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....