Downloads & Resources

"Back Pocket" Activities

You can find these with many different names:
 "Sponge" Activities
 'early finisher' ideas, 'free time' activities, mini-lessons, puzzles, word games, ...

I call them "Back Pocket" Activities.  Here's why ...

"Whole Class" Activities

Time-Filler Ideas – Games along with short explanations

  • Hangman Headlines - An enjoyable game which creates interest in current news issues.
  • Noughts and Crosses - A fun way of questioning children about any topic.
  • Kids' Questions - A fun time-filler which you can use every day of the school year.
  • Odd One Out! - A simple game requiring children to find the odd one out in a group.
  • If I were... - Find out what your class would do if they could take on the role of another person.
  • Title Pages - A simple way of using a few spare minutes, which reinforces the concepts you are teaching within your topics.
  • News Headlines - Turn a mundane event into a filler activity, using this headlines activity.
  • Slam! - A fast-paced game which can be used within any curriculum subject. This game is called SLAM. It can be used in all the subjects.

Timefilling ideas, Puzzles, Word games, Fun, Other Ideas

  • Just A Minute - like the famous radio show. Pupils must speak for one minute without hesitating, repeating a word or deviating from the topic.
  • Newspaper - sensationalize a mundane event around school. For example "Mrs Smith tragically runs out of rice pudding".
  • Getting To Know You - throw a ball of wool at a named individual. You keep hold of part of it and eventually there should be a spider's web in the circle.
  • Listen & Draw - One child has to describe a picture to the rest of the class who have to draw it.
  • Class Timeline - Create a timeline for the class. This could relate to the current year or the previous one.
  • TOAST - "Think Of A Sentence Together": teacher or pupil writes a series of letters on the board and children have to create a sentence using the initial letters. For example BFASFbr becomes "Big fish always swim fast".

Be the Teacher
Submitted by: April Roberts, Franklin County Middle School, GA
For my middle school, Latino, ESL kids, I often wrap up the last ten minutes by having one or two of the students "be the teacher" for a mini-lesson. I'll call on someone at random, and ask them to go to the board and in two minutes or less re-teach what they've learned that day. I'll call them "Mr." or "Ms." and ask them questions as they demonstrate their lesson re-cap. I encourage the other students to ask questions so the teacher can field them. The "teacher" is allowed to choose to give their lesson in English or Spanish, depending on their language ability level. This option allows even the beginner to participate effectively and show off a bit. It works well with grammar, because they can write examples, diagram a sentence, and list or categorize. This also works effectively in other content areas.


Who Has It? Who Doesn't?
     from Cathy Jimenez, a bilingual teacher in the Escondido,California Union School District.
Teacher chooses an observable object such as hair ribbons, watch, white shirt, and says, "Ann has it, James doesn't." When someone thinks they know, they raise their hand and guess. Each student may make only one guess per object until everyone has had a chance, or until a given time limit has passed.

With younger students, the students who "have it" line up on one wall and the ones who don't "have it" line up on the other wall, so they can have visual clues to the criteria or concept.


Individual or Small Group Activities

'Acceptable' Free Time Activities - One teacher's list of "acceptable" free time activities (selected /partial list):

  • write a story
  • write a poem
  • write a song
  • play an educational game
  • pleasure read
  • make a game to practice a recent concept (states/capitals, reducing fractions, times tables, continents, minerals....)
  • put together a puzzle

Go to the teacher store and find some fun logic puzzles or those pictures (i can't think of the name) like:  [RESEARCH]
      heels       (that means "head over heels")

and make copies of the most interesting ones and have a "puzzler" station .

Early Finishers Ideas - select ideas Try adapting this list to make it more suitable for your local context.



Downloads and Resources


Resources for Education

Resources for Corporate Communications
Resources for Self-Directed Learning
  Resources on this page ...  Learner-Centred Education - "Top Five"
Qualities, Attitudes, Characteristics - "Heart"
Classroom Practice
Resources for Schools
Internet Resources for Learner / Classroom Use

Learner-Centred Education - "Top Five"

OWLS Global - "Shell Activities"
"Shell Activities" make lessons active, while keeping the focus on academic content.
Each activity's structure is an empty “shell” (or empty “bowl”) which can be filled with core content from any subject discipline.
The current package (under development) contains four "shell activities":
SLAM, Lotto, Lie Detector, and Unfinished Sentences

Facilitating Learning: Issues on Learner-centred Teaching  - Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn (NUS)

Learner-Centered vs. Curriculum-Centered Teachers: Which Type Are You?

How Learner-Centred Are You?   -  (PDF)
   National Institute for Educational Development (NIED)
    Ministry of Basic Education and Culture, Namibia

OWLS Global "Learner Centred Education" downloads:
  OWLSGlobal Learner Centred vs Teacher Centred Comparison Chart.pdf     [PDF Document]
  OWLSGlobal Learner-Centred Lesson Observations      [PDF Document]
  OWLSGlobal Learner-Centred Lessons Posters      [PDF Document]
  OWLSGlobal Jigsaw Lessons     [PDF Document]

  . . .  more Resources for Learner Centred Classrooms  


Qualities, Attitudes, Characteristics - "Heart"

What Makes A Good Teacher?  - IATEFL Newsletter
Ten Qualities of an Effective Teacher  - from  
Five Attitudes of Effective Teachers  -  UCSA - an academic paper by Bonni Gourneau, University of North Dakota   

Classroom Practice

Questioning Techniques  - from MindTools  
Correction and Giving Feedback  - Cambridge ESOL   
Jigsaw - Maximizing Learner Involvement       [OWLSGlobal PDF]   
Jigsaw - for public education
Using the Jigsaw Cooperative Learning Technique
Wikipedia - Jigsaw Teaching Technique
Ten Cooperative Learning Techniques For Building Classroom Communities

Kindergarten (and Primary) Inspiration
These three videos provide a wonderful introduction to the 'hows' and 'whys' of child-centred kindergarten (and primary) teaching.
    Part 1 - High-Quality Kindergarten Today - Background
    Part 2 - High-Quality Kindergarten Today - The Classroom Environment 
    Part 3 - High-Quality Kindergarten Today - The Classroom Schedule

Organizing Classroom Learning Centers  - an example of what's available for teachers on YouTube

Resources for Schools

ERIC: Setting Up and Running A School Library - by Nicola Baird (Peace Corp PDF version)
ERIC: Sustainable Library Development Training Package
UNESCO: Libraries for All: How to Start and Run a Small Library - by Laura Wendell

Ofsted (see also Wikipedia - Ofsted)
The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) is a UK government agency which inspects or regulates a very broad range of educational services in England (including children’s social care, state schools, independent schools, teacher training providers, colleges and learning and skills providers for all ages).
For educators outside of the UK, a careful reading of the Ofsted website's 'Resources', 'Inspection Reports' and 'News' sections can provide a wealth of information on educational 'good practices'. 
The following are just a few examples of the many 'good practice' items available from Ofsted:  
 - School_governance_Learning_From_The_Best.pdf
 - Eliot Bank School Cycle of Monitoring and Evaluation Linked to SEF
 - Good Practice Example
 - Employability&Enterprise_Good_practice_example.pdf
 - Developing_Pupil_Leadership_Good_Practice_Example.pdf
 - Creating_Writers_Good_Example.pdf

Teamwork in the Classroom
 What is Teamwork?
 Why should Teachers be Interested in Teamwork?
 What is the Difference Between a Group Exercise and a Team Exercise?
 Characteristics of Effective Teams.
 Stages of Team Growth.

  ... for more on Team Work, Professionalism and Conflict Management, see [LINK] Resources - Communication Skills for the Corporate Environment 

Book - "Trusting Teachers With School Success" (What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots)
        by Kim Farris-Berg and Edward J. Dirkswager
Article - "Good teachers are the cornerstone of learning"
Teacher Training International - a personal website (Australian)
Successful teacher-training programme in Nepal - MITRATAA Foundation
OECD Report - Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers - Final Report: Teachers Matter
International Society For Teacher Education
Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET - UK)
Educators Abroad 

A to Z Teachers' Tools   -  A resource I have frequently shared printed copies of ... and which I refer to just as frequently myself.    
TeacherTube - Teacher-Resources on YouTube: well worth exploring
Open University UK -
A useful guide for teachers ... to suitable websites for 'kids': SurfNetKids -

Puzzlemaker - a site which you or your students can use -
- Word Search:
- Crossword:
- plus ... double puzzles, fallen phrases, math squares, mazes, letter tiles,
            cryptograms, number blocks, hidden message

FunBrain – Teachers' Links  -

A Teachers' Discussion Forum  -


Internet Resources for Learner / Classroom Use

British Council - resources well worth exploring.  There are regional sites as well. 
Schools Online - British Council online resources for schools.
BBC - Bitesize  -  a wide range of resources - for students and teachers
BBC - GCSE - Bitesize   - although specific to the GCSE, these resources are engaging and broadly applicable to almost any general syllabus
WebWise BBC Course – course preparing students for internet use

Khan Academy

  • With a library of over 3,000 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and hundreds of skills to practice, Khan Academy are on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace.

Reading AtoZ

  • The online leveled reading program with downloadable books to print and assemble
  • A complete reading program with affordable books, lesson plans, worksheets and assessments to teach leveled reading, phonics, phonemic awareness, alphabet, vocabulary, and comprehension to K-5.


  • Free and/or highly affordable resources for pre-school, primary and special-education English reading with a systematic phonics / phonemic approach.

Math Skill-Building


General Resources:

Sites for Student Research  -  Online Encyclopedias
Wikipedia - English Main Page -
High Beam - Encyclopedia -
Encarta - MSN -
FactMonster - Encyclopedia -
Columbia Encyclopedia -

Sites for Student Research  -  Other Useful Sites - choose sample topics from index (eg: biology to find mitosis & meiosis)
National Geographic - Education Section
CIA World FactBook - huge compendium of facts / data from around the world
       ... download your own copy
How Stuff Works - Kind of Popular 'Science' 
Atlapedia Online - full color physical maps, political maps as well as key facts and statistics on countries of the world.
NatureServe - a network connecting science with conservation

Guides to online encyclopedias:
Freeality  -  an extensive list of links to encyclopedias - plus links to dictionaries, libraries and much more
SurfNetKids Encyclopedia
Other exotic encyclopedias -

Resources - Communication Skills for the Corporate Environment

Customer Service Resources

The Importance of Customer Service

The Service Recovery Paradox: No Excuse for Bad Service

3 Skills Needed to Succeed in Customer Service    [+ 1 'bonus' skill]
 - Listening (focus, key points, note-taking), Problem-Solving Skills,
     Professional + (bonus) Detachment

The WOW Awards - a UK organisation dedicated to excellent customer service

Three 'Pocketbook' resources which I have used and can recommend:
 The Handling Complaints Pocketbook - by Angelena Boden
 The Customer Service Pocketbook - by Tony Newby & Sean McManus
 The Telephone Skills Pocketbook - by Mary Richards

Customer Service Mistakes, Excuses & Nightmares

Mistakes call for analysis, preventive action, not excuses - The Hindu 2009 Sep 30
  Apologise, Explain Reasons, Corrective Measures, Learn from issues

Customers Complain - Businesses Make Excuses

Four Excuses Customers Hate Most - Lame Excuses

Customer Service Nightmare + other links
 Business Research Lab website

Leadership and Teamwork Resources

How to Be a Leader in Your Field: A Guide for Students in Professional Schools
 Written for graduating students, I consider this a very fine article
    offering food for thought to any professional reader.

Professionalism .. "a mindset that becomes easier to apply as you progress further
    and becomes an inspiration for others to follow"
  Five important keys: Character; Attitude; Excellence; Competency; Conduct

Team Building Toolkit
 A comprehensive 25 page resource (PDF)
Teamwork - How to Work with Someone You Hate

The Hard Science of Teamwork
    by Alex "Sandy" Pentland

Good Managers Lead Through a Team
  by Linda Hill & Kent Lineback 

Motivation Resources

The Seven Keys to Motivation
  by Nancy Wurtzel

Find Your Drive - The Keys to Motivation
 by "Sources of Insight" - 'Stand on the Shoulders of Giants'

Key Staff Motivators Employers Should Factor In
  ... Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs always
       surfaces when staff motivation is discussed.

Assertiveness Resources

The following two resources are written for 'youth', but contain guidance all ages can benefit from:
Speaking Up for Yourself
Assertiveness Role-Plays for Adolescents 15 to 18 Years Old

Improving Assertive Behavior

Benefits and Drawbacks of Being Direct   (a series of lessons)
Four Basic Styles: Demand, Withdraw, Concede, Negotiate     

Conflict Resolution Resources

Conflict Resolution Strategies Overview
 (begins with GOMO - Get Over it, Move On)
   25 Specific Solutions for Difficult Behaviours,   Listen with Care, Two-Part Model for Confronting Conflict

Conflict Management Skills 
 by  Gregorio Billikopf

Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution Strategies
   These are written with a personal focus, but they contain useful ideas for pre-empting discord in the workplace:
     Understanding: boundaries, clarity on issues, regular contact, issues - not people,
     Responding: win-win, success-oriented environment, positive focus,

Fifteen Articles on Workplace conflict resolution tips

Workplace Conflicts Resolution Tips
 Short, practical articles
   Ethical Conflict Resolution Tips
   Important Tips for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Conflict Resolution Skills
   Listen for what is felt as well as said.
   Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or "being Right". 
   Focus on the present.
   Pick your battles.
   Be willing to forgive.
   Know when to let something go

"Interest-Based Relational Approach"
 In resolving conflict using this approach, you follow these rules:
  •Make sure that good relationships are the first priority.
  •Keep people and problems separate.
  •Pay attention to the interests that are being presented.
  •Listen first; talk second.
  •Set out the "Facts": agreed, objective, observable elements that will have an impact on the decision.
  •Explore options together.

Business English Resources

Plain English Campaign
  Free Guides
  How to Write in Plain English
  Examples - Before and After
  Legal A to Z

Center for Plain Language  -  US Government resource

Onestopenglish - Business Skills Bank    [MacMillan Publishers - lots of free resources]

Skills Converged - Productivity, Soft Skills and Personal Development
  This is a commericial website.  It offers some unique and interesting services.

Resources for Learner Centred Classrooms


Learner Centred Education

Classroom Practice
Inquiry-Based Learning / Enquiry-Based Learning
Creating and Using Rubrics

Classroom Practice

OWLS Global - "Shell Activities"
"Shell Activities" make lessons active, while keeping the focus on academic content.
Each activity's structure is an empty “shell” (or empty “bowl”) which can be filled with core content from any subject discipline.
The current package (under development) contains four "shell activities":
    SLAM, Lotto, Lie Detector, and Unfinished Sentences

Creating Learner-Centered Middle School Classrooms
Learner-centered teaching focuses instruction on the needs, preferences, and interests of the learner.
Find out how this optimizes learning for middle school students.

Learner-Centered Classrooms - LinguaFolio
What is a learner-centered classroom?
Lists characteristics (16) plus some suggested activities

Facilitating Learning: Issues on Learner-centred Teaching
from Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn - a handbook for NUS Teachers

Learner Centred Activities
This article makes the interesting contrast between four categories of classroom activities:
teacher-prepared / non-learner focused; teacher-prepared / learner focused
learner-prepared / non-learner focused; learner-prepared / learner focused

Teaching Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains

Learner-Centered vs. Curriculum-Centered Teachers: Which Type Are You?

A Role for Guided Exploration In In-Service Teacher Education
    by Clyde Fowlde and Karen Anyathana

Correction and Giving Feedback

The Case for Learner-Centred Education

Facilitating Learning: Issues on Learner-centred Teaching

Creating Learner-Centered Middle School Classrooms 

How Learner-Centred Are You?   -  (PDF)
    National Institute for Educational Development (NIED)
    Ministry of Basic Education and Culture, Namibia

OWLS Global "Learner Centred Education" downloads:
  OWLSGlobal Learner Centred vs Teacher Centred Comparison Chart.pdf     [PDF Document]
  OWLSGlobal Learner-Centred Lesson Observations      [PDF Document]
  OWLSGlobal Learner-Centred Lessons Posters      [PDF Document]
  OWLSGlobal Jigsaw Lessons     [PDF Document]

Creating a Learner-centered Teacher Education Program   


Inquiry-Based Learning / Enquiry-Based Learning

Applying Inquiry-Based Learning to the Classroom
Here is a website organised around the following questions:
    What is inquiry-based learning?
    How does it differ from the traditional approach?
    What does it have to do with my classroom?
    What are the benefits of inquiry-based learning?
    How has inquiry-based learning developed since it first became popular?
    Another perspective
    What are some critical perspectives?
    How can I use inquiry-based learning in conjunction with other educational techniques?

University of Birmingham - Enquiry-Based Learning Resources:
Enquiry- based learning definition, characteristics, fundamentals and approaches

University of Birmingham - The journey towards EBL
   Finding out about enquiry based learning
   EBL in practice
   Support and resources
   Research and teaching links
   EBL learning impact
   EBL at the University of Birmingham
   Principles and practices of EBL case studies

Fostering Learner Independence Through Enquiry-Based Learning - Study Guide 2007-2008 
 Academic Practice and Organisational Development (APOD)
 University of Birmingham - Guide-Section-1


Creating and Using Rubrics

Why Use Rubrics

Wikipedia - Rubric (Academic)           - a clear, concise introduction
  Ontario Rubric                 - widely used in Canadian schools

Rubrics for Assessment - Main Page  Univ. of Wisconsin - School of Education: Professional Development
  Primary Teamwork Rubric
  Secondary Teamwork Rubric
  Many links under the following categories:
     Teamwork/Cooperative Learning Rubrics
     Video and Multimedia Project Rubrics
     Research Process Rubrics
     Writing Rubrics
     Math, Art, and Science Rubrics
     Oral Presentation Rubrics
     Rubrics for Primary Grades
     Creating Your Rubrics

Rubrician.Com, the official website for links to rubrics. 
  This site was designed for educators, teachers, parents, students and evaluators.
   General Rubrics
   Language Arts Rubrics
   Math Rubrics
   Performing Arts
   Physical Education Rubrics
   Social Studies Rubrics      
   Technology Rubrics          
   Science Rubrics
   Writing Rubrics

Using Rubrics in Assessment

UnderstandingRubrics              - a very practical, teacher-friendly resource

Listing several other academic sources        - more from Wisconsin

Guidelines for Tasks and Scoring Rubrics for Gifted Students

58 Pages of Sample Rubrics              - university level only, but revealing in its range

OWLS Global Resources for Self-Directed Life-Long Language Learners


OWLS Pronunciation Basics

Some long-term pronunciation challenges can be overcome quite quickly  if you understand how English speakers would produce these sounds.   This presentation looks at basic sound production and how you might find the IPA alphabet useful.

Download - OWLS Pronunciation Basics Video Tutorial   [44 MB Video Presentation - 25 minutes]

Download - IPA Chart [PDF]


SDLLLL Main Presentation - be a 'Self-Directed Life-Long Language Learner' (SDLLLL)

As an online language learner, you are now choosing your own learning materials and methods - not waiting for a teacher to direct you.  This presentation offers suggestions on how you can become even more effective as a Self-Directed Life-Long Language Learner (SDLLLL).

Before you listen to the presentation, please also download the SDLLLL Activities handout referred to in the session.  It offers a series of ideas to help you develop your Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing and Vocabulary.

Download - OWLS SDLLLL Presentation [21 MB Video Presentation]

Download - SDLLLL Activities Handout [PDF]


SDLLLL Suggestions

These short sessions build on the ideas in the SDLLLL Activities handout.  [Please listen to the main SDLLLL presentation first.]

Download - SDLLLL Speaking Suggestions [12 MB Video Presentation]

Download - SDLLLL Listening Suggestions [12 MB Video Presentation]

Download - SDLLLL Reading Suggestions [14 MB Video Presentation]

Download - SDLLLL Writing Suggestions [12 MB Video Presentation]

Download - SDLLLL Suggestion - Words In The News [17 MB Video Presentation]


Learning English Websites - Selected Links I Recommend

BBC Learning English -

British Council - LearnEnglish -

EnglishClub -

VOCABULARY  -  Word of the Day:

PRONUNCIATION -  "fenetiks" - University of Iowa  -


Merriam-Webster Learners Dictionary   -
Merriam-Webster  -
Cambridge Dictionaries  -
The Free Dictionary  -
Your Dictionary  -
English Dictionaries - one-page, multiple access  -

More SDLLL Ideas (Self-Directed Life-Long Language Learning)

ESL Video -
USA Learns - -
Learn English Through Movies -  University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong PolyU – CILL Resources - How Can I Plan My Work?
Hong Kong PolyU – CILL Resources - Learning Strategies


Tony Buzan - Wikipedia
Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono - Wikipedia

OWLS Global - Your Partner in Educational Excellence