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“Listening is the Cinderella skill in second language learning”. (Nunan, 2005). For many years, listening skills were not prioritized in language teaching. Teaching methods emphasized productive skills, and the relationship between receptive and productive skills was poorly understood. Richards (2005) provides a clear description of how listening comprehension is achieved by native or non-native listeners. He refers to this listening process as bottom-up and top-down processing. Bottom-up processing refers to the use of incoming data as a source of information about the meaning of a message. From this perspective, the...

In the 70s and early 80s, when functional syllabuses and communicative language teaching gained prominence in ELT, our profession was a relatively gap-fill-free zone. For controlled and semi-controlled practice, students were usually asked to engage in A-B exchanges, role-plays or any other activity types that included some degree of choice, information / context gap, personalization and unpredictability. Even certain types of contextualized oral drills were considered more mainstream than "Fill in the blanks with...

We often discuss the challenges of giving feedback and how important it is to let people know how they are doing. As language teachers, we talk about feedback to students, addressing their performance inside and outside the class, covering features of language and behaviour. We believe that students can use this information to become more competent and proficient. As trainers, we discuss the effects and the importance of feedback to teachers and how it can influence one’s professional development. However, when it comes to being on the other...

Today’s competitive English Teaching market has demanded a new responsibility from teachers:  supporting their institution’s marketing strategies.   Although teacher education programs for EFL practitioners do not include marketing or promotion strategies, many language teachers are held accountable for students who choose to drop out, for those who choose to continue studying, and for supporting the reach out to prospective students. However, to what extent are teachers really responsible for enrollment numbers? First of all, students’ choice of enrolling in a program (and staying until graduation) is a consequence of...

“For children, listening to a story is like opening a door to another world.” We all like listening to a good story! And we know that storytelling teaches children about the world and provides real-world social interaction. Through the storyteller´s words children internalize rhythms and tones  and through observation they are able to learn how to pair gestures and words to bring characters and their actions to life. One of the projects we develop at Colégio A. Liessin is based on storytelling. We work with storytelling with all our kindergarten students,...

It’s now, the middle of a semester and we start having our minds set into finding different and new materials for our groups. In fact, sometimes it’s simply time to change. A friend normally says “the book is the slave, not the master”, but some teachers end up relying so much on the coursebook that choosing it is one of the most important features in “teaching”. Wether or not you are involved in the material selection project, there’s a lot to be thought when analysing materials to avoid judging the...

Three private students of mine recently proclaimed that they believed they had become less fluent since the beginning of our lessons a little over two months ago. They were naturally preoccupied given that they were paying good money to improve their English. Needless to say, I had to put their minds at ease, and it got me thinking. Both of these learners are Brazilian, and I think that their nationality does play a role in what I am about to describe. They were both also very fluent when I...

Very soon, I will celebrate my 25th teaching anniversary. This got me thinking about the beginning of my career, what was different then, what is still rather similar and especially how differently (or similarly) I used to teach. How have all these years influenced and shaped the way I teach today? To answer these questions I can rely on my memory and perceptions, as well as those of my students and of those who observed me. It’d be great, and probably enlightening, if I could compare the past...

After having taught at several different schools for a long long time, I’ve been teaching private classes for a while now. I’ve decided to do so so that I could have more flexibility and more time to study and work on different projects. Needless to say, teaching private classes has its own features. Sometimes I feel as if I were learning how to teach all over again and that’s been a real challenge. By a stroke of luck, I’ve come across a lot of interesting articles on it these past...

This month I’ll be continuing the theme of technology in education and thinking about the impact of technology on young people – our learners and future learners! In 2010 there was an article in the New York Times Magazine called Growing up Digital, Wired for Distraction.  The title of the article gives you a clue as to the content – in it the writer contends (with the help of a teacher called Ms Blondel and a young student called Vishal) that “… computers and cellphones, and the constant stream...