Emily Bryson ELT

Month: November 2021

Action Research road map plan. Visual template for Action Research

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 my online course? You can find information here or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates. You could also follow me on Linkedin or Twitter: @E_Bryson

Click for information about my online course.

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 here:

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 here or join my mailing list to get updates.






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 here or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates. You could also follow me on Linkedin or Twitter: @E_Bryson

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? You can find information here or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates. You could also follow me on Linkedin or Twitter: @E_Bryson