goals and ambitions for the year ahead. There’s tons of research out there showing that if you write down clear goals, you’re more likely to achieve them. Even more so if you actually draw them.

I created this visual template to help this process. You can use it for you, or with your classes. Write on the .jpg provided or draw your own. I recommend the latter as it will be more fun!

In the section with the target, add one goal for each arrow. Consider different aspects of life, e.g. family & friends, personal development, work, health, money, etc. Be mindful that goals should be flexible and acheivable. I often find my goals change with time.

The thought bubble with stars represents dreams or aspirational goals. These can be things that you or your participants don’t have as much chance to influence. For example, one of my aspirational goals is to visit friends in Spain in the summer, but this is covid dependent.

In class, once students have completed or drawn their own goals, ask them to share their goals and discuss how they might achieve them. You could use language such as ‘I want to..’, ‘I’d like to…’, ‘I hope to…’, ‘It’s my dream to…’, ‘I’d love it if,…’, ‘I’m going to…’, ‘I plan to…’, ‘I will…’ etc, depending on their level. Draw attention to any emergent language.

If you like this, you’ll love Pathways to Success: Visual Tools for Goal-Setting, Self-Evaluation and Progression.  In it, you’ll find sixteen visual tools to use, re-use, adapt and repurpose with students, teams, individuals and even to help you plan your own big goals. 

To try before you buy, check out this webinar (start about 7 mins in to skip the intro! 


A graphic for goal setting. Read More »

It’s not a snowman! It’s not a Christmas tree either!

I got this idea from twitter. I was browsing and noticed the hashtag #NotAGingerBreadMan.

Students are given what looks like half a gingerbread man, and asked to colour it in and draw something else with it. If you search for this hashtag, you’ll see all sorts of cool creations – faces, dinosaurs, cats, football players.

This is a festive take on the original. You can go full Christmas spirit with the Santa, Christmas tree and stocking. Or you can opt for a more wintery vibe with the bell, candle, snowman and big cosy sock!

Ask students to turn the image around a few times and discuss ideas with a partner. Then give them time to draw or colour in their creations. Once they’ve finished, I’d display them around the room and ask students to explain what they drew and why.

For example, the Christmas tree might be a hedgehog if turned on its side.


The candle might a train coming out of a tunnel.

It’s a great way to get students using their imaginations and their language skills to share their ideas.

Click this link to download the PDF.

I’d love to see your work. If you do this with your class, or by yourself just for fun, share your work using #DrawingELT and tag @EmilyBrysonELT. It would make my day!

Love this idea? I have literally tons of super-simple ways to use hand drawn graphics in the ELT classroom. Why not do one of my courses? I always have something exciting on the go!

Click the laptop icon below to view my courses.

It’s not a snowman! It’s not a Christmas tree either! Read More »

Emily Bryson ELT using graphs to tell a story. THe story of my drawing skills over time - peaks at high school, dips for a while, then increase after doing a graphic facilitation course.

Lesson idea: using graphs to tell a story

Telling a story is a great way to get students communicating. But often when I student hears ‘tell a story’, they are at a loss for ideas or find it hard to remember all the key incidents. This lesson idea simplifies this process immensely. Stories can be told with just one line.

For example, here’s an example of a story of someone’s fitness levels. Draw it for the students and ask them what they think the person was doing at each point of the line. Here, they can use their critical thinking skills to figure out that perhaps the peaks were races the person had been training for while the troughs were periods when they were quite sedentary. In the early part of the graph, the person’s fitness yoyos while in the later part they have got a bit more routine about their fitness. Then, ask students to draw their own fitness over time. This could be over the past year or over their lifetime. Ask them to explain their graph to another student, then write about it.

Here’s another example of a story using just one line. In this example, students can discuss why this person’s drawing skills reduced after high school, and what made them increase their skills. They can then reflect on whether their story would be similar, and draw their own. Again, ask students to describe their ‘story in a line’ to another student, then write about it.

NB: This is my drawing journey over time. Dr Neil Cohn found that many people stop drawing after high school.

You can create stories using one line for all sorts of topics. For example:

  • My language learning journey.
  • My confidence with [speaking in English].
  • My interest in [cooking].
  • Time spent [shopping].
  • My [digital skills] over time.

You could, of course, use multiple lines and compare. For example, you could ask students to reflect on their progress so far with each skill in English, and have them represent each skill as a different colour. Give them a blank graph to get them started.

How would you use this idea in class? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Love this idea? Why not join one of my online courses? Click the image below to find out more:

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How graphic facilitation rejuvenated my teaching mojo!

Learning Graphic Facilitation skills rejuvenated my teaching mojo and has been the single best thing I’ve done for my personal and professional development.

In my 20 years as a teacher I think it’s pretty safe (and very natural) to say that there have been highs and lows. I suspect I’m not the only teacher to get bored at times. Overall, I love my job. The students are amazing. They have taught me a lot about the world, we’ve shared a lot of laughs, and they have fed me well! My colleagues are fantastic too. We’ve supported each other, learned from each other and enjoyed a fair few nights on the town. Plus, I teach English, so I essentially get paid to chat to learners, write conversational emails and play games. Yet somehow I do occasionally lose my mojo.

This concept of ‘teaching mojo’ came to me when reading a blog by Geraldine Ubeda. She wrote about how she had a bit of a teaching slump, but got her it back by getting involved with the TEFL Development Hub, reading and doing DELTA module 1. Essentially, CPD helped her find her ‘mojo, spark, zest’ as she puts it.

In many ways, it’s the same for me. Here’s a graph of how I’d visualise my teaching mojo over time:

You’ll notice that every time I was learning something shiny and new, my teaching mojo spiked, but when things got a bit too easy, my mojo waned.

Then I did my first course in graphic facilitation. My teaching mojo has been on fire ever since! Every day in class I get to trial a new technique or tool. Each week I learn to draw new icons and add them to my visual dictionary. I am continuously developing my visual vocabulary, my ability to communicate, my teaching skills and my own learners’ abilities to communicate. I now have an instantly accessible bank of visual tools which I can use at any time. I use my skills for making language points more understandable, telling stories, and adding fun to my lessons. I also use them to stand out from the crowd on social media and make my teacher training sessions more interactive and memorable. Plus it gets me away from a screen and lets me call playing with felt tips pens ‘work’!

As it turns out, I’m not the only who has experienced this. One of my previous course participants shared this testimonial:

I’d really love to share this superpower and help ELT professionals to find their lost mojos. If you’d like to know more, why not join one of my online courses? Click the laptop icon to find out more!

Click for information about my online course.

References: Here’s a link to Geraldine’s blog post (which has very cool visuals): https://geraldineubeda.wordpress.com/2021/09/19/lost-and-found-my-teaching-mojo/ 

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A Visual Template for Action Research

In a previous post, I summarised what action research is. In this post, I’d like to share a visual template that you can use to plan your own action research.

Action research is exploring your teaching in order to make improvements. This road map can (hopefully) guide you towards a world where the sun always shines in your classroom! Draw it, or print it, then scribble down some notes and ideas.

Start at the beginning of the road, with the topic you’d like to explore. This may be a problem, such as students not taking effective notes. Try to narrow this down. Note taking skills are broad, so keep it simple and focus on one area (e.g. taking vocabulary notes).

Now use the lightbulbs to consider possible solutions or techniques you’d like to trial. Perhaps you’d like to train students to create a vocabulary dictionary, use graphic organisers or use simple drawings beside new words.

When you have a few ideas, head over to the left side of the road. Note down some people you’d like to talk to and information you need. Have a look for podcasts, videos, blogs, books, or articles to help you. After you’ve spoken to people and done some reading or viewing, you may want to revise your lightbulbs. That’s OK. That’s part of the process.

Hopefully by this point one idea in your lightbulbs will be glowing brighter than the rest. Trial it and see if it works. Once you’ve trialled it, go ahead and try others things. Collect evidence and reflect as you do so. This could include notes, a reflective journal, discussions, interviews, lesson plans, students’ work, feedback, etc.

If this is part of a formal action research project, you’ll then need to write a reflective report summarising your findings and evidence. You can then share this with the wider world to improve practice around the world!

Visual templates are a key graphic facilitation technique. My own action research has found that they are very effective in the ELT context.

If you’d like to know more, why not join one of my online courses? Click the laptop to find out more.

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Free lesson plan. Recycling and climate change. Emily Bryson ELT. Subscribe to my mailling list to download.

3 Free lessons plans! Because #ELTCanDoEco!

COP26 has been in my city, Glasgow, and I’ve got totally swept away by green theming my lessons.

My classes this year are starter and beginner level. The starter class are literacy level learners. They’ve got a strong grasp of the alphabet and can write simple words, but they’re working on their sentences and short texts.

Before COP26, I scoured all the usual places for environmental lesson plans, hoping I could find something suitable or accessible and adaptable.

Alas, my search proved fruitless, so I donned my materials writing and graphic facilitation hat and got to work.

I created the following:

  • a hand-drawn infographic of environmental problems and things people can do to help (Grammar: Do you + verb?)
  • a set of worksheets using icons for common household waste (Grammar: It is a/an…  They are… s/es/ies)
  • an activity where students identify how to recycle each item of waste and discuss whether it can be recycled (Can you recycle…+noun?)

The lessons went down well with learners and really got them thinking green. I was surprised at how few actually recycled, but I think I planted the seed for them to explore their local recycling opportunities.

I don’t usually spend so much time using drawings to prepare my lessons, but I knew I’d use these again and again. I also wanted to create something unique for this week’s #DrawingELT (see twitter) challenge:

#ELTCanDoEco was created by ELT Footprint. They want to create a bank of ‘Can do’ statements, much like the CEFR statements but specifically for EcoLiteracy. They are calling on ELT professionals to use these when creating lessons with a green theme.

My lessons refer to the following eco-competencies:

  • I can understand and explain climate change.
  • I can communicate different ways to help the environment.
  • I can identify common household waste.
  • I can decide what household waste can and can’t be recycled.
  • I can consider different things to do with waste that can’t be recycled.

I’d like to share these lesson plans here with you. Although I wrote them for A0/A1, they are highly visual, and as such, I feel they can easily be adapted to all levels of learner. That’s why I’m sharing these as a powerpoint. You can download it and adapt the visuals for your own class. I’ve made some notes on each powerpoint slide of how to do this.

You can download them by clicking the image below.

Free lesson plan. Recycling and climate change. Emily Bryson ELT. Subscribe to my mailling list to download.
Click here to download my green lesson plans.

You can read more about #ELTCanDoEco on the ELT Footprint page: https://eltfootprint.org/eltcandoeco/

If you’d like to learn how to draw visuals similar to those in my lesson plan, good news! I have an online course for that!

You can find information by clicking the laptop icon.


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Emily Bryson ELT hand drawn pen on a whiteboard

The satisfying sounds of an engaged classroom (and how to hear them)!

I recently had the satisfaction of hearing my students make noises such as:

‘Aaaaah’ (I understand)

‘Ooooh’ (How cool!)

‘Haha’ (How funny! This class is great!)

Hearing students make those sounds is what I live for as a teacher. It’s those moments that make you think there can’t possibly be a better job in the world.

So what was I doing? A simple listening activity using basic shapes with my beginner class. We were revising common objects (e.g. a watch, a camera) with the form ‘It is a/an’.

You may have noticed that my drawings are as simple as I can make them. They are often made of basic shapes such as squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, lines and squiggles. If you can form these shapes, and write the alphabet, then you can draw. It is especially easy to draw common objects with these shapes.

First, I drew basic shapes on the board. Then we revised prepositions of place and phrases like ‘bottom left’ and ‘top right’ (which I find particularly useful for navigating the screen in online lessons).

Then I gave them all a sheet of A4 printer paper and dictated the following:

Object 1: Draw a rectangle. In the centre of the rectangle, draw a big circle. In the top right corner, draw a small square. On top of the rectangle, in the top right, draw a small rectangle.

Object 1: This is what they drew. One student put the square on the left, so I added another square to mine. Left or right wasn’t really important. It still looked like a camera.

Object 2: Draw a circle. On top of the circle, draw a square. Under the circle, draw a square. In the middle of the circle, draw a line. Start in the middle and go right. Draw one more line. Start in the middle and go up. 

Object 2: This is what they (mostly) drew.

Object 3: Draw a long rectangle. On the top right, draw a small rectangle. Draw lines in the small rectangle from the top to the bottom.

Object 3

Object 4: Draw a long rectangle. On the left of the triangle, draw a triangle. On the right, draw a small square. 

Object 4: Ok, I may have added the handle at the end.

By now, students were getting it. Drawings are just a collection of shapes. I did this with two different classes and in the second class, students got quite excited and started creating their own. Here’s what they described, with much hilarity:

Then they wanted to know how to draw a rocket. Which uses curves as well as the other shapes.

I did this with my beginner classes. One group has slightly stronger listening skills and they drew as I spoke, the other needed a little more support. For them, I dictated, then I demonstrated on the whiteboard if they needed it.

Each group made the same noises! I’d be really keen to hear if your students have the same reactions! I’d also be interested to hear how higher levels get on with this activity. I think it would still challenge them. You could read it faster, or make the objects more intricate.

If you’d like to brush up on your drawing skills and learn lots of ways to use drawing and graphic facilitation techniques for ELT, why not join one of my online courses? You can find information by clicking the laptop icon above. 

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Action research sketchnote by Emily Bryson ELT a summary of action research

Action Research: a sketchnote

This year, I am delighted to have the opportunity to become a mentor for Outstanding Learning Teaching and Assessment (OTLA) Action Research projects. I am currently working with Oldham College on a project aiming to ease the transition from ESOL to Vocational FE courses and Lancaster and Morecambe college on a project investigating emotional support strategies for ESOL learners. So far, I have been blown away by the knowledge and enthusiasm the lecturers have.

It’s been wonderful working with such inspiring individuals, but also hearing about previous OTLA projects. It has struck me that Action Research can often be misunderstood. I think many practitioners (my less experienced self included) hear the words ‘Research’ and instantly think of trawling journal articles, reading (and re-reading) big academic words and hours analysing data. But in fact, action research is none of those things. It is much simpler.

Every teacher can be a researcher. And it’s highly likely that most practitioners informally do action research without even knowing it. Action research is essentially trialling new teaching techniques and working practices to make improvements. Now find me a teacher who hasn’t done that! In a more formal sense, action research projects involve reflection, keeping a journal, collecting evidence (such as students’ work, feedback, lesson plans, etc), a final report, ethics agreements and sharing the learning with other professionals.

Here’s a sketchnote I drew to summarise Action Research:

For more detailed information, the Education and Training Foundation Action Research guide is very informative.

If you’d like this sketchnote and would like to brush up on your drawing skills, why not join one of my online courses?

Click the laptop icon to find out more!

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DIY support box. Pile of books with two chopsticks. A phone is placed on top of the chopsticks to enable video recording of a hand drawing

How to draw ELT icons: a video

I’ve been running courses in graphic facilitatiion for English language teaching professionals for a while now. The courses teach simple ways to use drawings to make lessons more understandable, engaging and memorable. 

My drawings are not art, they are communication! They are simply a visual vocabulary that I have taught myself and developed over time. Everyone can do it. 

The beauty is that they are easy to draw and they take just seconds to clearly communicate a point. They are simple icons which are unintimidating and accessible for all. 

I often find that my students copy them, unprompted to their notebooks, which instantly supports their learning and language recall. 

In this video I demonstrate how to draw some useful icons for the ELT classroom. You can use these icons for your whiteboards, resources, sketchnotes and graphic organisers. You could also show your learners how to use them in their notebooks. I particularly like to add them to rubrics in homework tasks to ensure my beginners understand what to do.

How would you use them?

Loved this? This is the first video in my Build your Visual Vocabulary module. To find out more and browse my other courses, click the laptop. 

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Feedback comes in many forms. But the best is a fairy!

Feedback is crucial for developing high quality learning experiences. As a materials writer, I value the editorial process because it helps me develop my content from first to final draft. As a teacher, I encourage my students to tell me how they feel about the content of my lessons, and what I can do to support their learning. As a teacher trainer, I am always keen to hear what participants thought of my session so I can make changes the next time I deliver it.

Feedback comes in many forms. Pun intended. It’s true, often feedback comes in the form of a form. Survey Monkey and Google Forms are the ‘go to’.

As a graphic facilitator, I can tell you that there are much more creative (and fun) ways of receiving feedback. In this post, I’d like to share with you to one of those methods.

Let me introduce the Feedback Fairy.

Visual capture sheet inspired by Martha Harding at Scottish Refugee Council.

I was first introduced to the Feedback Fairy by Martha Harding while I was on secondment at the Scottish Refugee Council. Martha had lots of cool ideas for facilitating sessions, and I added this one to my toolkit. I drew this version for the Sharing Lives Sharing Languages project that I was managing at the time.

The feedback fairy is best used as a flipchart, and participants add post-it comments in the various sections. You can do this online using the annotation tools in Zoom or using post-its in Jamboard. If you want individual feedback, you could photocopy one per participant.

Participants are guided to consider:

Heart – things they loved

Toolkit – tools, resources or activities they’d take away

Speech bubble – things they’d tell others

Brain – things they thought or learned

Wand – things they wished had been included

Bin – things they didn’t like

For my first cohort of Engaging Learners with Simple Drawings participants, it was a no-brainer to use the feedback fairy. But since the course focus was on drawings, I did something a little different.

I asked them to draw their own feedback fairies.

I’d like to share some of them here with you. I was blown away by the creativity, skill and imagination. And how much they all loved the course!

Credit: Annette Flavel
Credit: Eve Sheppard
Credit: Nergiz Kern
Credit: Cheryl Palin

Loved this? Want to learn more Graphic Facilitation techniques specifically for ELT professionals? Join one of my Online Courses! Follow this link to find out more: www.emilybrysonelt.com/all-courses/

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#DrawingELT seasons

Feel the fear, and draw anyway! Launching #drawingELT!

It is with great excitement that Clare Catchpole (of Express Yourself in English fame) and I launch the hashtag #drawingELT.

We are both firm believers in the power of drawing. It’s creative. It’s relaxing. It’s engaging. It’s supportive. It’s fun. It’s also great for checking understanding, aiding memory, supporting students to take notes and activating life skills such as critical thinking.

#DrawingELT seasons


We know that there are many teachers out there who agree and who would like to develop their drawing skills. So we’d like to create a community of like-minded ELT professionals. All you need to do is use #drawingELT on Twitter or LinkedIn to share your lesson ideas, blogs, doodles, sketches and flashcards.

To inspire your drawings, we’ll post challenges. These will vary from ELT related topics, to vocabulary items to more complex concepts like grammar, metaphor or puzzlers such as how to draw inclusive pronouns or the difference between need and want. 

And before you say it, everyone CAN DRAW. Some of us are maybe just a bit rusty or haven’t had much practice. Drawing is a visual language, and as language teaching professionals we all know the best way to improve is regular practice. I have two mottos:

Feel the fear, and draw anyway!

It’s not art, it’s communication. 

As such, with #drawingELT, anything goes. You can share the most rudimentary stick person scribbled on the back of a napkin or a detailed illustration capable of making Da Vinci jealous. Mine will be closer to the former!

Here’s a fantastic little .gif that Clare made to get you in the mood!


Clare Catchpole Drawing ELT

I look forward to seeing your creations!

If you’d like to brush up on your drawing skills, why not join one of my online courses? Find out more by clicking the laptop. 

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Emily Bryson sketchnote from Innovate online conference 2021 Tyson Seburn plenary session

Sketchnotes from Innovate ’21 (day 2)

I’ll start this post by saying what a well organised and inspiring conference Innovate is! I’ve wanted to go for many years, but have never been able to travel during term time to Barcelona. So when I saw that it was online this year, I got my session proposal in straight away.

One of the best things about the conference is that it’s just the right size. There were four sessions to choose from with each timeslot, which offered choice without overwhelming and it was easy to network in the Zoom garden.

On Saturday morning, I woke pondering the run scheduled in my marathon training plan or Fiona Mauchline’s session. The memory of how great Fiona’s previous sessions have been aided my choice. That, plus it was all about the senses. It sounded brilliant. And it was. Here’s my sketchnote:

Fiona Mauchline Innovate 2021 session. Sketchnote by Emily Bryson ELT

I took a few hours off in the afternoon to feel guilty about my run (but not actually do it) and add a few drawings to my own session on Engaging Learners Online with Simple Drawings. Sandy Millin did me the wonderful service of taking these wonderfully detailed notes, if you’d like a summary. Thanks, Sandy!

After my session, I couldn’t miss Tyson Seburn’s plenary. It’s amazing how much equality and diversity advice he squeezed into 15 mins! Using the metaphor of a dirty river, he explored the journey ELT has taken. Our metaphorical river is flowing in a cleaner direction now than before but we still have a lot of work to do before ELT Footprinters would deem it ecologically safe! I especially loved his reference to the ELT ‘coursebook closet’. A term coined by Scott Thornbury. Here’s my sketchnotes:

Emily Bryson sketchnote from Innovate online conference 2021 Tyson Seburn plenary session

If you’d like to learn how to sketchnote or use simple doodles to communicate, why not join one of my online courses? You can find information by clicking the laptop or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates.

Emily Bryson ELT. Engaging Learners with Simple Drawings. Graphic Facilitation for English Language Teaching Professionals. Online Course. Group Programme. Simple drawing of a laptop with the text 'online course'.

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#ELTCanDoEco Innovate 2021 session by Katherine Bilsborough and Ceri Jones. Sketcnoted by Emily Bryson ELT

Sketchnotes from Innovate 21 (Day 1)

Today I’ve had the good fortune to attend some amazing sessions at Innovate Online 2021. Four hours on Zoom can take its toll but sketchnoting helped me stay focused and avoid the many distractions that my computer has on offer.

As these are a visual record and summary of the talks, I’ll leave this as a visual post.


#ELTCanDoEco Innovate 2021 session by Katherine Bilsborough and Ceri Jones. Sketcnoted by Emily Bryson ELT

Katherine Bilsborough and Ceri Jones discussed all things Ecoliteracy.

Emily Bryson ELT sketchnote of Harry Waters at Innovate 2021

Harry Waters gives advice on Becoming a Lean Green Teaching Machine!

Nergiz Kern Virtual Reality in ELT. Sketchnote by Emily Bryson ELT.

Nergiz Kern brought Environmental Topics to Life with Virtual Reality.

Tetiana Myronova Reflective Practice Toolkit Emily Bryson ELT sketchnotes

Tetiana Myronova introduced her super useful, super positive Reflective Practice Toolkit.

Do you ever use sketchnoting? I’d love to see your examples.

If you’d like to learn how to sketchnote or use simple doodles to communicate, why not join one of my online courses? You can find information by clicking the laptop or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates.

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5 essentials for teaching life skills


English language learners often want to learn English to improve their life chances. We can help them do so by incorporating life skills into our practice. In fact, it is my firm belief that teaching English and teaching life skills are the perfect match; each supports the other.

Here are five essentials for supporting learners with life skills.

Create a positive classroom atmosphere

It is not only our approach to teaching that makes ELT the perfect environment for incorporating life skills, it is the environment itself. As trainee teachers, one of the first things we learn is the importance of a welcoming, supportive, and encouraging class atmosphere. Students need to feel comfortable in the classroom and positive about their learning experiences.

Our classrooms must therefore be a safe space to learn from mistakes. We can create this by framing failures as learning opportunities and praising learners for their achievements. Giving students time to think before they respond, opportunities to reflect on their learning, and the chance to practise their skills in a supportive environment are invaluable for encouraging life skills acquisition.

Be patient

In creating a safe space to learn, we must also provide sufficient time for the adoption of life skills. Think about how you first learned to organise your time.  When you were in your early teenage years, it’s unlikely that you were as good at time management as you are now. You probably learned through a combination of advice from peers, teachers, parents, and other role models as well as simple trial and error. It’s possible that you may still feel that you still haven’t yet perfected this life skill. That’s because life skills take time and practice, and everyone is different.  Find out what your students’ aspirations are, give them the confidence to grow, and reassure them that their goals are achievable with a little hard work.

Be a role model

Students naturally look to their teachers for how to behave and succeed. We are role models. By presenting a professional, organised and well-prepared persona, we can inspire our learners to do the same.

Invite questions

Student questions can be tricky, but when they ask difficult questions, that’s when you know their critical thinking skills are developing. Actively encourage your learners to ask questions. Then support them to find the answers for themselves and to help their peers.

critical thinking

Identify goals

In many ways, developing life skills is aspirational. They are not something that anyone can truly say they have mastered and couldn’t improve on in some way. Although I’m regarded as an efficient spinner of many plates and master of deadlines, I may still get caught out with a last-minute photocopier malfunction making me late for class; there’s always room for improvement.  As such, we need to help our students to identify realistic goals based on each individual’s current abilities and give sufficient time to process the information, respond, and incorporate it into their lives.

Identifying individual students’ abilities and goals is a great starting point for incorporating life skills into your classes. Every teaching context is different as are the needs of every learner. Some students will already have a strong grasp of life skills, while others have a longer road to travel. Working with your learners and identifying which life skills are most appropriate to them is a crucial first step.

There are some ideas of how to do this in my previous post: Simple drawings to support life skills.

Available now: https://wayzgoosepress.com/emily-bryson/

Want to know more?

My book, 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills is a collection of practical tips and activities to enhance students’ social, academic, critical thinking, digital, and work skills to help students become their best selves.

This guide is simple, supports all levels of learners, and many of the activities require little or no preparation or special materials. Each activity assists students to improve their speaking, reading, writing, listening, grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation skills while also practising their broader skills for life.

It is available now in print and digital from Wayzgoose Press from just £1.99.

For more info about me, my online courses and books you can sign up to my mailing list.

Check out my online courses here:

Emily Bryson ELT. Engaging Learners with Simple Drawings. Graphic Facilitation for English Language Teaching Professionals. Online Course. Group Programme. Simple drawing of a laptop with the text 'online course'.


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A zero prep ice breaker.

The first days in class are a time for students to get to know each other and make connections. As teachers, we need to equip ourselves with a toolkit of ice breakers. Here’s one that you might like to try. You can use it at any level.

  1. Elicit some questions from students which people often ask when they meet them for the first time.
  2. Write the questions on the board, or type them into an online display (e.g. Jamboard, Zoom whiteboard, Powerpoint). Draw simple icons to engage learners and support understanding. Online, your can do this using a visualiser or drawing tablet. You could also use stock images or free icons from The Noun Project).
  3. Ask learners to work in pairs or small groups to answer the questions, then report back to the whole class on their partners’ answers.

As an extension, you could:

  1. Ask them to write about themselves, using the questions as prompts.
  2. Display the written answers around the room for others to read, or ask learners to share their work online using Google Docs, Padlet, Wakelet or similar. Feedback as a whole class.
I elicit getting to know you questions from my beginners.

One caveat for this activity is inclusion. I don’t know about you, but my learners often want to know about age, marital status, work and whether their peers have children. These are natural things to be curious about but can be sensitive subjects. Make sure learners know they don’t have to answer any questions if they don’t want to and teach them techniques for avoiding sensitive topics. For example, expressions like ‘That’s a secret’ or responding to the age question with ‘I’m 21.’ Which, of course, I am!

What activities do you use to help learners get to know each other? Share your ideas in the comments.

If you’d like more ideas on how to use simple drawings in the classroom, check out my online courses. Click the laptop icon above for more info!

For more information: https://www.emilybrysonelt.com/all-courses/

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Welcoming whiteboards!

I can’t tell you how excited I was to be back in the classroom this week. I got to teach real live students! It was wonderful.

I also got to use a whiteboard. And a whiteboard marker! What a treat!

The beginning of term is a time for welcoming learners, getting to know them and double checking they know exactly where they are going and when.

This year, I’m teaching a beginner and a starter class. I tend to find that writing times, dates and room numbers on the board can lead to confusion. Drawing some simple icons can help make this information clearer.

I’d like to share the simple icons I use with you. You’ll notice that these are not works of art, that my whiteboard is a little smudged and that I probably wrote these in a hurry. That’s because I did. I’m a teacher. That’s how we roll!

Welcoming learners with simple drawings helps communicate information more clearly.
Keeping break time simple.

How do you welcome your learners? How do you make sure they understand their induction information? I’d love to hear your ideas, or to see your whiteboards!

If you like these ideas, and want to learn more zero prep activities for the English language classroom, check out my online courses!

You can find more information about my online courses here. Or click the laptop icon.

Emily Bryson ELT. Engaging Learners with Simple Drawings. Graphic Facilitation for English Language Teaching Professionals. Online Course. Group Programme. Simple drawing of a laptop with the text 'online course'.

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The refuge of redwoods

I’d like to share my obsession with tall trees with you. Beware! I caught this from a friend at college and have since passed it on to others. Most of my adventures don’t feel complete unless I’ve hugged one. There are over 4000 recorded around Scotland and stumbling upon one adds a hint of magic to my outdoors escapades. I have ran, walked, cycled and paddleboarded just to marvel at them.

Running to a Redwood in Rouken Glen Park.

People often ask ‘Why Redwoods?’ And I’ve thought long and hard. I love all trees. They are each diverse and unique. Scots Pines can be delightfully buckled or juxtaposed by their straight and serious neighbours. Beech tree foliage is so impenetrable that they dominate and create fairy forests wherever they grow. Acer Griseum and Silver Birch have the most delicate, intriguing bark. Yews have an eery mysticism. But there’s still something about redwoods.

It could be that Redwoods are superlative trees. Some are over 3000 years old, making them the oldest on the planet. They are the tallest and biggest. They can grow to 100m in height, and some are so wide you can drive through them. They are the best trees in the world for carbon offsetting because they soak up so much C02. They are also the cuddliest and safest trees, with their super spongy, fire-proof, bark. And, of course, they provide excellent refuge from the rain.

A Giant Redwood at Nethy Bridge.

But, I think perhaps what I love most about them is that, like my students, they are New Scots. Giant and Coast Redwoods are originally from the west coast of America while Dawn redwoods hail from China. They are endangered in their home countries, but have found sanctuary here in Scotland.

The ex-situ trees found in arboretums, country parks and gardens across Scotland help protect the worldwide population. If a catastrophe happened in the Sierra Nevada, for example, there would still be trees flourishing here in Scotland.

Paddleboarding to the Redwoods at Inchmaholme Priory, Lake of Menteith.

Of course, some redwoods are in danger in Scotland too. Much like people from refugee backgrounds, ex-situ trees aren’t always offered the protection they deserve. When a Quarry application went through at Gillies hill, the Tree Protection Order was refused due to their ‘non-native’ status. This, despite the trees having root systems dating back to 1860.

Much like humans, there is an eternal debate as to when ‘ex-situ’ becomes ‘native’. The oldest Scottish redwoods settled here 170 years ago so arguably they are Scots rather than New Scots. Though personally I prefer to think of everyone and everything as citizens of the world.

So, what I’ve come to realise, is that part of my fascination with redwoods stems from my advocacy for New Scots. Everyone and every tree is welcome and enriching. And I’ll stand by them just as I’ll stand up for refugee rights.

If you’d like to know more about redwoods in Scotland, here are some of my blog posts:



My Glasgow Running Routes Redwood Running Route

Have you tried? Spotting redwoods in Scotland

Are there any redwoods near you? Do you have a favourite tree? What causes do you advocate for?

Don’t miss any of my posts! Follow my blog, twitter or join my mailing list.

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