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Twitter for Professional Development

I have just written an article for an Argentinian magazine called “The Teacher’s Magazine” about Twitter.  Since it’s been a long time, since the last time I wrote on this blog, I thought of reposting it here.  Somebody may find it useful.  Would love to hear your comments about it, or just a greeting! Kisses and hugs from lovely Panama… (I’m travelling around America at the moment, that’s why I’ve been so disconnected)

Everybody seems to be using twitter at the moment. Most celebrities, politicians, the city government, and some of your friends are twitting and retwitting. For that reason, you may find yourself wondering what this is all about. Or maybe you are already one step forward, and have started to ask how it can help you with your teaching.

I believe it will not only help you, it will open you a door to the whole world. You will be able to interact and connect with hundreds of other teachers from all over the world. Teachers coming from all walks of life, and  from all sorts of different teaching contexts. You will have the opportunity of listening to and interacting with those professionals you admire – fellow teachers, teacher training specialists, authors, publishers, etc.- at a very personable level. Apart from that, you will get extremely fast up-to-date information about what is happening in your field, plus a great amount of links and recommendations for materials and teaching ideas. Even though at the beginning twitter may look a bit chaotic, once you start following educators that work in your field of expertise, everything starts to make sense. In this article we will provide you with a step by step tutorial on how to set up your account, and develop your PLN (personal learning network).

Setting up your account:

1)      Enter and register. You can use a nickname, if you prefer.

2)      Upload a picture of you. People like looking at the person they are talking to.“Your profile picture defines who you are to the online world.  It might be the first and only impression you get with people you meet online.” [1]

3)      Write your biography. It should be 160 characters in length. Include your interests and your relevant expertise in teaching, so that others can get to know who you are and decide if they want to connect with you.

4)      Now it is time to start following other twitter users. Following somebody in twitter means that you subscribe to their twits or updates, which will appear in your timeline (a list in real time of all the accounts you are following, which appears in you twitter homepage). To follow somebody, you can click on “Who to follow” and view the suggestions or make a search by name or topic.

Once you find a person of your interest, you click on follow and voila, you are already following them. If you do not have any clue on who to follow, you can start by following me. I am @sabridv. I will be glad to follow you back, and help you in whatever you need. If you enter my profile!/sabridv  and click on “following”, you will find all the educators I am already following!/sabridv/following . You can browse through the list, and start following some. They are all very friendly and excellent professionals, who love learning collaboratively.

How to interact with other teachers:


1)      The main way is by writing your own twits: write about your projects, ask for guidance to solve problems you encounter in you professional life, ask for ideas on how to deal with a specific grammar topic, share interesting links or useful resources, and many more.

2)      You can also read other people’s twits, which appear in your timeline. Remember that you do not have to read every twit the second you see it appear on the screen. You can click on the star, and it will be sent to your profile “favourites” tab, so that you can  read it when you have time.

3)      You can also address a specific person by writing the @ sign in front of their name/handle at the start of the tweet. Beware that the message will still be public, and will therefore appear in your own timeline. The only difference with an ordinary twit is that this message will be sent to that person’s “@mentions” tab, and will be easy to find even if he is not online at the time you are writing. If you click on your “@mentions” tab, next to your “timeline” tab you will see all the twits that were aimed at you.

4)      If you read an interesting twit and you want to share it with the rest of your followers, you should place the cursor over that tweet and click on “retweet”.

5)      Finally, if you want to send a private message to someone, enter their profile and click on the envelope icon. To read your own private messages click on “messages” on the black bar.

To sum up, I truly recommend you to start building your professional learning network If alone we can get to do a simple and easy project, by being with others, we can always go a step further. I have learnt a lot by sharing ideas with others. I have been able to perfect my own creations by exchanging thoughts with colleagues. I am always refreshed and full of new ideas after a short trip over twitter. Being part of this online community of educators has made me realise how important it is the presence of others, who are undergoing the same learning journey, in order to motivate us and push us forward. Of course, we can learn on our own. However, by interacting and exchanging information with others, we can achieve a lot more and the trip becomes more fun.


The English Language Teacher’s Guide To Twitter, tech tip #11:


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…


Clowning on the first class day!

Yesterday I started a course called: “Clown como estrategia didáctica” (clown as a didactic strategy). I had a lot of fun, and  felt like a child again enjoying the freedom of just playing around and not thinking or worrying about anything else. We should never loose that innocence, and if we have already lost it, recover it by all means. I can assure you it is worth the effort.

While I was there, I revisited two old activities, I haven’t used for a long time, that are perfect for getting to know each other. It was wonderful, having looked at them from a new perspective. There I was the student, and not the teacher, and could have fun without paying attention to anything else (timing, students who were not connected with what was going on in the class, minding students didn’t get hurt, or run wildly out of control). I was free to relax and enjoy myself.

little Gabriel clown by L O O K
little Gabriel clown, a photo by L O O K on Flickr.

However, at one point we have to come back to reality and face the truth: I’m still a grown-up adult and a teacher of kids, teenagers and adults. I remembered about Eva’s carnival  and decided to share these two activities that are very useful for the  first week of classes:

A Chain of Hands: At first, the teacher asked us to start walking around the room. Then, she told us to make eye contact with the people we encountered, while we kept on walking. After that, when we encountered a person we were supposed to give him/her a highfive and say a word or make a sound (whatever came to our mind at that moment). The following step was to hold hands and introduce ourselves (Hi, I’m Sabrina). And finally the best part, we had to hold a person’s hand and introduce ourselves, but we couldn’t stop holding hands till we found another person to hold hands with. It was very funny, because sometimes you found yourself holding hands with two people at the same time, as your previous partner had not yet found a person to hold hands with. We ended up with some strange hand chains. I’m not sure whether I’ve been clear enough, you know you can always ask for more details in the comments section.

You are what you do!: This is a super simple activity but it always spreads a roar of laughter. The participants have to make a circle, and one of them introduces himself and makes a movement, or uses a strange tone of voice, or both at the same time. The rest of them, have to observe him closely and repeat everything he’s said and done. They have to mirror his introduction. I just love this activity, and students really become creative once they understand what they are supposed to do.

That’s all for now falks! Hope I have inspired you for your beginning of classes. If you want to find another idea, have a look at this post. As here in Argentina we are starting the second semester,  and therefore, I cannot try these activities in my classes, I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience. =)

RSCON3: It’s all about them…

RSCON3 is over… is it really over? Of course not, there are still a lot of presentations I would like to watch. But wasn’t it on 29 / 07 you may be wondering… Yeah, but that’s the magic of an online conference. If you could not attend, don’t worry you can always watch the recordings. I strongly advice you to do so, if you haven’t yet. You can find all the recordings here.

Fortunately, this time, appart from attending this wonderful conference, I was able to give my own presentation. I really enjoyed it. Even though at the beginning I was a bit nervous ( it was my first presentation ever), I managed to relax and have fun. I would like to thank @davedodgson for having helped me by doing a wonderful job as a moderator. I love learning collaborately, so I am very thankful for having had this opportunity of giving a bit back to my PLN, after so much taking. If you haven’t attended my presentation, and you’d like to see me in action:  here you can watch the recording, and here you can find the powerpoint I’ve used during it. I would love to know your opinion about it, get some advice on how I can improve my presentation skills or whatever comment you may want to do.

But let’s stop talking about me and let’s pass on to the important thing: my reflection about the conference. I don’t have a lot of things to say, apart from the fact that it was a wonderful experience, I’ve added a lot of new memebers / friends to my PLN, and I’ve learned a lot. However, what struck me the most, was that I have attended many sessions about completely different topics, and we all ended up speaking about the same: our students. Our students were the main protagonists of the whole conference. That shows how much passion we all put into our profession. We are all trying to improve and to find the best way in which we can teach them. We may not have found the answer yet, but the fact that we are treading this path, looking for it together, is more than enough. We are already reforming education, by making little (?) changes in our classrooms. Let’s keep on walking along this path, let’s meet again in RSCON4. See you there! =)

Collaborative learning path leading to RSCON4

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!

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.

Virtual Beams

This post is in answer to the 30 goals challenge for educators. I’ll try to participate as much as I can.

The first goal presented by @shellterrell in the following video is: BE A BEAM.

The academic year has not started here in Argentina yet. For that reason, it is a bit difficult for me to achieve this goal. However, I’ve managed to do so, as I have a very close friend who is a teacher too. She has been through a kind of crisis with her career as a teacher. Fortunately, today I was able to listen to her and to make her look at the situation on the bright side. We always talk about our profession and support each other during the hard times. We’ve been friends since we were 6 years old, so she is very special to me.

This has made me reflect about the importance of having peers, who are going through the same situations and difficulties, to suppport and encourage each other. That is to say, that become beams to each other.

I have been very lucky to have found a lot of support, help and inspiration from my PLN. For that reason, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all, for having always been there.  As Julie Cunningham wrote in her own post for the challenge:

I feel like everytime I dive into the world of Twitter or my Google Reader feed that I’ve been ‘beamed up’.  Educators around the world show a wealth of exciting things happening.  And just like returning from a  trip to the Bahamas or even just a “Calgon-take-me-away” bubble bath, I return to my daily life refreshed and renewed.

My PLN and my virtual teacher friends have become so valuable in my professional life, that I believe, it is extremely important to transmit this experience to other educators who are not here yet. I would make this my long term goal, and I would like to invite you all to follow my example. I’m sure: THE MORE; THE MERRIER.

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.

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) :