Archive for category teaching + learning

Inner Game mini-workshop (3)

What is “Inner Game”?

Inner Game is a game that takes place in your head and your heart. It’s all the internal obstacles that take place within the person, and your trust in your own potential.

So, it’s overcoming fear, doubt, lapses in concentration, and accessing your potential to perform in any given arena.

Tim Gallwey in “What is the Inner Game?” |YouTube

In Tim Gallwey’s Inner Game, a key concept is interference. This refers particularly to inner interference or self-interference: the “fear, doubt, lapses in concentration”, etc.

“Every outer game is different: tennis is different than football, it’s different than making a million dollars in a bank. But what’s the same is our patterns of interference. We take them with us wherever we go. So if you can find techniques and methods for finding the interference, and heightening the focus of attention, then you’ve got something you can use in any outer game you want.”

Tim Gallwey in “The Inner Game of Tennis ‘Bounce hit'”

An important element in the Inner Game approach, therefore, is to identify simple, interesting and relevant activities that can distract, even if just a little bit, that inner critic and allow our natural ability to learn to come out and play.

In the previous video, Tim introduces the activity of “bounce-hit” to do that: it focuses the attention of the player/learner while at the same time allowing her eyes and ears to notice a good player in action. It’s a non-stressful activity because there is no trying to get it right involved: it’s just an exercise in awareness.

In this video, he introduces another one he calls “trajectory”. As you’re watching, perhaps you could ask yourself what equivalent activity or activities could you usefully use to help you improve your teaching, or to help your students improve their learning, or whatever your outer game happens to be?

Inner Game mini-workshop (2)

Just a quick follow-up to give you a little more information about this Friday’s mini-workshop.

Date: Friday Feb. 26th 14:00-15:00 JST

I hope you had a chance to watch the video I sent in the previous email. In that video (link below), Tim Gallwey tells of how, when he was coaching people in tennis, coaching them the “traditional” way, that is telling them what to do and what not to do, but when he imagined what might be going on inside their head as the ball came at them over the net, he realized they would have all these instructions running through their minds and they would be trying to remember and obey them as well as trying to play tennis. He also knew that tennis players when playing at their best often report that at that time, nothing is going through their minds. Some even report that it felt like it wasn’t really them playing or doing, like it was someone else doing it.

Tim surmised that the instructions might actually be getting in the way rather than helping, especially if the ultimate objective is peak performance, that state which others have called “flow”.

Because the instructions create (or make worse) a critical stance, an assumption that you (the performer, of whatever it is, tennis or dancing or playing an instrument or teaching or selling) are not doing it right, that you don’t know how to do it right and you need to listen to an expert to learn, or to correct how you are doing it. It does not encourage you to trust yourself, and yet trust is one of the key elements in flow or peak performance. How to solve this paradox?

He then got the idea that when you are playing a game, a sport, like tennis, there are actually two games going on: one is the outer game, trying to win, trying to score the goal or get the point, and the other is the inner game, the game going on inside the player, the “self-talk”. Who is talking to whom? What are they saying?

His next step was to look for ways to quieten the critical voice, to distract it. Obviously, these were designed for people playing tennis (in this video, for instance, you’ll hear some of Tim’s suggestions): 

In the mini-workshop, I’ll give a brief introduction to this idea of an inner dialogue and how it might interfere with optimal performance, as well as to a couple of tools that might help minimize its limiting or negative effects. We’ll do a couple of simple exercises to see how the inner dialogue works in practice, in the “performance” of teaching and learning, and consider some ways that might quieten the inner dialogue (our own and that of our students). The rest of the time will be devoted to feedback and sharing from participants, including discussion about whether these ideas and exercises are applicable to our own language teaching and learning, and if so, how might they be applied?

Here’s a 6-minute clip from a TV show in the 1970s where Tim is teaching beginners using his Inner Game approach. He explains the “bounce-hit” exercise and some others in a little more detail than in the first video I linked to above. The picture quality is not of the best but the sound is ok:

Inner Game mini-workshop

(Part 1 of 4)

Last year, I took part in an Inner Game workshop run by Inner Game founder Tim Gallwey, and enjoyed it so much that I immediately signed up for the next one. Only later, once I read the small print, did I realize this was a workshop to train future Inner Game facilitators!

So after the workshop, the next step is for us budding facilitators to facilitate a workshop of our own with a few people who know nothing about Inner Game.

The Inner Game of Teaching and Learning (foreign languages) is my niche, so I reached out to some teachers I know and have set up a mini-workshop for this Friday Feb. 26th, Friday, March 5th 2-3 pm, on Zoom.

If you’re interested, leave a comment (use a current email address you check regularly), and I’ll send you the link.

It’s free.

Here’s a little bit of background:

Have you ever heard of the “Inner Game”? Some of you may have heard of (or read) a classic coaching book titled “The Inner Game of Tennis”, written by Tim Gallwey in the 1970s. Well, after the phenomenal success of that book, Tim was invited to apply his insights in coaching tennis to first other sports and then to corporate and managerial challenges.

In fact, Tim’s book was in the news again recently when Tom Brady won the Super Bowl (see article here: This Is the Book Tom Brady Hails for His Unshakable Mental Toughness | )

I recently took a couple of workshops online with Tim Gallwey, and would like to a) share some of the ideas in it with you and b) invite you share your experiences and observations of teaching English in Japan. My aim is to a) explore the possibility that Inner Game ideas can be of practical value to classroom language teachers, and  b) to collect teachers’ experiences of things that get in the way of optimal teaching and learning English in Japan.

If you are unfamiliar with Tim Gallwey’s Inner Game, this 5-minute video is a good intro:

What are girls and boys for?

On reading the quote below, I wondered if high quality teaching and learning can really take place without this question being addressed?

“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” the Under-Secretary assured him. “New Rothamsted is one of our best schools.”

“What’s your criterion of a good school?” Will asked.


“In what? Winning scholarships? Getting ready for jobs? Obeying the local categorical imperatives?”

“All that, of course,” said Mr. Menon. “But the fundamental question remains. What are boys and girls for?”

Will shrugged his shoulders. “The answer depends on where you happen to be domiciled. For example, what are boys and girls for in America? Answer: for mass consumption. And the corollaries of mass consumption are mass communications, mass advertising, mass opiates in the form of television, positive thinking and cigarettes. And now that Europe has made the breakthrough into mass production, what will its boys and girls be for? For mass consumption and all the rest—just like the boys and girls in America. Whereas in Russia there’s a different answer. Boys and girls are for strengthening the national state. Hence all those engineers and science teachers, not to mention fifty divisions ready for instant combat and equipped with everything from tanks to H-bombs and long-range rockets. And in China it’s the same, but a good deal more so. What are boys and girls for there? For cannon fodder, industry fodder, agriculture fodder, road-building fodder. So East is East and West is West— for the moment. But the twain may meet in one or other of two ways. West may get so frightened of East they it will give up thinking that boys and girls are for mass consumption and decide instead that they’re for cannon fodder and strengthening the state. Alternatively East may find itself under such pressure from the appliance-hungry masses who long to go Western, that it will have to change its mind and say that boys and girls are really for mass consumption. But that’s for the future. As of now, the current answers to your question are mutually exclusive.”

“And both of the answers,” said Mr. Menon, “are different from ours. What are Palanese boys and girls for? Neither for mass consumption, nor for strengthening the state. The state has to exist, of course. And there has to be enough for everybody. That goes without saying. It’s only on those conditions that boys and girls can discover what in fact they are for-—only on those conditions that we can do anything about it.”

“And what in fact are they for?”

“For actualization, for being turned into full-blown human beings.”

“Island” by Aldous Huxley (1962).

The Inner Game program

THE Inner Game refers to the inner dialogue that takes place within a person who is performing or doing some activity where there are standards and expectations (often high), whether one’s own or other people’s.

Much of the time, we’re not aware of it, but we can become aware of it, and once we do… well, then the question becomes what to do about it! Is this dialogue helping or getting in the way of the performance? Who, in fact, is talking? And to whom?

Awareness of one’s own inner dialogue can lead to surprising insights in the form of pleasant experiences, and improved performance.

I’d read Tim Gallwey’s classic “The Inner Game of Tennis” back in the 80’s but did not fully understand the principles and was not able to transfer the concepts and tools in that book to my own professional situation or personal life.

A few years ago, I was given a deeper and interactive introduction to some of those tools in a training partly designed by Tim Gallwey. Since then, I kept an eye open for any chance to take an Inner Game workshop.

Thanks to Covid-19 putting the kibosh on face-to-face workshops, the Inner Game Institute went online. I signed up. And had such a good time I signed up for another one a couple of months later. Both workshops were led by Tim Gallwey and Renato Ricci. It was great to benefit from their energy, wisdom and experience.

The next one is The Inner Game of Sports, two seminars taking place in February and March. Check them out.

For the first time we will have in March our first workshop talking about The Inner Game applied in Sports area. In this event we will bring the experience of Tim Gallwey and the Inner Game applied to sports in the last decades, not only in athletes but also in high performance teams.   This program is aimed at athletes, professionals, practitioners, coaches, sports psychologists, and all those who wish to develop athletes in individual or team sports. You can access all details visiting our website.

I’m now learning to apply what I learned to the learning and teaching of languages.

A teacher uses Milanote

I wrote last week about a teacher who uses Milanote to manage his online class materials and communicate with his students. Here’s what some of his Milanote boards look like:

For more info, anyone can contact him at or on LinkedIn.

Online teaching? A great opportunity.

Putting all your classes online suddenly is a big challenge and a great opportunity to do things differently, i.e. better.

Give doctors the freedom to exercise their profession without interference.” (Dr. Marc Wathelet, Belgian virologist.)

What kind of world do you want to live in? We now have a possibility to reset things: not go back to how things were, but go forward, but not in the same direction we were going before.

In this blog post:

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Learning Notion

Hi! In this blog post I talk about some new discoveries I’ve made in the world of productivity apps: Notion, (a way to organize digital information, part of “Building a Second Brain“), Active Recall and Timeblocking.

  1. Notion as an alternative to Evernote,  (Here’s my Notion tutorial playlist on YT.)
  2. PARA (only in passing, no details in this blog post as I’m still figuring out what it is – here’ s my PARA YT playlist)
  3. Active Recall and the Cornell Note System as a more effective way to learn new material than highlighting (here’s my Active Recall YT playlist), and
  4. timeblocking – a truly awesome yet simple way to make sure that those things you’d like to do actually get done (all those “Important but not Urgent” items). Link to my yt playlist

After watching a video by a veteran Evernote user on why he was thinking of moving over to Notion, I decided to check it out.

Particularly useful and helpful I found were the videos by Keep Productive (Francesco D’Alessio), Rebecca Ford and Marie Poulin (tho Marie is a power user and sometimes goes a little fast and sophisticated).

The key thing about Notion is, as Marie, Rebecca and Everyday Apple say, that it allows important info to re-surface and come to your attention more easily and effectively than Evernote. Evernote, of course, has its reminders, but in Notion you can created a calendar and put all your to-dos in there, and then created a daily calendar that filters only the tasks you have for that day. This is a huge advantage and though the learning curve for Notion is a little steep, the tutorial videos I found are very helpful.

“Unlike other apps that force me to silo different parts of my planning and task management system between different apps, Notion allows me to keep all of the parts of my system.”  (Rebecca Ford, “Task Management in Notion“, 23 Oct 2018)

Notion basically uses blocks, like the new WordPress interface (the artist formerly known as Gutenberg), but in a much more powerful way than you can in WordPress.

Keep Productive and Marie Poulin also offer Notion mastery courses which I plan to sign up for later this year.

Marie, Keep Productive, Rebecca Ford, GroovyWinks’ Maria Aldrey and super-productive Cambridge (UK) doctor Ali Abdaal have all mentioned another organizing principle which I am currently learning about: PARA (part of a larger concept called Second Brain). Marie Poulin and Maria Aldrey have both done videos on this. It’s different from GTD which I’m a little familiar with, so I’m finding it a little hard to get my head around these concepts, particularly Areas (is that like GTD’s “areas of responsibility”? And,“A resource is “a topic or theme of ongoing interest.” Say… wha???)

Dr. Abdaal also did a video on a study and review method he has used very successfully called Active Recall (video 1 and video 2). Shu Omi also did a neat and brief video on this.

Shu Omi’s video on timeblocking also helped me get over a major stumbling block: saving videos and websites and articles to watch or read later then never getting to that “later”. The simple solution: schedule a time or date to do just that. Well, duh!

So, today, I went through my “Read-Review” notes (because I’m dividing them into “ToReview” and “ToRead”), then I realized what’s going to happen: I’m going to re-tag these and then… probably never read them because I don’t have a way for those to pop up again right under my nose so I can’t miss them. They’ll be out of sight, out of mind. When am I going to review them? As I was already in Evernote, I decided, as well as re-tagging these, to use Evernote’s reminder function to fix a date and time to actually do these. I fixed a day for –

  • doing my weekly review (which will now include reading articles and notes on this topic)
  • working on my business (which will include reading my Evernotes related to business, marketing, etc)
  • working on a new website I’m building, which will include reading my Evernotes tagged with marketing or website
  • learning Notion, which mainly means watching Notion tutorial videos and reproducing that in my Notion sandbox
  • learning more about Active Recall which I’m using to study assignment design.
  • learning more about other memory techniques such as the mind palace (yup! I recently watched again BBC’s Sherlock.)

Each of the above now has a time slot and a day allocated to them, and that will pop up in both an Evernote reminder, and a calendar item in my Notion Master To-Do list.

I also watched Timeboxing: Elon Musk’s Time Management Method. Shu Omi said timeblocking is also used by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work. Here’s a blog post Cal Newport did on it: Deep Habits: the importance of planning every minute of your workday.

“Atomic Habits” author James Clear makes a similar point about the importance of intention (which timeblocking facilitates) in this clip.

Cal Newport’s new book is called Digital Minimalism.

On Newport’s blog, I found this article about learning and how these days, the hard work of developing good study habits seems to have gone by the wayside.

To Olser, it was clear that training a new generation of thinkers required teaching students how to actually put their mind to productive use, which is hard, and requires “bull-dog tenacity” before it becomes a “good habit.”

We don’t teach this any more.

Modern educational institutions care a lot about content: what theories we teach, what ideas students are exposed to, what skills they come away knowing. But we rarely address the more general question of how one transforms their mind into a tool well-honed for elite-level cognitive work.

He repeats this in this interview here: Don’t follow your passion (Do this instead.) |Cal Newport | Top 10 Rules. And at the end of that same video, rule #10, is timeblocking.

Dr Ali Abdaal in his video on Active Recall and particularly the part where he talks about why it works, why it’s effective, says it is the hard work, the difficulty of the task (trying to remember the answers to your own questions) that makes it valuable and helps the information to stick.

As it happens, Notion has an active recall template: Cornell Notes System. Active recall is very similar to a system of note-taking developed by a Cornell University professor in the 1940s.

There are 3 parts to the active-recall/Cornell Notes system:

  1. Read or watch or listen to the original, taking notes as you go. E.g. I’m now learning about how to design effective assignment sheets to teach academic writing to college students. As I read, I make the following notes:
    1. Your assignment sheet should:
      1. Link the writing task with specific learning goals
      2. Describe rhetorical aspects of the task, i.e., audience, purpose, genre
      3. Make explicit any constraints such as word count minimums and maximums
      4. Specify formatting requirements
  2. Create your own recall questions. E.g., for the above notes, my recall question is “What 4 things should an effective assignment sheet do?”
  3. Recalling, which involves looking at the questions only and trying to recall the original notes or answers.
    1. In his video “My favourite note-taking app for students – Notion”, Ali shows how to use Notion’s toggle-list function to hide your notes or answers to your recall questions. 
    2. It also involves, if you’re really trying to master a body of knowledge, repeating the recall step again after some interval of time. Here’s how Ali Abdaal used this technique to revise for his medical exams at Cambridge University.

This blog post briefly introduced the following productivity apps or ideas: Notion, PARA (a way to organize digital information, part of “Building a Second Brain“), Active Recall and Timeblocking. Thanks for reading!

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Making real-world-problem math curricula

Dan Meyer. A very smart, talented and enthusiastic young man who, despite our age-gap and the very different fields we teach (his is middle-school math, mine is college-level EFL), rarely fails to teach me lots. Not too long ago I spent happy hours reading and commenting on his blog. I just learned some more watching his 12-minute TED talk.

UPDATE: The video won’t play for some reason (“error #2032” whatever that means), and the same error occurs on the TED website. While TED is fixing this, you can download the video by clicking here:

Reader Story: I Quit My Passion and Took a Boring Job – Forbes


The message we are bombarded with is  do what you love (and the money will follow). But this story provides an interesting twist on it: Reader Story: I Quit My Passion and Took a Boring Job – Forbes.

It also provides more evidence that anyone who works in schools eventually is forced to

  1. become either a cop or an entertainer, and
  2. avoid the truth, to tell lies, to become a phony.

There’s more thoughts on this below the fold.

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