In July I had the chance to attend the 15th Braz-Tesol international conference. As I chose which workshops and talks to attend, I realized how much my profile had changed since I first started attending these kinds of events. My first international conference was in 2008 when I had the chance to go to the ABCI (Associação Brasileira de Culturas Inglesas) international conference in São Paulo. At that time I had been teaching for 4 years, but had never done any teacher training courses. I clearly remember I was looking...

It goes without saying that we live in a world which is bombarded by information. I am not saying that is all bad, however, for some this may be too much, too soon and too frightening. This fast-moving evolution of information technology has brought about a new sort of ‘society’ which seeks for a full range of perspectives and interests. That is exactly when RLE (Real Learning Environment) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) collide. Unfortunately, the so-called ‘cloud’ does not seem to be 9 for everyone, especially if...

Part one in an occasional series that describes some of the students I have had the pleasure (or misfortune) of working with and how I learnt to deal with them. The Student There is an episode of The Simpsons called ‘Bart Gets an F’ which should be compulsory viewing for all teachers.  Bart is in trouble for constantly failing exams and is under threat of having to repeat the year.  The episode looks at different learning processes, the way traditional education fails many students, the damaging effect educational systems have on teachers,...

It’s been quite a long period of silence. In my last post I wrote about changes. One of those changes has to do with the fact that in my current job I have visited schools all over Brazil. I have been to rich and poor schools and I have met wonderful teachers with similar dreams and needs everywhere. Most of these professionals show hunger for change, but they seem to be unaware of alternative proposals regarding their work. It is clear that, in many instances, the teacher can be...

I think that we can all agree that learning a language is a complex process, involving complex systems. By complex systems, I mean a process of complex behavior which emerges from a few simple rules. All complex systems are networks of many interdependent parts which interact according to those rules. It is a process which is neither linear, nor incremental. This contrasts with the input hypothesis theory, which has been the prevalent paradigm over the last twenty years or so. The basic premise was that input would be processed,...

  Preparing for the 15th BTIC? Getting ready to make the most of it with Isabela Villas Boas's tips on presentations and the programme and Elaine Hodgson's ideas on networking? Conferences are usually a great opportunity to reassure us all, ELT professionals, that we are a strong professional team, seeking for development, growth and better quality in our teaching. It is a wonderful learning experience, with lots being shared and discussed. For me, it is a moment for a healthy productive discussion about our perspectives and the future of ELT....

The year was 2011. I was moving to my new apartment. My first apartment ever, the first time on my own without roommates. The first place to ever call mine, and I wanted to furnish the place all at once. I had about 12 groups and countless private students. I was living in Laranjeiras and working in Laranjeiras and Barra da Tijuca. If you are not familiar with the geography of Rio de Janeiro, Google will give you a pretty good idea of what my life was like. I...

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...

In July, I'll have been teaching English for exactly 13 years. One maxim among language teachers is that sometimes you can get to this point by having one year of experience repeated 13 times. I like to think of myself as someone who has taken this time to become a better teacher and a better speaker of English. As a bilingual teacher, I think it's important to invest time (and often money) in my own development. This post is dedicated to my teacher development guidelines. 1. Sit for exams or...

You have probably heard of the PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) tests. They are standardised tests of reading, science and mathematics, which are designed to allow comparisons of  educational attainment around the world. Well, it appears that the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the organisation which runs the tests, is likely to introduce another set of tests in 2018, which will measure what the OECD calls 'global competence'. The OECD defines 'global competence' as: "the capacity to analyse global and intercultural issues critically and from multiple...

In ELT we often say we joined the field to help others and we take pride in seeing our students achieve higher, being successful using English. Some of us stay true to this 'dream profession' full of challenge and growth for both learners and teachers. Others give up, others just do it for fun. It is, of course, desirable that we all cherish what we do and have pleasure while doing it. However, learning comes first. If we are having fun with the better half of the group...

Last month I was very fortunate to be able to attend the 50th IATEFL International Conference in Birmingham, the UK. As most it usually happens when it comes to conferences, it was possible to “catch” a few issues / topics that stood out in the conference – because of plenaries, sessions or just the talk between sessions and at the social events at the end of the each day. This year, at least for me, there were two big issues that stood out: gender / sexual bias and the...

"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...

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about giving and receiving feedback. One of the reasons for that was a conversation with my friend Priscila Mateini on receiving negative feedback and dealing with failure. In addition, because of the nature of my job as a Celta tutor, I'm constantly giving feedback to teachers. Some of what I'm going to write about focuses on feedback after lesson observations, but a lot of it can be applied to other areas of teaching as well. A trainer once told me that one of...

Earlier this month I attended the 50th IATEFL conference in Birmingham and among many of the discussions and sessions there was a moment when Jim Scrivener suggested teachers used more of their intuition. He was defending a moment for simplifying teacher training and, although I agree with certain points (e.g. training is a starting point, perhaps we should cover fewer areas), I believe it is high time we discussed and developed professionalism from initial steps into teaching. I was particularly worried that a novice teacher encouraged to rely on...

Having embarked on the teaching of English in the public sector, little did I know how many hours would take my students to walk an extra mile! You must be thinking that a mile is a mile. Indeed, yet not many students have the knack for measuring it properly. Forgive me my fellow mathematicians but a mile does not seem to represent the same distance to learners. Much to the contrary, a mile will last as many hours to some as fewer hours to others. That is to say,...

I saw a post recently on Facebook advertising a position for a native speaking teacher in a Brazilian language program. The post appeared on the page of a closed group for English teachers in Brazil. The reaction to the post was immediate. People wanted to know why the program was only hiring native speakers and questioned this practice. The person in search of this native teacher justified the restriction saying that it was for advanced groups, that the program already had non-native teachers, and that this specific job...

Let’s start by defining gamification, which according to Oxford Dictionary is  the application of typical elements of game playing to other areas of activity. In our case, it’s the is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate students to achieve their goals. Games have existed for a very long time and are considered an activity, normally voluntarily, performed within a timeframe and space according to established rules with an end or a goal in itself which provide a bit of tension and...

Just like in March, I’ll begin by reproducing a photo that was in newspapers and social media last month and that proved extremely controversial, raising heated discussions on the Internet. Well, I believe you have probably seen it and possibly read lots of arguments, both defending and criticising all sorts of aspects in the photo. Basically, there were two lines: one that saw the babysitter as a victim of social inequality and the other defending their employers who alleged it was her choice to work for them, that...

          Or "When Pre-Teens First Meet the Dreaded Older Male Teacher" Based on a true story. When I thought about writing this post, thinking back to the time when I first started teaching was unavoidable. I was quite young, in my early 20's, when I was asked to teach some groups of children whose ages ranged from 8 to 12 years old. What an experience that was! I had enough energy to keep up with their franctic pace and made sure my lessons were filled with a...

This week I came across the photo below on different friends’ timelines:   Under the photo you read: ‘The perfect place for a cell phone while classes take place!’ Reactions to the photo varied. Some of these friends thought this was a good idea. Some, on the other hand, criticised it. Two of these comments caught my eye. In one, you read ‘What a sad scene’ and in another, responding to this comment, you had ‘They haven’t understood it yet.’ I was intrigued by the word ‘they’. I believe the person who...

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...

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend the MAWSIG conference in London. This is a gathering of talented materials writers, editors and publishers. The theme of the conference was “New ways of working for new ways of learning” so the focus was heavily on digital and writing for digital. As I said, there were lots of clever people there full of great ideas but having worked in digital for a few years with the responsibility for producing digital content, apps, platforms and so on, I...

Hi Everyone! In this first posting of 2016, I want address group work. Ellis (2005) refers to Jacobs (1998), who compares the characteristics of group work with those of teacher-centered instruction.   Ten potential advantages of group activities in language instruction Advantages   Comment 1. The quantity of learner speech can increase In teacher-fronted classrooms, teachers typically speak 80% of the time; in group work more students talk for more of the time. 2. The variety of speech acts can increase In teacher-fronted classrooms, students are cast in a responsive role, but in group work they perform different...

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 -...

Recently, I was asked to lead an in-service session on Pronunciation. I was given about an hour and a half to cover sentence stress, intonation, features of connected speech, word stress and phonemes. Not an easy task considering how much is involved in articulating speech. Maybe we under-estimate it? For 'teaching' pronunciation encompasses much more than just modelling and getting the students to repeat. I  started off by telling the participants that I have lost count of the number of times, when observing teachers in action, that I have...

I can’t remember when I heard “teachers are resistant to change” for the first time, but having been in this profession for over 25 years, I can assure you it was a long time ago. Moreover, It’s very likely that when I heard it for the first time, I either didn’t pay much attention to it or I might have thought it was true. I took parts in meetings and training sessions and whenever a teacher, or a group of teachers, presented arguments against a certain decision, procedure...

The year has barely started and it’s been quite a busy one here: planning and delivering training sessions, submitting proposals to conferences and writing posts and articles, all with the main aim of focusing on CPD – Continuing Professional Development. The pursuit for professional development in teaching should not stop when obtaining the CPE or a teaching qualification such as the CELTA. CPD, as the name itself suggests, aims at ongoing development, at helping professionals become better day after day. Learning more about the English language is crucial for teachers...

I have recently read an article talking about the teacher of the future and that got me thinking whether I was either connected to past, present or future. Some years ago I and Lidia Vanessa (a fellow teacher and friend of mine) did a presentation at an ABCI conference which started with a provocative question: ‘’Will computers replace teachers?’’ It was amazing to see how much debate there was then and how much this is being debated today. But, before we get to the answer, it is vitally important...

In a recent PD afternoon I attended, before the closing of the event the main speaker had a Q&A session with the audience, answering questions about teaching English in general. One of the questions stuck to my mind: “How can we motivate our learners?” The question is not new to any teacher. It has been the topic of countless articles, chapters in books, discussions in the staff room, workshops and presentations at conferences. I am not here to dispute the importance of motivation in language learning (or in any kind...

Today is January 6th, which in Brazil is called 'Dia de Reis', a day in honor of the three Wise Men. Having grown up in Rio, I used to think January 6th was nothing but a day to take Christmas decorations down. Then one day, as an adult already, I happened to be in Piauí on this date. A whole festival called 'Folia de Reis' was going on, and I had never even heard of such a thing. I was blown over by the dances I could see...

One of the best parts of my job is working with other teachers.  This can be anything from a one-off 60-minute workshop, to a whole year of regular sessions with everything in between.  There are many ways of approaching this work with a variety of names that all suggest a slight difference in focus: teacher training, teacher development, teacher education, professional development are just some of the different terms you can easily find bandied about.  For some ideas on the differences between these approaches try reading Jack C...

Sorry, I haven’t posted a blog for a while – I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by.  In this post I want to return to the theme of supposed sex differences between how and what children learn and look at the other side of the coin.  If girls are supposedly better than boys at language (a belief I disputed in my last post) are boys really better than girls at math and science? It’s interesting to note that as young children there don’t appear to...

I’m very fond of anecdotes, so here’s one of my favourite teaching moments: fifteen years ago, a young student told me that there were men, women, children and teachers in the world, setting us apart from the other members of society. Little did I know then what she meant. We are all humans, but if we are to make a difference and provoke changes in society, we need to understand we are more accountable for the impact of our words and attitudes than we give us credit for. In...

I have recently embarked on a little adventure of leaving my language-centre-teaching comfort zone and teaching regular schools in the State Public School System. Little did I know how much ground one still needs to cover when facing such challenge. Especially, when you hear the utterances that give this text its very title. I have been around as an EFL Teacher at Cultura Inglesa SJDR for a while and (over)heard that such public school environment is not the ideal one to develop communicative abilities and the kind. Plus, there...

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...

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...

Yesterday, the results of an interesting study (the National Study of Online Charter Schools) were released. The findings are particularly relevant to all those involved in education (teachers, lawmakers, education providers, etc). The report, from researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the Mathematica policy research group, found that those students doing online courses in 'virtual classrooms' are doing less well academically than those who attend conventional schools, with face to face contact with teachers. Researchers found that only 2% of online schools outperformed their conventional equivalents in...

At the school I work for, we have a large teenage population. If you've taught this age level, you know the challenges they pose to us every day, but you also cherish the lively interactions with them once you've established rapport. It is true that in order to establish such rapport, we have to be acquainted with the topics they like to talk about, the songs they listen to, the TV shows they don't miss, the stars they worship, where they like to hang out, what they like...

It's amazing how things happen in life. Learning English has always been a passion for me and this is what I want to pass on to my students, but we never know if this is actually achievable… Well, other day I was taking part in a social event when a woman, accompanied by her husband, approached me and asked for a minute of my time… I had recognised her as the mother of a student and immediately thought it would be a problem of some sort - no one...

When we, English teachers, think of the internet, we often tend to think about what it has to offer: unlimited information at our fingertips, ready-made materials for download, songs with their lyrics, clipart and other graphic resources, teaching ideas, podcasts, videos, tutorials, educational online games and many other resources that were unavailable when most of us were students of English a few years (well, in my case decades) ago.  The World Wide Web has become some sort of an Oracle expected to provide answers to all our questions...

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,...

It's something I've heard from other teachers.  It's something a lot of my non-teaching friends seem to believe.  It's something I've even said myself as I am trying to convince myself I am in the right profession: Teaching English is recession proof.  In the good times people need English and have the money to spend on teachers.  In the bad times, people are desperate for English to get or keep a job, so even if they don't have the money, they'll find it. As the hard times seem to be...

CLIL is a fairly recent way of teaching. An acronym standing for Content and Language Integrated Learning - according to Mehisto et all [2008] it is a dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language.  A lot is said and discussed about CLIL and normally the discussions focus on the subject teacher having to teach his or her subject in English.  Most books and articles I found present definitions and ideas almost always trying to help the...

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...

I honestly believe that learning a language is a lot closer to learning a musical instrument than it is to preparing for a school exam. I also clearly remember the day that I shared with my guitar instructor that I'd finally bought a case for my guitar - surprisingly, he wasn't thrilled and simply asked me why I'd chosen to waste the money on something that would actually hamper my development. The rationale was simple: if the guitar was in its case, I'd have to open the case...

By no means is this post intended to teach techniques or activities to teachers working with older students on a one-on-one basis. As suggested in the title, I have written this article with the sole purpose of sharing some insights and reflections I have gathered from over eight years' experience teaching this target group of students. For reasons of brevity, I will not compare the well-known differences across the teaching of the language to children, adolescents, younger adults and older ones. Rather, I will limit myself to making...

If you look up the word ´mantra´ in a dictionary, you will probably come across one of two defintions. Firstly, it can be a sacred verbal formula used in Hinduism, which is repeated in prayer or meditation. Or secondly, it is a commonly repeated word or phrase, which often becomes a truism, regardless of its validity. Both definitions can be applied to language teaching. I recently helped run a CELTA course here in Brazil. In the final fourth week of the course, I decided to ask the trainees what...

Hi! As a teaching consultant in public and private schools, I often hear teachers complain about problems in multi-level classrooms. With 30-40 students in class, they dream of smaller and leveled classes – something difficult to implement given the spacing logistics of breaking a group in three and having three teachers instead of just one for a class hour… I remind them that math, geography, art and history teachers deal with the same problem. Yet, I’m not very convincing - these other teachers do not face the foreign language barrier…. This brings...

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...

If, like me, you have been in the field of TEFL for what I choose to call a substantial amount of time, you have probably (over)heard teachers, or even work colleagues say, "I've participated in so many seminars and conferences that I really don't see the point of keeping attending them anymore. I've seen it all...

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...

When my colleagues and I say we work in Aviation English, what we usually get is a mixture of awe and perplexity. Ironically, information about Aviation English seems not to travel far and wide. So here are a few initial bearings for those who wish to learn more about it. (Fingers crossed that I just might stop with those terrible aeronautical puns. Those jokes don’t fly, I think. Oops.) 1.       Aviation English is a misnomer. There are many aviation Englishes. Aviation is like a movie in that you can see the...

[caption id="attachment_3389" align="alignnone" width="640"] "Kids playing with marbles” by Tup Wanders is licensed under CC BY 2.0[/caption] This month, I want to pick up the theme of the brain and language learning and consider the controversial topic of sex differences.  There has existed a belief for some time that girls are innately better at language than boys.  Gurian (2005 in Eliot, 2009) argues that girls are up to eighteen months ahead of boys by the age of six and this has been put forward as an argument for teaching...

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...

[caption id="attachment_3320" align="aligncenter" width="297"] 2005_0918_174853AA by hslo CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption] I  recently came across a blog post by Cathy Moore titled 'How to respond to learning styles believers', in which she talks about the perils of debunking theories to which people have become quite accustomed and attached to over the years, but which have been shown not to be based on evidence - in this case the theory related to learning styles. I posted a link to the article on Facebook and from the ensuing response and comments, it's...

It is something of a cliché that the best teachers always learn from their students.  It has become a cliché, though, because it is true, or at least it should be true.  For example, some of the things I have learned this week include why there isn't one standard voltage for all of Brazil from a retired electrical engineer, how to do a cool magic trick from an amateur magician I realised that I like fantasy books, but hate fantasy films, while I love whodunits on the screen,...

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...

1 You listen to songs, mainly paying attention to the lyrics for examples of language use you can practise in class. 2 You have a huge bank of useful but interesting general knowledge, entirely gleaned from coursebooks. 3 You gesticulate wildly all the time when speaking to people, something you learnt when trying to explain concepts such as 'put off' or 'defeated'. [caption id="attachment_3185" align="aligncenter" width="300"] ...

My name is Stephen Greene.  I am a teacher.  I live in Curitiba.* I am not a public sector teacher.  Compared to them, I have a pretty cushy life.  I teach private students and so keep all of the income for myself.  I teach in people's houses, at their place of work, at my house or online.  I also do teacher training, and give workshops to teachers.  I provide cultural and communication workshops that have very little to do with English.  I write materials for publishers and a blog...

It’s funny to think about how the relationship between teachers and students has changed. Some years ago, the teacher would simply tell a student off and then s/she would study harder or so, even parents would support the teacher. Nowadays things are different. Feedback has to be well thought about. Anyway, define what feedback is first. Hattie and Timplerley [2003] from the University of Auckland defined that feedback is the information provided by the teacher regarding aspects of students’s performance or understanding. They claim that a teacher can provide...

Dear all, this is my second post about my journey to becoming an e-moderator. This time, I'm going to tell you about the time I became an online student myself. Some of the courses I had to take at university were only offered online. I had never done anything like that before (as a student) and I thought it was going to be an amazing learning opportunity at that time as I would learn about a specific subject online as well as learn how to use a different virtual learning...

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...

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...

Recentemente, em minhas aulas na graduação e até com colegas na escola, discutíamos a estrutura escolar que muitas vezes precisamos enfrentar: turmas superlotadas, falta de infraestrutura mínima, salas de aulas precárias, falta de recursos (tecnológicos) etc. Na questão do ensino de língua inglesa, tivemos uma discussão bastante acalorada sobre dividir uma turma em níveis de conhecimento linguístico ou não. O assunto da discussão atual é delicado e tem dividido opiniões. Para tanto, vou expor minha opinião do porquê sou favorável à divisão de turmas por níveis. Até porque,...

As anyone who knows me will attest, I have been pretty obsessed recently with mapping the urban linguistic landscape.  As often happens, when we find something we are interested in it colours all aspects of our lives.  When I first started teaching, many moons ago, I couldn't watch a film, hear a song or read a book without wondering if it could be used in my classes.  Nowadays, I can't teach a class without thinking about the urban linguistic landscape. One obvious way this has manifested itself is by...

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...

Dear all, From now on, I'll write about my journey to becoming an e-moderator in order to reflect upon it. I realized the way online courses have evolved and my online teaching experiences intertwine. Thus, you'll be able to accompany me in this journey to the past and to understanding what has been going on in this field for a while now. ...

Hi Everyone! Have you had an English teacher who inspired you or your learning? This is the question that Gabriela Cunha and I are posing to Brazilian students of English in public and private schools. The question, originally from the research by Martin Lamb and Martin Wedell (2015)[1] from the University of Leeds, is now to be answered by Brazilian students. I explain. Lamb and Wedell conducted a comparative research study on Indonesian and Chinese students’ perceptions about their English teachers to identify the inspiring aspects that had pushed them to...

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...

[caption id="attachment_2888" align="alignleft" width="214"] Thre green-eyed monster is going to get you[/caption] Jealousy, it’s a terrible emotion but one we are all familiar with, and perhaps even a humanity defining one.  That the green-eyed monster often should rear its ugly head when we see the rich and famous gallivanting around in their Lear jets sporting their expensive Apple watches is one thing.  But it is worse, and perhaps far more intense, when it pops up because of something our friends, relatives and colleagues are doing. Unfortunately, at the moment, it...

“Teachers are the busiest professionals on Earth”.  “Teachers never stop working”. How many times have you heard statements like those above?  I bet many times. And how many times have you stopped to reflect upon your teaching practice? Have you ever done it? How?  What was the last time you’ve been observed? What was the last time you observed a friend? You may think: Why so many questions? What does it all have to do with reflective teaching? I’ve noticed that a lot has been discussed about critical thinking regarding our students...

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...

In my last post, I referred to Carol Dweck’s book Mindset – How you can Fulfill Your Potential to invite teachers to focus on a growth mindset in 2015 and stay away from ideas and practices that only help perpetuate a fixed mindset. My focus last month, thus, was on teachers themselves and how their mindset affects their professional growth. This month I’m going to focus on how students’ growth can be helped or hindered by teachers’ mindset, also drawing from ideas in Dweck’s inspiring book. There’s a certain...

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...

A week ago the internet went crazy over a dress on a hanger. “What colors is this dress?”, people just had to know. Many people saw it like I did, white and gold. Others saw it as blue and black. Both camps came up with theories to justify not only that they were right but, more importantly, that the other group was wrong. *Sighs* In a way, colors are nothing more than an optical illusion. However, if we can vary so much on our perception of concrete objects (like a...

Last week’s cover of The Economist was “Brazil’s Quagmire” in which our economy is believed to be in its worst mess since the early 1990s with far bigger problems than the government will admit or investors seem to register.  Our currency has fallen 30% against the dollar since 2013 and inflation is rising. So it is with Brazil’s economy: the harder you stare, the worse it looks. However, the impact of this scenario goes far beyond currency exchange rates or the cover of international magazines. It reaches the...

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...

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...

At least once a week, I have to go to the post office to mail books people order through my website. I usually go to the same agency, which is actually a privately-owned postal franchise, near my house. This month, however, I was on vacation away from home, so I had to go to a different, government owned, agency. I can’t say it was a very good experience, but it got me thinking about what we are teaching, and therefore what our students are learning, at school. Trouble started...

We're half way through February (already!) and all of those New Year's resolutions you set yourself probably fell by the road side a long time ago.  If you're still following them, congratulations!  Maybe this is the year that you actually follow through on a promise to yourself. It wasn't exactly a New Year's Resolution for me, because I started in November last year, but I have become determined to get fit and lose some of the beer belly I have been building up for far too long.  As a...

February has come and we are all back to school again. So let’s talk about homework? For some years I have observed that a certain number of teachers have had difficulties setting and correcting homework for several reasons, from time management to lack of interest on the part of the SS. I have then started to think about the theme "homework" and made myself the following questions: What is the quality of the homework that is being assigned? Is the homework valuable and meaningful to students? Does the homework...

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...

Holidays are over, preparation has already taken place so now it’s time to get into teaching! When the year comes to an end we think back and realise our work was done and a rest is deserved. Soon we start longing for the new groups, the new materials, the planning… I believe students never realise the amount of work we face prior to the beginning of a new academic year. In good schools all must be planned beforehand in order to provide the best possible educational service. The learning process...

Myths and stereotypes are inherent to a number of professions: the ignorant model, the cunning lawyer, the rude military officer, the sexy nurse, just to name a few. Intertwined with prejudice and/or limited, erroneous views, these myths and stereotypes very often cause discomfort and raise discussion. Teaching is no exception to that. Which stereotypes are usually associated with teachers? Very recently, a statement by the current Minister of Education has come back to the centre of debate. In 2011, during a strike in which teachers demanded a raise, and...

Education has become a trending topic. Actually, it's always been an interest - even if it's just a vested interest - for pretty much everyone I know. Deep down, we know that it defines a lot of who we are and we hold education accountable for our accomplishments in life. It is what increases our chances of success and also what gives us the necessary confidence to take up a new challenge. This is probably why it is so difficult to have a conversation about education and educational...

  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...

Last month, I wrote about the need for students to become autonomous learners, and the difficulty that most teachers face in developing such autonomy in them.  My students responded very well to the article, admitting that they hadn’t been investing as much time or effort as they should towards their goal of becoming proficient speakers of English someday.  I decided that the upcoming summer vacation could be a great opportunity for them to build an autonomous attitude, so I put together this detailed list of what they could...

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...

According to Baker (2011) bilingual education refers to the education in more than one language, often comprising more than two. It is different from traditional education as it uses language as a medium of instruction providing tolerance towards other linguistic and cultural groups.  There is the pivotal need to integrate language and content which is done with the material used, the language used by the teacher and mainly, the language used by the students. Leszek Boryseiwicz, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, spoke to the Gardian last June about bilingualism and he...

Is it December already?! I’ve just been reading a new book about beliefs in language teaching and learning and, as with any good book, it’s got me thinking.  As teachers, how often do we stop to think about what our beliefs are about how we teach and how students learn?  In my case, “not very often” is the answer and yet, our beliefs are right there in the activities we choose in class, how we talk to learners and how we respond to learners and their output and contributions. ...

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...

Robin MacClure starts her article “Unnecessary Parents” by saying that “the ultimate job of parents is to raise kids in a way so that they are not needed. In other words, parents should work themselves out of a job.” Well, I think that also applies to teachers, and especially to language teachers. Our goal should be to do our jobs so that, at some point, we are not needed. The point where, even before reaching full proficiency, students are able to learn on their own. In other words,...

As a parent and a teacher, one of the things I constantly hear is ‘schools do not prepare students for real life’. This statement, based on my experience, can mean a number of different things, but in general terms it can mean ‘schools do not teach students how to deal with problems/challenges in their professional, social and personal lives’. In other words, schools spend a lot of time on what is called academic knowledge that, at the end of the day, might be just useless for students. Although...