{October 31, 2009}   The Teacher

Lord, who am I to teach the way
To little children day by day
So prone myself to go astray?

I teach them Knowledge, but I know
How faint they flicker, and how low
The candles of my knowledge glow.

I teach them Power to will and do,
But only now to learn anew
My own great weakness through and through.

I teach them Love for all mankind
And all God ´s creatures; but I find
My love comes lagging still behind.

“Lord, if their guide I still must be,
O let the little children see
The teacher leaning hard on thee!”

By Lesley Pinckney Hill


{October 26, 2009}   Recommendation

If you have problems recalling words but you remember their meaning, this site is really worth bookmarking: Reverse Dictionary

OneLook’s reverse dictionary lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word. Just type it into the box above and hit the “Find words” button. Keep it short to get the best results. In most cases you’ll get back a list of related terms with the best matches shown first.”


{October 26, 2009}   It’s Pumpkin time!

This is my favourite part of the year: Halloween celebrations at school begin and so begin the complaints of all those people I can’t understand.

I always tell my students the true story of Halloween. And no matter how old they are, they love it, as they love what I call the “modern version of Halloween”: parties, trick or treating… Why is it so difficult for some people to understand that different peoples have different traditions? I’m talking about this since, last year by this same time, my cousin forbid my nephew to go to his school’s Halloween party, since, according to her, Halloween parties meant  “worshipping devils”.

And I know there are many people that think that way, but for those – like me – who like enjoying Halloween parties, here are tons of materials you can use both with your students and for your personal Halloween parties!

Colouring Pages, Crafts and Lesson Plans




Halloween for Kids

Classroom Resources


Theme Unit

More Games

Party Ideas


6 Terrifying Halloween Tales





{October 24, 2009}   Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT)

As a teacher of English, I decided to evaluate my knowledge  sitting for Cambridge TKT.
I’ve studied and read so much during my university years that I feel this test will be kind of “What do you remember about teaching theories?”

At first, I joined a group of teachers who were meeting Saturday mornings (yeah, I did that!) to enlarge their knowledge and prepare themselves for TKT. What happened after 6 months was that just 2 teachers (me and one of my school colleagues) were the only ones who handed in homework, did research and were present all classes. The result: I gave up.

As most of you may know,  TKT Course was made up of 3 different modules, and, last year, CLIL and KAL  modules were added.

The very same day I registered for the test (September 12th, to be exact) I bought a book and decided to go on reading by myself to finish preparing one of the new modules.

I’ve been putting CLIL into practice this year, so, I thought it would be perfect to carry out the practice test without any reading to see how much I’ve learnt this year: the result was superb: I  got 70 out of 80 questions right.
Also, I decided to do some googling on the topic. I found mostly opinions on the test and short summaries, but there were some things that I found really useful.


University of Cambridge – TKT

The TKT Course


{October 24, 2009}   Why…

…do adult students always ask us to slow down our reading?
Some days ago, I was doing a listening comprehension exercise, and one of the students wanted me to read each sentence at turtle pace, pausing after every single word so he could get every single word I said.
This is the same student who asked me if we could say “would they like…” after reading “would you like some tea?”

My theory, hope it’s wrong, is that this student has never heard about the word comprehension. Neither has he heard about context or background knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing him. I just want to see if the problem is that I can’t teach him, or that he doesn’t understand my explanations. It’s the only student with this problem.

The listening exercise I was mentioning, consisted just in saying if 5 sentences were true or false. The text was pretty complex for their level, but with our pre-listening talk about James Bond, and a bit of vocabulary work, most of the students performed excellently.
They had 5 general statements about the short excerpt I was going to read, They had to listen not for details but for a complete understanding of events, and then, try to guess which of the statements were false.

When I saw this student’s answers, I really was not surprised he didn’t get any of them. He is so worried about getting every single word and its meaning (yes, my dear fellows, he interrupts listening activities to ask the meaning of every word he doesn’t know) that he is not able to understand the whole both in reading and listening activities.

Consider this example:

(Teacher reads)

“… Roy shared his flat with his brother, who was also a student. He usually cooked on Sundays, but …”

Sentence in student’s worksheet:

-Roy shared his flat with his brother and two of his friends.

Guess his answer – if you say True, you may understand how I’m feeling.

{October 24, 2009}   Using MP3s in your classroom

Have you ever thought of using those little technological gadgets?

They can be really useful for struggling learners! Here there are some ideas to use them with your students:

– Let them listen individually to stories as they read them. This may help them improve their pronunciation!

– Some students work better with music. Let them listen to their favourite songs while they work.

– Most students already have one of this so you won’t have to worry about explaining the basics. They are perfect for those days when students are absent and you did a lot of listening activities. Just provide them the .mp3 file and they can carry out the activities at home!

– If you work with private students, you can assign listenings which students have to work with alone. They are perfect for helping them develop listening skills (and students can listen to the files again and again).

Henry Hitchings, author of The Secret Life of Words (which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Book Prize this week) presents an A-to-Z of his favourite words that have been absorbed into English from other languages

A is for…

Avocado, which comes from Nahuatl, a language spoken by the Aztecs. Their name for it, ahuacatl, also meant ”testicle”.

B is for…

Bonsai. Although we think the tree-cultivating art is Japanese, it originated in China.

C is for…

Coleslaw. Supposedly eaten in ancient Rome, it comes from the Dutch kool-salade (”cabbage salad”).

D is for…

Dachshund, a compound of the German Dachs (”badger”) and Hund (”dog”). Originally the breed was known in Germany as Dachs Krieger, or ”badger warrior”.

E is for…

Enthusiasm. From the Greek entheos, which means ”to be within energy”, suggesting being spiritually ”possessed”.

F is for…

Flamenco, from the Spanish name for a Fleming (i.e. someone from Flanders).

G is for…

Goulash, an invention by Hungarian herdsmen whose name derives from gulyas.

H is for…

Hotchpotch, used in Norman legal jargon to denote property collected and then divided.

I is for…

Intelligentsia, a collective term for the intellectual class which derives from Latin but came to us from Russian.

J is for…

Juggernaut, Sanskrit for a giant carriage used to transport an image of the god Krishna.

K is for…

Kangaroo, from gangurru, the large black male roo in the Guugu Yimidhirr language.

L is for…

Lilac, which comes from the Persian nilak, meaning ”of a bluish shade”.

M is for…

Mandarin. The name of the fruit feels as though it ought to be Chinese, but may well have come from Swedish.

N is for…

Namby-pamby. Nickname of the 18th-century poet Ambrose Phillips, coined by the satirist Henry Careybecause of his sentimental verses

O is for…

Onslaught, from the Dutch aanslag – related to a word in Old High German for a shower.

P is for…

Penguin, a compound of two Welsh words, pen and gwyn, which mean ”head” and ”white” – even though penguins have black heads. It is likely that ‘penguin’ was at one time the name of similar, now extinct bird which had a white patch near its bill.

Q is for…

Quack can be traced to the Dutch kwaksalver, literally someone who hawked ointments.

R is for…

Regatta, from Venetian dialect, it originally signified any kind of contest.

S is for…

Sabotage. Supposed to derive from the tendency of striking workers to damage machinery by throwing shoes into it – sabot being an old French word for a wooden shoe.

T is for…

Tattoo, Captain Cook saw Polynesian islanders marking their skin with dark pigment. Long before that the word signified a signal or drumbeat, a Dutch expression for ‘Close off the tap’, used to recall tippling soldiers.

U is for…

Umbrella, appeared in English as early as 1609 (in a letter by John Donne). In the middle of the 18th century the device was adopted by the philanthropist Jonas Hanway as a protection against the London rain.

V is for…

Vanilla, ”little sheath” in Spanish.

W is for…

Walnut, a modern rendering of the Old English walhnutu (‘foreign nut’), so known because it grew mainly in Italy.

X is for…

Xebec, a little vessel with three masts, from the Arabic shabbak, a small warship.

Y is for…

Yogurt, a mispronunciation of a Turkish word.

Z is for…

Zero, whose immediate source is French or Italian, but its origins are in Arabic – and before that in the Sanskrit word sunya, which meant both ”nothing” and ”desert”.

‘The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English‘ by Henry Hitchings

{October 21, 2009}   The Child

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred, always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling
of loving
a hundred joys for singing
and understanding
a hundred worlds to discover
a hundred worlds to invent
a hundred worlds to dream.
The child has a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine
the school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child to think
without hands
to do without head
to listen and not speak
to understand without joy
to love and marvel
only at Easter and Christmas.
They tell the child
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child that
work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way.  The hundred is there!

Loris Malaguzzi

{October 21, 2009}   Videos in the Classroom

As a student, I remember reading lots of materials on the use of videos for educational purposes. There are lots of worth reading materials, but I guess experience is the best reference when working with media products. Being teachers of a second language that is not spoken in the country obligues us to rely on using media products to give our students opportunities of authentic language work, and sometimes, the easiest to find resource is a video. However, working with videos in the classroom has been mistakenly confused by many with unplanned classes and lazy teachers.

First of all, if you are planning to work with films, I think a little knowledge on film related vocabulary and the meaning of the different camera positions for instance, is a must if you want to include activities that really engage students as critical viewers.

Then, you should be acquainted with the likes of your students, and see what kind of films are appropriate to their age and level of English.

It would be excellent to have video guides prepared in advance, so as to avoid preparing some not encouraging activities just to fill class time and requirements. As regards this, we have to consider the purpose of the watching activity: are we watching a video just for fun or to expand our knowledge on certain topic?

This is important so we can choose after watching activities that are appropriate to work with, keeping in mind that video watching is an activity in itself.

When preparing a video guide, it’s frequently recommended to divide it in three parts:

Pre- Watching Activities, where you may introduce the topic of the film, elicit background knowledge from the students or predict what the film will be about.

While – Watching Activities, which I think should be just short vocabulary note taking so as to let students concentrate in the watching, and

Post – Watching Activities, which can be individual or group activities, written or oral, depending on your likes and the students’. Usual post – watching activities include gap filling, comprehension questions and summary writing.

We, as teachers, should put all our efforts in creating appealing video guides and activities to motivate students. And I’m not saying that we have to print colour copies or something like that. I think that at least one or two images and a nice font can be used to improve the aesthetics of a worksheet, but if the content is not good enough, there’s no use in embelishing it.

{October 20, 2009}   Bridges of Love

Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict.
It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days work” he said.”Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?
“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor, in fact, it’s my younger brother.Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us.
Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn?I  want you to build me a fence – – an 8-foot fence — so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.”
The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”
The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing, and hammering.
About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all.
It was a bridge — a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work handrails and all — and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched.”You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”
The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder.
“No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.
“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but, I have many more love bridges to build.”

et cetera