I woke up today to a different reality. As I turned on the TV, 9 out of 10 channels were talking about this new status quo that took the world by storm. In a matter of less than three months, we went from a small epidemic in China, which was emotionally devastating already, to a world pandemic which is shaking nations to the core. However, I’m not here to write about this virus, since I know all of us have been bombarded with an avalanche of information so far,...

March is here! It’s time to start thinking about how to bring St. Patrick’s Day into our schools and classes. Needless to mention how important this date is when we talk about cultural aspects of the English language. After all, many English-speaking countries celebrate it. Therefore, many schools and teachers in Brazil – and in other parts of the world - try to immerse their students in a St. Paddy’s experience. Well, at least they should… I told a fellow teacher I had been writing this post and she...

Students’ real-world contact with English plays hands down a more realistic role in the development of their skills, rather than the few hours they spend in the classroom. Taking this into account, it is high time teachers worked as mediators between learners and their (desirable) daily exposure to the language. But is it enough to just tell students to do something at home, such as “listen to songs in English more often” or “watch films and series with original audio and English subtitles”? We don’t think it is. So,...

Before we start, click on the player above and enjoy this song while you enjoy your reading! I guarantee it will make the experience a lot more fun! :) Some years ago, acclaimed director Steven Spielberg said he thought the superhero film genre would die out. Much has been said about the possible downfall of this movie genre. However, Captain Marvel is already a massive box office hit and all the hype revolving around the release of upcoming Avengers: Endgame has got people really eager to see what the...

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

Last month I mentioned some important aspects to bear in mind when a teacher or a school welcomes a visually impaired student in the classroom. Two of them are fundamental for a successful learning environment, especially for the blind: Firstly we must understand their level of impairment and then most importantly, we shall never underestimate the students' ability to learn and cope with limitations. In an attempt to answer some of the questions I received in a survey conducted last year I will focus today on the blind student...

If you have been teaching teens for the past years you have probably noticed how attached they are to their mobiles or tablets. To say that they love technology is an understatement. Playing video games, watching TV series and films or listening to music are some of the usual activities they perform in their free time and they all involve technology. But technology is not the only thing they are interested in. Take, for instance, teenagers who practise sports or even go to a dance school. Would it not...

As a child, I was a tech enthusiast. Born in 1980, I am an active member of a lucky generation which could see the evolution of computers from gigantic monsters which could occupy an entire building so as to produce what we know today as a very limited amount of data, to micro technology,which enables us to store virtually anything in a “cloud” of information. When I started teaching, back in the last century (phew, I AM getting old), rooms were constituted of a blackboard, chalk, chairs and books,...

Have you ever used Jing for anything in your language teaching experience? Have you ever heard of it? I am asking you these questions because I have been suggesting the use of this nice tool in my educational technology workshops for over 7 years now. But it's still interesting to notice that a lot of teachers all over the country have actually never heard of it, let alone use it. But don't worry, this is not an ad. Jing is actually a free tool by Techsmith, which makes it even nicer, isn't...

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...

PART 1: from the early 90’s to the early 2010’s What you are about to read is by no means to be regarded as an accurate description of ELT practices in Brazil throughout the last 3 decades. Rather, what I attempt to describe below is simply my very own perception of how ELT has throughout the all these years positively added on, rethought, deconstructed and reconstructed itself to stay in tune with global changes and, more importantly, with the local societal changes that more than ever have been the...

A question that is posed time and time again is whether teachers should take a BA in languages, known here in Brazil as Letras, or take the CELTA. I wish there was a simple answer to this question, but truth is: it’s complicated. Some would say that taking a Letras course is the way to be or become a teacher. After all, you wouldn’t expect a doctor to take a four-month course and then hold a license, or for someone to take an intensive, one-month course and then be...

Would you like to Like, Comment and Share? This is the activity I mentioned on my last blog post about the three key features to teach speaking. These are the instructions. Preparation:  cardstock paper, popsicle sticks, a pencil, templates, scissors and glue. Tell students they are going to have a group discussion about ‘dilemmas’ and that the Facebook symbols will be used for them to interact. Each student will be given a dilemma and they have to read it to the class. Students can also talk about their own...

Late in February a BrELTer asked what she could do with songs in ELT lessons. My comment there was huge (sorry!) because I simply love using songs in language learning, both as a teacher and as a student. In fact, I have forgotten most of the French I've been taught except for the French in songs (and may I add, "Non, rien de rien, je ne regrette rien"). There's so much we can do with songs other than randomly choosing gaps for students to fill in. Here are a few...

“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...

The other day a very interesting discussion took place at the BrELT Facebook group about English teachers on Youtube. The discussion prompted me to write this article mainly for two reasons. First, I use Youtube a lot. I have subscribed to countless channels and follow many Youtubers from all kinds: my interests go from education to vlogs in foreign countries.  The second reason that made me write this article is the fact that I have produced content myself and shared it on Youtube. I know how terrifying it...

Why do my students participate in my classes? This is the question I asked myself when I first met this group of twenty s teenagers age 15-16 years old. From day one, they took part in the activities and spoke English most of the time. I was puzzled. How come? We meet at the end of the afternoon twice a week.  I’ve been teaching at my language school for ten years now and I’ve had some very nice groups and students I’ll never forget. This group is one of...

A fellow teacher told me about a well-known language institute that started selling a new, faster course. He asked me how I thought he could compete with them. I told them he shouldn’t, they are not his competition. What many teachers do not understand is that when they decide to work as freelance language teachers, they should be offering something different. Perhaps as an independent teacher you do not have access to many resources that schools do. What you have, however, is yourself and believe me, that is your greatest...

For a very long time, I thought my pronunciation was very good. Teachers and colleagues had told me so, and because of that I rarely ever gave it much attention. I was more worried about learning vocabulary or grammar. Naturally, my pronunciation was (and still is) far from perfect, but it took me time to realise that. There is an Aristotle quote that I think rings true for teachers. He said that "the more you know, the more you know you don't know." Little by little I started to...

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...

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

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...

Good morning. My name's Damian and I like coursebooks. I've liked them for about 20 years now. Coursebooks are a funny beast in our profession. They seem to take a lot of flack from various sectors of the industry, yet they are - and continue to be - all pervasive. Whatever your connection with ELT, every one of us has at least used a major coursebook in the past, and I would venture as far as to say that all of us owe at least one good teaching idea...

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...

Is vlogmas a thing in your house?  It is in ours thanks to my ten year old daughter. Her current screen craze is following hit lifestyle vloggers like Zoella. If you haven't heard of her, don't worry, it probably just means you're not young enough! This article in The Guardian is a good place to start.  But back to Vlogmas. What is it and why should we be interested?   It goes back a couple of years.  Apparently the first Vlogmas was launched in 2012 (according to the Urban Dictionary)...

As we come to the end of the year, our classes are also about to finish. Hence, the time for us teachers to start planning the end of the semester has come. We end up getting so busy organizing reviews, writing tests, testing and assessing students, writing reports and/or report cards, providing students with feedback on their work we sometimes forget to “give students opportunities to reflect on what they have learnt and experienced in the lesson/term/year” (Emma Gore-Lloyd, 2014). I first heard about the different phases of a...

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,...

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

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:...

Olá a todos! Com certeza não são apenas os meus alunos que adoram ficar no Youtube assistindo  a vídeos de bichinhos, piadas, cantores de chuveiro, pegadinhas e desafios do ice bucket. Parece que essa meninada está trocando a TV pela internet mesmo, passando altas horas em serviços de vídeo por streaming, procurando e assistindo a dezenas deles, todos os dias. Então, é possível  aproveitar esses serviços de alguma forma para o aprendizado de língua inglesa? Sem dúvida que sim! Vou aproveitar a solicitação de um aluno interessado, que me...

In my book Teacher Tools, I open the chapter “Movie Time” with an email I received from a teacher who said that not only him, but “thousands of workmates don’t have time to prepare materials or to follow the recipes that many authors of books and/or presenters of workshops give us.”  I go on to say that if the reader sympathizes 100% with Darcy, the teacher who wrote the message above, using movies in class may not be such a good idea after all:  selecting video material, designing...

Olá, pessoal! Depois de uma pausa meio que forçada, estamos de volta para mais um post envolvendo, de certa forma, tecnologia. Desta vez, vou falar de podcasts. Sabem o que é um podcast? É uma espécie de programa de rádio, geralmente editado, e disponibilizado em sites, blogs e assemelhados, sobre os mais variados assuntos, que podem ser ouvidos online ou baixados em formatos como .mp3 para smartphones e outros reprodutores de música. Eu, por exemplo, sou um podcaster, participo junto com meus amigos do ArgCast, sobre quadrinhos, games, cinema,...

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

We all love reading in my family - my husband and I are real bookworms. I myself also love books - I buy so many, I wonder if I’ll ever have the time to read all of them in this lifetime. I started buying books for my baby daughter long before she was born. Even before she was able to hold things up, we gave her books so that she could play with them. And she had her own library in her room – of course, she was not...

Why do we make lists? Jillian Steinhauer  in a 2012 blog post  says "We are a society of listers." In other words, we could all be called "glazomaniacs" according to Dictionary.com which defines "glazomania" as a passion for list-making. We seem to enjoy lists: to-do lists, grocery lists, best-sellers lists, new year resolution lists and blog posts such as "10 BYOD apps for ELT". But why? Umberto Eco in a very interesting interview to Der Spiegel talks about the place of lists in society. He says: "The list is...

Music has always played a very important part of my life. My dad used to play in a forró band, my older brother is an accomplished guitar player and later in life I ended up becoming a professional singer. Songs were present in my classes a lot and in 2012 I decided to gather up some interesting activities I had tested in my own classes and set up a talk to give at Braz-TESOL Chapter one-day seminar in October about “fresh ways” to teach with songs. My session was called...

10 years ago I was teaching in in a school in central London. At that time the internet as a teaching resource was just beginning to take off, and while I and many of my peers were starting to get to grips with how to get the most out of it, there was always the trusty Metro. Metro was (and still is) a popular free newspaper which is distributed on the London underground. It has broad appeal both due to the nature of it's articles and the range...

Olá, pessoal! Conforme prometido, vamos à segunda parte das minhas dicas sobre como usar quadrinhos na sala de aula. No artigo passado, só para lembrarem, falei sobre algumas fontes para que vocês pudessem conseguir material autêntico para trabalhar com seus alunos. Agora, vejamos o que dá para fazer com esse material todo: Grammar: está trabalhando com algum tópico gramatical específico? Use quadrinhos como forma de exercícios ou para apresentar a matéria. Atividades como preencher espaços em brancos (que você deve criar) são um exemplo, apenas. Mas lembre-se que...

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...

I was doing a CELTA course assessment last month and observing the post-lesson feedback with the tutor and the trainees when an interesting issue arose. The tutor asked one of the trainees to comment on the amount of teacher talking time (TTT) which had occurred during her lesson. The trainee agreed that there had been quite a lot of TTT. Indeed, a whole 10 minute chunk of the initial part of the lesson had been devoted to the teacher telling a story to the group of elementary students...

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

Continuing this series of exercises based on the concept of less is more, this month we turn to the movie trailer as a resource for the language classroom Trailers have become omnipresent in digital media and gain more views on YouTube than almost any other genre, except the music video. They are fascinating to analyse partly because they have undergone radical changes in terms of objectives and content over the years. As concentration spans have diminished, the trailer has become shorter and more dramatic and evolved into the ‘teaser’. One...

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...

Besides being an English teacher, I’ve been an e-moderator for a while now. And one of the first things I learned when I started studying to become one were the concepts of weaving and summarizing. As an e-moderator, I have to populate forums – I have to create several different forum threads where the course participants will have a discussion about a specific topic. Also, I have to moderate the discussion – I have to make sure all course participants are able to learn together and make the most...

This is the second of my posts which focus on drawing big conclusions from small details of language use. In the previous one we saw how the minimum of text, when combined with the right kinds of images, can generate a lot of different activities. This time round, we’re going to look at the intense, perhaps disproportionate, public reaction to a speech and a particular phrase used in that speech. The speech in question was given by the Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, at the 2020 International Olympic Committee...

Hello everybody Every month, I’ll be posting an image or a text or a combination of the two (as you’ll find today) which has worked for me in the classroom or in teacher training sessions over the years. The main idea behind these posts is that a lot can be extracted from very little. You don’t necessarily need a long text or an incredibly impactful image (although the latter can help!), it’s all about responding to a “found” piece of material and working out how to get the most...