Blog Archives

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!

Baam Game

A long time ago, I’ve seen this game in Ddeubel’s ning: ESL Classroom 2.0 and I’ve totally forgotten about it for a very looooong time. Yesterday, I was trying to find a fun activity to do with my secondary school students about a play we are seeing on Tuesday and this game came back to my mind. The idea is very simple, but I think it is a game that really motivates students to take part. This is mainly because winning the game isn’t related to the students’ competence in the language, but with LUCK!

The game’s rules:

1.   Decide which team goes first.

2.   Appoint a scorekeeper.

3.   Teams answer correctly and earn money. If a team is correct, they can continue until max. 3 times or until they get BAAM!

4.   If a team hits BAAM! they go bankrupt!

5.   The team with the most money at the end is the winner.
In ddeubel’s ning you will find the templates to make your own games. However, here I’m adding my own two versions of the game.One is about countries and nationalities  and the second one is a revision of  “jobs” vocabulary.
Hope you find them useful! If you use the template to create your own game,  DO share it with us.

Lesson Plan: “Strategies for learning new vocabulary with Avatar film”

Cameron’s film Avatar is in everybody’s mouth at the moment. For that reason, we can take the opportunity and bring it into the classroom, to teach our students in a fun way, how to use   context clues  when reading to infer new vocabulary. This is a useful tool all students need to know for autonomous reading and expansion of vocabulary.

The lesson plan starts with a listening activity based on the film’s trailer, in which students will be able to appreciate the wonderful “natural” world Cameron’s team has created for the occasion.

Then, they will reflect about the strategies we can use when reading a text to infer the meaning of new words from the context. They will apply this to discover the meaning of some words in a text adapted from the New York Times about the Na´vi language (a language created for the aliens in the film to speak).

They will finally listen to an extract in  Na´vi language to reflect upon the strategies we can use for understanding oral material in a foreign language.

I really hope you like this lesson plan and you have a lot of fun with your students. Don’t forget to comment on how it goes.

How to make worksheets in a flash!

As we all know the best way of  improving our or our learners’ vocabulary is through fun activities. And if these activities required less than 5 minutes preparation even better.  So here I will introduce you to “a dream come true”:  Vocabulary Worksheet Factory. Many thanks to my friend Ceci who told me about it.


Vocabulary Worksheet Factory includes a database with loads of activity templates such as crosswords, anagrams, word soups, and so on and so forth. You can personalise the worksheets and create your own wordlists for each of your classes. Finally, you can print it with just one click. It is an excellent tool and you can get it for free in or download it from this rapidshare link. Hope you find it useful!

My First Online Exercise

You might be surprised at this! A great lover of the net has never prepared an online exercise. Well, it is said that there is a first time for everything and here’s my first experience!

Before sharing with you my first creation, I would like to introduce you to the webpage where I have placed my exercise. ESL printables is a great website created by Víctor Gayol an English language teacher in Spain. In his website English language teachers exchange resources: worksheets, lesson plans,  activities, etc. Their collection is growing every day with the help of many teachers. If you want to download you have to send your own contributions. I have found wonderful material there, and of course I have made my own contributions too. I strongly recommend it.

And here goes MY online exercise. The episode of  “Shaun the sheep” called “Still Life” is a great video to use with kids. It is mute, but they can practise farm animals, colours, numbers, parts of the day, sad, happy, angry. Hope you like it. Have a look at it and please leave your comments. All your opinions are  welcomed!

Let’s Celebrate Bono’s Birthday in the Classroom!

Today is Bono’s birthday, so let’s take this opportunity to bring a bit of music into the classroom. I have prepared some activities for the song Bono has dedicated to his father: “Sometimes you can’t Make it on your Own”. You will find activities for teaching vocabulary, listening comprehension and grammar (don’t have to vs. mustn’t). Download the file, play the video from You Tube and that’s it.

A great fun lesson to enjoy with your students. Don’t forget to tell us how it works and if you have any other idea : SHARE IT WITH US

PDF File: You_can\’t_make_it_on_your_own

How to Make Flashcards in a Flash

If you are a busy teacher, with no time in your hands… If your old flashcards are getting yellowish and you believe it’s time to renew them, but you are constantly putting it off…If you don’t want to spend too much time preparing them and at the same time you want to give them a high quality look… Here is the solution to all your problems: The Cambridge English Online Flashcard Maker.

It allows you to prepare flashcards using drawings from an image library, making your own drawings or just by inserting text. It also has a great feature: You can include the phonetic transcript of the word!

I’m sure there are other great tools out there in the web 2.0 world for creating flashcards: are you using any? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these tools? Can you share them with us? Looking forward to your comments.

Here’s a quick way of learning new vocabulary!

This is not really a totally original post, because I’ve heard about this wonderful tool from Silal but I thought it was worth sharing it with all of you. Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary is a great tool for teachers, students, writers and, in fact, for everybody. You can look up a word, and apart from getting a definition as in ordinary dictionaries, a word map will start being created with associations with other words and concepts. Here you can see an example:


In the webpage you can enter words into the search box to look them up or double-click a node to expand the tree. Click and drag the background to pan around and use the mouse wheel to zoom. Hover over nodes to see the definition and click and drag individual nodes to move them around to help clarify connections. A great and useful tool. How can we use it in our classes? Leave us a comment.