{September 22, 2009}   Helping Students Talk

Perhaps the most difficult thing that teachers face is making students develop their oral skills properly. Sometimes, we have few practice opportunities to offer, other times, students may not be so interested in talking in the target language. So, what can we do to help our students talk in English?

  1. Be a model. Use English in the classroom, when talking to fellow teachers and students.
  2. Place visual aids in your classroom. You can use pictures, common phrases, etc. to create a welcoming atmosphere.
  3. We must count on the idea that they must have some kind of opinion on simple issues such as food, music, TV. Work on those topics for some weeks to help the students gain confidence in themselves, and then, switch to more difficult topics.
  4. Try to give them striking topics to talk about. If you have tweens or teens, you may enjoy listening to their opinions on Internet usage (fotolog, facebook and all those social networks they like) and on urban tribes.
  5. Help them activate their prior knowledge through brainstorming exercises, through texts, etc. Be ready to collect any ad you find in magazines!
  6. Why don’t you use a video or a listening text as a starting point? There are many resources on the Internet that you may find interesting for discussing with your students!
  7. Remember that, speaking and listening go hand in hand! Provide as much opportunities for listening activities as you can!

Here are some links that may provide some leads.


{May 19, 2009}   A great idea!

I can’t remember where I got the idea from, but today, I made my English Literature students change the lyrics of a song to fit the story they were tested about (We read Five Orange Pips, and I chose “What a Wonderful World” by The Ramones for them to create new lyrics)

The results were superb, and the students had lots of fun looking for synonyms of the words from the story to make their ideas fit the rhythm of the song provided. I strongly recommend this activity if your students are art oriented or if you want to bring some fun and music into your classroom  – Your students will love doing this activity!

Here you have the Ramones’ version of the song and the lyrics a group of students wrote:

I have five orange pips

A letter too

It says I will die

Die really soon

And I think to myself

KKK I hate you

They have killed my uncle

My father too

I called Sherlock Holmes

To help me now

And I think to myself

KKK I hate you

In Baker Street I met him,

so serious in his flat

I told him how my father

and my uncle had died

I appreciate what he did

but now I am dead

Now he is saying

“I have failed”

My friend Holmes found the ship

It was called Lone Star

It sank in the sea

There are no solutions now,

And I think to myself

KKK I hate youuuu,

And I think to myself

KKK I hate youuuu…

{September 28, 2008}   English Classes on Video

Surfing the Net I came across these on MSN video. Hope it’s useful!

{September 10, 2008}   Music in the Classroom

As said in previous posts, the use of music in the classroom can make the entire learning process more enjoyable. But… do you use music just to work with the lyrics? Or do you provide your students with opportunities of working with music playing very slowly, just to foster brain work?  Do we provide activities dealing with the phonetics of the language, or just fill-in-the-gaps activities?

Personally, I’ve worked in children’s classes with those cds from the Babies Go series and children really like them! With adults, classical music does the trick.

Here, there are some useful links about this topic.


Classroom Resource Links

ESL Galaxy



Last.FM ESL Group

English Videos and Music in EFL, ESL Classrooms


The Value of Rhymes and Songs

Music in the Adult Classroom

Using Music in the ESL Classroom

Want more?

{September 4, 2008}   Useful Material on the Web

I always try to provide my students with resources for their own work at home. This is the selection of websites I’ve made for a group of adult learners of English. Hope you can profit from this! —> a basic dictionary in several language. Language is accompanied by a drawing or picture that represents its meaning –> an excellent online dictionary —> online translator (multilanguage). –> same as the previous one, a great online translator —> a great dictionary for intermediate and advanced students. It provides not only definitions but also whole language practice! —> jokes and texts to read in the language your students are learning! —> In the “Resourses” section there are great grammatical summaries and lots of vocabulary lists. –> Activities and games for beginers. There is some help for hispanic students in some activities. —> slang dictionary (great for teens!) —> Here your students can find lots of reading activities with reading comprehension exercises. The best of this site? Readings come from best sellers! —> More on reading comprehension –> Reading comprehension y actividades de vocabulario –> English Grammar Online for you is a very complete website where you will find everything you are looking for: grammar, vocabulary, readings and writings. —> A very exhaustive irregular verbs list.

Podcast Section:
Here, you will find links to sites where you can download audio or video podcasts in English. These are semi authentic and authentic material (that is, material adapted for students and material from daily life). To download the different podcasts, follow instructions on each site. Generally, you have to right click on the links and then choose “save target as” (this one provides audio material and the transcriptions too!)

As I always say, “Provide your students with tools to improve their own language alone. Then, you will see how far they can go in a really short time”

{March 12, 2008}   Gorey’s ABCs

So finally classes started at the institute where I work… and my first class seems to be 1st Children (too many 1sts this year for me :P)
As I was preparing Wednesday’s class, I thought how one could work the alphabet with teens (yeah, sometimes you need to teach how to pronounce the different letters!) and that triggered another google search.

I came across very interesting worksheets, but the funniest of all, for teens, was this one (video from youtube to enjoy!)

Jesus In A Sidecar – The Alphabet Song (The Gashlycrumb Tinies)
by Edward Gorey

a is for amy who fell down the stairs
b is for basil assaulted by bears
c is for clara who wasted away
d is for desmond thrown out of a sleigh
e is for ernest who choked on a peach
f is for fanny sucked dry by a leech
g is for george smothered under a rug
h is for hector done in by a thug
i is for ida who drowned in a lake
j is for james who took lye by mistake
k is for kate who was struck by an axe
l is for leo who swallowed some tacks
m is for maud who was swept out to sea
n is for neville who died of ennui
o is for olive run through with an awl
p is for prue trampled flat in a brawl
q is for quentin who sank in a mire
r is for rhoda consumed by fire
s is for susan who perished of fits
t is for titus who flew into bits
u is for una who slipped down a drain
v is for victor squashed under a train
w is for winnie embedded in ice
x is for xerxes devoured by mice
y is for yorick whose head was knocked in
z is for zillah who drank too much gin

You see? There’s material for teaching the ABCs to everyone!

PS: Check the related videos! They may be interesting!

{February 10, 2008}   Tips, tips, tips

One of the best tips I was given when learning English, was to live the language. What does it mean? To listen, read, work with English in every opportunity you have.

And today’s choosen oportunity, is : LOST

Lost is a series about a group of people who, travelling from Australia to USA, have an accident… and they get lost somewhere, where surviving becomes the first objective.

If you like good series, why don’t you use that as a departing point to practice your listening skills?

Don’t forget that by using authentic material you have the opportunity to learn things that don’t come in books!

More info on LOST, here

et cetera