What burning questions have you got about EFL?  You know the ones that are burning away in the back of your mind but you felt too foolish to ask, or those ones that you have asked but never got a decent answer, or even the ones you just never found the time to ask. Well, now there is a way to quickly and easily get them answered. A new project called EFL Talks has been asking teachers from all around the world for questions they would like answered and have...

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 -...

Those of us who teach adults in groups know all too well anxious adult learners are and how easily they can give up and seek other language learning experiences. When the reasons for giving up are not personal, they are sometimes attributed to the methodology adopted or the heterogeneity of the group. A recent personal experience has gotten me thinking about adults’ anxiety and what motivates them to embark on a learning experience and, most importantly, stick to it. I like working out and going to the gym, and...

New term and new groups bring teachers the challenge and the opportunity to build new connections and experiment with their teaching repertoire in different contexts. Also, new students tend to bring different needs, a plethora of expectations and demand a variety of skills from the teachers. That means the classroom is our greatest lab for professional growth. In order to make the most of it, one of the things we need to do is to learn who the students are to plan what we will need/ want to develop during the term. Here are some...

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...

It is over four months today since I last posted an article on the blog. 2015 was not particularly what I'd call a smooth year due to a lot of reasons; however, since it is important to focus on the gains rather than the losses, despite the bumps along last year's path, it's time to roll up our sleeves again and get ready for a new year! I'm still enjoying some much deserved vacation, but reflecting on our beliefs and practices is (or at least should be) a non-stop force, that...

As I'm writing this post I'm thinking about my English skills as a non-native speaker. I'm aware of the fact that my English is far from being perfect and I can't expect it to be flawless. Nonetheless, I consider myself a successful English learner-teacher as far as language is concerned for one simple reason: I see myself as a language scavenger. What does it take to be a scavenger? When people speak to me and when I'm exposed to language items, I collect whatever I think is useful or...

It is the end of the year and what better date to make resolutions and plan the next year? So here are some brief ideas for a brilliant 2016 in ELT: 1. Actively engage in ELT associations. Think about how you can contribute best in productive discussions, taking part in special interest groups. The best thing is being able to make teaching a more and more respected profession by working along with fellow teachers. 2. Develop a new skill in your career. Depending on the stage of your professional development,...

Então, mais um ano se passou. Se você for como eu, vai olhar para as resoluções do ano anterior (aquelas que você escreveu ainda em 2014) e ver que não conseguiu cumprir boa parte delas. A tão sonhada forma física, o curso de desenho artístico e a viagem à Fernando de Noronha em 2015, por exemplo, serão transcritas diretamente para a agenda de 2016, ipsi literis. Infelizmente, ainda não foi desta vez. Mas como diz o poeta (neste caso, eu mesmo): a vida é como um fone de ouvido dentro da...

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...

  One of the many things I like about working at an educational institution, be it as a teacher or a s an administrator, is that our work has very clear and well-defined cycles. We finish a semester or year and begin a new one. I don’t think this is true for most professionals. They may finish projects or meet deadlines, but they are not bound to the “year” as we are. In the Southern hemisphere, where our school year really ends at the end of the year, I believe...

  In Part 1 of this text, I went over 2 tips about using dictionaries and 1 tip about corpora and Google NGram. In fact, nowadays, there is no question that Google is a teacher’s BFF… if and only if we know how to use it. So here are more tips for looking up vocabulary using our contemporary oracle. 4. Be a good language detective: don’t stop at the first sign that you’ve found something. Just the other day a friend of mine saw the expression “parted the cake” (instead...

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...

Hi everyone! This month I’ll share the highlights from SiLL – the First International Conference on the Self in Language Learning, in Adana, Turkey last September (17th -19th, 2015). Raquel Bambirra (CEFET-MG) and Climene Arruda (FUMEC) joined me in presenting a panel on experiential research as a way to elicit self-related data. The Organizing Committee invited psychology of language learning researchers  as plenary speakers – Hayo Reinders, (Unitec, New Zealand), Jean-Marc Dewaele (University of London, U.K.); Peter MacIntyre (Cape Breton University, Canada) and Sarah Mercer (University of Graz, Austria). Below is...

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...

“In the dyad ‘language and culture,’ language is not a bunch of arbitrary linguistic forms applied to a cultural reality that can be found outside of language, in the real world.” Without language and other symbolic systems, the habits, beliefs, institutions, and monuments that we call culture would be just observable realities, not cultural phenomena. To become culture, they have to have meaning. It’s the meaning that we give to foods, gardens and ways of life that constitute culture.”                  ...

Once upon a time, a colleague entered the teachers’ lounge with a vocabulary question. Nobody could think of the answer, myself included, so I took the Oxford Collocations Dictionary off the shelf. I knew it was a long shot, as hers was not a collocation-related question, but by looking up the mysterious word’s common collocates, I found the answer she was looking for. She sighed, “You know, I never know which dictionary to use.” Now before anybody jumps to unwarranted conclusions, this was a great professional: qualified, experienced, and...

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...

I had to substitute for a teacher who was going to attend a two-day course and this whole event triggered my thoughts. Well, how odd is it for a teacher to teach new very young learners’ groups in the end of the year? There are many issues to consider. From the perspective of the substitute teacher, there is the fear of having the kids not accepting you as their teacher as they are used to the class teacher who is absent for those days. There is also the fact that...

I have recently met a teacher going through a crisis in her professional path because colleagues and supervisors had been telling her that she was too good not to want to be more than a teacher – she questioned her ‘lack of ambition'. I am not sure what the rationale behind comments might have been, but I would say we need more of those great teachers with the courage to persevere and remain ‘just a teacher’.  I believe this is one of the greatest challenges facing teachers nowadays...

I still remember when I considered productive having a big room full of teachers for a training session on computer skills. It is still vivid in my mind the beginning of Google in which I'd have trainings with teachers on "How to effectively use Google Search". Were you there when Geocities was around? That was the time when I used to help teachers build their own sites. It was such a huge task. Some were brave enough to endure the technical details. Others gave up quite easily. I...

Esta semana, surfando na internet, me deparei com um meme bastante bem humorado que me chamou a atenção, arrancando aquele sorriso típico de quem admite para si mesmo: ‘genial!’ Eis aqui o dito cujo: Não obstante o riso quase que inevitável, por de trás do bom humor (através de um símile que faz alusão ao estereótipo da fala de um caipira texano para dar a dimensão da dificuldade da vida), o meme também nos coloca diante de alguns questionamentos bem relevantes, especialmente para quem ensina línguas em um contexto de EFL/ELF,...

These days, faced with low pay and poor working conditions in most private language schools, more and more teachers are going it alone and teaching privately. Before starting, it's good to have certain things in place in order to make it a smoother transition. Here goes: 1. Find out what they don't like. Obviously, it's important to do a thorough needs analysis before you begin teaching a student. However, not every learner knows what they like when it comes to English classes - indeed they won't know this until they've tried...

One of the most common topics that come up in conversation when teachers talk about areas of their practice that need improvement is timing. Taking into account the large number of  actions that we need to take in order for lessons to be  effective. That is perfectly understandable. The way I see it, however, timing per se isn’t really the cause, but the consequence of classroom contingencies and decisions by the teacher. Should we be addressing the symptom rather than the cause? Here are some of the common reasons...

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...

Today's post is about giving negative feedback during pre-service teacher training courses for novice teachers. I am quite sure that a very large number of this blog’s writers – if not all of us – have, at one point or another, been involved with the difficult and highly demanding job of training teachers. Not only because of the broad knowledge of methodologies and teaching techniques the work of a teacher trainer involves, but also, and perhaps equally (and at times more importantly), the extraordinary ability to reassure trainee...

Despite my 15 years of experience with portfolio assessment, its power never ceases to amaze me. I’ve recently conducted a course for public school English teachers in the Federal District and, once again, used portfolio assessment. I have a feeling that some educators might not adopt portfolio assessment because they think it is too complicated; others might think it is not “serious” or “valid” and “reliable” enough, and that anything goes. I’m going to demonstrate how portfolio assessment is simple, valid, and reliable as a classroom assessment tool. More importantly,...

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...

Inspired by Higor Cavalcante’s webinar for BrELT "Hi, my name is Natalia, and I have a problem with prepositions* in English." “Hi, Natalia.” We all have our sore spots in terms of language proficiency. Hopefully, they change along our language learning history, as we study, practice the language, learn more, find other areas that need improvement, address those, and so on, so forth. However, to better work on our language difficulties, first we need to recognize they are there. It’s high time we came out of the less-than-perfect language closet. (Because hey,...

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...

Is teaching a lonely profession? Teaching, in all its forms, is an activity that requires social interaction, and this chance to interact with people while playing a role in their development is probably among the most common reasons that draw people to our profession. Nonetheless, many teachers with whom I talk to share the impression that they are all alone, making decisions and designing lessons, which makes teaching a (paradoxically) lonely profession. Does it have to be that way? Last month, I had the amazing opportunity of attending two events...

Last month I posted half of my public school student-teachers’ reflections on what they used to think when they began their careers as teachers. Now it’s time to know what the other half wrote on this topic. You will see how their beliefs on topics such as methodology, use of textbooks, native-like pronunciation, and students’ and teachers’ roles have changed as they have gained more knowledge, experience, and, most importantly, understanding about teaching.   I used to think the teacher needed to be the focus in the process of...

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...

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...

I will start this month’s post by apologizing, and for two different reasons. First, I haven’t posted on RichmondShare since January, and I am truly very sorry for that. I was finishing my first book (yay!) and saying I’ve been really snowed under lately is putting it mildly. But I’m back – thanks for waiting! – and I’ll be sharing much more about the book soon (but it’s probably coming out in October). Then, I also apologize for straying from my topic here today. I promised at the beginning of...

Have you ever thought about what you used to think about teaching when you started and how this has changed as the years went by? This was the topic of my very first class with a group of experienced public school teachers. After reading a blog post by Shelley Wright entitled I used to think…, my student teachers were asked to reflect upon their own assumptions and the surprises they’ve had along their careers. This month and next, I’m going to share their thoughts with you, and we...

[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...

In my daily job in education, I find the most talented and vibrant community of educators. Their very specific skills range from making, sometimes with hardcore engineering skills, to arts, with those amazing strokes of light and hope. Many, though, lack self-confidence. They perceive themselves as just one more in the crowd. Their talent is seen as ordinary, something that has been with them for so long that they don't even notice the distinguishing features of their own character and practice. I've seen many of them go unnoticed...

Modeling language is, among a number of other teaching techniques, one of the first things the novice teacher needs to put a lot of effort and energy into in order to have a hand on, to say the least. In most pre-service teacher training courses I have taught several times at different institutions along many years, I have often been able to spot some aspects of the teaching of pronunciation that are frequently underplayed by teachers and need to be addressed, even with more experienced teachers and those...

A few years ago I had to catch up with a lot of reading for the DELTA module 1, aka Reading for DELTA module. At first, the amount of reading I was supposed to do in such a short time was overwhelming. I wasn't sure if I was up for the task, but as those months went by, those books grabbed me and the more I read and learned, the more those books strengthened my interest. Having a background in linguistics and a keen interest in language learning and...

[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...

“You could not step twice into the same river”. *Heraclitus [caption id="attachment_3292" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Photo by Roseli Serra on ELT pics https://goo.gl/9bRgs0[/caption] This post is dedicated to my parents, husband and children and to all those people from my PLN who  have helped me open my eyes, taught me, listened to me patiently encouraged me and have made me believe that “ YES, I CAN”. Special thanks to Ana Maria Menezes, Teresa Gomes de Carvalho ,  Priscila Mateini, Dimitris Primalis,  Debora Tebovich, Fabianna Casella, Marjorie Rosemberg,  Marisa Constatinides and  Vicky Loras for...

Gone are the days when teachers were the sole source of knowledge. The Internet has revolutionised society by granting everyone access to the information, meaning that listening to a teacher talking on and on about a topic is not only unnecessary but actually rather boring. It is therefore inevitable that teachers reflect upon their role in the learning process, and one of the aspects that have to be considered is how much time is actually devoted to Teacher Talking Time (TTT) and Student Talking Time (STT). Last year, Dominic...

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...

I think I must have seen this question a million times: “What does it take to be an English language teacher?” “Courage” springs to mind. At least that’s what I needed when I broke the news to my dear father that I wouldn’t be a lawyer like him (“Quem não faz Direito faz errado,” he must have replied). Joke aside, we can interpret that question in several ways. What I would like to explore here is perhaps the easiest of them: the minimum qualifications that will land you a...

Do you know, or do you remember, what a typical lesson plan template looks like? Let me just remind you just in case. Although plans vary slightly, they are invariably divided up into four or five columns, headed by ´Stage Name´, ´Interaction´, ´Stage Aims´, ´Procedures´ and maybe ´Materials´. What I really want to touch upon in this post is not lesson plans but stage aims, and the importance of having clear stage aims in mind both at the planning stage and at the moment of teaching, and some of...

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...

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...

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to observe around ten teachers each semester. These observations provide me with the chance to assess how effective our mentoring system and teacher induction sessions have been, as I typically observe teachers in their second semester at the institution. Methodologically speaking, most of the classes I observe are generally effective and there are only a few minor aspects to consider. However, if there’s one aspect that is recurrent in my observations and that some novice teachers have difficulty grasping, it’s the...

Almost 4 years ago, on April 7th 2011, the first BrELT Chat took place. I must have wondered what that #breltchat at the end of tweets meant, but eventually I figured out that my Twitter friends were using that hashtag to talk about language teaching in Brazil. Later I joined a few of those debates and, even though I struggled with the tool or maybe with my internet connection, I just loved the fact that there were people in my country willing to talk about those topics after-hours. About...

[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...

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...

One may often hear how expensive it can be to invest time and money in learning a foreign language. However, it is widely known that an institution is usually judged by its teachers and how qualified they are in the teaching community. Consequently, a LOS (Lesson Observation Scheme) is instrumental in providing the academic department with important evidence on a teacher’s performance in class. Further down is an outline of what we usually use at Cultura Inglesa São João del Rei.   Why Lesson Observation Amongst various reasons, one advantage of...

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...

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...

It’s the beginning of the school year in the Southern Hemisphere and many teachers are starting their teaching career or re-starting in a new school or language institute. My experience as a leader in a large ELT institute that hires around thirty new teachers every semester has shown that there are certain attitudes, dispositions and behaviors that can help a teacher guarantee a smooth beginning in a new institution. Here are a few tips that might be useful:   Image courtesy of samarttiw  @ freedigitalphtos.net 1)      Know your institution’s approach to...

“Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good gets better and your better best.” It was the middle of an intensive CELTA and I was exhausted. I still had to put finishing touches on the lesson plan, but I just couldn’t take it any more. I had to sleep. So I set the alarm for 4h later (a sleeping luxury, as most CELTees will assure you) and tried to tune out. In my slumber, a voice whispered again, “Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good...

I was talking to a teacher the other day. He had just completed his CELTA course with a grade B although he had already been teaching for a couple of years beforehand. A nice chap all in all, and very enthusiastic. I am not sure how, but after the initial chit-chat which broke the ice, we got on to talking about 'communicativeness'. He had a pretty sure idea what it was all about. Controlled practice was 'uncommunicative'. Not only this, but controlled practice was also mechanical and largely meaningless....

Happy New Year, everyone! As promised in my December post, this year I’ll be discussing what I believe to be a key issue in ELT, namely teacher development. In no particular order, and evidently not aiming at exhausting the subject – which would be impossible –, I hope to be able to, in twelve posts, touch on most of the key areas a teacher must develop in, and more importantly on ways in which I believe they can do it. The reason why I’ve decided to start by addressing lesson...

The performance of Brazilian students in national and international assessment tests has been consistently low, which has led researchers to look into the reasons for the inefficiency of our educational system. A study conducted by Fundação Carlos Chagas has found that the programs offered by most universities in the area of teacher education do not prepare teachers-to-be to face the routine of a real classroom. The emphasis of these programs has been on the sociological, political, structural and historical aspects of education, with very little space for the...

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...

Instructions are an important part of every teacher’s life. They can either make or break our lessons, getting students in the best mood imaginable or sending them into a downward spiral of discontentment (has anyone ever heard students react with sighs of “reading again?”). How can we guarantee that the second doesn’t happen?  Imagine a teacher who has an elementary group of adults and wants to help his learners develop listening skills. Now look at the instructions that our imaginary and well-intentioned teacher delivered in one lesson to that...

As we are beginning a new year and many of us are enjoying our well-deserved summer vacations in the southern hemisphere, in my post today I'm going to relate my vacation experience with what I'm currently reading and propose a new year challenge. On our summer vacations, my husband and I have always favored calmer places; spending our summers in a large city packed with tourists has never been our idea of the ideal vacation. When we see a huge crowd, we usually turn the other way. However, this time...

[caption id="attachment_2490" align="aligncenter" width="421"] Sir, why are you wearing such warm clothes in 35°C weather?[/caption]   It's that resolute time of the year again. And as we are all still following through with the promises we made on New Year's Eve, here's a resolution from me: keep my #WordoftheDay tag on Facebook. Daily. "Surely," a kind soul might ask, "you don't have that many words left to learn?" I wish. I've been studying English for the better part of my life now (over two-thirds already!) and I'm still very much learning and...

It is that time of the year again. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been the type of guy who devotes quite a lot of time to planning his new year’s resolutions and, at the end of the year – now! – has no idea what they were or whether he’s achieved them. I’m not at all proud of that, but there you have it. Life gets in the way, you know. Too many classes, too many students, too many projects. You start writing a book (again!), you...

                1. Une Tomate Rouge Less than a month ago I decided to take up French and I am already being faced with big challenges: I had assumed that languages close to your own in the language tree should not be too hard to learn, so I picked French since  both languages evolved from spoken Latin. However, less than a month into it and I have already changed my mind completely. Its phonological system is a nightmare; the /s/ at the end of words never made it into the spoken...

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says 'Morning boys. How's the water?' And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, 'What the hell is water?' Excerpt from the commencement address given by the late David Foster Wallace to graduates of Kenyon College in 2005. (Photo: Diving Maldives: Gold Striped Emperor Fish by Malcolm Browne CC BY-ND 2.0) Over the course...

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...

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. ...

O Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portugesa define metalinguagem como "linguagem (natural ou formalizada) que serve para descrever ou falar sobre uma outra linguagem, natural ou artificial". De modo simples, trata-se da linguagem que usamos para falar sobre a língua(gem). Em inglês, metalinguagem é chamada de metalanguage e, do ponto de vista linguístico, é recomendável referir-se a ela com a palavra "terminologia" (terminology). Abaixo, falarei resumidamente sobre o assunto e sobre o fato de ensinar isso aos estudantes de inglês ou não. Para que você compreenda melhor o que é...

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

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,...

Kitten! by Sergey Ivanov CC BY-SA 2.0 This month's post has nothing to do with kittens, but do we really need an excuse?  This month I'm straying from the topic of teaching slightly to look at what happens when we, as teachers, write about our profession. It's a topic that's quite close to my heart as it's what first got me interested in developing critical thinking skills in teachers. I think it's fair to say that as teachers we have all, at some point or another, read books, blogs, and articles...

Professional Development is an area which I really like talking and writing about. Yes, I’ve written about it before, but for me it’s never too much and I hope it’s not for you too. For years I have been working with other teachers’ PD and mainly I have tried to work hard on my own PD. However, I have noticed that some teachers, mainly the novice ones, are not aware of the importance of PD in their professional lives. I don’t blame them. In a country where teachers struggle...

Hi Everyone!   As expected, the 1o Fórum de Profissionalização Docente, at Universidade Estadual de Londrina was intense (see last month’s post).   Five round tables gathered Brazilian teachers and researchers to discuss: (1) “History: Language teaching, formal education, labouring conditions and representation”, (2) “Public Educational Policies: perspectives in different levels and contexts”, (3) “Education for Research: Tradition and (Des)continuities”, (4) “Linguistic Proficiency and teachers’ professionalization” and (5) Ethics: Principles for Research and Teaching”. Participants signed the Carta de Londrina, which I transcribe below, given its importance to Brazilian foreign language teachers.   CARTA...

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

There seems to be a day to celebrate everything in Brazil.  March 14th is Bald Men’s Day and April 26th is Goalkeeper’s Day, followed by the  Flight Attendants Day on the 31st of May and Students’ Day on the 11t of August, just to mention a few . Since we have taught them all –the bald men, the flight attendants, the goalkeepers and of course the students, I think it’s just fair that we have our own Teachers’ Day. Even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like there is...

Last year I saw a call for chapter proposals for a British Council book on innovations in the continuing professional development of English language teachers. Every day I receive briefings and newsletters from the associations I’m a member of and from publications, websites, and communities I follow. Many times I come across such calls for proposals, but most of them are not within my areas of expertise or related to my teaching context. Besides, I usually think, “This is not for me. I’m not a scholar or a...

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

My passion for reading books began since I was a child. I was encouraged to read mainly by my dad who used to buy collections of books and by my mom who used to be a primary teacher. At school we had that amazing library where I used to go and read those fantastic, beautiful and expensive books my parents couldn’t afford.  No surprise I became a teacher. I grew up reading a lot and when I met my husband I was even more encouraged to read as he’s...

Last month, we looked at personalisation, guided discovery and raising awareness of sub-skills and strategies as ways to promote learner engagement (click here to check it out). Today, I’d like to share some more ideas on this topic, which I consider one of the most important, albeit challenging, in both lesson preparation and delivery. Reacting to content as well as language As teachers, we are so concerned with the learners’ linguistic development that we may easily fall into the trap of devoting exclusive attention to the words students use rather...

Hi Everyone!   Spring begins in September – nature’s renovation season – perfect to start projects and put new ideas forth.   I expect to stir debate in the 1o Fórum de Profissionalização Docente, at Universidade Estadual de Londrina (Sept. 29th-30th), after presenting an innovative approach to teacher development.   Formação continuada refers to formal education, resulting in certificate, master or doctoral degrees. Educação continuada is directed to public school teachers. PUC-SP offers Programa de Formação Continuada para Professores de Inglês (Celani e Collins, 2009[1]); UFMG is responsible for EDUCONLE (Dutra e Mello, 2013[2])...

E-learning courses are commonly called interactive courses. Many of these courses host presentations and articles online, assign weekly tasks to participants, organize webinars and chats,  but are they really interactive? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, I'd like to focus on the second definition "requiriring people to talk with each other or do things together". This definition might mean an interactive course would require the interaction of participants. Different authors (MOORE, 1989; HILLMAN, WILLIS & GUNAWARDENA, 1994, GARRISON, ANDERSON & ARCHER, 2000) state the importance of interaction in online and blended learning...

'To Sir, with Love' was perhaps the most watched and the most loved movie in my teenage years. The East London high school teacher who gave up on the school textbooks to teach his rowdy, disruptive students about life, was every teenage kid's hero. I've just come across  the website below, which  offers a glimpse of some of the best inspirational teacher movies. Obviously, 'To Sir, with Love' tops the list. https://movies.about.com/od/toppicks/tp/Inspirational-Teachers.htm However, life is not that obvious. Neither are people. Students come in all shapes and sizes; as much...

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

At the beginning of 2013 I was invited to take part in a course about mentoring offered by EVO .To my surprise, I discovered that mentoring is something I have been doing for a long time. Furthermore, it is one of the things I like most as a teacher and a teacher trainer. The use of mentoring is widespread across the commercial, education and not-for-profit sectors as a developmental, supporting and helping activity. So mentoring is part of our professional development The origin of the term mentor is found in...

When I was an English student, some teachers had the magical ability to deliver lessons that were fun and engaging, which allowed me to express myself and to feel I had an active role in my own learning. As I tried to learn how to teach, the ready-made activities that I came across (and the one-size-fits-all solutions they usually propose), frequently failed to replicate, in my students, that feeling I’d had as a learner. So did the ‘fireworks’ - songs and films I naively used as if they were...

Sharing experiences may be daunting but there is a whole developmental process in it. Maybe I am talking about the same idea, yet again, but I attended a conference this past week and much was discussed about the need of continuous development for people working in education. This job of ours require us to be always in our feet studying, catering for our students. Julie Tice, teacher trainer, BC, Lisbon, said that “reflective teaching means looking at what you do in the classroom, thinking about why you do it, and...