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

terça-feira, 17 de junho de 2014

Quizzes in EFL: personalizing and making learning meaningful

Quizzes and trivia games can make a nice change from more typical EFL style activities and it may give students who aren’t the best at English a chance to shine in another area. It can be the case that some of the least able English students are really good at general knowledge, so tasks using trivia can help to boost their confidence and increase their motivation levels. Needless to say that quizzes and trivia games also expand vocabulary in a meaninful context. The must of the moment are quizzes such as: which dessert are you, which city should you live in, among many others. I think students have a chance to personalize their learning when they take this type of quiz and, as a result, feel more engaged to the other activities you may bring to class. Have a try for warm-up or wrap-up moments or even as an activity to prepare your students for presentation of vocabulary or Grammar topic. I suggest below two sites with very interesting quizzes!

terça-feira, 10 de junho de 2014

Myths about learning English

In fact, this post is not only aimed at students learning English but to anyone learning a language. Throughout the years I have been teaching, students have asked many questions about how long it takes to master a language or simply communicate, which the best learning method is, which the best age to starting studying is .... and what I can see is that there are many myths regarding these questions. So, I share  some information about English learning based on tested and proved theory and practice!

Myth #1 The best way to learn a foreign language is to go to a foreign country.
Fact: While going to another country may seem like a sure-fire way to master a foreign language, it is not so. Without sufficient motivation, you will learn very little and are likely to end up speaking in an understandable way, but with lots of mistakes. Most immigrants in America don’t speak English very well, even after living there for 20 years. Many of them have been making the same basic mistakes for decades. They typically speak with strong accents, which enables others to instantly classify them as Asians, Latinos, Russians, etc. Being in a foreign country only forces you to learn what is necessary to survive — the ability to understand everyday language and just enough speaking skills to order pizza and communicate with your co-workers or co-students. The rest is up to you, your motivation and ability to learn — which means that you’re not much better off than someone who’s learning the language in his own country. All things considered, learning in your own country will be a safer (and cheaper) option than going abroad, assuming you can motivate yourself and can find opportunities to speak in the language you’re learning. After you’ve learned to speak the language fluently, you can go abroad to polish your listening skills and make your vocabulary a bit more native-like.

Myth #2 The best way to learn a foreign language is to speak it
Speaking is imitation. When you speak your native language, you don’t make up your own grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. You use the same grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation as people around you.Similarly, when trying to speak a foreign language, your goal is to imitate the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, so that your way of speaking is correct and natural. By contrast, it is important to point out that speaking practice does not develop your vocabulary or grammar. It helps improve your fluency (moves your knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation from your “slow memory” to your “quick memory” — however, first you must put something in your “slow memory” through input). At the same time, you should study the phonetics of the language, practice pronouncing its sounds, and learn the pronunciations of words. Sadly, the importance of input may be underestimated. Teachers may be mistaken if students are expected to speak in class almost from the first lesson, even though they have had almost no chance to absorb the grammar and vocabulary of English.

Myth #3 It is OK to make mistakes
The reasoning is that mistakes are a part of learning, therefore it is pointless to try to avoid them. But what teachers and learners must bear in mind is that making mistakes is not OK if your goal is to speak fluently and correctly.

Myth #4 As a beginner, you’re bound to make a lot of mistakes
While you cannot eliminate mistakes completely, you can speak and write with very few mistakes, even if you are a beginner. The trick is to put input before output. If you follow good examples (i.e. build your sentences out of correct phrases and patterns that you have read in books or heard from native speakers) you will be avoiding mistakes. If you are careful and patient enough, you can learn with very few mistakes and gradually acquire the ability to use more and more phrases until you can express anything you want in the foreign language correctly and fluently. But, don’t forget that making mistakes is part of the learning process and what you have to avoid is allowing mistakes hinder communication intellingibility.

Myth #5 You are a foreigner, therefore you will always have a foreign accent
The fact that most foreigners have a foreign accent does not mean that you have to be like them. Many comedians are able to perfectly imitate the speech of actors, politicians, etc. Renee Zellweger was able to do a perfect British accent in The Bridget Jones’s Diary, even though she is from the South of the United States.
You will need at least some talent for imitating sounds. To make your accent more native-like, you will need to learn about the Phonetis of the language. First, find a resource which has recordings of all the sounds of the language you’re learning (like the table with English sounds we have for English). Then, discover which sounds are used in which words by listening to the language and by reading phonetic transcriptions in dictionaries.Perhaps you will not be indistinguishable from a native in the end, but you are likely to achieve clear, pleasant pronunciation.

Myth #6 If you didn’t learn a foreign language as a child, you will never be fully proficient in its grammar
Lenneberg (1967) suggested that one’s first language must be acquired before puberty (about 12 years of age). After puberty, he claimed, neurological changes in the brain make it impossible to fully learn a language. To support his hypothesis, Lenneberg pointed to examples of children who were kept in isolation from others and had no contact with their first language until after puberty. Such children kept making basic grammar mistakes, no matter how long they tried to learn the language. But the fact is that grammar proficiency has more to do with how much input you get than how early you begin learning. The age factor is more relevant for pronunciation and listening skills.

Myth #7 Studying pronunciation is not important
Many language learners assume their pronunciation is good enough because their teacher doesn’t correct them too often or because other students can understand them. Those learners are often dead wrong — for two reasons:

Most teachers ignore all but the biggest pronunciation mistakes of their students. Normally, they just let their students speak and interrupt them only if they just said something completely unintelligible because their focus tend to be more in fluency rather than in accuracy. As a result, pronunciation is the most neglected subject in language learning. If you’re from Brazil and other students in your class are from Brazil, too, it will be easy for them to understand you, no matter how strong your Brazilian accent is.

What if you’re sure you can make yourself understood in a foreign language? Do you have any reason at all to study pronunciation? Yes, because your pronunciation may still be quite far from that of a native speaker. If this is the case, other people will have to make an effort to understand what you’re saying, and will not be comfortable with you. A related problem is that if your pronunciation is “unnative”, other people may unconsciously assume you’re slow and treat you in a condescending way — for example, talk to you more slowly and loudly, as if something were wrong with your comprehension. In conclusion, don’t think you can communicate in a foreign language until you’ve tested your skills on real native speakers (native speakers who are not your teachers). If you’re sure your accent is understandable, aim for native or near-native pronunciation, so that people you talk to can have a smooth experience interacting with you. In order to achieve these goals, there’s no doubt you will need to start thinking about pronunciation and spend time on it.

quinta-feira, 5 de junho de 2014

The soccer show is about to start! Cool activities for World Cup!

What if you have your students trying this cool warm-up so that they get more acquainted with the show time that is on the verge of starting!!!

WARM-UP: Soccer traffic jam!
Each player stands in a space in the playing area with a ball each. They
         must steer their ball/ balloon safely around the playing area  without
losing control. To make it more challenging the teacher can put some obstacles such as plastic cones or ropes.
Players have to follow instructions called out by coach, starting with:
Green - players dribble around area.
Red - players stop and put foot on the ball.
Amber - players touch ball between insteps of both feet without moving.
Turn - steer ball/balloon to move in a different direction.
 Whilst in green, teacher can also introduce the dribbling mode:
 1st gear - slow jog
 2nd gear - steady run
 3rd gear - quicker run
 4th gear - quick run


terça-feira, 3 de junho de 2014

It's World Cup Time!

Veja abaixo algumas gírias, comumente usadas em futebol, em inglês:

CABEÇA DE BAGRE; PERNA DE PAU: journeyman; journeyman player; huffer; puffer
PISAR NA BOLA: the ball got stuck under his feet; he tripped over the ball
PARADINHA: feinting
PEIXINHO: diving header
CAVADINHA: Panenka penalty; chipped penalty
ROLINHO, CANETA: to nutmeg; to do a nutmeg
DRIBLE DO ELÀSTICO, ELÀSTICO: flip-flap; flick-flack
MEIA LUA: penalty arc
FRANGO: howler; blunder; blooper (AmE)
PELADA: pickup game (AmE); kick-around (BrE)
CAMA DE GATO: leaning in
BOLA DIVIDIDA: fifty-fifty ball; loose ball
CHUTAR DE BICO: to toe-poke
CONTRAPÉ, PEGAR NO CONTRAPÉ: wrongfoot, to wrongfoot
CARRINHO: sliding tackle
GANDULA: ball boy; ball girl
ARTILHEIRO: top scorer

segunda-feira, 2 de junho de 2014

NO homework, NO materials, NO pencils...What should I do?

Well, this list of no’s may show your students are demotivated or they are simply taking no responsability for their own learning. Then, your next question may be: how can teachers help them embrace a more pro-active attitude towards learning a foreign language? The first step is to show them that their attitude will shape their results. Teachers need to help them build a sense of autonomy, which is, according to Brown (2007) one of the cognitive principles. Oe good way to achieve this sense of autonomy and responsability is making our students aware of the fact that homework helps students develop mental skills, concentration, organization, problem-solving strategies and independence. And why not share with them some data from scientifical research, so here it goes: “in looking at results across several studies, the average homework-completer had HIGHER unit tests scores than 73% of non-completers” (Cooper, 2006)

sexta-feira, 23 de maio de 2014

English language and Shakespeare...much more than to be or not to be

Did you know that...

1)   Shakespeare, in his plays, poems, and other writings, used 29,066 unique words. Most people today only use 7,500 to 10,000 unique words in their writing and speech.
2)   Shakespeare introduced nearly 3,000 words into the English language. In addition, Shakespeare's works, which were often quoted, became such commonplace that they helped set the standards for Modern English; prior to Shakespeare, English grammar and spelling had few standards. In addition, many of Shakespeare's expressions (such as "a foregone conclusion") are commonly used today.

3)   Shakespeare’s ability to formulate new, popular words and his ability to maintain an extensive vocabulary positively define him as a "man of words." For his phrases to stand the test of time, Shakespeare must have had a proficiency for the English language. So why not share this relevant information with your students and show how brilliant this genious was. Have a try!

sexta-feira, 7 de março de 2014

Are you following a linguistic syllabus or a life syllabus?

Due to the emerging trends in ELT, there has been several shifts of focus in syllabus design such as structural, situational, functional, task-based, among others. A number of ELT theorists have argued that all these approaches to syllabus design are set on the learners’ language skills and that they have neglected the basic purpose of education, i.e. “the betterment of individuals’ lives”. Thus, there is the surge of a new notion, so called “life syllabus”, as a means that can end the complication of linguistic syllabi by incorporating issues of concern of life into the linguistic syllabus in order to launch the learner as a whole person in the ring of practical life.

Now, the question is… how can I turn my linguistic syllabus into a life one? The key point to answer this question is given by adding 5 broad areas pertaining to emotional intelligence:
1)   Intrapersonal competency (emotional awareness, assertiveness, self-regard)
2)   Interpersonal competency ( relationships, social responsibility, empathy)
3)   Adaptability competency (problem-solving, reality testing and flexibility)
4)   Stress management (stress tolerance and impulse control)
5)   General mood (hapiness and optimism)

A good example of activity, including the topics mentioned above is like the one below… Have a check!

Please first take the following questions, and then while trying to find some ways to cope with
them, discuss your answers with your friends. Keep in mind you are expected to give reasons
for you answers.
1. The things which make me angry are….
2. The situations which make me nervous are…..
3. The situations which make me feel more anxious are….
4. The kinds of people who make me feel more agitated are….
5. The kinds of people who make me feel sad are…. 
6. When I feel under stress I try to….
7. The situations in which I cannot adapt myself are….
8. When I see people trowing litter on the street I feel…
9. When I need to concentrate for a task I usually….
10. When I need to relax I tend to…..
11. I feel very happy when…
12. When I can’t do something I want I …..

References: Pishghadan – Introducing ELT as a new approach in EFL/ ESL studies (2011)

quarta-feira, 12 de fevereiro de 2014

"The Hat" Awesome tool to group students!

Students learn best when they are actively engaged in the processing of information.  One way to involve students in active learning is to have them learn from each other in small groups or teams. Research shows that students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is taught, retain it longer than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats, and appear more satisfied with their classes (Davis 1993, Barkley, 2005). But then in practice, teachers are faced with difficulties in deciding who should work with whom and there is also the issue that sometimes students tend to like to work with just some of their classmates. This common dilemma has sparked a search for a solution which could be quick, random and if possible computer-based!! It sounds like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE but I managed to find a great tool for choosing students randomly! It’s called THE HAT and  you just have to download and install this free program on your computer. It is only available for PCs. For more info go to: http://www.lauracandler.com/strategies/smartboard.php

segunda-feira, 6 de janeiro de 2014

SELFIE - The Word of the Year 2013


The word of the year award celebrates the inventiveness of English speakers when confronted with social, political or technological change. To qualify, a word need not have been coined within the past 12 months, but it does need to have become prominent or notable in that time. And the award goes to… Selfie  the Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year! The use of this word increased by 17,000% in 2013 according to an Oxford survey.
 Check out a shortlist of other words which became more popular in 2013:
1.   Selfie is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website".
2.   Hashtag (on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.
3.    binge-watch, verb:
to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.
4.    bitcoin, noun:
a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank. Also, a unit of bitcoin.
5.    olinguito, noun:
a small furry mammal found in mountain forests in Colombia and Ecuador, the smallest member of the raccoon family.
6. schmeat, noun, informal:
a form of meat  produced synthetically from biological tissue.
7.    showrooming, noun:
the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price.
8.    twerk, verb:
dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.