Monthly Archives: November 2010

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.


Invisible Technology

I have already exploded the first myth in this post, and now I will try to explode myth nº 2: Dogme ELT = no technology?, as an answer to the Dogme Challenge Nº 7.

Again, as in my previous post I will continue writing from where my fellow bloggers have left. In this case, I really recommend you to read Mike’s and  David’s post. David concludes that:

“It’s not the tool, it’s how you use it.”

Technology at its best (specifically the internet) offers the chance to break down the classroom walls and bring the real world into our schools. At its worst, it leads to another pile of meaningless language practice activities. As teachers, it’s our job to ensure technology is used at its best to support the needs of our learners.
I totally agree with his statement. Technology allows us to open the classroom and let the real world in. It is a great source of authentic material: newspapers, videos, movies, cartoons, supermarket catalogues, you name it, the sky is the limit. You can find absolutely everything. Is there a better way of catering for students likes and needs?
However,  I believe that we have to use technology as a solution to a problem, and not just because we want to start using it in our classroom without a clear purpose. As Tyson answered me in this comment:

So many teachers I’ve seen use technology in class meaninglessly (ie. to kill time, impress students, feel obliged, etc). Really, the biggest factor contributing to this use is a lack of direction. It takes thought in order to determine how to best integrate the technology into lessons. Without this thought, its use comes off perhaps impressive at first go, but progressively as a weak attempt at being cool.Twitter (and many other sites) not created specifically for language learning offer functions that can facilitate our lessons with a little creative thinking.

That’s the key I believe: Creative Thinking. Using the tools we have at hand in a creative way to do things better than if we do them without technology. I think that Tyson’s use of Twitter is a perfect example of this. Relating to my own experience, last year I had a teen course that had lots of problems with writing. They were not really that interested in it. They would never hand in a composition, and I knew that writing is an important and necessary skill to develop. For that reason, I created a blog for them, in which they were going to be writing with the focus on communication and not on accuracy. Writing became meaningful for them, they had a real audience and most of them were motivated to take part and WRITE!
To sum up, as Ana Rossaro pointed in her blog technology should become invisible (The following picture is part of a power point presentation created and done by Ana Rossaro, I have just translated it into English. You can see the original version here) :

It all comes down to PASSION

The Dogme Blog Challenge Nº6 is out, and even though at the beginning I thought it was going to be rather controversial, up to now they have all got to the same conclusion.  In Cecilia’s words:

Being an effective teacher – whether in an unplugged setting or not – is not about being (or not) a NEST.

Henrick Oprea and Richard seem to agree with her, and me too of course. They have clarified perfectly well the differences between the NEST and NNEST and what each of them brings to the classroom. I am not going to go more deeply into this topic in order not to be repetitive.  To me, it doesn’t matter whether you are a NEST or a NNEST, what really matters is wether you are passionate or not about teaching. Here, you can see a graph of what the main elements that an EST, with or without N =), should have are:

Passion is the key element for happiness in life, and it is even more necessary if you are in the teaching field. If you are passionate about what you are doing, you wouldn’t mind getting up early in order to go to school (even if you are a night owl like me!), you would learn how to live on low salaries, you would do your job with a smile on your face (most of the time, at least, we are not walking clowns after all), and the most important of all, you would care for your leaners. You would listen to them and not just hear them as Ceci pointed out in this post. This is one of the Dogme premises: build your class catering for your students needs, interests, passions. How can you aim at this if you don’t pay attention to your students? You would also sympathise with their insecurities and problems, and therefore, know when to stand firm and when to apologise. You would really try hard to move your students beyond their comfort zone to challenge their confidence so they can become more confident.

Apart from that, passion is the motor that pushes you to become better. It encourages you to try harder in order to become a better educator (and not just an English teacher), to take risks and try new things. You wouldn’t be giving Dogme a try if you were afraid of risks.  I’m almost sure both NEST and NNEST find the idea of giving students more control and more class plans flexibility totally scary at the beginning.

Furthermore, Passionate educators are not afraid of  making mistakes, as they can learn a lot from them (the most useful inventions resulted from mistakes!). And most important of all, they have a good attitude towards students mistakes. Smart, self-motivated, hard-working, wide-awake students don’t need to be taught. They are the other ones that need always to be taken into account. Good teachers always reflect upon their teaching, and wonder especially, what they did wrong for those one or two students who are demotivated or at a loss in their class.

Finally, Passionate teachers are always busy, and this is not because of the amount of classes they have to teach. They prefer to be busy and know that the work of good teaching expands to fill every moment they can give it. When they are not writing in their blogs, they are planning classes, marking exams, interacting with their PLN, and so on and so forth (does it ring a bell?).

Let's explode the myth


Summing up, and trying to answer Karenne’s questions:

What do you think? Are Non Native English Speaking teachers disadvantaged?

Yes, they are.  But only because we humans beings tend to be prejudiced. Let’s explode the myth “that only native-speaker teachers can feel fully comfortable in this unplanned teaching mode”. Dogme teaching just requires a passionate teacher in front of the classroom. I have already described what are the traits that a passionate teacher has and how why they are necessary in a dogme class.  I really believe these characteristics can be found in both NEST and NNEST teachers. But Unfortunately, not in all of them

My Nominations for the Edublog Awards 2010

Here go my nominations for the Edublog Awards 2010. I would like to thank all these people for having taught me so many things, and especially for having inspired and motivated me.

Best individual blog : by Eduardo Peirano Online Sapiens
Best individual tweeter: by Karenne Sylvester @BloggersELT
Best new blog: by David Dodgson Reflections of a teacher and a learner and by Cecilia Coelho Box of Chocolates
Most influential blog post by Karenne Sylvester Dogme Blog Challenge 1 (I chose number 1 as a symbol, since I should have included all the different challenges. I believe this challenge has motivated lots of teachers to reflect upon their teaching, write about it, share their experiences and learn from each other)
Best teacher blog by Pat Hensley Succesful Teaching
Best School Administrator blog by David Truss Pair-a-dimes for your thoughts

Best resource sharing blog by Larry Ferlazzo Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of the Day
Best educational tech support blog by Shelly Terrel Teacher Bootcamp
Best educational use of audio by Sean Banville Breaking News English
Best educational use of video / visual by Claudio Azevedo Movie Segments for Warm-ups and Follow-ups
Best educational wiki by Shelly Terrell and Ozge Karaoglu Technology4kids

Good luck to all of you and keep up the hard work!

Unheard Voices

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

Providing space for the learners’ voice means

accepting that the learners’





& desires

are valid content in the language learning classroom.

In the answers to this challenge we have heard the voices of  two teachers having a conversation , one teacher singing and we have talked and discussed thoroughly about the need to let our students take control of their learning, and the importance of listen to their voices and adapt our classes to cater for their interests, likes and dislikes. However, what should we do when our learners are reluctant to have such an active role in our classroom? What do we do with shy students? Shall we push them to take part or let them be?Apparently, as David R Hall says, students know what their own needs and interests are. So, if what they want is to have a passive role in our classes, why not let them?. I don’t have the answers to these questions, the only thing I can share with you are two examples of this situation that I have in my classes.

Case 1:

I have one student, who speaks very little in her every day life. In the past, she didn’t use to speak at all (obviously she has some kind of psychological problem). However, what really surprises me about her,  is that even though you may think that she is not at all present in class ( one hardly ever gets to hear  her voice), she does all the written activities perfectly well. She succeds at writing letters, doing grammar exercises, passing the written tests, etc. I sometimes wonder if she is happy in her silent world. Shall I leave her like that or shall I try to make her talk? I sometimes even feel sad, because I consider that I’m excluding her in some way, since I don’t ask her questions as I do with the rest of my students, because I believe she will feel unconfortable. Is it right? Or should I have continued addressing her till the moment she decides to interact with me and the rest of the class? Don’t really know.

Case 2:

This is the girl that has refused to take part in the activity I have discussed in my post “The importance of reflection” This is a totally different case from the previous one. She is an excellent student, very good at speaking, very fluent. However, she always place safe. She just answer whatever she is asked, but never enlarge on the topic. She wants to be as unpercievable as possible. For example, once the class had to be divided in different groups and for that reason, we were making a kind of raffle with their names to make the groups. Each student at a time had to take a piece of paper and read the name on it. When her turn came, she refused to take a paper. It was really unbeliavable, as she would not be compromised in any way by choosing one piece of paper. Her classmates tried to convince her, but she didn’t change her mind. If she refuses to “become active” even in the less demanding activities, how can I expect her to express her ideas and interests in front of the class? Or is it that she is being an autonomous learner and expressing the way in she wants to learn (with a more traditional approach, in which she is not required to take such an active role)? Difficult question to answer.

Well, as you can see I have too many questions and no answers at all. So I decided to conduct some research and stumbled upon a piece of advice that @thornburyscott was giving to an EFL teacher on the issue  at Onestopenglish. Scott gave some practical tips and finally concluded that:

If all else fails, you can take heart from a piece of classroom research conducted by Dick Allwright several years ago, in which he observed a class for a term and noted that, despite the highly interactive nature of the lessons, there was one student who hardly ever participated in group or class speaking activities. However, at the end of the course she scored as highly, if not more highly, than her peers on several measures of proficiency, including speaking! Allwright concluded that “for some students at least, learning a second language is a spectator sport”.

What do you think? I’m not totally convinced, but who knows… maybe those unheard voices are claiming us to let them be.

Contribute A Post To The Next ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival

The next ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival will be published on December 1st at this blog . Any posts related to teaching or learning English, including examples of student work, are welcome. 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  directly to me or to Larry Ferlazzo via his contact form.

Ms. Flecha posted the Nineteenth Edition Of The ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival in early October, and she did a great job. You can check-out posts there from twenty ESL/EFL teachers from all around the world.

You can see all the previous eighteen editions of the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival here.

Alice Mercer will be hosting the February 1st edition. Let Larry know if you might be interested in hosting future ones.

Looking forward to your contributions.

Everybody can paint!

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

I will start this post by thanking my students for having inspired me to write it, and I would like especially to thank Gisela for being so generous as to share pieces of her life with us every class. One of those was this photo, and a moving retelling of her mother’s 60th birthday.

Cake prepared and decoarated by Gisela (one of my students)

You may be wondering what is the relationship between this picture and Karenne’s challenge. By the way, talking about the challenge, the quotation for this week is:

Dogme is about teaching
materials light.
I have to admit that on the day in which Gisela brought this picture to the classroom, I had entered it material heavy, as I had prepared a lesson based on an article from The Guardian newspaper. However, as soon as I entered, I noticed one of my students had come carrying a burden too. Of course, as you can imagine, everybody (including me) was more interested in her burden than in mine. So I let things flow in order to see what came out of it. She opened her rucksack and a magical element came out of it:
Not only was she going to impose her own agenda in my class, but she was also going to obligue me to plug it, when the whole TEFL blogosphere is all the rage for unplugged teaching! How cheeky of her! (jajajaj) No, seriously! At that moment I realised she had been well-trained. What an honour to have a student in my class who was  becoming autonomous and getting in charge of her own learning. And what’s more, without having realised it.  She said, unaware of  my enthusiastic thoughts,  “I’ve brought  the pictures of my mother’s birthday. Remember I’ve told you about it?”. Yes! Of course I remember!
She started going through the pictures and telling us about what was going on there. She even showed us a video. Everybody was looking at the screen, asking questions, happy to finally put a face to  Gisela’s daughters. While we were discussing the pictures, I wrote some things on the blackboard. We revised how to make questions, I introduced them to vocabulary to talk about people’s personality, and so on and so forth. Time flew and  it was almost time for ending the class.  My students realised they had learnt lots of things without having noticed.
Gisella told us that her mother loves painting and that’s why the party had been  thematic, art had been everywhere! The guests before leaving the party had to paint a little part in a picture that had been started by her mother’s teacher. I loved the idea. Everybody had to paint a bit as a gift to her mother, no matter how good or bad at it they were.Here you can see the final product:
And what I loved the most about it was the metaphor… everybody needed to paint for the picture to be concluded. Does it ring a bell? The teacher had started the picture, but then, everybody followed their own path. I’m very happy because this resembles what  happens in my classroom. My students are the ones that come material heavy to my classes. They are the ones that are painting the picture in whatever way they like. I’m just their assistant. I’m there for whatever they need, but they are the ones who give the orders. We can all paint, and all of us should paint!