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

This might sound a bit too harsh, but we do sometimes hinder learning. The title of this text was borrowed from a famous saying in football, made popular by the controversial former player Romario, now a politician. He was a very successful and undoubtedly talented player and worked with a large number of coaches throughout his career. He was always very critical to his coaches and peers and did not use to keep his mouth shut when he did not agree with them. According to this idea, the...

You are a student in a classroom full of them. You are all seated in a circle and the teacher is standing in front of you. The teacher asks a question. Silence. Ok, thinking time is beneficial, you think. One minute later, silence remains, until the teacher says ‘I won’t say a word before you say it”, followed by another full minute of silence. Finally he says “if you haven’t read the text, there won’t be a lesson today. You can go home.” I do not know if...

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

We all know too well, at least we should, that teaching does not come easy. However, people, other than teachers, tend to consider what we do as something ‘doable’. In other words, they think it is just a job in which you get into a class and start doing the talk. Little do they know that such days are gone. I come from a language-centre background teaching environment. As a ‘new-to-the-system’ state school teacher, I have encountered several situations that required a lot more than teaching skills. Scary to...

As a teacher, I have often resorted to different methodologies and activities to make students more interested in my class. However, lately I have been curious about the learning processes of a language and I have been eager to understand in depth how especially teenagers go through such processes. Consequently, the following question has popped up: what if we can boost students’ language acquisition by sparking something in their brains? Much has been studied and said about neuroscience and how the brain takes in a language, but I have...

We hear about CPD, the acronym for Continuous Professional Development, all the time. Although CPD is not only about taking courses, they are certainly a prototypical concept and the number of courses aimed at teachers has been increasing steadily, or at least this is the impression I have. When it comes to courses, one of the most common questions we hear is “Is this or that course worth it?” or “Should I do this course or not?” The answers, however, are definitely not as simple as the questions....

The other day I was talking to an acquaintance who has a kid that goes to a language school to study English. As this acquaintance knows I am an English teacher, she started opening up to me about her feelings towards her child’s studies and she stated that she “did not feel like her daughter was actually learning English”. When I asked why, she said that she had the impression that her daughter would not be able to get by in case she had to speak English on a...

“Dear teacher, I’d like to say I have never forgotten your lessons and I’m grateful you have inspired me to follow this path.” This is part of a message I received last month. It is from a student I had over 20 years ago and who is now a successful teacher of English. I still remember her in my lessons, her brilliant compositions and perfect handwriting. She was a quiet student who I have never forgotten and reading her message made my eyes well up. Many of us have received these...

If learning is personalized and engaging, it is likely to stick. If your students have fun during your classes, that’s more likely to bring about emotions that should aid the process of learning. Also, learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it is built upon previous knowledge. We also know how powerful stories are when it comes to learning. All of the sentences above are true and are validated by current research. If we agree that this much is true, then we can proceed to some of the underlying...

Back in 2011 I was invited to write the general introduction to a series of books for PNLD (Programa Nacional do Livro Didático), a Brazilian government programme that, as most of you may know, distributes books for public schools. It was a detailed introduction, which had to thoroughly explain the concept behind the book and how the authors beliefs about foreign language learning were represented in the series. At that time, I was not aware that writing this introduction would change my views about language learning forever. In 2014...

This year, 2018, is a landmark. Schools across the globe, from kindergarten to high school, starting this year, have now only students from the Generation Z. That is, young people in school age were all born in the 21st Century. That brings us the need to understand this generation, the way they act, the way they behave, the way they see the world around them and think. There are some remarkable differences in the mindsets of these young people compared to the ones from other generations. I will only point out some that...

Just like telling a learner you don’t know the answer to their question at the start of your teaching career, talking about your professional failure is no easy game. I don’t aim to be blowing my own trumpet in the next lines; what I want to narrate instead, is how often times your backstage may be so well guarded that the audience may simply think you’re ‘gifted’. Let me tell you about two major ‘events’ in my life that may hit home to you, and hopefully be the...

We often discuss this question both in the field of education and during informal conversations elsewhere. A similar debate is not that frequent among other professions, for instance we do not seem to ask whether doctors are born or need to study hard to develop. Many people advocate that teachers choose to work in the area out of passion or due to vocation. Contrasting it to other occupations and you will be glad to board a plane whose pilot is not simply someone who loves flying (Green, 2015)....

It's been some years already that we've been talking about m-learning and its promises, but with not much consistent use of mobile devices as a learning tool with extremely high computational capabilities, sometimes even bigger than our own desktops (certainly this is my case!). There are simply countless ways to deepen the experiences and learning opportunities in class by using the power of touch, the power of hands. It's not from banning cellphones, for example, because of our own fears and feeling of powerlessness due to our vulnerable...

I usually find myself looking for formulas or easy ways to solve these little problems we come across in life, such as a way to fix something on my smartphone that is not working properly or how to use a specific tool to make my job easier. In this regard, the internet has helped us a lot providing the kind of information we need and the solution for our problems in a few seconds. And that’s great! It saves a lot of time in our busy routines and...

For the past few years, I've been drawn into the world of cognitive sciences and what learning is, what it entails, and how the brain works. To my mind, all teachers should have sound knowledge on the way the brain functions as it is the brain the ultimate place we work on. How could you possibly know that the things you've chosen to do in class work or not, and how can you assess the situation and perchance change tactics and your approach if you cannot fathom the...

In my last post I wrote about the recognition of an increasingly technological society that must be accompanied by the awareness of the need to include the skills and competences to deal with the new technologies in school curricula. In this second part, I will focus on the competences of the teacher for the 21st century, having technology not only as a support, but also as taking a very important role on teaching and learning. Technology and Information have become part of our daily lives in the last years and very...

Discussing creativity in English language teaching and learning has definitely contributed to many of the changes we have already observed in our field - both in the classroom and in teacher education. However, some teaching contexts are definitely dependent on more controlled approaches - sometimes because of teachers' beliefs, sometimes because of school programmes, parents' influence. In Brazil, we were lucky to have Freire debating the ideal conditions for education that promotes change in the world, rather than generates copies of our old selves. Yet, two decades after his...

There's no need to remind you that technology is pervasive in our lives. It's everywhere. However, my main paradox is that I see my kids going to school and having very little use of it as a tool for development, personal growth and inquiry. It is a huge paradox because for the past decade I've been working with educators and educational leaders to meaningfully incorporate edtech in their practices. Yet, in my own home reality is far from ideal. What I feel is that my kids are more...

"A man's mind stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimensions." This quote, attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, illustrates what happens with the learning mind: it will not be the same it had been before the new opportunities to grow. The new ideas may also refer to developing knowledge and/ or skills that are not necessarily directly connected to our area of expertise. As teachers, we aim at helping our learners to broaden their horizons, embrace diversity, experience the world. What better way to change the world than to start by experimenting with our own learning? Teaching a foreign language gives...

  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...

We all deserve rest, relaxation and some time off. Educators are working during class time, before and always in late hours, correcting, planning, preparing, researching. So, yes, school recess is certainly a time of a certain relief and a bit of goofing off. However, after reenergizing a bit, meeting friends and family, taking care of our more mundane daily lives, celebrating the end of the year, you might feel ready and eager to learn something new, to connect, network with other like-minded professionals. Numerous free professional development opportunities...

For the past year I've been interested and have intensely studied, researched and explored the Maker Movement. First, just out of curiosity as I was being fed through my Twitter stream (remember I mentioned in other posts how Twitter is still my number one source of inspiration and daily doses of professional development?). The feeling that the Maker movement just made total sense to any classroom got even stronger after attending Giselle Santos's presentation on the topic at the BRAZTESOL International Conference in João Pessoa. Fate or destiny, the...

When I was about 13 my English teacher showed us a picture of some children playing in a park. All was going well – I could understand what she was saying, and felt very clever – when she suddenly said something that startled and puzzled me so much that I just stopped paying attention to everything else. She’d pointed to a boy in the picture and said: Johnny is sitting on the bench. “What?”, I thought. “Johnny is not sitting at all!” What happened was that in my...