Hello! In my previous post we looked at the concept of ‘meaningful learning’, the idea of taking what learners already know and using it to help them to learn more.  In this post, I want to start looking at how to do this in the classroom. Using learners’ knowledge of L1. This clearly cuts into a controversial issue in ELT for the past thirty years or so – the use of the mother tongue.  What I’d like to argue is that we can’t/shouldn’t ignore all this knowledge that learners have and...

#6: D is for Desks This month we move from tables to desks. Here, though I refer to real desks not desks-as-simile. Real, solid, rectangular teacher’s desks. [caption id="attachment_1784" align="alignleft" width="384"] Evil incarnate[/caption] A desk is such an innocent thing, a flat top and four legs, sometimes a draw to forget things in. But I rage, rage against the using of the desk (sorry, Dylan). I want to find an axe and hack away until all that remains is a pile of splinters and sawdust gently settling in the air. What...

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,...

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...

Hello again! Many years ago I took a class in educational psychology and came across this quote from the cognitive psychologist, David Ausubel: "If I had to reduce all of cognitive psychology to one principle it would be this:  the most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.  Ascertain this and teach him accordingly."  (1978:  flyleaf). I was very struck by this and was therefore even more interested to find out what cognitive psychology had to say about ‘meaningful learning’, something that we talk about vaguely in...

#5: N is for Natives [caption id="attachment_1594" align="alignright" width="448"] Some native speakers recently[/caption] I’m not going to revisit the old stuff about inherent linguistic knowledge vs explicit understanding, nor the career teacher vs the traveller, and certainly not local cultural knowledge versus target cultural knowledge. I’m going to ask a simple question. What’s the difference between a table and a native teacher of English? Not a lot really….. I see the native-ness as a layer of varnish on the surface of the table. It looks good, and it sells better than...

O que você pensa sobre o uso da língua portuguesa nas aulas de inglês? Você é daqueles ou daquelas que o simples fato de soltar uma palavra em português durante a aula é algo abominável? Neste artigo apresento os argumentos a favor do uso prudente do uso da língua materna no ensino de inglês dentro de nosso país, onde nossos alunos falam português. Para começar, você sabia que esse mito de que a língua materna (LM) mais atrapalha do que ajuda vem das teorias e princípios dos métodos oriundos...

/riˈzilyəns/ noun: resilience; plural noun: resiliences 1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. 2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.   Some of you may be wondering why I am talking about resilience in a blog post for English teachers, but for some reason I think most will guess. And even though most (or all) I’m going to “say” here may be common knowledge, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 20+ years as a teacher it’s that we need to see something...

This post was inspired by a question sent to me by a friend, who is a very talented teacher and would like to start an online course. In her message, she mentions not being able to find a good video tutorial which could help her get started and asks my opinion about the best platform.  As I read my friend's message, I thought of a way to answer it. In my opinion, a video tutorial showing us how to create an online course in simple steps would be a...

At first I had set out to write about my professional journey as a NNEST in the 1980s, so I thought it would be nice to reflect on some of the first course books I used in my first years as a teacher. That was when I decided to ask for some help from the IATEFL members on our Facebook page but the replies I got took me even further into the past, and that made me want to start my story from the very beginning: my life...

Some teachers see warmers, ice-breakers and fillers as basically different ways to say the same thing. In fact, they are quite different. While ice-breakers are usually meant to help students get to know each other better, the objective of warmers is to get them ready for a certain topic or task.  Fillers, on the other hand, are activities that don´t require much time or preparation, and are designed to finish a topic or a class on a lighter note, or to review vocabulary before the next part of...

Am I right in assuming that more and more people are now looking beyond traditional learning experiences in a school setting to a more individualized and needs focused learning normally provided through one-to-one and small , closed lesson formats? In my experience, and judging by what colleagues say, this certainly seems to be the case and the success of online learning courses such as EnglishTown also attest to this. And it is not only professionals looking for ESP lessons but also people who want general English as well,...

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...

#4: G is for Gaps No, not those kind of gaps; not a cloze, not a key word transformation, nor a gapped text, and certainly not an information gap. A gapped teacher – with a thinking gap. A gap in thinking which results in a disconnected application of teaching. A gap in thinking which leads to the application of disparate activities which leads to a series of gaps in the thinking of students, which leads to an addiction to the need for constant stimulus and ‘new’ ideas which leads...

  The challenge of being a non-native English speaker in a native English speaking world I recently came across EFL teacher James Taylor's blog post about NNESTs' struggle to be respected as English teachers by students and employers. In his guest blog post, James lists a number of advantages of being a NNEST over a being a NEST. Wow! I'd never given much thought to the issue of NNESTs (non-native English speaking teachers opposed to NESTs -- native English speaking teachers), and yet I have belonged to this group most...

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...

I always say that one of the things I like the most about teaching is that I’m always learning. And I’m quite sure I’m not the only one… We teachers learn a lot not only from our students and from fellow teachers but also from what we read, from conferences we attend, and so on. And this all has got to do with teacher development. Bell and Gilbert (apud Evans, 2002) state that “teacher development can be viewed as teachers learning, rather than as others getting teachers to change....

The way I see it, reading vastly and variedly is the most important language-learning exercise there is. Extensive reading — which Thornbury (2006, p 191) defines as being the more leisurely reading of longer texts, primarily for pleasure, or in order to accumulate vocabulary, or simply to develop sound habits of reading — helps develop general language competence; develops general, world knowledge; extends, consolidates and sustains vocabulary growth; helps improve writing; creates and sustains motivation to read more. (Click here for article on ER). It also makes you...

Trying to respond to a high demand for English instruction, English schools pop up  everywhere, without a proper control from the government in relation to  the educational background of the teachers  who will work in such schools.  Called  “cursos livres” by the Ministry of Education, they are not part of the regular school system, which means they don’t follow any specific regulations . Since there is no criterium regarding the teaching of English in preschools and day care centers, a theoretical background is many times substituted by the  teachers’...

I was supposed to have published this post on May the 01st. As I knew I was going to be in João Pessoa for the 14th BRAZ-TESOL International Conference, I really wanted my post to be about teacher development – mainly about attending conferences. I had even read some articles and blog posts on it in order to find inspiration for my post (“Teacher Development belongs to Teachers” by Willy C. Cardoso, “Attending Conferences” by James Taylor, “7 things about reflecting on conference presentations” by Willy C. Cardoso, “Teachers...

Being a teacher for almost 30 years I have a clear idea of how demanding, time consuming and rewarding this profession is and how tough it can get sometimes. If you’ve been teaching for 2, 3 years, you probably have this idea already. Yes, I gave up my Psychologist career to become a teacher. Being in the market for a long time I’ve attended lots of seminars and webminars, conferences, delivered lots of presentations , published articles , wrote materials and became a teacher trainer after doing lots of...

Here I am, in the middle of a semester, catering for lessons, teachers, groups, students and an ICELT programme when a fellow teacher came to me and asked me about lesson observations. Lessons observations might be feared by some teachers, but they are such a fantastic tool for development, both for the observer and the teacher. As long as the atmosphere is kept concerning a developmental path, there is nothing to be afraid of. The very nature of a lesson observation is to share best practices. Whenever we teach we...

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...

By the time this post is published, I will have spent two days in the lovely city of João Pessoa where, as most of you know, the 14th BRAZ-TESOL International Conference is being held. This will be my 7th BRAZ-TESOL Conference. While I was packing I began asking myself: What motivated me to go? Why do I want to leave my kids behind? (If you have done the same you will know the feeling…) Why do I feel like spending the holiday attending talks and workshops instead of...

[caption id="attachment_1010" align="aligncenter" width="640"] https://mkhmarketing.wordpress.com[/caption] I still haven´t convinced you to try out Twitter even with Twitter for Professional Development and Try Twitter Before Ignoring It? Here are two additional reasons for you to join the educational crowd on Twitter. This week, the international education conference, Transformar, A Educação Está em Evolução, is happening in São Paulo, and you can follow along where?! You know where. TWITTER. Many of the participants are backchanneling, which means they are broadcasting via Twitter the interesting things they hear and pointing to resources, as...

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...

Hello everyone! I want to start this month’s post apologizing for my… silence last month. I’ve got only myself to blame – anyone writing about organization skills out there? – and can just promise it won’t happen again. Scout’s honor. So let me pick up from where we left off last time:  I ended by asking you whether you’d feel insulted if someone (a teacher trainer, a colleague, your coordinator) told you you had to work on your English. There weren’t many replies, I’m afraid, but the very few people...

Creativity is certainly a desired trait for teachers to have, especially nowadays, when we have to compete with much more appealing sources of knowledge.  But what is creativity?  Is it innate? Can we do anything to enhance it? Well, these are some of the questions I plan on answering at the next Tesol Convention in João Pessoa, where I will present a workshop titled “Creativity as an asset in Language Teaching”.  This article is a very brief summary of some of the information I plan on sharing with the...

  In my last post, I focused on giving Twitter a chance. Before saying No, try a resounding YES! And if I haven´t convinced you last time, how about considering Twitter as your daily professional development hub? For most ELT conferences, there are great tweets coming from the backchannel. Educators who share the resources of the presentations they are attending, ideas, thoughts, quotes. If nothing appeals to you, PD in microdoses might convince you. Here´s a list of the conference hashtags I´ve been following lately and also sharing. If you couldn´t be...

Think of a baby. What is it you associate with it most - the smell? The sound of the baby crying? Perhaps you think about how it feels to hold a baby, or even just what it looks like? The chances are that most people reading this (assuming there's more than one!) will have answered that question differently, since it's intuitive to think that we all perceive and interact with the world around us in different ways. ...

We often discuss the challenges of giving feedback and how important it is to let people know how they are doing. As language teachers, we talk about feedback to students, addressing their performance inside and outside the class, covering features of language and behaviour. We believe that students can use this information to become more competent and proficient. As trainers, we discuss the effects and the importance of feedback to teachers and how it can influence one’s professional development. However, when it comes to being on the other...

Very soon, I will celebrate my 25th teaching anniversary. This got me thinking about the beginning of my career, what was different then, what is still rather similar and especially how differently (or similarly) I used to teach. How have all these years influenced and shaped the way I teach today? To answer these questions I can rely on my memory and perceptions, as well as those of my students and of those who observed me. It’d be great, and probably enlightening, if I could compare the past...

After having taught at several different schools for a long long time, I’ve been teaching private classes for a while now. I’ve decided to do so so that I could have more flexibility and more time to study and work on different projects. Needless to say, teaching private classes has its own features. Sometimes I feel as if I were learning how to teach all over again and that’s been a real challenge. By a stroke of luck, I’ve come across a lot of interesting articles on it these past...

Well, first, apologies to Scott Thornbury for ‘borrowing’ and distorting his title. This is the closest I’ll ever get to his altitude, so forgive my mutant magpie-Icarus act. I present to you the first of the series An A-Z of Dysfunctional ELT – the art of getting things wrong, again and again. Each month, I’ll take a letter and explore some ideas about how we get things wrong.  And by ‘we’, I mean you, and you, and you. Oh, and me.  For example, C might stand for Communication (aw, don’t get...

People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.Blaise Pascal, 1669   He took some persuading. When the 17th Century Christian philosopher wrote that in 1669, it was as a part of a description of human intellect. But these are words which still hold true for many of us teachers who have had any level of basic training. We can all remember that one boring teacher at school or university who used to lecture us. Sometimes...

My dear, If I could offer you any advice for your newly started career, I would tell you to be curious. More impressive and complex advice will be dispensed to you but I truly believe that curiosity embraces it all. First and foremost, be curious about your students. Get to know who they are, where they come from, why they need to study English and the reservations they might still cling to. Their beliefs are as powerful as yours. Ask them about their past, their present and their future;...

I don’t think I have ever taught or observed an advanced lesson that went seriously wrong. I mean cringe-worthy wrong. Which shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, advanced students have been in the game long enough and know enough English to ensure that most of our lessons run - at worst - relatively smoothly. Except perhaps for those all-too-familiar “How do you say X?” questions (X = a word YOU don't know), which they seem to pluck out of nowhere, at the worst possible moments. Yes, the ones that...

The globalized world in the twenty-first-century has brought the English language to the status of lingua franca as countries worldwide use it as the main means of communication for social, economic, and educational purposes. For that reason, the learning of English as a foreign language (EFL) has become a growing issue and a variety of models have been developed to meet the needs of EFL teachers. Because language instruction is consequently delivered in all sorts of socio-cultural settings, EFL professionals are challenged to take an active role in...

They say that we get more conservative as we get older, that we lose our youthful idealism and replace it with mature resignation, that we become cynical, and that we are less willing to break the rules and become more prone to following a set of rigid routines. However, I don't think this is necessarily the case for those of us in the teaching profession. Nor should it be, in my opinion. In fact, in my experience, a large part of our teaching lives will be spent unlearning what...

Hello and welcome to March! In 2009 I read an article in Wired magazine that reported on the Stanford Study of Writing and I was very struck by this quote from the leader of the study, Dr Andrea Lunsford, who said, “I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization.” (Lunsford, 2009 in Thomson) This impressed me as a very strong statement, so I looked a little closer at the study. Basically, the team at Stanford followed 190 students for...

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"] @rosaurochoa in Flickr[/caption]   So many times I´ve heard teachers saying that Twitter is not for them,  they don´t get it,  it is a waste of time. Before you make up your mind, just give it a try. Start using it in very simple ways. My first suggestion is searching for resources educators are already sharing in their timelines. In my case, for example, I´m interested in the use of mobile devices in the classroom, so I´ll look up "mlearning", using the Twitter search feature. Give it a try....

Following up on last month’s post, I’d like to dedicate this month’s installment to discussing the following question: What does it mean to know a language? Or, more to the point, what does it mean for a teacher of English to know the language? Without getting very technical and/or long-winded, it is my opinion that a teacher of English as a foreign or second language must be able to get their messages across –speaking or writing– with no (or very little) difficulty, being able to employ the most effective words,...

Ok, so you need to read the text and answer the questions. These questions here. You need to answer these questions…Do you need to answer the questions? Simple. (Black Dyke Mills 2 by Tim Green CC-BY-2.0) This is something I recently heard a teacher on a pre-service training course say to a group of (mildly bewildered) students. Interestingly enough, the same teacher commented in the feedback discussion later that he felt like he was patronising students asking this question, but that he knew he ‘had to ask an ICQ’ (Instruction Check...

I really thought that after 31 years teaching and 24 managing a school, no beginning of a new academic term would frighten a person anymore… I was wrong! I have decided to re-read Professor Celso Antunes’ book, “Professores e Professauros” and this made me think about all that we do when we teach… I would like to apologise for the play with words, but I came up with a session for teachers I decided to call : Abreast… or a beast? This title was to represent our continuous struggle to...

It’s great to be blogging here – hello! What I’m going to talk about each month are some of the questions that interest me and that I’m reading and talking about with my fellow teachers and teacher trainees.  This month I want to consider what we do in the classroom and its connection and relevance to learners and their ‘real lives’. In 2007 (which is about a million years ago in Internet years!), Dr Mike Wesch and his students at Kansas State University conducted a piece of research entitled ‘What’s...

First of all, it’s an honor to be blogging here on RichmondShare along with some of the brightest stars in the Brazilian ELT market, and also a little scary! Thanks Richmond for the invitation and thank you all for reading! Now to the topic at hand: language development for teachers. Scott Thornbury (1997) wrote – and I love quoting him – that among the consequences of (…) a limited knowledge of language are: a failure on the part of the teacher to anticipate learners’ learning problems and a consequent inability...

When we teach language for and through communication, it’s our job to ensure that there is as much student - student interaction as realistically possible. This means that teacher talking time (TTT) should be kept to an absolute minimum, right? Well, right and wrong. There’s more to TTT than meets the eye. Students’ interlanguage will develop not only through interaction (output), but also through reading and listening (input): Listening to coursebook dialogs, TV shows, movies and… the teacher. Yes, our own English is a rich, but sadly underrated source of...