Try something new for 10 days


Highbrow can help you learn something new — in just 5 minutes — every day.


First, browse the courses, and then sign up. It’s free but you do need an email address. Every morning, you’ll get an e-mail with something new to learn. You can only sign up for one course at a time. They want you to focus and to stick to just 5 minutes every day, because they know that small, everyday goals lead to success.


Here’s the one I started with, last year: “Ideas that change the world” (which unfortunately is now a “premium” course. But here’s a similar one that’s still free: “Most Important Historical Events Of The 20th Century”.

Ideas that changed the world

I continued for the full 10 days, and while I can’t say I really learned anything (my fault for choosing this course), it was satisfying to accomplish that daily 5 minute ritual for 10 days (plus an additional few minutes for note-taking). Many of these courses would be excellent for EFL students. The content they probably already know in Japanese, so it’ll be good practice for reading in English.

I’m not sure if this is true for all the courses, but this one has a collection of quotes at the end of each episode.

Here’s what I did (using Evernote) and will encourage students to do, to practice note-taking skills:

Right now there are 127 courses, some of which are not free. To access these courses, you need to sign up for premium access, which costs $7 per month or $28 per year.

Tween Tribune


The Smithsonian’s TweenTribune is a free, nonprofit newspaper for teenagers and “tweens” (people between childhood and their teenage years). Most of my students are 18-22 years old, but this site is good for language learners of all ages because you can choose articles by topic and by difficulty (“lexile level”).

These are the topics you can choose from:

Some recent stories:

“Take a virtual trip to the International Space Station”

How Mozart outsold Beyonce in CD sales in 2016

Michigan teen gets size-28 shoes, thanks to 3-D printer

Would you eat a pizza made by robots?

In Japan, autumn means a parade of robot puppets

Some older stories:

“Does acupuncture work?”

“Performers audition for spots on New York subways”

“Tennis and fashion are a match in Paris”

“Mrs. Obama asks, ‘How do you stay healthy?'”

“Britney, Katy on display at the Smithsonian”

“Fitting rooms go high tech”

Each story has a short reading text and a critical thinking challenge. Each story is also labeled by lexile level. Some stories have videos, too. You can read articles and comments without logging in, but to comment, you do need to log in. Students need the log-in password from their teachers (my students: let me know if you want to log in and I’ll give you the password the for “classroom” I created).

There are other things you can do by logging in: see the news captions on the photos of the day in the upper right corner (“What do you see?”), take a daily news quiz, and more.

Tween Tribune also has a page in Spanish, so if you’re majoring in that language, this is another good source of input.

Word Clouds

Word clouds are a fun way to introduce your topics, present and teach vocabulary, and find out what the most used words in a certain text are.

Here are some websites where you can create your own word clouds. You can make one using the URL from a website, as I did for these examples (most of which I made using the “2 Minute Topic Talk” page from this site), or you can also cut and paste a list of words. On most of these sites, you have many options for shapes, fonts, colors and layouts. Try them and if you need help, ask in class.


Word Art (formerly Tagul): (the first cloud on this page was also made using Word Art)


Word It Out:

word cloud made with Word It Out

Word Cloud Generator: