Most of us cannot watch a film or an episode of our favourite series without trying to identify scenes that could be used in our lessons, right? Even if we just want to Netflix and chill, it just seems to be hardwired in our brains. In this post, I’ll take a look at some of my favourite quotes from some of my favourite films and TV series, to check how they apply to the English teaching context. “You know nothing, Jon Snow” (Ygritte, Game of Thrones) No matter how much...

We all have our own peculiar little habits that are deeply ingrained in our routine, don’t we? Some of us always put on the socks before the trousers. Others check their phones as soon as they wake up. These aren’t conscious decisions, but rather things that we simply do without really thinking about it, usually because someone told us to do it a long time ago, or we saw someone doing it and assumed that was the “right” way. When we teach, we also have out little habits,...

Imagine you are feeling a little feverish. What do you do? Bloodletting, of course! You Google the nearest barbershop and get an Uber there so the barber can slash a vein and cure you by removing foul humours from your body. If you’re lucky, they may even use leeches! This may sound absurd to you, but the role of professions changes over time. The teaching profession wouldn’t be any different. Beginning on a very personal example, I’ve been deeply affected by recent changes in mindset and communication. The abilities...

I was reading about an interesting initiative called The Empathy Museum that is coming to my hometown (you can find out more about it here) and caught myself thinking about the times I put my foot in my mouth. Then, new windows opened in my mind’s browser and I started wondering about the (probably many) times I might have failed to notice I had done that. I know this may sound a bit gloomy, but bear with me. This is essentially an optimistic post. You see, just like everyone...

It’s clear to us by now that the role of the teacher has been changing dramatically. Gone are the days when the teacher was the source of all knowledge! In an age where students are bombarded with and have free access to information, the image of the teacher as a knowledge-transmitter seems outdated and out of place. However, does that mean that professionals are now exempt from pursuing development of their own knowledge? That hardly seems to be the case! Then, what should teachers be looking to develop,...

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we can develop as professionals by being involved in the teaching community. Not surprisingly, the most important lessons I’ve had on teaching came from people, not books, but it wasn’t an easy process and I’d like to share some of lessons I’ve learnt from learning with others. Be humble Anyone can teach you something, no matter how experienced, qualified or renowned you are. The moment you adopt a know-it-all attitude is the moment you stop learning, and teaching is ultimately a learning...

A lot can be found in ELT books about how to use a range of different tasks and activities in order to make lessons more engaging and the promise of making learning fun has certainly spawned generations of resource books. Yet, although words on our role of selecting and designing activities are ubiquitous, little is usually written about how to use TTT in order to make activities more relevant and effective. In this three-part series of posts, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about how different stages...

A lot is said in the literature about students’ motivation and how important a role it plays in a healthy and effective classroom environment. With the beginning of the academic year in Brazil, I’d like to take this opportunity to look at how we can keep our own motivation levels high throughout the year. After all, motivated teachers are better teachers, right? Rather than going on and on about theories of motivation, I’ll try to stick to practical ideas that come not only from my own personal experience -...

Teenagers are and will always be a strong presence in the ELT classroom, be it in the school system or in language institutes. However, they end up being the middle children of the English teaching world. A lot has been written about teaching adults and children, but I find it really hard to find materials on those at ages ranging from 13 to 17. Not surprisingly, they can become one of the most challenging age groups to teach. Disruptive behaviour, lack of interest, faces that look constantly bored, the...

One of the most common topics that come up in conversation when teachers talk about areas of their practice that need improvement is timing. Taking into account the large number of  actions that we need to take in order for lessons to be  effective. That is perfectly understandable. The way I see it, however, timing per se isn’t really the cause, but the consequence of classroom contingencies and decisions by the teacher. Should we be addressing the symptom rather than the cause? Here are some of the common reasons...

Is teaching a lonely profession? Teaching, in all its forms, is an activity that requires social interaction, and this chance to interact with people while playing a role in their development is probably among the most common reasons that draw people to our profession. Nonetheless, many teachers with whom I talk to share the impression that they are all alone, making decisions and designing lessons, which makes teaching a (paradoxically) lonely profession. Does it have to be that way? Last month, I had the amazing opportunity of attending two events...

Gone are the days when teachers were the sole source of knowledge. The Internet has revolutionised society by granting everyone access to the information, meaning that listening to a teacher talking on and on about a topic is not only unnecessary but actually rather boring. It is therefore inevitable that teachers reflect upon their role in the learning process, and one of the aspects that have to be considered is how much time is actually devoted to Teacher Talking Time (TTT) and Student Talking Time (STT). Last year, Dominic...

ELT teachers are used to dealing with different students in the classroom. The literature on dealing with mixed-ability/mixed-level/mixed-age groups is not slim, with numerous articles on the matter having been published. Guaranteeing even participation of learners, however, is an constant challenge. Here are three ideas I try to bear in mind in the lessons I teach:   Make (more) room for pair work Especially after the Communicative Approach became ubiquitous, the image of students working in small groups has become more and more frequent in language lessons all over the...

Working in recruiting and teacher training, I came to notice that Knowledge and Skills (which we dealt with last month) may get your CV noticed, but what determines your success in your career in the end, are the two As in Donald Freeman’s KASA framework: Attitude and Awareness. A long time ago, during one of those fiery staff meetings before lesson started, the other teachers and I were trying to standardise how we would deal with a recurrent situation when someone suggested we simply used common sense. I promptly...

February is a great opportunity for us to finally get down to implementing our New Year resolutions, isn’t it? It is only natural that we take this time to revisit our professional life and make important decisions to develop professionally and avoid the tantalising stagnation of our comfort zone. Yet, many teachers I talk to tell me they don’t know exactly how to start. I find Donald Freeman’s KASA framework very useful, since we don’t necessarily depend on our employers (if we have them) to set our own targets...

Instructions are an important part of every teacher’s life. They can either make or break our lessons, getting students in the best mood imaginable or sending them into a downward spiral of discontentment (has anyone ever heard students react with sighs of “reading again?”). How can we guarantee that the second doesn’t happen?  Imagine a teacher who has an elementary group of adults and wants to help his learners develop listening skills. Now look at the instructions that our imaginary and well-intentioned teacher delivered in one lesson to that...

Checking exercises is so deeply ingrained in our teaching practice that we seldom give it a thought. Asking students to report back after a small-group activity is also common practice ever since the boom of the communicative approach.  But are we making the best use of classroom time or could we just be doing it for the sake of habit? Just last week, I was talking to a teacher I know about a great lesson she had delivered when we caught ourselves discussing just that. It dawned on us...

Being a bit of a YouTube buff, myself, I’ve always been really keen on using videos with my students. So much interaction and such great ideas can come from just a couple of minutes (or even seconds) of audio-visual input! We often use movie snippets or interviews in order to bring the outside world into the classroom, but my favourite videos are the ones that became popular and accessible via video-sharing websites - those usually created by Internet users rather than the conventional media. These are the genres I particularly...

Last month, we looked at personalisation, guided discovery and raising awareness of sub-skills and strategies as ways to promote learner engagement (click here to check it out). Today, I’d like to share some more ideas on this topic, which I consider one of the most important, albeit challenging, in both lesson preparation and delivery. Reacting to content as well as language As teachers, we are so concerned with the learners’ linguistic development that we may easily fall into the trap of devoting exclusive attention to the words students use rather...

When I was an English student, some teachers had the magical ability to deliver lessons that were fun and engaging, which allowed me to express myself and to feel I had an active role in my own learning. As I tried to learn how to teach, the ready-made activities that I came across (and the one-size-fits-all solutions they usually propose), frequently failed to replicate, in my students, that feeling I’d had as a learner. So did the ‘fireworks’ - songs and films I naively used as if they were...