In 2019 we had the opportunity to work together on different projects. Such projects involved writing for the Richmond blog, going live on different social media websites and delivering an online course for teachers. We’d like to start by commenting on the online course experience. Needless to say how this course enriched us. While organizing the contents we decided to include in the course, we studied a lot more about so many relevant issues that are undoubtedly pertinent to our daily work. In this sense, the need to research...

One of the biggest concerns among teachers who work with teenagers is that they seem to be demotivated most of the time. It’s often said that teenage students don’t participate in classes so enthusiastically or don’t show interest in the activities. While that may be true, it will rarely happen to the whole group. Even so, we worry a lot with those who are not interacting so much; or at least not the way we expected them to. The first and foremost aspect to be considered is the fun...

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,...

This month I had the opportunity to interview Professor John Hattie on the topic of Visible Learning. Although I wasn’t in front of the screen, I was responsible for most of the academic articulation behind it, and then I had to revisit some of my notes I had taken from the previous readings about this topic. This whole event has taken me down memory lane to a time, not so long ago, when the excellent Andreia Zakime (from What’s ELT?) was my mentor here at Cultura Inglesa. In...

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 academic year is just around the corner and every now and then we tend to start the New Year facing some challenges and the kind. Being an educator is not an easy task, dealing with stressful situations such as routine, and, to add insult to injury, many of us will have to perform a juggling act, e.g. work in different schools, in order to make ends meet. Looking for perfection should be the main aim, right? It is important, however, to bear in mind that there is no...

I’d like to start this post with Maya Angelou’s beautiful statement: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” As a subscriber to MET (Modern English Teacher), I received the October 2018 issue at home this month. Their articles cover a wide range of topics as you can see from its cover: [caption id="attachment_8235" align="alignnone" width="539"] MET magazine October 2018[/caption] One article, in particular, drew my attention: Promoting gratitude among learners by Jeffrey Dawala...

“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...

It goes without saying that vocabulary is one aspect language acquisition that plays an important role when learning one mother’s tongue, let alone a foreign language. I have often had learners saying that they can fairly get by grammatical structures and the real factor holding them back is how to put words within this lexical construct. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula through which one can get by learning new lexis, being it from the word level to the sentence level; however, memory seems to be one key element...

At the beginning of a new semester, learners are usually excited to get started, enthusiastic about learning and with high hopes of finally achieving that much sought-after fluency. As the course unfolds, so does life: learners have to juggle work, school and their own personal lives, coping with everything at the same time. And as that happens, one of the most common comments I hear from my learners is that they wish they had (more) time to study English, do homework, listen to podcasts, watch the news, you...

We all want a positive work environment where we feel safe to share our ideas, projects, concerns, and challenges… where we can offer and seek advice aiming at a greater good: helping learners reach their goals and becoming the best possible professional we can become. Right – that’s a lovely goal. How can we make it happen? First and foremost, we have to remind ourselves that our professional development is our own responsibility – nobody else’s. Jordan Catapano’s article on Professional Development and the Teacher Leader can give us great...

One important thing I learned from my baby is that laziness starts from a very early age. Having been talking to him only in English for more than 2 years now, I can notice his incredible understanding of my production in spoken English. He understands nearly everything I speak to him, reacts appropriately to commands, and answers to my questions – but the answers are only in Portuguese. I am investigating why he doesn't reply to me "in my language", and I am coming to the conclusion that...

I have once read an article that stated that the word ‘motivation’ is linked to the word ‘emotion’ because both of them come from the Latin word ‘motere’ which means ‘to move towards emotion’. I distinctly remember this, because it has changed the way think about motivation. It is connected to emotion, as what drives a person (our students) are their interests. I have come across that question (title) so many times throughout the 14 years of experience I have undergone. Moreover, that has always brought other questions to...

I was looking for an inspiring article about motivation when I came across Bruce Dixon’s entitled ‘The Value of a Cold Shower’. It starts by questioning the kind of expectations we have when we attend the opening keynote at a conference. Dixon asks us: ‘Do you want to be entertained, informed, inspired or provoked, or maybe all of the above? Are you looking for your current thinking to be affirmed, challenged, or dismissed?’ He then goes further using the metaphors of ‘warm baths’ and ‘cold shower’ to explain...

Deciding to write about my journey with English has taken me on a trip down memory lane, and some other teachers said they had the same impression when they read part 1. This is extremely motivating since I think this kind of reflection helps us realize how far we have come and it might prompt us to make more progress. On that note, passing the first exam back in the day proved to be a catalyst for change in the sense that it enabled me to see that I...

How did passing a proficiency exam help me improve my teaching? Once you have passed the exam, where do you go from there? I plan to address these questions while I share my experience of preparing for the Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE) exam and what happened after passing. Far from being a guide for exam candidates, this series of posts will be a more personal account of the trials and tribulations of a teacher trying to become a better model for his students. I hope some teachers can relate...

I often wonder to what extent me being an educator has influenced what I am like as a mother - and vice-versa. It is easier to see how being a teacher shaped the mother I am. For instance, I have never done my kids’ work or projects. I have guided their research (making sure they learned to question the reliability of certain sources and that there was no copying and pasting!), helped them organise their ideas coherently before putting on paper, gave my opinion on their ideas. Countless times...

How many of us have heard learners expressing the wish ‘I want to be fluent in English’? But then, what does it mean to be fluent? As the title suggests, I truly believe in walking through life with our ears wide open, and there is one belief that has permeated my teaching over the years: the importance of triggering learners’ curiosity towards language and its genuine use in various contexts. As a learner myself, I have always wondered how to become fluent in another language. Naturally, when I started teaching, I...

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we can develop as professionals by being involved in the teaching community. Not surprisingly, the most important lessons I’ve had on teaching came from people, not books, but it wasn’t an easy process and I’d like to share some of lessons I’ve learnt from learning with others. Be humble Anyone can teach you something, no matter how experienced, qualified or renowned you are. The moment you adopt a know-it-all attitude is the moment you stop learning, and teaching is ultimately a learning...

It goes without saying that we live in a world which is bombarded by information. I am not saying that is all bad, however, for some this may be too much, too soon and too frightening. This fast-moving evolution of information technology has brought about a new sort of ‘society’ which seeks for a full range of perspectives and interests. That is exactly when RLE (Real Learning Environment) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) collide. Unfortunately, the so-called ‘cloud’ does not seem to be 9 for everyone, especially if...

Just like in March, I’ll begin by reproducing a photo that was in newspapers and social media last month and that proved extremely controversial, raising heated discussions on the Internet. Well, I believe you have probably seen it and possibly read lots of arguments, both defending and criticising all sorts of aspects in the photo. Basically, there were two lines: one that saw the babysitter as a victim of social inequality and the other defending their employers who alleged it was her choice to work for them, that...

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 -...

In a recent PD afternoon I attended, before the closing of the event the main speaker had a Q&A session with the audience, answering questions about teaching English in general. One of the questions stuck to my mind: “How can we motivate our learners?” The question is not new to any teacher. It has been the topic of countless articles, chapters in books, discussions in the staff room, workshops and presentations at conferences. I am not here to dispute the importance of motivation in language learning (or in any kind...

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...

On announcing my groups’ final testing dates, I can vividly remember one student coining the chunk, if I may say so, ‘TeStressing Times are coming.’ Well, in terms of pronunciation one might easily say she has aced the test.  Living and learning seems to be a fair motto, I say. We all know that the end of an academic year or, our academic semester, is packed with surprises that most learners love, not to say hate. Either fortunately or unfortunately testing is one them. One thing is for sure,...

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...

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 come to the end of the year, our classes are also about to finish. Hence, the time for us teachers to start planning the end of the semester has come. We end up getting so busy organizing reviews, writing tests, testing and assessing students, writing reports and/or report cards, providing students with feedback on their work we sometimes forget to “give students opportunities to reflect on what they have learnt and experienced in the lesson/term/year” (Emma Gore-Lloyd, 2014). I first heard about the different phases of a...

As a teenager, I read anything I could lay my hands on; that included all sorts of literature: good and bad. It didn't matter as long as it was an interesting story ( from a young girl's perspective, I might say). As a young English language learner, I was lucky to study at an English language school with a  library and I remember browsing through all those graded readers while I waited for  class. However, there was a difference between me, the avid reader and me, the English learner:...

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...

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...

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure” said Bill Cosby when inquired about his successful career as a comedian, actor, author, television producer and musician. From weight loss programs to competitive jobs in multinational corporations, the desire for success is a predominant characteristic of human behavior. This strong desire is commonly referred to as simply “motivation”. As we walk in the field of English language teaching, scholars have been equally interested in investigating the relation between motivation and success...

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...

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...