Friday, 6p.m., the deafening bell rang. Surely there had been meetings in which “the bell issue” had come to light, but there was never enough time to actually do something about it. The empty halls were taken by running bodies who dragged half-open backpacks and screamed as if they had been held captive for way longer than their eager little bodies could withstand. As they reached door, a trail of paper notes, candy wrappers and assorted colorful things was left behind. She grabbed her bag and closed the...

An increased interest in online teaching has emerged in recent years. Such interest has become even more prominent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine, during which teachers worldwide had to take up online teaching overnight. Many of us had been teaching adults – or taken online lessons and courses ourselves – for a while, but teaching a group of teenagers through a screen was unimaginable. Given my considerable experience with online teaching, I was very confident about welcoming my teenage students to a video call. Little did...

I’ve always felt that in order to be a good teacher for my students I had to be at the top of my game all the time. This means having to let go of all worries and problems from the outside-of-the-classroom world while teaching, and I managed to make that happen for over a decade. Little did I know that there would come a day that my heart would ache so much that achieving such self-control would be almost impossible...

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...

The musical hit series Glee aired between 2009 and 2015. I remember watching it and thinking to myself: “What a wonderful and necessary series!”. Like most of Ryan Murphy’s work, there’s a lot of representation in it. And the fact that it focuses on teenagers making through high school makes it even more special as this was the target audience of the show. Last vacation I had the chance to spend some days off with my family and had a lot of contact with my 14-year-old niece. When I...

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...

It goes without saying that teachers of teenagers often worry about how fun and dynamic classes must be so as to keep students engaged and motivated. So pervasive is this concern among professionals who teach youngsters that we sometimes tend to disregard the importance of taking into account the quieter and shyer students in our classes. Before suggesting how teachers can deal with shy students in the classroom, we would like to talk a little bit about shyness. Heitz, D. (2019) explains that ‘shyness is a feeling of fear...

Chaos. That's what the world is all about. We spend our whole lives trying to organize what cannot be organized. We want to predict the unpredictable. We believe we can have control over our lives but there is no control. We have been doing the same with Education for centuries. We try to put knowledge in boxes. We try to purify access to information. We want to control the amount of input and organize it in order of difficulty. Worse than that, we have been trying to standardize the...

It’s the beginning of a new term. You’re chosen to teach an upper-intermediate/advanced group. You’re excited to meet your new students, you plan a welcome activity so as to start off with the right foot. You enter the room, start the class and ask your new students to introduce themselves. And suddenly one particular student starts speaking. Their pronunciation is nearly flawless, they use a wide range of vocabulary and demonstrate control of simple and complex grammatical forms. And one inevitable thought crosses your mind: “This student speaks...

Year: 1999. Group: Basic 1. Place: Uberaba, MG – Brasil. Seventeen-year-old Ana Carolina stepped into a classroom for the first time. Young, restless, feeling entitled by her recently acquired C2 diploma and, most importantly: raw. Fluent, for sure. After one year of isolation from all Portuguese speakers in a cultural exchange program before cell phones or the Internet were even available, the mountaneer dialect flowed as if it were her own. Scared, she left the students in class in order to catch a breath and drink some water,...

Monday, 6 p.m., the sun peeking through the blinds in the brick and mortar language school building in Brazil. The teacher enters the room carrying a bag of props, flashcards, and her tape recorder. The recorder being to her as precious as a map to a Geography teacher: “Hi, John Peter! How are you today?” asked the teacher in a high-pitched voice. “I’m fine, thanks. And you?” replied the monotoned student. The automatic, “I’m fine, too,” followed. “So… Let’s begin! Open your books to page 50,” she continued while rewinding and...

Have you ever changed your lesson plan (or part of it) halfway through due to students’ lack of engagement? And have you ever regretted changing it because students asked you to do something different in class? If you answered yes for both questions, you face the same dilemma that we do; which is how much of the lesson plan it is fine to adapt in order to please our students’ imminent needs. Let’s face it: English isn’t generally taken so seriously by students (and their parents) as much as other...

When the subject is teaching teenagers, there is always a cloud hanging over teachers’ heads. This cloud has a name and it is quite a familiar one: behaviour. As a rule of thumb, when we have a couple of teenagers together in one room, there will eventually be distraction, standing up, talking (or yelling), paper airplanes flying around, among other “issues”. Having these things in mind, in this post I am willing to share five tips that have helped me a lot throughout my career as a teacher. Build...

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 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...

Before we start, click on the player above and enjoy this song while you enjoy your reading! I guarantee it will make the experience a lot more fun! :) Some years ago, acclaimed director Steven Spielberg said he thought the superhero film genre would die out. Much has been said about the possible downfall of this movie genre. However, Captain Marvel is already a massive box office hit and all the hype revolving around the release of upcoming Avengers: Endgame has got people really eager to see what the...

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...

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...

I have recently discussed with another teacher that we should never lose track of the lessons we learn from inspirational teachers. We learn a lot throughout our professional teaching lives, but also from our long-lasting lives as learners. We take courses, study, research, observe. In this post I would like to write about those teachers who inspire learners to act, think, be curious, be brave and so much more. Those are the teachers that I believe make a difference in the world. I remember one of the greatest teachers...

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)....

Photo from ELTPics by Branislav Kubecka  I’d like to thank all EFL/ESL teachers who agreed to participate and collaborate in my research of this important issue.   Burnout:  physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress (Oxford dictionary). Burnout is a theme which seems to have been frequently discussed among EFL teachers recently. I myself have reflected about it since I experienced a certain awful situation in 2012. I can assure you it is as if one steals the floor under your feet and the consequences are extreme and pure chaos. And  I tell you: either...

How to win the customers It is widely known that “advertising is the core of a business”, and it could not be truer. Gladly, nowadays, the means one may use to advertise their own work are innumerable. To begin with, we have the good old word of mouth. Should you do a great job, people will talk about you and students or clients, in which case, will end up recommending your work. This type of advertising always works like a charm. I have known this to be the...

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...

How did you get into English Language teaching, and why do you still do it? I come from a family of musicians and English first caught my interest when I came across Pink Floyd and The Ramones with their lyrics and fast singing. My English teacher at Secondary School (Neusa Lombardi) spotted this ‘talent for English’ and rewarded me with a scholarship to her school. Once there, I developed a liking for teaching, which lead me to read Languages at University. As a teacher, I felt the need to develop...

I have been asking myself to what extent the traditional way of teaching listening actually contributes to learners becoming better listeners… John Field changed my relationship with listening, and since I first read his book ‘Listening in the Language Classroom’, I have been looking for answers whenever I teach a lesson that includes Skills Development Listening. I guess when we start teaching, most of us are really happy to be able to deliver a listening lesson with PRE-WHILE-POST stages that seem to be relevant, effective and coherent to learners....

If you follow discussion threads on social media, you have probably noticed that from time to time teachers - either new to the profession or people who, like me, have been on the road for many years - have concerns about our professional life. It is not uncommon to read questions related to the real importance of having a certificate, of doing this or that course or sometimes questioning if being an EFL teacher is really (or maybe still) worth it. This kind of comment led me to...

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...

Creativity is one of the trendy words nowadays when we talk about education and work. It is usually related to innovation and it is considered one of the most important skills a person should have in the workplace in order to solve problems and come up with new ideas. “Think out of the box”, “Step out of your bubble”, “Take risks” are some of the advice business articles on creativity offer. It is so valued that it is frequently mentioned as an essential 21st century skill students should...

[caption id="attachment_5702" align="alignnone" width="640"] team in serie red leader magnifying glass[/caption] A niche is part of the market, which, more often than not, is not targeted by the mainstream educational sector. The “one size fits all” teaching market overlooks these potential students and that may be excellent news for you. These available target niches are made up of doctors, youngsters wishing to au pair in the US, university students from engineering avid for high scores on IELTS, pilots looking for international aviation certifications, elders aspiring for new skills, etc. Focusing...

A couple of months ago a friend of mine reported on his page on Facebook a situation that had happened to his son at school. It was a Portuguese lesson and the focus was defining and non-defining relative clauses. To cut a long story short, my friend’s son defended that that the sentence My father who treats clients well is bankrupt was as correct as My father, who treats clients well, is bankrupt as, in the boy’s words, it was perfectly possible to have two fathers. After all,...

If you have been teaching for a while you may have come across a difficult decision teachers are faced with: how to continue growing professionally without leaving the classroom. In my experience, the path to getting recognition or a higher salary often make teachers transition into academic or managerial positions. I tried those things, but they didn't fulfill me. I chose to become a teacher in order to work with people, to share my experiences, listen to other people's experiences, learn and teach. I eventually found out that I...

The other day I came across a box of notes written by my students at the end of term. During a while I used to systematically ask for feedback from my students and I had a lesson ready for that for all the levels and age groups that I taught, from young learners to adults. The very last activity was the feedback note, which my students wrote both in Portuguese and in English, whichever language they felt more comfortable with. They were free not to sign their notes...

They say crisis equals opportunity, and the Brazilian website bicos.com.br has pointed out that teaching is its visitors’ number one choice out of their financial predicaments. [caption id="attachment_4592" align="alignnone" width="572"] Photo via facebook.com/apliesp/[/caption] You can imagine how that went viral (and quite virulent) among Brazilian teachers. According to Brazilian legislation, regular school teachers need to have a teaching license, which will take the candidate at least 3 years to get hold of, if not 4 or 5. Hence, those newcomers are looking for jobs in educational sectors which are not as formalized:...

I’ve just had a week off, so I went off on holidays. After a whole year of teacher, training, writing, talking to students, parents, helping those who needed the extra help or a supporting word (or hug!)… I tried to fool myself, thinking I would be able to completely tune out of work by simply not looking at emails from work. But one doesn’t stop being a teacher just because she is not teaching… It starts out quite subtly, really… a song you hear playing that you immediately identify...

More than words (or at least more than a language!)   I like to think I am more than a language teacher. Those who know me also know that I don’t say this because I think being a language teacher is a lesser job. Quite the contrary, to tell you the truth. I am very proud of it. But when I think about what I do with my students I can see so much more than (just) a language being developed in the classroom. See, more than a teacher I dare...

"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...

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...

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...

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...

Hello again! It's good to be back after a short absence - a lot has happened since I last posted and I'll be writing about one those things here. I had the great fortune in June to be at a fabulous conference in lovely Cancun, Mexico. While I was there I was talking about the use of previous knowledge and meaningful learning, and focused in on all the previous knowledge that learners have in English of songs and particularly certain lines of songs. Like a dream come true, the night...

Half of the year has gone but we still have some time for new ideas and projects till December comes. This month I´ll share with you a project developed with our 8th graders this year. One of the units in the coursebook we use deals with different kinds of schools and vocabulary related to learning and classroom language. Students, in general, find it interesting to contrast their own school and Brazilian school system to home schooling or boarding schools students in some other countries experience. Based on the topic of learning...

I must have mentioned before on this blog that I teach adolescents in their last year of High School. Needless to say, this is a period of great anxiety as most of them intend to go to university and now have to choose a career. It is the time when most of them realise that their days of “automatic pilot” - in which they simply progress from one grade to another - are over and that making a decision based on the question What do I want to...

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...

Three private students of mine recently proclaimed that they believed they had become less fluent since the beginning of our lessons a little over two months ago. They were naturally preoccupied given that they were paying good money to improve their English. Needless to say, I had to put their minds at ease, and it got me thinking. Both of these learners are Brazilian, and I think that their nationality does play a role in what I am about to describe. They were both also very fluent when I...

As an ELT professional and author in Brazil, I am well known as a Lexical Approach evangelist. I know some of you out there do not take the Lexical Approach as an approach. You may think it is only a series of techniques for teaching vocabulary: collocations, phrasal verbs, idioms, fixed sentences, semi fixed sentences and so on. Whenever I run lectures and workshops about this approach for English language teachers in Brazil, there are three questions that always come up: "What about the grammar?" "Where’s grammar?" "How can we...

The teaching of English pronunciation is such a challenge. Maybe because there is so much to accomplish that we often feel overwhelmed, and perhaps even insecure of our own abilities to give learners what they need. Most of us will let the course books tell us what to do and when to do it, as they highlight phonemes and other segmental and suprasegmental features here and there, and provide exercises and phonemic charts. Many of us will use these when they come up, as suggested in the books....

We know that language teachers face a lot of difficulties in Brazilian regular schools. Based on my experience as a High School teacher, my intention here is to present some suggestions to overcome three common challenges teachers face in this context. 1) All levels in the same place Challenge: Classes in regular schools present a great difference in language level among students, so that the teacher is faced with the problem of challenging higher-level students without overwhelming lower-level students. How to deal with it: Instead of proposing exercises that can only...

The other day I was at a friend’s birthday and my friend mentioned she had seen my photos in Liverpool and asked me what I had thought of the city. I said I hadn’t seen much of the city, because I had gone there for a conference (last year’s IATEFL Annual Conference) and it didn’t leave me much time for sightseeing. One of her friends, a new acquaintance to me, became interested and started talking to me. She: “A conference? What do you do?” Me: “I’m an English teacher.” She: “What...