This blog is aimed at professionals who seek professional excellence and are tireless in learning more and more... Here you will find classroom management tips, teacher development issues and a myriad of class games and activities to enhance your lesson plan. Many thanks for your visit!!

quinta-feira, 29 de novembro de 2012

YES!! Gangnam Style for English classes!!!

The video to the global smash hit song Gangnam Style has become the most-watched clip in YouTube's history. It has had almost 825 million views in the past five months and is moving quickly towards one billion. The video currently has 5,473,726 likes and 338,504 dislikes.

Teenagers seem to like the hit a lot but how can we handle using it for ESL lessons if the song is in Korean? Well, there is this great site http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com that brings lesson plans on every type of news. I just loved it!! The link to Gangnam Style activities is http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/1211/121127-gangnam_style.html. Very resouceful site for ESL teachers!

segunda-feira, 12 de novembro de 2012

Challenge your students with dartboard games!

Darts is a form of throwing game in which darts are thrown at a circular target (dartboard) fixed to a wall. Though various boards and rules have been used, the term "darts" usually now refers to a standardized game involving a specific board design and set of rules. So why not taking advantage of this well-known game and challenge your students in your ESL classes? I describe below two games I have already tried and they proved to work very well!

Suggestion 1) One game you could do is to draw a dart board on the board and fill the spaces with some of the  alphabet letters. Then, have students throw a paper ball at the board and whatever letter it touches, they must make a word beginning with that letter. How many letters that word has are points; e.g. apple would be 5 points, alphabet would be 8 points and so on.

Suggestion 2) Play and enjoy this simple Question and Answer revision game with your students. It works well with students of all ages and levels. To play this game, draw a target on the board with points on it, much like a dartboard.For darts, you can use  a small soft ball,paper ball or paper airplanes. Divide the class into two teams. Ask a revision question to the class. The first student to answer correctly can throw a dart at the target. Wherever the dart hits correlates with the amount of points won for that team. Another suggestion is to have a student come up from each team and throw a dart. The highest score would then get to answer a revision question, and if they are correct they would keep the points they scored.

sexta-feira, 5 de outubro de 2012

Silent moments in ELT lessons can be golden!

One of the most usual issues in ELT is the amount of teacher talking time (TTT) vs. student talking time (STT). There are a number of strategies to be used in order to enhance students’ production but my point today is to explore why teachers fear so much silent moment in class. My assumption is that in many lessons situations, a high TTT ratio results from teachers’ anxiety and even fear of some seconds or minutes of sheer silent in class. Given that, as teachers we have to take into account that sometimes silence is the best approach. Have you ever seen a TV interview where the interviewer asks a question, lets the interviewee answer, and then says nothing? What happens? There's a pause, maybe even a pregnant pause - and then the interviewee just keeps on talking, very often revealing something s/he never intended to reveal. The thing is:  People just can't stand silence! But in a learning situation, silence can have another truly beneficial effect. They need silence sometimes, to catch up, to reflect, to rest, to process. Those ten seconds of silence, or thirty seconds or two minutes, may be far more valuable to them than yet more TTT! For this reason, I list below 6 tips, written by Thomas Topham for TEFL.net to give the right value for these silent moments:

1. Don’t Echo
Here is a common classroom script:
T: So, what are your ideas, where shall we go?
S1: Bolivia.
T: Bolivia, yes, great, we can go to Bolivia. Where else?
S2: The Marshall Islands.
T: Ooh, the Marshall Islands, yes, we’ll put the Marshall Islands on the list, ok…
Even though the lesson is to some extent interactive, the students have no reason to listen to one another – the teacher is repeating everything that needs to be heard. “But they might not hear each other!” Tell them to speak up. Or better yet, if a student can’t hear, she can ask the other student to speak up.
2. Wait
It takes time for learners to hear and process what you have said, and adding more teacher talk doesn’t help. Shutting up and waiting does.
“So where should we go? (1.5 second pause) Let’s make a list, we’ll write down our ideas here, what do you say guys? (1.5 second pause) How about Tierra del Fuego, is that a good place, should I write that? Yeah, OK…”
The only way for student voices to enter the classroom is by the teacher allowing the space. After you ask a question, wait. Wait a long time, if need be.
3. Don’t Answer Right Away
Chances are one of the students knows the answer, if the teacher
strives to shut up! Compare:
S1: Why is that?
T: Ah, yes, you see here we have the auxiliary, so blah blah blah…
S1: Why is that?T: Mmmm. (pauses, looks around the room, waits…)S2:
I think because, is question…
T: (pointedly shuts up, open body language, waiting…)
S3: Yes, “Do” because it is question, same like in yesterday lesson…
Here not only do we have students speaking and the teacher shutting up, but as an added bonus the students are doing the thinking, and are showing evidence of their learning! Big Win!
4. Groupwork Is Better, Always
Because when the students are working together in groups it is impossible for you to speak. Well, not impossible – resist the urge to interrupt the groupwork for “just a second” to “just explain this one more thing”
5. Ask Open-Ended Questions
They require more from the students, and therefore require less talk
from you. Compare:
T: Is it a boy, or a girl?
Ss: Girl.
T: Yes, a girl. And what do you think, is she happy?
Ss: Yes.
T: Ooh, yes, she is. Maybe she got a good mark on her test, do you think so?
Ss: Yes.

T: Look. What’s this? (shut up. wait)
S1: A girl.
T: (continuing to shut up)
S2: She is schoolgirl.
S3: She is going to school, she has book bag.
S4: No, she is going home, she is happy. (laughter)
6. Make Use Of Your Written Materials
If the instructions are already there in the coursebook, why are you spending valuable class time blathering on about how to do a gap fill?

segunda-feira, 1 de outubro de 2012

Blindfold activities!!! Super cool!

Blindfold activities impel students into working together more closely, promoting interaction and trust building among the students. For the sake of ELT teaching, this type of activity can be great warm-ups or wrap-ups and come very handy when we have to teach how to give directions. Below, I selected a number of activities for you to have a try.

Blindfolds Robot Wars Procedures: Players work in pairs, a controller who is sighted and a robot who is blindfolded. The robot is in the marked zone and scores points by picking up paper balls and then throwing them at the other robots in the zone. The controller is outside the zone and directing their robot verbally as to where to find the paper balls and then which direction to throw them in. 3 minutes per round works well.

Blindfolds route re-trace Procedures: Place a marker on a large grassed area. Stand a player at the marker wearing a blindfolds. Then give them walking instructions along the lines of 2 steps forward, 5 right etc. When they get to the end of the trail give them the reverse instructions. The goal is that they should finish as close to the start point as they can. Work in pairs, one wearing blindfolds and the other sighted to give instructions and check for safety.

Blindfolds line up (by Height order) Blindfold everyone in the group then ask them to line up in height order; (by birthday order) Blindfold everyone, then same as above but in birthday order; (by alphabetic order) Blindfold everyone, then same as above but in order of first name. Afterwards it could be by surname; (by shoe size) Blindfold everyone, then same as above but in order of shoe size.

Minefield Procedures: Lay a large number of soft objects to be avoided on a grassed area. Amongst them place some soft objects to be retrieved. Then in each pair one person is blindfolded and must be guided by the other to retrieve the targets without touching any of the mines.

Peg the Partners Procedures: Students partner up. One person gets blindfolded and is given a softball. The other player in the pair leads her around by the arm and gives her instructions on how to throw the ball to hit another blindfolded person. The blindfolded player who receives a hit picks up the ball and throws it at another person with a blindfold on and so on. The seeing partner can guide his teammate with his voice about how to defend herself. If a team is hit twice, that pair is out of the game. The last team standing wins.


terça-feira, 25 de setembro de 2012

Tips and Techniques to get instructions across in your classroom

Teachers use activities in the classroom which can be fairly complex in terms of the way they’re organised, and sometimes, even experienced teachers will claim they got a class totally confused by the way they’ve given instructions. Here are some reflection upon how to give instructions successfully:

1)    How can you make sure that your instructions are as clear and comprehensible as possible? Plan how you’re going to give the instructions before you go into the classroom, and make sure that you can explain them within the limits of the language which the students can understand. Think too about the speed of your speech - slow down slightly if necessary. Don’t start the explanation until you have the students full attention and make sure they have stopped whatever they are doing, are turned towards you and are listening.
2)    How can you make it in a more student-centered manner? There are some techniques that come very handy specially for more complex activities. The idea is simple: the teacher gives the instructions and after the teacher presents on the board the same instructions but without key words students are supposed to complete. Another idea is to put under some of the students’ desks key sentences about the activity and as soon you have finished, you ask them to put the sentences in order according to the instruction you have given. And the last but not the least! My favorite one: take a whistle or any other noisy object to class and every time you make that noise, students will have to repeat the last sentence you said. Of course you are going to choose key sentences and you will see that giving instructions can be a really lively and fun moment in you lesson with lots of students participation.
3)    How can you reduce your teacher talking time (TTT)? The answer to this question overlaps the other. By using some of those techniques you will certainly reduce your TTT. However, it goes without saying you should always check that students have understood your instructions before starting the activity. The question Do you understand? is as good as useless. Students may be too shy to admit that they don’t understand, or may think they understand when they actually don’t . Also you may take the risk to keep on repeating over and over the instructions. Some suggestions: ask them check questions, ask them to repeat back the instruction and role-playing.

domingo, 16 de setembro de 2012

Slang time!

DEFINITION:  To turn informer; betray an accomplice or secret.
USE: Don'y tell Debbie any secret: she is a squealer.
IN PORTUGUESE: dedo duro, X9
source: thefreedictionary.com

segunda-feira, 27 de agosto de 2012


Today I invite you to reflect on how you see your teaching practice. In order to help you, there are four questions below:

1) What are the three things you do to help your students learn?
2) How do you know this things help?
3) Where do you get evidence of what helps students learn?
4) Now, choose the sentence  that is most appropriated regarding your teaching experience:
(   ) The teacher will teach therefore students will learn.
(   ) The teacher will teach so that students can learn.

My point today is to make you reflect whether your teaching style favors a therapeutic or a diagnostic approach. A therapeutic practice will heal, repair and fix while a diagnostic one will look for problems, assess and investigate. Most teachers tend to favor the therapeutic one because they just focus on the “right here right now” because they claim there is little time to anticipate situations for teachers have very stressful and busy routines. I can see this teachers’ point of view but I do believe we can work more focused on a diagnostic practice if we allot time for planning and reflection. Teachers who see the teacher’s job as teaching and the teacher as knower will find a hard time to shift the way they teach. On the other hand, teachers who see the teacher’s job as learning as well and the teacher as acknowledger will see teaching as a very magical moment, where we can make a difference in someone’s future. What about you? How do you perceive your teaching practice, let’s reflect upon it?

segunda-feira, 13 de agosto de 2012

Are you a highly efficacious teacher?

Probably, you have already asked yourself this question a couple of times but do you know how to evaluate how eficacious you are? I list below  some attitudes and characteristcs a highly eficacious teacher has:

  1)   Efficacious teachers will put forth a high degree of effort in order to meet their commitments.
  2)   Efficacious teachers attribute failure to things which are in their control, rather than blaming external factors.
3)   Efficacious teachers also recover quickly from setbacks, and ultimately are likely to achieve their personal goals.
4)   Efficatious teachers enjoy and learn by observing a peer succeed at a task because they know  it can strengthen their beliefs in their abilities.
5)   Efficacious teachers know a positive mood can boost one's beliefs in self-efficacy, while anxiety can undermine it and they strive for it on a daily basis. A certain level of emotional stimulation can create an energizing feeling that can contribute to strong performances.

Well, if you answered NO for any of the statements above it does not mean you are not a good teacher. My point in this post is  showing that schools and companies, by and large, have just a 10% of efficacious employees. 70% are efficient staff, in other words, teachers that meet deadlines, follow prodecures and techniques but rarely will they venture to go forth. (Welch) I strive to be part of this 10% share.What about you?

Furthermore, it is important to point out that teachers with a high sense of efficacy about their teaching capabilities may have an easier time motivating their students and enhancing their cognitive development. These teachers may also be able to rebound from setbacks and more willing to experiment with new ideas or techniques. Low efficacious teachers may rely more on a controlling teaching style and may be more critical of students. (Woolfolk Hoy, 2003 and Bandura)

"Schools in which staff members collectively judge themselves capable of promoting academic success imbue their schools with a positive atmosphere for development that promotes academic attainments regardless of whether they serve predominantly advantaged or disadvantaged students. “ ( Bandura)

quarta-feira, 8 de agosto de 2012

Olympic Games: exploring the pronunciation of Sports Score

It is a sure thing sports is a topic students are generally fond of talking but something I have felt is that when it comes to talk about sport score they usually have a hard time. Reflecting upon it, I came up with an activity aimed at teaching the right way to pronounce sport scores and I think there is no better time to explore it as Olympic Games are on!!!

Split the students in groups of 3 or 4.
Give each group a small piece of paper with some sports scores. Sample Sentences: 1)The score was 2-0. 2) The score was tied 6-6 3)The score was 3-2.
Now students are supposed to record on their cell phones the way they think the score should be pronounced. After, when all the students are done with the voice recording, they play it for the whole group. Then the teacher can go to the site http://www.englishteachermelanie.com/pronunciation-how-to-say-different-numbers-in-english-video/ so that they can compare to their answers or the teacher himself can teach them the right way.

quarta-feira, 18 de julho de 2012

Mobile phones as pedagogical tools: a taboo or a trend?

Reviewing research projects on the pedagogical use of technology and  mobile learning, Göth (2009) argues that mobile devices distract rather than support students to reach their learning goals.  On the other hand, other researchers approach this problem in from an interaction design perspective.  (Eliasson, 2010). They argue that the right use of technology as a pedagogical tool would foster lifelong learning as a means of providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world. As educators we know that it is not feasible to equip learners at school with all the knowledge and skills they need to prosper throughout their lifetimes. Therefore students will need continually to enhance their knowledge and skills, in order to address immediate problems and to participate in a process of continuing vocational and professional development. The new educational imperative is to empower people to manage their own learning in a variety of contexts throughout their lifetime (Bentley, 1998). Educators have to see mobile learning and personal technology in a positive light because it may create a variety of educational possibilities although, it is crucial teachers be aware of what to consider when designing learning activities for these cutting edge tools. Thinking of it, I propose below some classroom activities that were the outcome of my reflection! Have a try!

1)   Cell phone dictation: this is a simple variation from the traditional dictation. Instead of using paper, students would write the words as text messages. It could be also done as competition: the teacher dictates a word and the first one to type it correctly scores a point.
2)   Numbers dictation: the teacher asks all students to write their cell phone numbers on a piece of paper. When they are done, all the pieces are put in a box. The teacher raffles a numbers and reads it aloud. Students are supposed to call this number. One of the cell phone is going to ring and the number on the income call is the winner. Important: students are not supposed to answer the calls!!!
3)   Calculations dictations: the teacher dictates a calculation and the first student to say aloud the right result scores a point.
4)   Pronunciation Challenge: the teacher may select a list of words that are frequently mispronounced. Students are supposed to get in groups and record on their cell phone the way they think the words are pronounced. After, when all the groups are done with the voice recording the teachers goes to freedictinary.com or any other online dictionary and play the right way to pronounce. They play their recordings and compare to the right ones.
5)   Adjective pics contest: students are split into groups and they are given a list of adjectives (eg furious, lazy, smart, stubborn, kind, sleepy…) then they are supposed to take pictures showing these adjectives. After all the pictures were taken, students from other groups or even teachers are invited to vote for the ones they like the most.

quinta-feira, 28 de junho de 2012

A look at traditional review and Note-taking vs. Mindmaps!!

Observing students in class writing down the new vocabulary that comes up, more often than not, a student will write down the new word with the translation in his own language next to it. Of course, writing things down is necessary if you want to review later. But at the end of one lesson, the student has a couple of pages of new words that are completely at random – apple, happy, gun, gloat, keyboard, violet, etc. Impossible to retain a list of words like this. Even if you tried to memorise them, the fact that they are irrelevant to each other makes it difficult to remember them. So, what can we do as educators? My answer is: A LOT.
Stimulating students to use mind maps to make "vocabulary networks" is a better way to help them retain new vocabulary items. This involves writing a single word, your theme, in the centre of the page and linking words that go with it. Let's take "theft" as an example. Draw a line from the word "theft" to a new bubble with a description in it - "Theft from a bank" - then write the word "robbery" next to it. Then the word for the person, "robber", the verb, "to rob".

You can continue to fill the page with "shoplifting", "mugging", "pick pocketing", "burglary", etc, noting all the related words you can think of. Use a dictionary to find the words in the language you are studying. Now you have a page of words that are relevant to each other, thus making them easier to recall when you are talking in your new language. Mind-maps are even more effective if you add little drawings and lots of colour - your brain likes to be entertained!

A very nice tool to get your students started is available at
www.text2mindmap.com. This site is a web application that converts text to mind map. You simple input your list of keywords and Text to Mind Map (Text2MindMap) will draw a mind map for you.

Have a try! I highly recommend using it for review classes before final tests!

Source: eslbase.com

segunda-feira, 4 de junho de 2012

THE RING GAME! Let’s play!

Objectives of the Game: Catch the person with the ring. This game can be used to practice or review vocabulary or grammar. If the teacher wants a more controlled practice he may prepare some questions in advance. If he wishes to use for warm-up or wrap-up than the students’ production can be free.
Items Needed:
1 ring, any kind.
Pick one person to be "it" and everyone else makes a circle around the person. The "it" person closes their eyes while they count to 10. The others pass the ring to the student beside him, hiding it in their hands, and the "it" person, after counting, opens their eyes and tries to guess who has the ring. It the “it” person guesses who is holding the ring, he chooses the next person to be “it”. If the student doesn’t guess he has to answer a question or perform a simple task like: say a word you learned from today’s lesson. Then the person who was actually holding the ring will be “it”. I love playing this game as wrap-up but it can be easily adapted to any other moment of the lesson. Hope you have lots of fun with your students!

segunda-feira, 28 de maio de 2012

Gap-filling exercises – new ways to use them in class!

Do you find gap-filling a useful activity? For sure it is! Gap-fills are an excellent way to reinforce vocabulary, and allow the student to encounter the vocabulary in a variety of contexts. The exercises can be worked on individually or in pairs in class, or can be assigned as homework to be quickly reviewed in class the next day.
But…what about giving it some high-tech spice and a personalized touch? Check these cool activities fostering vocabulary teaching, interaction and at the same time promoting learner’s autonomy!

1)   At learnquick.com it is possible to create cloze exercises and tests very quick. This way students can create their own exercises and exchange with the other classmates. A nice activity would be having students transcribing their own essays or any piece of writing activity into a gap-fill. A challenging variation I like the most is a gap-fill exercise in which the words which are gapped are presented in their root form. In this way, students have to choose the correct word from the contexts given, and supply the appropriate form of the word, such as a different derivation or different tense.
2)   Gap-fill exercises can be presented as crossword puzzles. Rather than presenting dictionary definitions as clues, use gap-fill sentences in context. An excellent crossword puzzle program is available free of charge from eclipsecrossword.com. The program allows you to make a crossword puzzle within minutes. All you have to do is type in the answer and the sentence clue, and the computer will generate the best configuration to fit all the words into the puzzle. To make it more interactive, this activity can be done  as a race between groups.
3)   At classtools.net teachers can create a variety of vocabulary gap-filling exercises. The basic program is available free of charge. Go to http://classtools.net/widgets/quiz_6/lYggq.htm and give it a try! This WordShoot game is very cool!

quarta-feira, 23 de maio de 2012

My after-class reflection guide

Every time I left a classroom after a lesson I tried to think of what it had been like, whether students were happy and willing to come back and more importantly, if they actually had a clear perception of learning. It was really hard to do it though, because I would underlie my assumptions on my impressions and it may be tricky, because we all know that judgements are only real if they are based on facts. Thinking of that, I list below some questions which aim at helping teachers make a reflection of their lessons based on facts, rather than impressions…

1)   Did the warm-up set the mood for the lesson?
2)   Were the transitions between activities smooth?
3)   Were students engaged in the activities?
4)   Have I addressed to all students in the classroom?
5)   Was tha time allotted for each activity good enough?
6)   Was my TTT appropriate? (warning: more than 30% is tricky!)
7)   Were the activities student-centered and varied? (focused on both practice and production)
8)   Were the classroom settings varied and facilitated interaction? (at leat 3 variations e.g pairwork, groupwork, individual work…)
9)   Was the time for wrap-up long enough to make the accountability of the lesson and check student’s satisfaction?
10)       Were the classroom management techniques used appropriate for the situations in the classroom?

quinta-feira, 17 de maio de 2012

Vocabulary hint # 20

TO MAKE TRACKS Meaning: to leave somewhere, usually to go home For example: It's getting a bit late. I think it's time to make tracks. In Portuguese: Está ficando tarde. Eu acho que está na hora de tomar rumo! From: englishclub.com

quarta-feira, 9 de maio de 2012

Have you ever considered Attention Blindness in your classroom?

Before starting talking about attention and the possible implications for the classroom I invite you to take two quick tests. Look carefully at the picture below.

Did you manage to find the solution? How long did it take you to get the answer? Now, go to the next one...

Were you able to see something different before getting to the end of the text? Probably not. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with it but you are probably wondering by now what these two tests have to do with education and my answer is EVERYTHING.
That’s precisely what Davidson illustrates in her book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn — a fascinating meditation on how “attention blindness,” the peculiar phenomenon illustrated by Harvard’s famous invisible gorilla experiment (the video is available on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pK0BQ9CUHk&feature=fvst). The author points out that as long as we focus on the object we know, we will miss the new one we need to see.  She examines the nature and evolution of attention, noting that the educational system is driven by very rigid expectations of what “attention” is and how it reflects “intelligence”. Yet neuroscience is increasingly indicating that our minds pay attention in a myriad different ways, often non-linear and simultaneous, which means that the academy and the workplace will have to evolve in parallel and transcend the 20th-century linear assembly-line model for eduction and work. For that,   the process of unlearning in order to relearn demands a new concept of knowledge not as thing but as a process, not as a noun but as a verb.”
What about you fellow teacher? How are you dealing with students who can't take their eyes off their cells, or keeping texting other people while you are striving to keep them engaged in class. My feeling is that just saying cells phones are not allowed is not enough. We have have to go beyond and show them how our brain works. So, what about inviting them to take the quiz I suggested above and explaining the  implications why cell phones or other tech gadgets are not welcome. This way you will be showing your students that your main concern is not to control their cells and what really matters for is to set up the right environment so that learning can actually take place!

For further information about this fascinating topic visit natgeo site:( http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/brain-games/pay-attention-facts/)

quarta-feira, 2 de maio de 2012

The BaLL technique: Engaging students during Presentation moment

Whenever a teacher has to present a new content there will be two challenges: having students engaged and participating and avoiding too much TTT (Teacher Talking Time). This technique which I call the ball technique proved to be very efficient in order to face these challenges and it is quite simple! While you are explaining a new topic you should hold a small ball in your hands. All of a sudden you throw the ball at a student and ask him a question related to the topic you have been explaining. The student should answer the question and pass you the ball back. If the answer is right you take the ball and if the answer is wrong you throw the ball at another student who will try to answer the same question. You may use this technique as many times as you wish but I suggest 3 times. Students will surely be more engaged and will participate more and as a result, your TTT will be reduced. This technique can be used for all kinds of classroom settings and all levels. Have a try!

segunda-feira, 9 de abril de 2012

Let's go green! Getting started to celebrate Earth Day!

Earth Day is a day early each year on which events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth's natural environment. Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year. In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22 International Mother Earth Day.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day)

Check this list of selected activities and lessonplans to go green with your students:

OR have your students finding out how knowledgeable they are about Earth Day and the environment with these quizzes: