BY DONNA FIELDS We’re looking forward to sharing with you the most innovative practices - methods you can use immediately in your online or your face-to-face lessons. Unfortunately, most Ministers of Education today, are so concerned with science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and having test scores, that they forget that, at the end of the day, if we don't have people with good character, people who do the right thing, intellect itself will destroy the world, it will not save it.  Dr. Howard Gardner Research Professor of Cognition and Education Harvard University Autumn, 2020 Student...

Today, I would like to share with you a bit of the book “Reader, Come Home”, by Maryanne Wolf. This book has triggered a lot of reflection, being a techie myself on how I have been taking the habit of reading lately. According to her, we might be losing the ability to read a favorite book in an era of screen immersion. Neuroscience explains that the ability to read did not evolve naturally in humans, different from sight and vision. Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains acrobatically rewired in such...

Taking the DELTA has changed me as a teacher in many ways, but I believe that it has most influenced the way I perceive and teach listening. I first came across the term ‘decoding’ when my dear tutor Melissa Lamb from IH London introduced me to John Field’s book ‘Listening in the Language Classroom’. Later on, I came across Richard Cauldwell’s brilliant book ‘A Syllabus for Listening – Decoding’. This is the second post inspired by these brilliant minds which have also shaped me as a teacher and...

“You should write as often as possible” – that’s what I keep telling my students. Currently, 99% of my students are intrepid English teachers either preparing for the Cambridge English: Advanced or the Cambridge English: Proficiency, which means that their writing skills will be assessed via two writing tasks. Needless to say, it is my duty to encourage them to write as much as they can and provide detailed feedback on their writing assignments. A confession The great Morpheus said: “(...

What is your passion when it comes to teaching EFL? Is it one of the four skills [listening, speaking, reading or writing]? One of the four systems [pronunciation, lexis, grammar or discourse]? Teaching YLs or teens? Methodology, perhaps? Teacher training? - Hard to pick one, right? Well, I'll do it anyways! I'll start with Listening - why is it one of my many passions? Because of the challenge it presents teachers with: we cannot enter our learners' ears to check what they are actually understanding. For this reason, I'm starting a...

"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...

It was two years ago today that I wrote a post for this same blog entitled Why don’t we talk about writing? The 15th BRAZ-TESOL International Conference had just ended and I discussed why there were so few talks on the subject of writing and why not many people chose to attend them, mine included. I was disappointed with the small turnout in my talk with my colleague Silvia Caldas, and also with the very little focus on this subject in conferences in general, and I conjectured why this...

There’s a woman with a standing microphone next to a wooden stool on a stage. She speaks for about an hour and the paying audience laughs every now and then. What is this? It’s a stand-up comedy. Or maybe it isn’t. Oftentimes, when we are working on skills in a language class, we treat genres as something simple to identify. You see the characteristics of the the text, you can tell the genre, or so we would like to think. Sometimes we can do that even before reading or listening...

As promised, I am here. If anyone doubted me, doubt no longer. And I am here to talk about listening, just as I promised in my last blog piece. And, just like last week, we are going to have a story. Who doesn't like a good story? Everyone loves a story, from your baby nephew to your great granny. It's one of the things that defines as humans. Let me tell you a story. I can't promise that it will be a good story, but it is a true...

Before you say anything, I am sorry. Yes, I know I've said it before, but this time I mean it. I know I have been silent for a few months, and that the last time I was this quiet I apologised and swore it would never happen again. Only it did happen again and here I am, saying sorry and promising not to forget about writing this blog for months on end, again. I have a good excuse. But then I always have a good excuse. But this time, it really...

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...

Do you have students that complain they can’t understand the listening tracks until you let them read the transcripts? The solution could be in Richard Cauldwell’s work, which has been brought to my attention by my dearest Higor Cavalcante. The author of Phonology for Listening and of the forthcoming A Syllabus for Listening, Cauldwell did an EVO webinar on Sunday and reminded us that it’s a jungle out there. In a very fitting metaphor, he explained we usually teach pronunciation of isolated words as if words were potted plants in...

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...

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

Em várias conversas com professores na DeProfPraProf sobre a estrutura de uma boa entrevista inicial, levantamento de necessidades, apresentação de proposta, fechamento, etc, têm aparecido também algumas perguntas sobre como fazer o nivelamento dos alunos. Daí eu gosto sempre de perguntar qual a finalidade do nivelamento onde, como todo mundo pode imaginar, sempre tenho como resposta que ele existe para podermos já iniciar as aulas no “ponto certo” das habilidades linguísticas do aluno em questão. Nesses momentos eu me lembro dos testes de nivelamento que eu apliquei em cada uma...

Following the topic of previous months - assessing young learners - I will here discuss a bit some types we can use with this age groups. Effective language assessment provides chances for children to use their abilities to demonstrate what they can do at their appropriate level. It requires acknowledgement of the principles we have already discussed last month and also of the curriculum goals as well as children's cognitive developmental, emotional and psychological stages [as I have briefly discussed even before]. In order to suit young learners’ reality best,...

Whatever needs analyses one carries out with their groups, there is every likelihood that 9 out 10 will record that they will want to improve their speaking skills best. At this point I do not believe that anyone involved in ELT would be surprised at this, yet we can witness the fact that developing speaking skills might still be a challenge that either provokes or haunts teachers, especially if they are confronted with high demands. Speaking of provocation, here we have some questions to which you might want to give...

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...

By definition reading is the action of a person who looks at and understands the meaning of written or printed words or symbols. But there is much more to that than meet the eyes. Nuttall (1996:2) believes that not only does reading comprise decoding, deciphering and identifying words, but it is above all an opportunity for learners to draw meaning from the written text. Reading is a significant area of development in a language, either native or foreign, as we are surrounded by words daily. Unfortunately, some teachers are...

In this day and age getting a job, let alone a position which suits you best, has become a scarce commodity. More and more professionals are seeking jobs that meet their needs. However, not many are actually prepared to meet the market needs. This is a harsh reality and it has obviously hit our ELT world. I have sort of picked up the musical side of my family, my Dad was (still is in my heart a great accordion player) and music to me is what comes through your...

It might ‘cost you dear’! That is what we generally hear when people talk about investing time and money in learning a foreign language. By the same token, professional teachers are usually judged by how qualified they are in the teaching community and investing time and money on CPD seminars seems pretty much the way to go. On 18th March, I had the opportunity to meet up with brilliantly committed teaching professionals at Braz-Tesol Belo Horizonte Chapter on Teacher’s Development. BTW, well done you on your organisation. I delivered...

I went for a meeting last week with a woman who was interested in having English lessons. She said she needed to improve her English as the company she worked for had just signed a lucrative contract with an American firm. In all respects, she was an uninhibited and confident person who held a high flying position within the company. She was used to dealing with people on a daily basis and speaking in public forums was part and parcel of her job. However, she said that when it...

“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...

If you had been my student at around 2010 on of your complaints would have been that I never used songs in my lessons. Earlier in my career I used songs quite frequently, in that gap-fill let's-kill-some-time kind of way. However, as I became more experienced, I realised that this kind of activity is not very useful. As I had no idea how to actually use songs appropriately I decided to simply stop using them. Fast-forward to a few years later, when my colleagues and I had just come...

In an integrated-skills curriculum, reading and writing can be easily neglected if curriculum developers and teachers do not make a conscious effort to focus on them explicitly and to teach them as skills on their own right, rather than mere reinforcement of grammar and vocabulary or a springboard for speaking. I have already discussed the teaching of writing in two of my posts this year, so this time I will address the teaching of reading, with a focus on intensive reading*. As a program superintendent and teacher developer, I...

Much has been written and said about tests. A lot of teachers, students, and parents don’t see the point of tests, especially when all tests do is test discrete items of grammar and vocabulary , especially when it comes to summative tests, which assess what students have learned over a period of time. I myself don’t believe in the predictive value of tests, either. I don’t think effective test takers are  more likely to achieve success in their lives. Many other factors impact one’s professional life: Interpersonal skills and problem solving...

[caption id="attachment_5024" align="alignleft" width="640"] https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurgenappelo/5201275209[/caption] It´s been a while that educational communities talk about digital literacies. This has been a topic of my interest for a decade now. Still, what we see is a group of educators who follow exactly the curve of innovation in which we have the early adopters way ahead, investing in the development of their digital skills, but most who are still lagging behind. Reasons are many. Some feel overwhelmed, others don´t have any idea what is out there, most lack time to even plan...

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...

Most of us like to use authentic, non-coursebook, hot-off-the-press texts in class from time to time. This entails not only choosing interesting, level-appropriate material, but also devising tasks that will enable students to get as much out of the text as possible. Writing good comprehension questions is trickier than meets the eye, though. Here are three pitfalls to be on the lookout for: 1. Questions that students can answer using background knowledge alone Some students tend to operate on a minimum-effort basis. Left to their own devices, they will read as little as humanly possible...

  “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...

    In my last post, I wrote about why it seems to me that the topic "teaching writing" is avoided in ELT conferences. Now I'm going to mention why I believe it is a topic that should receive more attention, and I'm going to do so by relating it to some of the hot topics in the last Braz-Tesol conference and others I've attended recently.   Critical thinking   Bloom's revised taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002) has been repeatedly mentioned in the past few years, and it was no different in the Braz-Tesol conference....

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

  The fabulous 15th Braz-TESOL International Conference ended a couple of weeks ago and I am still processing all the information I acquired in the many presentations I attended during the event. The program was varied both in terms of topics and presenters, and everything I chose to watch was meaningful in one way or another. I myself gave a talk, together with my colleague and CTJ course supervisor Silvia Caldas, on how we adopt and adapt the process-genre approach to writing in our context. We had a wonderful group...

I once had the great pleasure to see the funniest comedian ever doing his stand-up routine live at my university.  I was only a few weeks into my first term when I saw the flyers going around advertising Bill Hicks in the student union.  I persuaded a couple of new-found friends to go with me and we sat on the floor of the sports hall and just laughed for two hours.  Pure comedy gold. One of the many routines that he did last night and that I often find...

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...

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...

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...

  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...

My last post addressed the main excuses given for not doing peer revision of writing in the EFL classroom, especially in contexts such as Brazil, where peer revision is unheard of in most L1 writing classrooms. Having hopefully convinced you that it is worth at least trying peer revision in your classroom, I will now focus on some helpful tips for effective peer revision activities. 1)      Start small One of the biggest mistakes teachers can make is to be too ambitious and want to have students revise their peers’ writing like...

My dear colleague Luiz Otávio Barros wrote a recent post providing ten tips to help teachers give feedback on writing. The ten tips are all very useful and are certainly in-keeping with contemporary ESL/EFL writing pedagogy. Just like Luiz Otávio, I  also consider White and Arndt’s 1991 book Process Writing a seminal work on how to teach process writing in the ESL/EFL classroom. Other books that have contributed to enhancing my knowledge on second language writing are Campbell’s 1998 book , Teaching Second-language Writing: Interaction with Text, the University...

There have been a lot of pendulum swings in our profession since the early 90s, but the teaching of writing seems to be a bit of an exception. Compared to, for example, the sibling rivalry between PPP vs. task-based learning, the half-hearted nod of approval translation’s finally starting to get or, say, the recent comeback of formulaic language, the principles underlying the teaching of writing have remained relatively unscathed from ELT’s constant quest for the latest craze. We owe this, to a certain extent at least, to Ron White’s and...

I was delivering this session on Developing Listening skills to a Pre-service course at CISJDR and got bewildered, not to mention shocked, at what one trainee brought up in a group discussion. She categorically affirmed that she is not allowed to work on listening skills in her school as it may disrupt the class and bring chaos to the institution. I really feel sorry for her as I see her as potential educator who wants to make some changes to the teaching of English in our public schools....

Picture the scene: There I was, a shy 13-year-old boy, dressed in an itchy, ill-fitting school uniform in the middle of a German language class. Our teacher, Mrs. Dawson, a strict woman who ruled the classroom with an iron fist, is going round the class calling out people to read chunks of a text out loud, in German. Nothing could be more embarrassing for a nervous teenager in the throes of adolescence than having to read out a short passage (badly) in another language to a room full...

Voz do Brasil, former Hora do Brasil, is the oldest radio programme in the country whose political content broadcast is mandatory to all radio stations. It is regularly aired at 19:00 sharp, Brasilia time. You may wonder what is with that and how it is connected to learning. In fact, this is closely related to people’s abilities since Voz do Brasil (aka Fala Sozinho) is said to be what everybody hears but not many people listen to. Now, how important is listening instruction in a foreign language? seems to...

In my experience as an English teacher, I have observed other teachers’ lessons and been observed countless times. It is probably safe to say that the majority of teachers are much more concerned about what to do than about how to do it. However, the ‘hows' can be as important as the ‘whats' and ‘whys', and we teachers very often fail to realize that clear, concise instructions can mean the difference between a successful lesson or activity or an absolute flop. My own impression is that giving instructions is...

Is reading a skill in isolation? No language skill, either receptive or productive, should be dealt with in isolation in class. Reading texts hold an awful lot of language, information, and topics among other things that can lead to speaking and writing. Thereby, it would not be wise to engage students in a reading task and move along after it is finished without connecting it to anything in the lesson. On the contrary, I fully agree with Brown (1994:283) when he states that ‘reading ability will be best...

Communication between humans is an extremely complex and ever-changing phenomenon, but there are certain generalisations that we can make about the majority of communicative events and these will have particular relevance for the learning and teaching of languages. Learning to speak a foreign language is much more complex than knowing its grammatical and semantic rules. It involves both command of certain skills and several different types of knowledge. Richards (2005: p. 204) states that learners must acquire the knowledge of how native speakers use the language in a context...

By definition reading is the action of a person who looks at and understands the meaning of written or printed words or symbols. But there is much more to that than meet the eyes. Nuttall (1996:2) believes that not only does reading comprise decoding, deciphering and identifying words, but it is above all an opportunity for learners to draw meaning from the written text. Getting students to read in English both intensively and extensively is vitally important for a number of reasons. Firstly, we basically read a great deal...

For quite some time now, I have been trying to lower my adult students’ affective filters about their pronunciation difficulties. These affective filters (proposed by Stephen Krashen) “(…) acts to control the amount and quality of input learners receive.” (Thornbury, 2006 p.8). Affective filters can include motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Anyone who has taught or teaches adults (especially in beginner levels) knows adults usually have higher affective filters than teens do. In my experience, these filters are usually high for adults because they were “conditioned” (by traditional teaching and...

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...

“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...

Three private students of mine recently proclaimed that they believed they had become less fluent since the beginning of our lessons a little over two months ago. They were naturally preoccupied given that they were paying good money to improve their English. Needless to say, I had to put their minds at ease, and it got me thinking. Both of these learners are Brazilian, and I think that their nationality does play a role in what I am about to describe. They were both also very fluent when I...

Listening is an essential area of development in both native and second languages. It’s a very challenging skill for students to develop, yet one of the most important.  Scarcella and Oxford (1992: p. 138) state that “listening is the process of receiving, attending to, and assigning meaning to an aural stimuli”. So listening is a complex problem-solving skill. It is more than a perception of sound. Listening requires comprehension of meaning. “Effective listening sharpens thinking and creates understanding”. Listening in L2 includes getting used to a variety of accents,...