Posted in Atomic Classroom Habits, Teacher Development

Atomic Classroom Habits: Retrieval Placemat

This is hopefully the first in a series of posts that accompany my recent talk, “Atomic Classroom Habits”, that I gave at Innovate ELT. Follow this link to access the slides from my talk.

One of the ideas I talked about was a using a retrieval placemat that students find on their desks when they enter the class. The aim is to stimulate retrieval of content from the previous class. They should work in pairs to answer the various questions on the mat without looking at their notes. The idea is to push them to retrieve the information from their long-term memory.

I got the idea from Kate Jones’s wonderful book “Retrieval Practice”, which you can find by following this link. Most of her retrieval activities are aimed at teachers of other subjects such as history or politics, so I’ve tweaked her idea for the ESL classroom.

You can download the mat by right-clicking on the image in the post, or by following this link. If you want to edit the placemat, I made it using a simple template on Canva. Follow this link to use my version as an editable template.

Simply print out the placemat in nice bright colours and put it on your students’ desks for when they arrive. Alternatively, you could just project it onto the board at the beginning of each class. Let me know how you get on!

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Phrase of the Day, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #25: A Bitter Pill to Swallow

Today’s expression is…

“A bitter pill to swallow…”

Introduce it with some examples:

Losing the cup final to a goal in the last minute was a bitter pill to swallow for the Tottenham fans.

The terrible sales figures for the final quarter of the year were a bitter pill to swallow for the company’s directors.

Lead students to the meaning: a difficult fact to accept


Think of some difficult facts you’ve had to accept recently:

  • Your sports team
  • Your school/uni results
  • Something at work
  • Something in your personal life

Here’s the Quizlet set of all the previous phrases of the day.