É fato que estamos sempre avaliando nossas ações e as atitudes que estão ao nosso redor em nosso dia a dia. Isso pode acontecer em uma conversa com uma amiga, na fila do supermercado, ao nos depararmos com a fatura do cartão de crédito ao final do mês e mesmo ao longo da leitura de um livro. Refletimos constantemente se estamos indo de acordo com o que planejamos ou não. Decidimos, portanto, se a conversa com a amiga pode ser prolongada caso estejamos nos divertindo, se a fila...

Once in Paris, I had a friend teaching me the following phrase in case I needed to ask for information: Bonjour! Je suis désolé! Où je trouve les toilettes, s’il vous plaît? Apparently, my question was well asked as I was ‘gunnned down’ by the fastest French speech I have ever heard. It is obvious that questioning is a basic skill one must bear in mind when learning a language. My short yet eventful experience in Paris dawned on me that so is answering. I have come to notice...

“What do you think of Glenn Greenwald’s Portuguese?” That question came out of the blue to me, but there I was, chatting to an air traffic controller before we started his English proficiency interview about a third person’s Portuguese language proficiency. I thought of a video I saw after the first Vaza Jato news: “Well, I find his pronunciation a little difficult to follow.” “Yes, it’s heavy.” “Especially because we’re not used to listening to a foreign accent in Portuguese, I think.” “That’s true. But you can understand him, right?” he shot at...

Unit 3: Food. In the first exercise, the coursebook brings a set of pictures, each of them showing different food separated in groups. The image labeled with the letter “B” depicts bacon, a box of cereal, two doughnuts, a waffle, some pancakes, eggs, and a glass of orange juice. The instructions tell students to check the picture which contains breakfast food. Easy-peasy. However, they frown and take longer to do what is required from them than you had predicted in your lesson plan. In a short while, the...

A challenge teachers frequently face is reducing the amount of L1 used by their students in class. For obvious reasons, we all want our learners to take the most of our lessons. They also like to feel challenged and to leave the room (or wherever you teach them) feeling that they have spent an hour or so only speaking English. In addition, all of us teachers tend to believe that every minute of communication in the target language is worth the effort. These arguments make complete sense, but...

As a teacher, I have often resorted to different methodologies and activities to make students more interested in my class. However, lately I have been curious about the learning processes of a language and I have been eager to understand in depth how especially teenagers go through such processes. Consequently, the following question has popped up: what if we can boost students’ language acquisition by sparking something in their brains? Much has been studied and said about neuroscience and how the brain takes in a language, but I have...

The other day I was talking to an acquaintance who has a kid that goes to a language school to study English. As this acquaintance knows I am an English teacher, she started opening up to me about her feelings towards her child’s studies and she stated that she “did not feel like her daughter was actually learning English”. When I asked why, she said that she had the impression that her daughter would not be able to get by in case she had to speak English on a...

If learning is personalized and engaging, it is likely to stick. If your students have fun during your classes, that’s more likely to bring about emotions that should aid the process of learning. Also, learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it is built upon previous knowledge. We also know how powerful stories are when it comes to learning. All of the sentences above are true and are validated by current research. If we agree that this much is true, then we can proceed to some of the underlying...

"Your English is so beautiful.” – I sometimes hear, and I promise you I have a point in writing this, which is not that I’m a Leo (although I am). In fact, I’ve always been a bit reticent about those compliments about my English language proficiency, especially when they come from laypeople. I mean, we language teachers/researchers study language proficiency to vertiginous depths and still struggle to design a proficiency test and validate it, how can anyone assess another person’s language proficiency, as they often do, at hello? A...

Translanguaging is a term that was first coined in 1994 as trawsieithu (translanguaging in Welsh) by Welsh researcher Cen Williams in order to refer to the processes in which English and Welsh were used for different reasons and purposes in the same class. For example, students would read or listen to content in English and talk about it in Welsh. Ofelia Garcia made the term more popular in her book Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective (2009) and later in Translanguaging: Language, Bilingualism and Education...

It goes without saying that vocabulary is one aspect language acquisition that plays an important role when learning one mother’s tongue, let alone a foreign language. I have often had learners saying that they can fairly get by grammatical structures and the real factor holding them back is how to put words within this lexical construct. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula through which one can get by learning new lexis, being it from the word level to the sentence level; however, memory seems to be one key element...

The writing process involves, at least, four different steps: analysing the task question, brainstorming, drafting, proofreading and finally handing it to the teacher so that the work can be checked. This process is also known as a ”recursive” process because when you are proofreading it is almost certain that you might have to return to the brainstorming step to develop and/or expand your ideas. That is actually the beauty of it: playing with words, picking and choosing what fits best, changing your mind, rewording, paraphrasing, maybe in more sophisticated...

Power To The Music              It is funny how people (students) may instantly think of CCR’s ‘Have you ever seen the rain?’ when you start off a conversation with the chunk ‘Have you ever Blahed?’. Have you ever (seen the rain? - lol) stopped and thought how powerful music can be in terms of learning opportunities? I bet you have, though. As I see it, music is what comes through my ears and touches my heart. In that sense here lies a powerful tool through which mankind has evolved with. Not only...

The English of the teacher It had been 8 years since I last visited London… and this last January I had the unforgettable experience of spending 2 weeks in London, studying at Bell School (Thank You, CISP!). During our stay, part of the programme was to read the paper on a regular basis and discuss current affairs so that we could better understand British culture. It became crystal clear to me how close newspaper headlines and cultural aspects were in the UK. Also, they are famous for being witty with...

Last January 3rd, my husband and I were driving back home from the beautiful state of Minas Gerais. Days before, during our stay in the effervescent Belo Horizonte, the capital city, we had met a very interesting twenty-something Japanese young man in the hostel. His name is Goro and he’d been living in Brazil for 2 years. He was doing some backpacking since this is his last month in Brazil. As we were all going back to São Paulo, we offered him a ride. A pause to explain: Goro's...

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?...

David Crystal once said that the biggest challenge for teachers is “without a doubt to keep pace with the language change”. And I could not agree more! Now, my question is. How to do it? How to keep pace with one of the most complex aspects of human behaviour? Taking into consideration that many countries, states, cities, towns, regions, areas, and tribes are alive and changing, developing, building language by the second, how are we supposed to keep track of it to then help our students? “Watch TV series online, you...

I want to talk about Spaced Repetition. What it is, how it applies to language learning and what we can do to cater for it in our teaching. First of all, let me tell you how I normally acquire new vocabulary in Portuguese. I come across an unfamiliar word in a conversation or in a text I am reading or listening to. If I am feeling suitably inclined, I might bother to clarify the meaning of the new word, using whatever resources are at my disposal. And then, more often...

After a year or more, I'm back to blogging.  This time I have decided to study and write a little about a subject that is not really comfortable for me to teach and I guess that for lots of my colleagues, it is not easy as well. Let's then talk about pronunciation  regarding the regular  -ED Endings, a particular area of difficulty for Brazilian students, and for students in general. Some years ago I was conducting a workshop for the state sector teachers in Recife, Brazil  (where I live) when...

How many of us have heard learners expressing the wish ‘I want to be fluent in English’? But then, what does it mean to be fluent? As the title suggests, I truly believe in walking through life with our ears wide open, and there is one belief that has permeated my teaching over the years: the importance of triggering learners’ curiosity towards language and its genuine use in various contexts. As a learner myself, I have always wondered how to become fluent in another language. Naturally, when I started teaching, I...

Two things have happened recently that served as inspiration for this post. One of them is the (erroneous) belief that one can only learn a language if his/her teacher is a native speaker. Who would figure this is still a debate in 2017. The other is the #accentpride that aims at fighting the prejudice that only a native-speaker accent (which one?) is the correct way to speak English. With those two things in mind, I have decided to share the story of how I learned to speak English and how I...

“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...

Pensar é algo natural para todos nós.  Segundo a Wikipedia, é uma faculdade do nosso sistema mental através da qual modelamos o mundo para nele podermos transitar e agir segundo a nossa vontade. Pensar vem de fábrica, ou seja, é grátis. Por esse motivo, não se aprende a pensar. Se é assim, por quê então ainda vemos tanta gente por aí dizendo que você só será fluente em um idioma quando conseguir pensar nele? O SENSO COMUM Ainda outro dia, estava eu a observar uma professora em uma turma de...

  “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...

Hi Everyone! Let’s start talking about errors. Teachers usually see students’ errors as negative - as something to do away with. Not seeing them as a hint to the way learners make sense of the foreign language limits the teachers’ possibility of helping students and their own opportunity to learn from errors to overcome them. Students learning a foreign language go through five stages. First, they struggle to say what they mean. They put their ideas into sentences that almost always contain mistakes because they have their first language as their...

Durante a cerimônia de encerramento dos Jogos Olímpicos do Rio de Janeiro, transmitida ao vivo para o mundo inteiro, o Brasil deu mais uma prova de que o nosso povo é capaz de realizar grandes feitos. O espetáculo estava uma lindeza só e tudo transcorria maravilhosamente bem: apresentações impecáveis dos nossos melhores artistas, espetáculos de luz e som, coreografias de encantar a vista...

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...

1. Why is noticing even a buzzword, anyway? Noticing in language learning is perhaps ELT’s most user-friendly buzzword. To have a vague understanding of what it is, you don’t need to delve into the works of Rod Ellis, Peter Skehan or even Richard Schmidt, whose 1990 study essentially put the term on the map. Perhaps a simple dictionary definition will do: [caption id="attachment_4760" align="alignnone" width="597"] Taken from dictionary.com[/caption]   The noticing hypothesis is conceptually intuitive, too. To put it in the simplest of terms: Students learn the language items they pay attention to, as...

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...

"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...

A friend of mine, who is also an English teacher, was taking Pragmatics at uni and admitted she was struggling to see the point of all that theory. I wanted to reply in neon and all caps: “All the point in the world!” Ironically, I don’t think I did convince her. I say it was ironic because pragmatics is, among other things, the study of “how to do things with words”, as the seminal book title goes. While my intention was to persuade her to change her mind about pragmatics,...

What is complexity theory and how does it accommodate up to date beliefs about how languages are acquired, and new approaches to teaching like task based learning and dogme approaches? Until recently, theories about language acquisition have been dominated by the cognitivists, such as Krashen, Long and Chomsky. The basic premise was that input would be processed, and hypotheses made, which would then result in output where the hypotheses could be tested. This process was said to be innate, and relatively fixed. Coupled with this was the idea that...

Olá, a todos! Em 13 de janeiro de 2015, publiquei aqui no nosso blog o post To be bilingual or not to be bilingual: that’s the question (#not)!, sobre estar criando meu filho Eduardo, então com dois meses e meio de vida, de forma bilíngue. Tive dois excelentes comentários em meu texto, que me motivaram ainda mais a seguir minha senda. Não vou repetir tudo o que escrevi (estaria “roubando” a oportunidade de vocês lerem ou relerem o texto, caso ainda não o tenham feito), mas só relembrando...

Todo estudante de língua estrangeira sonha com o tempo em que estará falando “fluentemente” o idioma escolhido. Dentre os principais mitos citados no artigo 7 conceitos de fluência e o que você deveria saber a respeito dela, um dos mais frequentes é o de que ser fluente significa falar sem pausas. E não é pra menos. UM RÁPIDO TESTE Façamos o seguinte teste: se você fosse professor de idiomas e um aluno, ao final de uma aula, lhe perguntasse de repente “professor, o que posso fazer para melhorar a minha fluência...

I have heard it being called 'emerging language' and 'incidental language'. However, I prefer 'emerging unplanned language ' (EUL) as 'emerging language' is often used in a wider language acquisition sense and 'incidental' can imply something of minor consequence, which it is not. If anyone has an existant word, or a better one, then please let me know. So what are we talking about? I am referring to the language which arises during the actual delivery of the lesson. The language which is 'unplanned', so to speak. The language...

No artigo 7 conceitos de fluência e o que você deveria saber a respeito dela, apresentei algumas definições de “fluência” comumente encontradas na internet e procurei mostrar como elas são ainda bastante vagas e controversas (mesmo entre os profissionais da área de idiomas), dando ensejo aos mais diversos usos e abusos do termo pelo mercado. Ao final do artigo, propus um exercício de reflexão aos leitores: que formulassem seu próprio conceito de fluência a partir de 10 assertivas comumente utilizadas pelo senso-comum, já que, como pretendi deixar claro,...

I want to talk about drilling. To be more specific, repetition drills. A repetition drill is a technique, which involves the students listening to a model of a word or phrase, usually provided by the teacher, and then repeating it. The original rationale for repetition drills was based on a behaviourist view of language learning. The idea that learning a language was a question of habit formation and that repeating words and phrases ad nauseam would result in mastery of the language. This view of language learning has since been...

No artigo intitulado O que nunca lhe contaram sobre terminar um curso de idiomas em tempo recorde, procurei contextualizar e explicar criticamente o surgimento da necessidade de se falar um idioma “fluentemente” (o mais depressa possível) em decorrência principalmente da mudança de paradigma e das exigências do mercado na sociedade atual. Indo na direção contrária, afirmei que a fluência em um idioma, a fim de tornar-se uma habilidade permanente, deve ser incorporada ao próprio ser como uma espécie de segunda natureza, e que cada indivíduo leva um tempo...

O aumento da renda familiar ocorrida nos últimos anos aliado à crescente demanda do mercado de trabalho por profissionais com fluência em inglês têm ocasionado um grande aumento na demanda por cursos de idiomas no Brasil. Afinal de contas, para ter um bom currículo e tornar-se um profissional valorizado é essencial aprender uma segunda língua o quanto antes. Não concordam? O MERCADO ESTÁ (SEMPRE) DE OLHO A partir da intensificação do senso comum de que não se aprende uma língua estrangeira nas escolas regulares brasileiras, especialmente ao longo das três últimas...

I believe it’s fair to say that one of the most important elements that contribute to the success of a lesson is certainly the amount of challenge learners are posed with. And when we think about challenge in a broad sense, we should certainly take into account the sources of language learners will be exposed to, what the target language to be worked with is, how student-centered the lesson has been designed to be, what we expect learners to produce, and motivated and engaged they are in the...

Com que frequência você se depara com a afirmação que dá título a este post, ou com alguma de suas inúmeras variações, especialmente no contexto da divulgação de métodos de ensino e/ou aprendizagem? No que concerne à aprendizagem de línguas estrangeiras, uma rápida pesquisa no Google logo comprova a presença dessa assertiva no discurso de boa parte das escolas nos dias de hoje (seja de idiomas, seja regular), geralmente na tentativa de explicar a sua metodologia de ensino e conquistar novos clientes: “você aprende sem perceber e quando vê já está...

Hello! It’s good to be back after a couple of months (ok, maybe more ;-) ) away from the blog.  For the rest of this year, I’d like to consider the role of neuroscience in language learning and teaching. What is neuroscience and how is it interesting to language teachers? Are you interested in how the brain works?  If you said yes, you concur with the around 80% of teachers from around the world that a major study found are interested in brain science (Pickering and Howard-Jones, 2007).  It’s a fascinating...

Although attempts to define ‘fluency’ and ‘accuracy’ when speaking a foreign language abound in the specialized literature, there still does not seem to exist a consensus regarding a single, ultimate definition of either one of the terms. One of the reasons which could partly explain the lack of common ground among authors is the very subjective nature of the two words in the context of learning/mastering a foreign language. Any given language is a complex structural system whose components include, but are not limited to, rules, vocabulary and pronunciation....

Students taking a course in a foreign language very frequently bring with them a world of expectations and needs – in both personal and professional contexts – that they want to be met in the classroom. Those expectations and needs, however, can many times be beyond what can be achieved within a semester of studies. It is then many times up to the teacher to help learners align their expectations and help them become more aware of what they can achieve in the short and long run, and...

Photo by Higor Cavalcante | CC BY 2.0 No matter where you are in the world today, English is everywhere you look. It’s used in shop signs, products in the supermarket, the names of buildings, menus, graffiti, airports, public transport, shopping centres, notices, advertising posters and hoardings. In fact, here in Brazil there is even an English name for this type of advertising – ‘outdoor’ (as well as ‘busdoor’ for adverts on the back of buses, and ‘indoor’ for adverts in stations, shopping centres, etc.). I first became interested in Linguistic...

It’s not rare to find students who are not demonstrating a high level of achievement and yet think they are doing just fine. Or, conversely, who, despite producing the required level of language for a given stage believes it to be necessary to retake all lessons again to improve more.  I thought about this as I came across two cases recently. The first, a student who was doing great at a certain level and came to talk to me about going back a level or two. She was not feeling...

Did you happen to see the story about the leader of the Green Party in the UK? Well, she went to give a live interview on the radio last week to kick off her party's election campaign. About two minutes into the interview, she was asked a question about her party's housing policy. Upon which she was suddenly struck down by what has been commonly called 'mind blank'. George Dvorsky (2015), a neurologist, says "catecholamine hormones, like adrenaline or noradrenaline, prime the body for violent physical action. This includes...

Teaching pronunciation in the English classroom is of great importance – it helps learners communicate better, convey their messages more effectively and sound more natural. Yet, this tends to be a rather marginalized area in EFL classrooms around the globe. Helping learners to sound better, to recognize different accents and varieties of English, and also to read phonemic transcript may contribute to their independence – and it’s perfectly ok to introduce them to the symbols even when they are at early elementary levels. Making the teaching of pronunciation a...

I’ve just had a week off, so I went off on holidays. After a whole year of teacher, training, writing, talking to students, parents, helping those who needed the extra help or a supporting word (or hug!)… I tried to fool myself, thinking I would be able to completely tune out of work by simply not looking at emails from work. But one doesn’t stop being a teacher just because she is not teaching… It starts out quite subtly, really… a song you hear playing that you immediately identify...

  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...

Olá a todos! Depois de uma ausência de alguns meses, estou de volta! Mas minha ausência tem uma boa “desculpa”: em 31 de outubro, Eduardo, meu filhinho, nasceu! Com toda a alegria que trouxe, veio também desorganização e desajustes, até que finalmente conseguíssemos “entendê-lo” e acertar nossas rotinas com as necessidades dele! Coisas de marinheiros de primeira viagem! De qualquer forma, este pequeno intróito serve para anunciar a razão pela qual estou escrevendo este post: estamos criando nosso filho como uma criança bilíngue. Esta, na verdade, foi uma decisão...

Teaching adult beginner groups can be quite challenging, as most teachers (if not all)  who have such groups know. Each age group we teach has its specific challenges, and in my experience, when it comes to adult beginners the main challenges are time (they usually have little time to dedicate to English studying other than the time they spend in the classroom, since they have many other responsibilities and priorities. Many times they have trouble even coming to classes) and fear. Fear of making mistakes and making a...

                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...

[caption id="attachment_2317" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Order in the classroom by Martin Bowling (CC.BY.20)[/caption] A couple of months ago, I wrote about how there seems to be very little order in how we learn a language.  Just because we 'learn' some aspect of a language one day doesn't mean we will be able to use it the next.  Also, we might use a language quite comfortably one day, only to be completly useless the next time. While this is true for each individual, whether they are learning their first or second language,...

I asked a student of mine recently whether he still believed in Father Christmas. He looked at me nonplussed before asking me who Father Christmas was. I replied that he was the big, fat man who delivered children presents at Christmas time. “Presents?”, he asked. “Gifts’, I said. To which he smiled and said, “Ah, you mean Santa Clause”. Does it matter? Well, maybe not for this 25 year old adult, who I presume no longer believes in Santa Clause (or Father Christmas), but it might matter to my...

It's a given that we live in an era in which students have the chance to be exposed to the target language much more frequently than people from past generations did. Smartphones are, at least in Brazil, becoming an essential item, and there are already people who would rather forget their wallet at home than their mobile. Cable TV has also become much cheaper, and widely-available Internet access allows people to quickly check whatever they want at the touch of a screen - literally. Add to that the...

[caption id="attachment_2173" align="aligncenter" width="300"] When I grow up, I want to be just like my dad. Pascal - CC-BY-2.0[/caption] It is a source of pride when a child takes after his or her parents.  The little boy who wants to be a teacher like his mother, or the little girl who develops a laugh just like her father. Of course, it can also work the other way as well, so the little boy can also pick up the colourful language of his mother or the girl can learn how to...

In this post, I’d like to report on some fascinating research I had the pleasure of seeing presented at the recent MEXTESOL conference in Puebla, Mexico.  What particularly interested me was the connection to the topic of meaningful learning that I have been talking about on this blog as well as the direct application of the research to the teaching of vocabulary both for classroom teachers, teacher trainers and materials writers.  I don’t know about you, but I love research that we can use in the classroom. The first...

"Over the years, language teachers have alternated between favoring teaching approaches that focus primarily on language use and those that focus on language forms or analysis. The alternation has been due to a fundamental disagreement concerning whether one learns to communicate in a second language by communicating in that language (such as in an immersion experience) or whether one learns to communicate in a second language by learning the lexicogrammar - the words and grammatical structures - of the target language. In other words, the argument has been...

The other day I was visiting a writer friend of mine and she said she wanted to write a children's story. A story in which the reader can extrapolate the meaning and come out better for it. My very eloquent friend started to tell me her story ideas based on interviews she had conducted in poor communities around Brazil. The stories she told me were heart wrenching. The way she transcribed them was engaging. I started thinking about what was appropriate subject matter. What realities do characters face in stories...

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:...

As a Native English-Speaking Teacher (NEST) who didn't learn any English grammar at school, it wasn't until I started training as a teacher and then teaching that I really started to get to grips with the English grammatical - and later lexical - system. In fact, I don't think there's ever been a point where I've felt I understand the whole system. That's one of the great things about being a teacher - you keep learning. When I first started out as a language teacher in the mid-1990s, I...

Humans (like all intelligent hunters) seem innately disposed to notice things which move rather than things which stand still. Cook, 2000 Don't move a muscle. by Chris Isherwood CC-BY-2.0 It is often argued that the English language class should try to emulate the ‘real world’ as much as possible. Tasks and activities should reflect what people do in real life, in order to give learners the tools that they’ll need to use English outside the classroom. While this is no doubt good advice, I believe there is also a valid and useful...

The 9th grade students at Colégio A. Liessin recently had a lesson to revise parts of the body. Students were familiar with most of the words as they start learning them in kindergarten through the famous song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”. Our challenge was to find a way to make students practise vocabulary already known with new words presented in the lesson (calf, shin, heel and some others). As the Olympic Games are coming, we had the idea to ask students to create a sport using two or...

Hello! In my previous post we looked at the concept of ‘meaningful learning’, the idea of taking what learners already know and using it to help them to learn more.  In this post, I want to start looking at how to do this in the classroom. Using learners’ knowledge of L1. This clearly cuts into a controversial issue in ELT for the past thirty years or so – the use of the mother tongue.  What I’d like to argue is that we can’t/shouldn’t ignore all this knowledge that learners have and...

[caption id="attachment_1672" align="alignleft" width="300"] Ups and Downs, Twists and Turns by Beyond Neon - CC BY 2.0[/caption] I am sure there is nobody reading this post who would say the following to a student: “We did the past simple last month and you used it properly, why are you having problems with it now?” The reason we wouldn’t say this is because we are all trained, professional educators who know that learning a language, or learning almost anything, does not progress in a nice straight line.  Just because we have covered...

This post is a short account of two lessons I taught in 2002 which helped me to make sense of something I’d read about in the late 90s, but couldn’t get my head around. Not until then anyway. If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I’m a big believer in experiential learning (i.e., moving from concrete experience to abstract conceptualization rather than the other way around), so let me begin by describing the lessons first. That way you'll be better able to grasp the theory...

Did anyone read a recent article in Time magazine entitled 'Want to Learn a Language? Don't Try So Hard'? (Abrams; 2014) It outlined a study undertaken at MIT University which basically found that whereas young people up until the age of puberty use procedural memory to learn a language, adults will use a different type of memory which, although it is not stated in the article, appears to be declarative memory. Whereas procedural memory involves the unconscious memory of skills and how to do things, like riding a bike,...

Hello again! Many years ago I took a class in educational psychology and came across this quote from the cognitive psychologist, David Ausubel: "If I had to reduce all of cognitive psychology to one principle it would be this:  the most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.  Ascertain this and teach him accordingly."  (1978:  flyleaf). I was very struck by this and was therefore even more interested to find out what cognitive psychology had to say about ‘meaningful learning’, something that we talk about vaguely in...

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...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="350"] Not pink (Wikipedia)[/caption] Picture the scene: A two-year-old boy with his dad having a conversation about a favourite teddy bear (not unlike the one in the photo). CHILD: Look daddy, this old teddy bear is pink. DAD: No, son, it's blue and white. For a two-year-old this level of language would be pretty amazing,yet the father has chosen to correct his son because it isn't a true, factual statement. This can be seen when the following day the dad and the son are again talking about the same teddy bear: CHILD:...

Good news for teachers (and even better news for students) of foreign languages: a new longitudinal research, whose results were recently published in a journal of the American Neurological Association, reveals that bilingualism has a positive effect on cognition and may delay the onset of dementia in older adults.  The participants, who live in the Indian city of Hyderabad, were given an intelligence test in 1947, when they were 11 years old, and retested sixty years later. Because Hyderabad is a cultural melting pot where much of the...

[caption id="attachment_1276" align="alignleft" width="300"] Keep Calm by Guilherme Bomfim Pacheco/MULL - CC BY 4.0[/caption] When my son was about 18 months old I took him to a local shopping centre here in Curitiba. I don’t normally do this because I hate shopping centres with a passion, but it was raining and we were both going stir crazy from being in the house for too long. At one point my son just stopped dead in his tracks, pointed at a travel agent’s and started shouting I the way that only the...

For the past six months I've been teaching a close friend of mine once a week, on a one-to-one basis. He's what most people would refer to as an elementary learner, but in many important ways he's anything but your typical A2. And that's partly because he's highly intuitive. The more I teach him, the more I wonder whether all the syllabus-based grammar work that we do in class is of any use at all. Last week, for example, with a little help from me, he was able to say...

This lesson plan is one for any time, any where, any students…   1 Show the four images below.   Ask your students to choose one and think (not talk) about why that particular image appeals to them.  Allow them plenty of thinking time.   2 Tell them about the picture you choose, but don't say explicitly which one you've chosen. For example, "This makes me think of summer, and of home. It reminds me of the smell, and of sitting outside on a summer's day with my friends, maybe between classes at...

The way I see it, reading vastly and variedly is the most important language-learning exercise there is. Extensive reading — which Thornbury (2006, p 191) defines as being the more leisurely reading of longer texts, primarily for pleasure, or in order to accumulate vocabulary, or simply to develop sound habits of reading — helps develop general language competence; develops general, world knowledge; extends, consolidates and sustains vocabulary growth; helps improve writing; creates and sustains motivation to read more. (Click here for article on ER). It also makes you...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="320"] Yes, it's morning now, but you can still go back to sleep! (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)[/caption] My son is approaching 3 years of age and he is developing both his English and Portugese at an amazing rate.  His language, though, sounds very strange, some people call it cute, and this is partly because he is being exposed to two languages at the same time and partly because he is still only 2 and this is a natural part of first lanaguage(s) acquisition. One example that he constantly uses is...

Usually in my posts I like to share a lesson plan based on a special occasion. This time it's the special occasion that has inspired my post! Last week I was following the 14th Braz TESOL conference from afar, through facebook updates, blog posts and shared images of João de Pessoa.  It really looked like a great event and I felt envious of all the lucky conference goers who were there!  But social media meant that I didn't feel that far away.  I'd like to share a couple of...

Having a children´s library in a school is an asset. Not all large schools nowadays have enough space to offer kids a room especially designed for them. Besides, it´s perfectly understandable that an empty room in a school is turned into a classroom. We didn´t really have the room for the library in Colégio A. Liessin Botafogo but when one has a dream it comes true!  Some years ago our school was partially rebuilt to have a children´s library and Science lab. Since the beginning the idea was to create...

Continuing this series of exercises based on less is more, this month we turn to adverts as a resource for intercultural awareness or should I say one advert in particular. During the Superbowl in February this year, Coca Cola aired a commercial called “It’s Beautiful” which showed people doing typical American leisure activities – surfing, eating fast food, rollerblading with backdrops such as the Grand Canyon. In the meantime, the song “America the Beautiful” plays in the background. You can see it for yourself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=443Vy3I0gJs At first sight, you might...

Props can be anything used to aid in the telling of a story. The audience needs to be made to believe that the object is representative to some aspect of the story. Tell the story, because the audience wants to believe. In the classroom, props can be used throughout the story or just as a trigger at a turning point in the audience imagination. Props can be chosen to be the focus of vocabulary words, or for teaching actions or expressions. Props could be maps, balls, cookies, a stone,...

[caption id="attachment_894" align="alignleft" width="300"] What can you learn about yourself from your Scrabble words? (garlandcannon - CC BY-SA-2.0)[/caption] Why do we use language?  This has to be one of the questions we ask ourselves as language teachers as it will probably inform our beliefs about how to both teach and learn languages. One of the main reasons we use language is in order to communicate needs and desires, to fill information gaps or to perform some sort of transaction.  It is through this struggle to meet our various needs that...

Na semana de 01 a 05 de abril aconteceu na Inglaterra a 48ª Conferência Anual da Associação Internacional de Professores de Inglês como Língua Estrangeira  - IATEFL.  Com tudo o que vimos e ouvimos ainda ecoando, me pergunto o que podemos fazer para ajudar nossos alunos a aprender mais, mais rápido e com mais eficácia. Por exemplo: “Dar o recado”. Como em qualquer evento internacional, usamos uma língua franca para a comunicação entre participantes falantes de diversas línguas. O interessante para nós, profissionais da área, é que estamos...

“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...

“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,...

O termo collocation já faz parte do cenário de ensino de língua inglesa há um bom tempo. Há na história relatos sobre collocations desde o ano de 1933. Harold Palmer, linguista inglês, é tido como o primeiro a citar tal termo. Na introdução de um de seus livros, ele escreveu: "When a word forms an important element of a 'collocation' [a succession of two or more words that may be best learnt as if it were a single word] the collocations is shown in bold type." Outros autores passaram a...

While waiting for a jazz class that wasn’t going to happen, my ten year old daughter and her friend start knocking on the door. “They bang and cry, let me in! I am the big bad wolf!” It must be over half her lifetime since she has heard the story The Three Little Pigs and yet, knocking forcefully on the door recreates the big bad wolf image for her. I started to pay more attention. She is reading Harry Potter now and concerned about the world turning in on itself, translating Hogwarts...

Dizem que o ano começa agora - passadas as férias e o Carnaval, vamos retomar a vida até a próxima parada: a Copa do Mundo. Será impossível ficarmos alheios ao evento, que terá impacto inclusive no calendário escolar. Sem entrar no mérito da questão do ponto de vista político e econômico, tento aqui colocar o foco na sala de aula de língua(s) estrangeira(s), e pensar em como trazer o assunto para a nossa prática. Os alunos que hoje estão no Ensino Fundamental ainda não terão ingressado no mercado de...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="242"] Stewie Griffin (Wikipedia)[/caption] There is a cartoon that I love to watch called Family Guy (Uma Familia da Pesada).  It isn’t to everyone’s taste because of the casual violence, bad language and somewhat offensive jokes.  Whether you like it or not it's clear that the writers know quite a bit about how young children behave. One of the main characters is called Stewie, a talking and very intelligent baby.  No matter how smart he might be, though, he is still a baby and so likes to...

I don’t think I have ever taught or observed an advanced lesson that went seriously wrong. I mean cringe-worthy wrong. Which shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, advanced students have been in the game long enough and know enough English to ensure that most of our lessons run - at worst - relatively smoothly. Except perhaps for those all-too-familiar “How do you say X?” questions (X = a word YOU don't know), which they seem to pluck out of nowhere, at the worst possible moments. Yes, the ones that...

Long ago, in 1981, before many of you were even contemplated, I was teaching at the British Council, Cairo, Egypt. An expensive, imported gringo, I was energetic, attractive, hirsuit, super-keen having just done my second TEFL diploma, and feeling like ‘Superteacher’. But, I quickly learned some important pedagogical lessons. I’ll blog a few of them here over the next few months: Lesson 1: Native and non-native teachers; horses for courses I wasn’t allowed near Beginners or Elementary. Why? Because I had no idea of Arabic, their mother tongue, their needs...

There is a lot of theory that can go into storytelling. Lots of ideas and lots of games and exercises for the classroom. I hope to touch upon those topics and others in this blog. I hope to be challenged, to share ideas, and to learn from the experience of others. Stories are the way in which we communicate with one another. They are the way in which we answer questions, the build-up until you get to the punch line of jokes, gossip, news, interviews, and shared conversations. Stories surround...

This is my first blog for RichmondShare and I must say I am honoured, and a little bit in awe, to be sharing a platform with such great writers and professionals.  After reading some of the other posts already on this site the pressure is on to write something new, entertaining, interesting and relevant.  If I manage to achieve one of those I’ll be happy. [caption id="attachment_354" align="alignright" width="300"] It's so much easier at this age                     (Dept of Children...

Segundo o portal de notícias do Senado Federal, um projeto apresentado em 2012 pelo Senador Cícero Lucena (PSDB-PB) está pronto para ser votado na Comissão de Educação do Senado (CE). O projeto (PLS 71/2012) tem como objetivo “incluir a fluência na oralidade como um dos objetivos do ensino de língua estrangeira no ensino fundamental e médio”, alterando o parágrafo 5 do artigo 26 da Lei nº 9.394, de 20 de dezembro de 1996, a chamada Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação. O projeto parece não levar em...