{June 17, 2011}   Stories in a Bag!

Some weeks ago I attended a seminar at the Teacher’s Training College I attend, and I must say it was TERRIFIC Fabiana Parano showed teachers how to TELL stories in the classroom without resorting to a book, and using gestures and body language to help students understand the story.

Thinking on the effects stories have on children and adults, if you have the chance to attend any of her courses I highly recommend them!

More info


{February 3, 2011}   How to learn vocabulary

1. Read. Most vocabulary words are learned from context. The more words you’re exposed to, the better vocabulary you will have. While you read, pay close attention to words you don’t know. First, try to figure out their meanings from context. Then look the words up. Read and listen to challenging material so that you’ll be exposed to many new words.

2. Pay close attention to how words are used.

3. Learning a word won’t help very much if you promptly forget it. Research shows that it takes a minimum of 10 to 20 repetitions to really make a word part of your vocabulary. It helps to write the word – both the definition and a sentence you make up using the word – perhaps on an index card that can later be reviewed. As soon as you learn a new word, start using it.

4. Make up as many associations and connections as possible. Say the word aloud to activate your auditory memory. Relate the word to words you already know. Create pictures of the word’s meaning that involve strong emotions.

5. Use mnemonics ( memory tricks). Also, find out which learning style suits you best. Everyone learns differently!

6. Get in the habit of looking up words you don’t know. If you have a dictionary program on your computer, keep it open and handy. If you don’t, just type: “define: WORD” in google, and you will come across with definitions of the WORD you need.

7. Play with words. Play Scrabble, Boggle, and do crossword puzzles. There are a lot of free online games to play with vocabulary! (there is a post about that in the vocabulary section).

8. Diversity of topics is important. Read some natural science stuff. Then read some applied science stuff. Read some contemporary literature. Then read some Shakespeare. Comb through a pop psychology book and then consume a humorous work. Varied reading will sharpen both general and subject-specific vocabularies.

9.Try out your new vocabulary in speech and writing.

-Are you a teacher needing ideas to work on vocabulary? Here you can find a lot of ideas! (I came across the site via google)

(I also shared this on

{January 23, 2011}   Newspapers in the classroom

When working with adult students, it is a very good idea to use newspapers in your lessons to work with cultural issues. But not only in the target language. You can also use articles from newspapers in your own language and make your students discuss their content in English.

For example: An intermediate group of 4 adults working on crime vocabulary can be given 4 different articles in their own language to read. Then, they have to explain what they read using the new vocabulary in the target language. I started using this technique specially with adults in business English groups, since they asked me to work a bit on translation.

Here you can find some newspapers in English:

And here you can find newspapers from all over the world:


Note: I’m sharing this in, a forum you shouldn’t miss if you are interested in English language learning!

{May 31, 2010}   World Cup 2010

Every four years, teachers have an opportunity to make students practice their English with activities related to the World Cup. Not only one can use this topic as a source of material for tenses exercises, but also for comparatives and superlatives, countries, nationalities, parts of the body, numbers and colours.

Here are some ideas I put into practice this year:

– Look for the history of the World Cup and use it as an exercise on passive voice. (I created a very nice exercise on this, you can find it here)

– Provide your students with infinite sources for research. They can write physical descriptions, narrations about different places, they can describe the rules of football.

– Younger students can practice colours while decorating the World Cup’s mascot. You can even give them different mascots to colour!

– Provide students related to football: the people, the field, the rules…

– Give students cards with information about different players, then, they can practice question making!

What ideas are you planning to use in the classroom?

{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).

{October 10, 2009}   TIP of the day

When writing remarks or comments to your students, follow the KISS approach: Keep It Short and Simple.

Have you ever thought about giving choice homework to your students?

Think about different activities on the same topics (you can prepare them going around multiple intelligences, learning styles or Bloom’s taxonomy! – wow, I do remember names!) and prepare different cards or a poster with them.

Then, tell your students they will have to choose one activity to complete in a week’s time (let’s say you present the activity on Monday, so they will have up to the following Monday to hand it in!).

Think of activities that engage your students! For example, I’m designing a 3-Choice Homework chart for the following weeks:

Activity one will consist on making some poster or drawing on the story we are working with.

Activity two will be the most challenging: students will have to prepare new lyrics for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, writing a summary of the story we are reading

Activity three will have to do with writing a letter to someone they admire, telling him/her what they have learned from the story

The three activities will be done by ALL students in different weeks ( I will recommend weaker students to start with the easiest one) and this will help students see what they have learned!

– I took this idea from “Differentiation in Action” by Judith Dodge. It’s a fantastic book to read!


{June 8, 2009}   Little Tip on Posters

Something I have learned this year and that is proving really useful is not to fill the classroom up with posters and pictures. They can be nice and useful, but sometimes too much is not the best.
I decided to change my classroom posters once a month, so there is variety and I can show the students’ creativity too, and something I started loving is glitter glue and markers that resemble metal. You can be very creative with those two things! (I’ll try to take some pictures tomorrow!)

{April 29, 2009}   Build-a-bug

My students and I had lots of fun today playing with the online version of Magic School Bus! They created their own bugs by putting wings, bodies, heads and legs together! Best of all… it’s free! 🙂

{April 15, 2009}   E-teaching

A nice idea that got on my mind while attending to the EVO Kick off Session (yeah, it was a long time ago… I really forgot to change this post status to “published”), was to create a chat room where my students can join one hour a week, to practice colloquial English. Since classroom work focuses mainly on formal English, this would be a nice way to engage those students who are not so interested in learning English “the old way”. Furthermore, if you know some native speakers, or another teachers, you can invite them to join your chat so as to make it a more interesting experience. Another option could be to make the chat “topic based”, so each different meeting, you could provide your students with opportunities to talk about varied topics.

Second Life (or any other VR) is another option that many teachers are taking into account. I guess it would be kind of a playing with dolls situation, where one of the characters represents a teacher and the other,  the student.

Blogging is a well known tool nowadays, but with some training on web tools, it can be a really powerful teaching tool. Many teachers publish a class blog for parents to see what their children are working on, or just to share some extra knowlede with their students.

There are lots of tools for language teaching and learning but where should we start? I tend to use IT with my private students, since they are all grown ups and acquainted with technology.  My advice is to start by using those tools you are familiar with, and then gradually start including new ideas into your teaching practices. Of course, you don’t need to be an IT expert to choose what to use for your teaching practices, but be sure you know all tips and tricks before you make your students work with technology (and, if they are under age, do not forget to ask for parents’ permission if you are planning to work on the net!). Sometimes school policies do not allow teacher-student contact after school hours, so be sure to ask first!

et cetera