When I was teaching teenagers, I frequently discussed online safety.  Cyberbullying, phishing scams and the typical 419 Nigerian prince scam were among our class topics and we would laugh hard at the absurd grammar errors in the spam email letters. However, I have recently learned that the gross grammar errors and the far-fetched stories featured in the 419 letters are actually meant to attract the most vulnerable and gullible and to repel those who are less likely to fall for a scam. So, it seems that scammers are...

It has been quite a while since I last wrote here, but it doesn`t mean that I haven`t been doing any thinking about current issues involving teachers, especially what is going on in the private ESL market. Therefore, in this month’s post, I briefly discuss how private organizations may impact our beliefs about what we do and how these ideas may be deconstructed. As I write these lines, many schools and English language institutes in Brazil are being taken over and are being ‘reformatted’ by other companies, a.k.a. holdings,...

Before you read it, think quickly: Why do learners think native speakers make better teachers? Now let me share something with you: I have recently come across some works by sociolinguists and linguistic anthropologists --- as well as social theorists, and I began to wonder why I had not related the latest developments of linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics to language learning and teaching.  As English teachers, we tend to pay more attention to what applied linguists are doing in our field rather than think about macro issues that lead...

“Learners have storied selves that cannot be dissociated from their selves in the classroom, so they are encouraged to share their stories and experiences during ordinary pedagogic activities. Naturally, these interactions help us all --- myself included, connect with one another.” Teresa Carvalho (2017) Magical. This is what many teachers want their lessons to be. I have had some truly magical moments in my classes, but what do I mean by magical moments? Just picture your all your students --- and yourself included, sharing your stories and listening to...

When I earned my degree in Linguistics from college many years back, the only thing I had in mind was continuing teaching English and preparing my own materials. At the time it seemed to be a sensible thing to do. So, I kept teaching one-on-one classes for many years and I enjoyed every bit of it. I was committed to helping my students, some of whom I taught for many years. Nonetheless, I felt that I was missing out on something. I took courses, I read books, I...

  "And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back." Robert Frost (1874-1963) It's the beginning of the semester and you are still getting to know your group of 10-year-olds. You have only just begun to set the ground rules for the group and you are still in doubt whether you should assign them homework or do the first homework assignments together in class so that they...

I’m finally done with my research project. And with my writing, too. While it was an exhausting enterprise, it was also incredibly self-fulfilling. Most people tend to think that research is about collecting data and statistics. A lot of people look at research as if it was conducted by a team of experienced academic researchers committed to finding naked, plain truth. It’s not. Or rather, it shouldn’t be. In his article entitled “The Uselessness of Certainty,” Physicist Carlo Rovelli claims that “the very foundation of science is to...

So, it’s your first class with a group of beginner 12-ish year-olds. You just leaf through the course book and teacher’s guide because all the class is about is the verb to be and adjectives. You know the drill: a couple pages filled with yes-no questions and perhaps a list of cities and countries that might require some work on pronunciation. Oh, and there may be a tic-tac-toe or perhaps a suggestion of musical chairs towards the end of the lesson. We’ve been there, we’ve done that. Right?...

Exploratory Practice: "It is an indefinitely sustainable way for classroom language teachers and learners, while getting on with their learning and teaching, to develop their own understandings of life in the language classroom. It is essentially a way for teachers and learners to work together to understand aspects of their classroom practice that puzzle them, through the use of normal pedagogic procedures (standard monitoring, teaching and learning activities) as investigative tools." https://www.letras.puc-rio.br/unidades&nucleos/epcentre/index.htm It was the first day of class after a two-week winter break and I wanted to do something other...

On the morning of July 19th, 1692, 71-year-old Rebecca Nurse was convicted and hanged in New Salem, Massachusetts. Her crime? Perhaps quarreling with a neighbor over some trespassing pigs a few years earlier was what triggered several accusations that followed. Being an active member of the community and being known for her good character didn’t save her from what would be known as one of the most senseless cases of hysteria among community members in history. And one might think that her trial and conviction were riddled with...

It’s been a while since I last blogged, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reflecting on my teaching practice. On the contrary, I’ve almost died from overthinking. This is what I’ve been doing lately: I’ve been thinking about missed opportunities, failures, achievements, goals and dreams. I’ve called on my memories to reflect on what kind of teacher I used to be and what kind of teacher I am now and what I have learned during these years rather than only think about the things that I’ve missed....

We want to be called teachers. Although the word educator fits perfectly, I still prefer teacher.  It is the title that is written before my name in my college diploma.  When I graduated from college, it became my identity.  It defines what I do and who I am. Teachers receive an education that is different from other professionals in the field of education. In the Portuguese language, teacher is a title, too, and I intend to keep it. For a long time, though, I tried to make my students...

“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...

"If you know you are going to fail, then fail gloriously!" Cate Blanchett   1 It was a group of six prospective students from a well-known multinational company in São Paulo. It was back in the day when VCRs were cutting-edge technology, so we had a brand new one at our school. We’d specially bought it to play movies and the videos that accompanied our business English materials. It was a Saturday morning class and I’d arrived one hour early to set up the materials and the VCR, and also to make...

As I'm writing this post I'm thinking about my English skills as a non-native speaker. I'm aware of the fact that my English is far from being perfect and I can't expect it to be flawless. Nonetheless, I consider myself a successful English learner-teacher as far as language is concerned for one simple reason: I see myself as a language scavenger. What does it take to be a scavenger? When people speak to me and when I'm exposed to language items, I collect whatever I think is useful or...

“In the dyad ‘language and culture,’ language is not a bunch of arbitrary linguistic forms applied to a cultural reality that can be found outside of language, in the real world.” Without language and other symbolic systems, the habits, beliefs, institutions, and monuments that we call culture would be just observable realities, not cultural phenomena. To become culture, they have to have meaning. It’s the meaning that we give to foods, gardens and ways of life that constitute culture.”                  ...

“Do a loony-goony dance 'Cross the kitchen floor, Put something silly in the world That ain't been there before.” ― Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic When I was 15 I was sleepy most of the time. I could barely stay awake during my first period classes and I remember tottering straight to my bed after school. In the afternoon, I couldn't make up my mind whether to start doing my homework or watching the afternoon movie on TV. In short, I was a typical teenager; it was hard to focus on school when...

This is the time of the year when I have to contact parents to inform  that their kids have failed their final exams. Breaking bad news --- no matter if it it doesn't come as a surprise, is just as hard for parents as it is for us teachers. That's why  we need to work through our own feelings before contacting our students' parents, especially if it hits close to home, as it is my case. Been there, done that both as a parent and as a student. With...

A few years ago I had to catch up with a lot of reading for the DELTA module 1, aka Reading for DELTA module. At first, the amount of reading I was supposed to do in such a short time was overwhelming. I wasn't sure if I was up for the task, but as those months went by, those books grabbed me and the more I read and learned, the more those books strengthened my interest. Having a background in linguistics and a keen interest in language learning and...

While technology has become a powerful tool to share information, talking to people face-to-face still remains unrivalled. Enjoying a meal together or connecting with others through a handshake --- or even a few words, creates a synergy that promotes feelings of trust and collaboration;  it helps us build stronger relationships and a feeling of belonging. Conferences are mostly about all this energy flow that creates a unique learning environment by bringing people closer together. Highlight #1: Pronunciation: A cool activity that you can do with your students is ask them...

I have already been to quite a few conferences and I have been going to  IATEFL conferences for the past three years and it's high time I wrote a post about my experiences both as a delegate and as a speaker. IATEFL stands for International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language and it aims at bringing teachers from all corners of the world together by providing professional development through publications, talks, conferences, and workshops. IATEFL also supports teachers worldwide by helping them set up local...

My Portuguese grandfather was a globetrotter and, when he died, we inherited dozens of postcards from every city he had visited. I was the only one in the family who took some interest in the postcards and the beautiful places that I never thought I would have a chance to go to. However, I decided to turn those travels into my own experiences and I started writing on them to my imaginary English speaking readers. I reminisce about these things every time I come across old pictures and...

I'm a teacher and a mentor,  which means I'm in charge of in-service training at  branch level at a large language institute with around seventy branches spread in my hometown and other capitals in Brazil. In practical terms, I welcome new teachers and conduct ongoing training with our teaching staff when I'm not busy teaching and grading students' work. Fitting all of these duties into our busy teaching schedule is not easy, so mentoring calls for a lot of creativity. My colleagues also teach at other schools and...

  This month's post is about different ways of learning, or learning styles, as some authors put it. It's also about why I believe they exist even when we totally ignore their existence. It is a controversial issue for many teachers, who have mixed feelings about it. Do Learning Styles really exist?  Are they just a myth? Most authors would agree that there is very little evidence of their existence, but when it comes to teaching, authors firmly believe that there's no 'right' or 'wrong' and that there are...

                1. Une Tomate Rouge Less than a month ago I decided to take up French and I am already being faced with big challenges: I had assumed that languages close to your own in the language tree should not be too hard to learn, so I picked French since  both languages evolved from spoken Latin. However, less than a month into it and I have already changed my mind completely. Its phonological system is a nightmare; the /s/ at the end of words never made it into the spoken...

When I started teaching a long time ago, I didn’t have a mentor. I had colleagues and students, and occasionally I would seek help from a more experienced teacher. It was usually a question about the material or language that I couldn’t answer myself. Other than that, I relied pretty much on teachers’ guides even though I occasionally changed a thing here and there. When I started my present teaching job at a large language institute in Rio, I had a mentor, but I didn’t know she was my...

As a teenager, I read anything I could lay my hands on; that included all sorts of literature: good and bad. It didn't matter as long as it was an interesting story ( from a young girl's perspective, I might say). As a young English language learner, I was lucky to study at an English language school with a  library and I remember browsing through all those graded readers while I waited for  class. However, there was a difference between me, the avid reader and me, the English learner:...

'To Sir, with Love' was perhaps the most watched and the most loved movie in my teenage years. The East London high school teacher who gave up on the school textbooks to teach his rowdy, disruptive students about life, was every teenage kid's hero. I've just come across  the website below, which  offers a glimpse of some of the best inspirational teacher movies. Obviously, 'To Sir, with Love' tops the list. https://movies.about.com/od/toppicks/tp/Inspirational-Teachers.htm However, life is not that obvious. Neither are people. Students come in all shapes and sizes; as much...

I've recently come across Deena Boraie's  2013 post on the TESOL webpage in which she lists the latest trends in EFL. Two of these trends immediately caught my eye: Change in the Goal of Teaching English: Our goals are no longer to transform our students into imitations of native speakers, but into "competent English-knowing bilinguals," since we assume our students are already proficient in their native languages; Changing view of an English teacher: The quality and effectiveness of English language teachers are no longer determined by their being native speakers,...

At first I had set out to write about my professional journey as a NNEST in the 1980s, so I thought it would be nice to reflect on some of the first course books I used in my first years as a teacher. That was when I decided to ask for some help from the IATEFL members on our Facebook page but the replies I got took me even further into the past, and that made me want to start my story from the very beginning: my life...

  The challenge of being a non-native English speaker in a native English speaking world I recently came across EFL teacher James Taylor's blog post about NNESTs' struggle to be respected as English teachers by students and employers. In his guest blog post, James lists a number of advantages of being a NNEST over a being a NEST. Wow! I'd never given much thought to the issue of NNESTs (non-native English speaking teachers opposed to NESTs -- native English speaking teachers), and yet I have belonged to this group most...

Music and teaching go back a long way in my career. In the beginning there were the Beatles, the Carpenters, Carly Simon, The Police, and any other band that my students happened to enjoy. We have all experienced the incredible mood-altering power of music and we've seen it melt away a bad mood in our classes. Not only does music help set the right tone for a class but it also relieves stress and helps students concentrate. But one question I often ask myself is how we can...

I picked this title from Goodreads' weird book titles. By the way, the title above is from a book by English author and academic Malcom Bradbury (1932-2000), whom I have never read and whose book I am now curious about. The reason why I  picked a random title for my post was because I wanted to  illustrate it with a simple task that fosters collaborative creative writing. I like creative writing tasks because they follow a very important principle that allows language to emerge in a real communicative...

As English teachers, we never know when and how we impact people and generally we think this is limited to the classroom, but this is not always the case. There is this teacher who unknowingly encouraged me to reflect on a picture that I had posted to the Eltpics Facebook page.  For those of you who don’t know it, Eltpics is a collaborative project where ELT professionals share their own copyright free photos and images for non-commercial use in ELT contexts.   So, I would like to dedicate this...