Blog Archives

Dexter’s Routine. Video Lesson Plan

Are you a fan of Dexter series? Is it worth watching? I’ve never seen it. However, I’ve found two videos on You Tube that are just perfect for an activity revising present simple for routines. First, let’s watch the videos, and start racking your brains to see what we can do with them…

The first thing that got to my mind when I watched them was: collaborative viewing. I’m sure you all know this activity, but it’s sometimes good to revisit old activities. I thought that students could work in pairs. One is watching the first video, and the other one is with his back to the screen. The first one has to retell what’s going on in the video, while the other one takes down notes. The objective would be to write Dexter’s morning routine. Then, they exchange roles to watch the second video. This time they would write the girl’s night routine.

This was the first idea that came to my mind. However, I believe there are plenty more things we can do with these two videos, since they are so visual. Why not sharing your ideas? We’d all be very grateful…


Reform Symposium 3: Dogme with young learners and beginners…are you nuts?

In a few days, nearly 8000 educators from over 40 different countries are expected to attend a free 3 day virtual conference, The Reform Symposium, #RSCON3. This free award-nominated e-conference is going to take place on July 29-31st, 2011. Participants can attend this online conference from the comfort of their homes or anywhere that has Internet access. This amazing conference provides educators new or currently active on social networks the opportunity to connect with educators and professionals in the field of education worldwide. With over 12 Keynotes, 80 presenters, and 3 keynote panel discussions you are bound to be inspired!

I am very proud to count myself among the 80 presenters and I would like to invite you all to attend my session. It is really important for me to receive your support… I would appreciate if you can invite the people you know to attend and spread the word…
Here you can have a preview of what my presentation will be about… Hope you like it…

We would like to thank the incredible organizers- Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkely, Chris Rogers, Lisa Dabbs, Melissa Tran, Clive Elsmore, Mark Barnes, Ian Chia, Cecilia Lemos, Jerry Blumengarten, and Kyle Pace- and Steve Hargadon of Classroom 2.0 and The Future of Education online communities for making this incredible conference possible.
We hope you can join us for this incredible professional development experience!

Literature in the Classroom: Photostories

You may all know by now that since last year, I’ve been trying to incorporate literature in my classroom. Last year I worked with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (you can see some activities related to it here and here). This year I started a project called “Myths, Legends and Folktales from Around the World”. I have started a wiki for the project here.

In both cases, I thought that a good way of checking understanding and having fun at the same time was by creating photostories. At first, I thought of using voicethread, and I even wrote a tutorial to explain my students how to use it. However, as soon as I started explaining them what we were going to do, one of my students said “Why don’t we just use powerpoint instead?”. He really had a point there. He made me realise that sometimes the simpler, the better. If they already know how to use powerpoint, why not just let them use that programme, and forget about spending a lot of time trying to teach them how to use another application that would serve the same purpose.

Another lesson they taught me on that day, is that whenever we want our students to start doing something totally new for them, we have to allow them some time to toy around, to get acquainted with the idea, to get the point of what they are expected to do. The first time I asked them to create a photostory, they spent ages to create just the first slide. You can imagine I was walking up the walls. However, the next class they all managed to finish the other 5 slides in just one hour. We, teachers, have to relax sometimes, lots of things are going on inside our students minds that we can’t even imagine.

My two experiences with photostories were very rewarding. The students final productions were great. Here you can see the ones about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and here the ones about an Asian folktale called Who Will Marry Mousie? Hope you like them.

First Class: All About Them Lesson Plan

Classes have finally started here in Argentina. First classes are always difficult to plan for me, because I believe that the focus should be on getting to know each other in a fun and interesting way. I’m always short of  ideas, and for one reason or another I don’t want to do the same I did the previous year with my new classes. However, this year, I’m very happy with how everything turned out (hopefully next year I will still be as glad as I am today with the results and will be eager to repeat the experience).

I started the classes with a very simple activity; an activity I bet you have done several times: throwing a ball and asking the one who has caught it to tell us their name. This time, however, I gave it a little twist. The person who had the ball was asked to introduce the person sitting next to them. They had to talk about the things they like, don’t like, personality, and whatever came to their mind. This was a great warm up and preparation for the last  activity I was planning to do on that day.

Then, as they didn’t know me. I prepared an anagram with my name and words related to me in some way. I gave them a clue and they had to guess the word. For example, the first word is my favourite sport (SWIMMING). Once they guessed the word, I gave them some details about the topic to make it more fun. For example, in fact, it is not that it is my favourite sport, I hate sports, and that’s the only one I can at least do (LOL). Here, you can see my anagram. CHALLENGE: Would you like to guess in what way the other words relate to me?


Finally, I asked them to create crosswords about them in small groups. The words that would form the crosswords would be their names. They had to create the crosswords and write the references. At the end of the class, we exchanged the crosswords and they had to solve them. It was great fun, student centered, students created content, by them and about them, and I managed to make them write without complaining in the first class. Proud with the results, here you can see some of them (the photos quality is not very good, sorry):

If you want some more ideas for your first week classes, have a look at this post.

My Attempt at Drama in the Classroom.

Back in Buenos Aires, after a relaxing and exciting month in Bella Colombia. Have just arrived and realised that the blogosphere has been all the rage about using drama in the classroom. I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant and afraid of using it in my own classes. However, after attending @shellterrell’s workshop on the topic, I decided to give it a try.Here then, is my humble contribution to the debate. My first attempt at it.

Drama masks

Last year, with my 5th grade students, we read The Adventures of  Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. We read one chapter per class, and every day we did different activities. You can see one of them related to collaborative drawing in the classroom here.

Another day I decided to give drama a try. The original activity I had planned was a bit dull and simple. Students were supposed to listen to the corresponding book chapter, and after that, create a dialogue about that part of the story and come to the front to perform it. However, the day before, I had attended Shelly’s workshop on drama, and while I was driving to school ( I have to admit that this is the time when I come up with the most brilliant ideas!) I had one of those wonderful light bulb moments… (I know I haven’t invented the wheel, but I managed to make my activity better and much more fun)

A light bulb moment

I’m sure you are all waiting for my revolutionary idea. Pretty simple to tell you the truth. First, I asked my students to brainstorm feelings and moods. I wrote them on the blackboard. They came up with things such as happy, sad, excited, nervous, afraid, and so on and so forth. After that, I read the chapter to them and they had to write a dialogue based on it to perform in front of the class. The difference from the original activity being that they had to choose a feeling and perform it showing that feeling. The other groups had to guess what the feeling was. It was great fun and it brought tons of laughter to the classroom. It was great, because it provided the students who were acting as the audience, with a real purpose for listening to their peers. Not just listening for the sake of listening.

If you are interested in the use of drama in the classroom, Shelly has made a thorough post with lots of resources and ideas here , and @davedodgson has written an inspirational post with plenty of activities to use with YLs here. Thanks to both of them for having motivated me to incorporate drama in my own lessons and for having taught me so many things!

I would love to learn other ways of using drama, so I would appreciate you sharing your own techniques, activities or resources about the topic. Let’s keep on learning collaborately.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival

I am very pleased to be the host of this month carnival, as I’d love to introduce you to all these wonderful educators who are willing to share their thoughts and ideas.  But  especially, because I have been able to introduce the carnival to many members of my PLN, who are sending their contributions for the first time. As you’ve read in the title in this carnival you are going to find the answer to many:

  1. How can we focus on form in the techno age? If you are a dogmeist and you are always wondering how to focus on form in the techno age, @kalinagoenglish has got the answer: USE GOOGLE DOCS!
  2. What are the best resources, articles and blogs for teachers of ELL? If you are an ELL teacher who is  generally reading blogs, online articles, following teachers on Twitter, and you always end up asking yourself: “Have I missed something important?”, @Larryferlazzo provides you with a list of the bests of 2010.
  3. How can we revise spelling in the classroom? If you are sick and tired of practicing spelling in your classes, add to it a fun element with these games created by @crystalannie.  You may also use  Johanna Stirling’s templates, the spelling queen as she was called in one of her blog post comments.
  4. How can we learn vocabulary? If what you need is to learn vocabulary, @teacherdominic gives you 10 easy tips to follow (espeacially if you are preparing for IELTS)
  5. How can we teach conditionals in a contextualised way? Conditionals is a tough grammar point to teach, and even more to teach it in a contextualised way. We all love football, so @harrisonmike‘s lesson plan is the perfect answer to this question.
  6. What does sustained teacher training for ELLs look like? Mary Ann Zehr shares with us an experience that took place in Austin, Texas.
  7. How can we use Web 2.0 in the ELD classroom? Once more Larry Ferlazzo and Alice Mercer provides us with tonnes of useful links.
  8. How can we incorporate music and songs in ELT? Teacher Greg has made a thorough list of ideas, resources, activities, and many more…
  9. How can we teach unplugged with a student interaction whiteboard? Sounds contradictory? @ShellTerrell has got the answer in response to @englishraven’s challenge. (We do hope Jason hasn’t killed her for this mix =) )
  10. Can we make manufactured teachable moments? The answer according to @ddeubel is YES and he explains us HOW.
  11. How can we use wordle in the classroom? @aClilToClimb has shared in his blog all the tricks for using wordle and lots of ideas for using it in the classroom.
  12. How can we embrace visual enhancements in instruction? Flickr is a great aid according to @jenverschoor, who suggests lots of ways of using it in the classroom in her blog post.
  13. How can we break down the classrom walls and bring the real world into our classrooms?@gret tells us about her experience with the good news blog that has made her students feel thrilled about learning English.  And @christina_mark shares with us here her C2 level students online conversation with Mr. B. M., Assistant Professor of American Literature of the English Department (Faculty of Humanities in Serbia) and his Second Year students in a kind of e-classroom (Webinar) Branko created to foster this event over Adobe Connect Pro. Stephan Hughes has shared some posts done by his students in their blogs. In the first one, Maria Cecilia tells us about Cyprus. In the second one, Gustavo introduces us to Manuel Francisco Dos Santos.
  14. What can we do  to encourage and support multilingualism both in the classroom and at home?@elltoolbox may not have the answer to this question, though he has for sure the courage to ask it and make us reflect about the issue.
  15. How can we use dictogloss in the classroom?@DaveDodgson gives us instructions on how to apply it with young learners and @cerirhiannon explains why she likes them so much and how to use them with adult learners here.
  16. How much importance should we give to the teaching of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation at different levels? You may be wondering what I am aiming at with this question… wonder no more and read @hoprea‘s post where you will find food for thought on this topic.
  17. Can NNESTs do dogme in their classes? Quite a controversial topic taken by a NNEST @cecilialcoelho

Bonus track: We all know about the importance of being a reflective teacher, so here goes a contribution by @evab2001 a wondeful teacher, who following @englishraven’s challenge (seems that his challenges are quite popular around the blogosphere) has given a name to her approach to teaching. Hers is called C-elt. What about yours?

Reminder! The next carnival will be hosted by Alice Mercer on  February 1st, so don’t forget to send your contributions here . Let @larryferlazzo know if you are interested in hosting future carnivals.

The importance of reflection!

I have just read a post by Pat Hensley : Dark Clouds or Sun? and it has triggered a chain of thought in my mind. I definitely agree with Pat, light and dark live together inside everyone. We are human beings and therefore, we are full of contradictions inside ourselves. For that reason, it is extremely necessary to reflect upon whatever we do, to realise when we are turning into dark clouds so that, we can go back to the right path and shine again.  This reminded me  of a situation I’ve had with my teenage students, in which I believe I have been able to become a sun again, and make them reflect about their role as students.

What are you? (I love this photo. I took it in my last holidays in Tucuman, Argentina)

On Friday, my teenage students were reluctant to work. I have the last two hours on a Friday, so I generally find it quite difficult to make them do some serious task. For that reason, on that day we generally work on movies, games or some light speaking activity. However, last week, apparently I was a bit lost in time and I brought a reading activity (quite difficult I must admit!). My students spent like 15 minutes trying to convince me not to do anything on that day. We finally agreed that when we finished the reading activity, we would play a game. They spent a lot of time doing just nothing and wasting their time. I was starting to get a bit angry (just a bit!) and I had no better idea than to ask them to hand in an assigment that was due on that day. And guess what? Only one student had completed it! You can imagine that I really got on my nerves. I told them off and I was very surprised at their reaction. They just did nothing! They were there staring at me in silence! They said absolutely nothing!  I found it really strange and I told them that as they didn’t want to do anything, we wouldn’t do anything. I thought that they would start talking and enjoying their free time. I was wrong. They continued looking at me in  silence. I started feeling unconfortable, but I wanted to wait for their reactions. When the bell rang, I asked them why they had reacted in that way, and they told me: “Because you are right. Everything you’ve told us is true.” Why hadn’t they told me that before? I imagine that they are too used to being told what to do, so when they are encountered with a problem, they just can’t react.  I left school with a strange feeling. I knew that I had to do something about it, but what? While I was reading some blogs, I found a great solution (thanks @english raven). I was going to use this activity to make them reflect on the importance of occupying spaces and voicing their opinions.

The following class (on Monday), all my students entered the classroom. I greeted them, and I passed a piece of chalk to one of them. He looked at me wondering what he was supposed to do. I said nothing and pointed at the blackboard. He got the hint and wrote: “I’m Gino and I’m 14 years old”. Good start! Then, I asked him to pass the chalk to another student. One by one they came to the blackboard and wrote something. Some of them wrote interesting sentences, some of them wrote just a word and some even wrote funny things. They even had the cheek to make a joke about me (which I loved, but don’t tell them!). Finally, something similar to what happened to Jason here happened to me. One of my students didn’t want to participate. I grabbed at this opportunity. It was perfect for letting me show them what I wanted to teach them. I took the chalk myself and wrote: “Today we’ll have lots of homework.” The students started complaining of course, and I laughed a bit. I was having great fun. ( Of course, I was not planning to give them lots of homework, I’m not that evil) I started asking questions about what they had written and we had a nice conversation. I taught them some new vocabulary and grammar based on what we were talking about. And when we got to my sentence, I asked them some questions for them to reflect on what had just occured:

  • Why do you think we did this activity?
  • What happened when Marila didn’t want to write on the blackboard?
  • Can you make any connections to what happened here on Friday?

They concluded that it is very important to occupy spaces when they are offered to us, because if not, they are occupied by somebody else (in this case the evil teacher that was going to give them lots of homework). We talked about the importance of expressing our opinions, of apologising when we’ve done something wrong, of talking about our feelings and expressing our anger at the moment in which things happen, and most important of all, of being responsible for our learning.

I think that my students have learnt a lot from this lesson. They have acquired skills that will serve them for life. The ability to reflect is one of the most important abilities we should develop at school. School is not about transmitting information anymore. As David said in his post, information can be found online. Maybe, we should start teaching/guiding our students on how to access that information, how to become better learners and better citizens, what to do with all the information we have in our hands, how to be critical with what we read, how to create their own content online, how to learn collaboratelly, and so on and so forth. To sum up, how to become autonomous learners. As David said:

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.
– Thomas Carruthers

Dogme with Young Learners

I’m writing this post in response to @kalinagoenglish challenge presented in her blog. You can read my answer to the previous challenge here.

Been thinking quite a lot about dogme recently, and it has just struck me that I am applying it in my young learners classes without even having noticed it. The quotation with which Karenne has opened this new challenge is:

The teacher’s primary function,

apart from promoting the kind of classroom dynamic

conducive to a dialogic and emergent pedagogy

is to optimize language learning affordances,

by directing attention to features of the emergent language;

learning can be mediated through talk,

especially talk that is shaped and supported

(i.e. scaffolded) by the teacher.

According to Wikipedia “Scaffolding Theory was first introduced in the late 1950s by Jerome Bruner. He used the term to describe young children’s oral language acquisition . Helped by their parents when they first start learning to speak, young children are provided with instinctive structures to learn a language… Scaffolding represents the helpful interactions between adult and child that enable the child to do something beyond his or her independent efforts. A scaffold is a temporary framework that is put up for support and access to meaning and taken away as needed when the child secures control of success with a task. “

With my second grade students (they are between 7 and 8 years old), we always start the class with a set routine. It consists of completing a calendar that we have hanging in our classroom with the date, month and weather; establishing who would be the teacher assistants on that day and finally, the dogme part, talking about their news and problems.

I devote quite a long time to this part of the lesson and my students love it. They all want to participate and tell the rest of the class about their news and problems. They talk about birthday parties, problems at home, their illnesses, their trips, or whatever comes to their mind. They sometimes even make up some stories and they retell them as if they have really happened to them. As they are not very proficient in English yet, they say whatever they can in English mixed with a bit of Spanish. They come up with something similar to: “Yesterday, I went to the park and played in “las hamacas” (“the swings”).

And this is the point that reminded me of Bruner’s experience.  There are some things that they don’t know or they don’t remember how to say in English. They need help, and it is provided by the teacher or by their peers. Sometimes,  I just  repeat what they have just said with the English word they need, and in general, they repeat it after me and incorporate it in their sentence without giving it too much thought. They are more concerned with the message they want to get across. There are some other times, in which they don’t remember a word we have previously seen in class, so they are helped by their partners or by the posters we have in the classroom. I believe that students are greatly helped by visual scaffolding.  As Stuart  Ewen said ‘… if you really want to move people, don’t use words, use images’.

I have been doing this for a long time, and I haven’t realised it was kind of a dogme class till last Monday 18th. The previous day had been Mother’s day here in Argentina and therefore, I asked my students to share with the class what they had given their mothers as a present. Most of them had given them clothes. As they had never seen clothes vocabulary before, I taught them the items of clothes as they needed to use them and made some drawings on the blackboard for them to remember. When we had already repeated T-shirt a thousand times (most of them had given a t-shirt to their mothers apparently!) one of my students said: “We have repeated this word so many times, that now I remember it!”. That was one of those magical moments for a teacher! Learning was taking place now and there!  I’m sure they will never forget that v0cabulary as they will always associate it with Mother’s Day!

Fear of the unknown!

I’m writing this post in response to @kalinagoenglish challenge presented in her blog. You can read my answer to the first challenge here.

As I have mentioned in my previous post we should always have our learners in mind when we deliver our classes (even if we are using a coursebook).  Our students’ concerns, interests, desires and needs should always be taken into account. We should avoid feeding our students with units of grammar and vocabulary without considering their own learning needs and styles. Up to here everything seems fine and possible, because we are talking about the teacher’s role… But when it comes to the learners’ role, things become a bit more complicated…

Learners should have a very active role in our classrooms. They are meant to take ownership of their learning and share responsibility for what is being taught in the lesson. Language should emerge as a result of the interaction between the learners and the teacher in the classroom. As Karenne said in the quote that appears in her blog:

“If learners are supplied with optimal conditions for language use,
and are motivated to take advantage of these opportunities, their inherent learning capacities will be activated, and language – rather than being acquired – will emerge.”

It would be ideal to create a classroom atmosphere in which students are motivated to take control of their learning and be ready to interact in the classroom so that L2 emerges naturally, without the necessity to force its appearance. However, I believe that  for this to happen, students should be intrisically  motivated to participate. A lot of work is expected from them. So, what happens if they are not willing to take such a huge responsibility?  For example, those  students  who come to our classes because they have to, and not because they want to…  Will they be motivated to take such an active role? Will they be able to let language “emerge”? Are all students willing to have such an active role?

I have come across some students that expect and demand their teachers to use a more traditional approach. They like their teachers to be the ones who posssess the knowledge. Maybe, it makes them feel secure and it is easier and less demanding for them. They are used to working with language as an external subject distanced from themselves and they don’t want to change.  They are not used to student-centred lessons, and expect the teacher to provide them with ready-made “grammar/lexis McNuggets”. Too much student autonomy makes them feel uncomfortable and left uncared for by the teacher. How can we overcome these students’ antipathy for dogme? Should we overcome it  or should we respect their preferable  “way of learning”? Is it real that they prefer to learn like this or is it just fear of the unknown? I guess, we’ll never find the right answer to this.

Nineteenth Edition Of The ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival Is Up!

As Larry Ferlazzo has already announced in his blog, the new edition of the ESL / EFL/ ELL carnival is already online. This time it was hosted by Ms. Flecha (if you haven’t taken a look at her blog yet, this may be a great opportunity to start browsing it).

In this edition of the carnival you will find inspiring ideas from 20 teachers. I have known some of them but some others are new for me. Apparently, we’d never end finding interesting teachers to add to our PLN. There were so many contributions this time that they’ve had to be organised into different categories. Here goes a preview of the categories, if you want to know the content, you’ll have to go and visit Ms. Flecha:

  • A Conversation on Language
  • Dynamic Teaching…Games, Teaching Tools and Strategies
  • Classroom 2.0
  • Learning and Teaching with Eyes Wide Open (reflective teaching)
  • On the Job Front

Finally, I would like to say that I’m very honoured to have taken part in this edition of the carnival and especially to be hosting the next carnival. It will be published on December 1st and I’d love to receive contributions from all of you. You can contribute a post to it by using this easy submission form. If the form does not work for some reason, you can send the link to me via email. Looking forward to your posts.


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