“A teacher who loves learning earns the right and the ability to help others learn.” ― Ruth Beechick, An Easy Start in Arithmetic, Grades K-3 In my last post, I talked about writing. The reason why I wrote about it is because I write, and writing is my journey into the core of the English language. The more I write, the more I learn about collocations, spelling, and how words are combined to form sentences. I also learn how words can impact one’s understanding and how they can persuade, motivate, inspire, and...

There are some funny thoughts that occur to us,  language teachers. We want our students to become fluent speakers, we want them to be proficient readers, we want them to become effective listeners, and finally, we want them to be great writers in a foreign language. All four skills neatly packed and delivered in a single integrated skills lesson. We are teachers and this mindset has us believing that we should take all matters into our own hands for the sake of our students, but we soon realize...

Much has been written and said about tests. A lot of teachers, students, and parents don’t see the point of tests, especially when all tests do is test discrete items of grammar and vocabulary , especially when it comes to summative tests, which assess what students have learned over a period of time. I myself don’t believe in the predictive value of tests, either. I don’t think effective test takers are  more likely to achieve success in their lives. Many other factors impact one’s professional life: Interpersonal skills and problem solving...

Why do my students participate in my classes? This is the question I asked myself when I first met this group of twenty s teenagers age 15-16 years old. From day one, they took part in the activities and spoke English most of the time. I was puzzled. How come? We meet at the end of the afternoon twice a week.  I’ve been teaching at my language school for ten years now and I’ve had some very nice groups and students I’ll never forget. This group is one of...

  “Language doesn’t only represent or refer to social reality (…) it constructs social reality" Claire Kramsch, in "From Practice to Theory and Back Again."                                                                                            Now  I look around and I realize how things have changed. I find myself speaking Portuguese in a teachers' room with...

The past is never where you think you left it.” ---- Katherine Anne Porter Having lived a year in the US, I was convinced that I had become an American. I spoke American English, my clothes were mostly American, and I did not like black beans anymore. I could not help pronouncing the word Coke without a strong American English accent I had slowly developed, and which I was proud of. I knew the American Presidents by heart and I had visited more American states than I had ever done...

Translation a skill that constitutes a real world demand, and yet, it is rather underrated in Brazil while it is broadly used in countries like Japan and China, for example.  Despite its disadvantages --- such as giving students the false impression that there is always a one-to-one correspondence between L1 and L2, for example, it offers learners the chance to practice it as a skill that is necessary in a large number of situations such as translating a text to a non-English speaker or working as an interpreter for...

The other day I came across a box of notes written by my students at the end of term. During a while I used to systematically ask for feedback from my students and I had a lesson ready for that for all the levels and age groups that I taught, from young learners to adults. The very last activity was the feedback note, which my students wrote both in Portuguese and in English, whichever language they felt more comfortable with. They were free not to sign their notes...

"Novices become acquainted with activities not only from their own and others' attempts to define what transpires in an activity, but also from how those participating in the activity respond to them." Elinor Ochs, in "Becoming a Speaker of A Culture." (2002) I have just read Elinor Ochs’ article entitled ‘Becoming a Speaker of a Culture,’ a contribution to the book ‘Language Acquisition and Language Socialization --- Ecological Perspectives,’ edited by Claire Kramsh (Continuum, 2002).  In her chapter, Elinor Ochs offers some very interesting insight into Second Language Acquisition theory. Elinor Ochs is an...

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ― Chinese Proverb This post is dedicated to all the caring and patient teachers out there who  help their students have meaningful experiences learning a second language regardless of any limitations they may have. This post is also dedicated to all the parents who have kindly shared their stories with me over these five years I’ve been involved with the Special Needs program in my language school. Parents-to-be often dream of well-behaved, talented, high-achieving children who say ‘please’ and make the...