November 25, 2009

Interactive Whiteboards: Friend or Foes? by Gareth Davies

Seminar Report
Permanent Professional Development 2009: Integrating Technology to Language Learning
September, 26th
Interactive Whiteboards: Friend or Foes? by Gareth Davies

According to the presenter, interactive whiteboards are like ordinary whiteboards but with some improvements. He presented several advantages and disadvantages about them. To begin with, he mentioned the positive uses a teacher could give to an Interactive whiteboard, such as encouraging heads up activities, bringing outside world into the class, cutting down on copies and time, and the most important, motivational tool for digital natives. Within the negative aspects mentioned, we could find the fact that if not well used the can be teacher center and if overused, they become less effective. He mentioned that the use of interactive whiteboards required teachers’ training and they need to complement a lesson not determine it. The presenter finally mentioned the use of itools in the EFL classroom and demonstrated the complementing itools for some Oxford books. ( )
When googling Gareth Davies I’ve found an article he wrote recommending the use of Interactive whiteboards and itool. I’d love to share with you the following link that includes a set of tips for the introduction of this new technology into our classrooms ( Even though introducing Interactive whiteboards in the class can be really motivating for our students, we need to keep in mind that in a communicative classroom as the one we would like to foster, the active role of our learners can´t be limited just for the use o technology. It is essential that any new item introduced in the classroom, and even more with the new web 2.0 we need to make more emphasis on developing critical thinking and autonomous learning.

November 19, 2009

“Word DO come easy”… What do we think when we think about writing??

Traditionally, teacher had thought that producing a good piece of writing should have been innate in the students mind. A writing task was seen as a product required to be passed at a certain level in the English class. As we can see in Gladys Baya's presentation, mental blocking and frustration were very common feeling for our students.

There has been a movement for almost twenty years to consider writing within the learning process, and as Tricia Hedge defines in her Teaching and Learning in the language Classroom, writing became "the result of employing strategies to manage the composing process, which is one of gradually developing a text". With this change in the way writing was perceived, we will need to focus on our responsibility as facilitators of the learning process on training our students into process writing and on the new role this skill has acquired, a productive skill for real communication.

Gladys suggests us several techniques for training our students into process writing; ideas that Hedge would categorize as "helping students to generate ideas" and "providing opportunities for planning". She will go a bit further and she will give us tips for correcting and giving feedback to pieces of writing that had gone through the process. It is up to us, encourage our students writing for authentic audiences such us blog readers (have a look at Maria's students writing) or students from other classes in other parts of the world (have a look at Gladys' students interaction with other classes), the more meaningful we can make writing for them, the easier it would be for them to find the words to express themselves.

I invite you to discover all you can learn from this teacher who enabled me as a facilitator for my students own processes. Only by becoming aware of the role we want writing to have in our classes and in our students' lives is that we can change the fossilized image of writing as a static product.

Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000
(Chapter 9)

November 15, 2009

A partner taught me more than I expected...

This is my last observation as a teacher trainee and I decided to observe a friend. After sharing four years, I decided to observe AdA. This observation aims to show all I´ve learnt from her not only as a teacher but also as a human being.
In my path through the Teacher Training College, I found lots of people that helped in the teacher I am now. AdA taught me to study, to learn, to live and to laugh. I decided to observe her this time, to learn from her as a teacher.
I invite you all to discover with me, how much you can learn from a partner….

Observation 7 - Level III - LCB - 2009

This time I've learnt that all teachers have something to "steal" and that I will always have something valuable to give. Today I've learnt that being a teacher means more than teaching content, being a teacher is sharing teaching and learning. Peers help you realize who you are, what you want and how to do it.
I'd love to thank AdA for helping me "survive" my Teacher Training College and for giving me a hand to be the teacher I AM.

November 03, 2009

“Two monologues do not make a dialogue.” Jeff Daly

After having fostered a Communicative Classroom throughout the year, we’ve decided to try out a new approach to the discussion of Tricia Hedge’s “Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom.” Considering that it takes two to Tango, we’ve decided to discuss speaking respecting its main characteristic: having, at least, two participants.
We will formulate possible aims for a Speaking component of a coursebook following Hedge’s categorization of successful oral communication; and then, we will compare them with the New English File – Intermediate ones.
Our book will have as an ultimate objective to foster the use of language for communication. Upon completion of this course, students will have an intermediate degree of fluency that will allow them to keep up a conversation in the target language including listening skills, taking turn skills and the proper management of interaction. Students should also be able to present information/instructions about defined topics to others in a clear, organized way and to participate in discussion groups.
In order to attain those goals, students should be able to demonstrate understandable pronunciation and an acceptable level of mastery of stress, rhythm and intonation patterns. They should be familiar with conversational skills, register and syntax. Students should have developed awareness in structure and strategies used in meaningful true-to-life conversations.
After establishing the objectives for the Speaking component of our ideal coursebook, we invite you to take a look at the actual ones in the above mentioned book:

Now, let’s have a look at a randomly chosen set of activities taken from the same book, do they actually match either their or our objectives?

Speaking Activities - NEF Intermediate - Methods2 - 2009

As far as you can see in the activities, the book is coherent with its objectives. It provides a wide variety of speaking, listening and pronunciation exercises that pay the way for successful completion of set goals!
What this well-known coursebook proposes is to give students the necessary tools for them to be able to speak fluently, accurately but, most importantly, confidently. Considering the variety of activities that we selected from the coursebook, it can be said that students are provided with interesting topics that will motivate them to speak (mobile phones and money) as well as useful phrases and to-the-point guidelines for them to have a starting point from which they can start to speak more freely. Each speaking activity (as well as the listening and pronunciation ones) is organized in several steps which, in turn, gives students enough time for them to organize what they are going to say.
Another useful tool provided by this book is that students are given opportunities to practice and improve their pronunciation in terms not only of sounds but also stress and intonation, which are two of the most essential aspects for a student of English to learn so as to become an effective communicator.
All in all, it is important for us, as English teachers, to keep in mind that speaking cannot be taught as if it were an isolated skill that can be improved only by means of working on grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation. We must show our students that speaking is an essential tool for us to be in contact with others. Speaking, as a tool for communication and social interaction, must be dealt with in class following its most important characteristic: interacting with others. There must always be a coming and going of messages in speaking and, therefore, we should give our students as many tools as possible to help them face that thrilling challenge of interacting with others in a foreign language. Our students need to be able to speak both fluently and intelligibly and for them to achieve such an objective we must provide them with a balance of grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and listening activities as well as a wide range of opportunities to develop communication and negotiation skills.
Our students must be taught pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary not because we want to form language experts but simply because they are the tools they need so as to become efficient communicators.

Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000 (Chapter 8)

November 01, 2009

May I speak???

After having observed this lesson, I feel more confident about implementing free speaking activities in my own teaching. This activity observed served two main purposes, one of recycling vocabulary and the other one, of fostering communication working on language systems as a milestone for putting a message across.

I invite you to have a look at my experience as an observer in a Speaking class... (If you can't see the whole of the Scribd document, just contact me and I'll email you a copy :))

Observation 6 - 2nd year - Colegio P - Methods2 2009

October 11, 2009

What do we listen to in an ELT classroom?

Using authentic material in an ELT classroom is always a controversial issue. It's easy to find as many teachers in favor as against this policy. Some of the items suggested by Hedge in which they may disagree are: the level of students, the grading of language, the unfamiliarity of accents, and the amount of repetition and the speed of delivery.

Personally, I believe that introducing authentic material can be carried out at all levels. The important thing is not to grade the audio recording or video segment, but grading the task according to our student's schematic knowledge. Making use of an appropriate pre-listening task, we are able to activate formal and content schemata and give our students a good purpose for listening. Most of our students are already familiar with different accents heard in movies and TV series, so, to me, it's just a matter of adapting the level of activities to the level of our students; the activities may vary from a simple checkpoint of words mentioned to more complex activities in which inference strategies are required. Finally, amount of repetition and speed of delivery are items that could be indirectly graded by selecting appropriate material, which does not mean risking authenticity.

I invite you all to go over the following article I've found on the BBC website*. It is related to the use of all kinds of authentic material in ELT classroom and it gives great ideas!!!

Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000
(Chapter 7)


Why don't we have a look at Grammar in action???

"Grammar is an important element of my teaching, however, it cannot be considered predominant over other language systems in my teaching. I strongly believe in balancing all aspects of language in order to achieve my ultimate goal of teaching English for COMMUNICATION. As I always say to my students “you may get to put your message across even with grammar mistakes, but isn’t it rewarding if besides conveying meaning you do it properly?”"

Observation 5 - 1st year - Colegio P - Methods2 - 2009

September 06, 2009

What do our students feel when they first encounter new words in a Reading Comprehension?

Tricia Hedge suggests several examples of what our students may feel when meeting new words or phrases in Reading Comprehension (RC) activities…
· “I read on to see if the word is repeated”
· “I go to my dictionary for a translation”
· “I think if there is a Spanish word like it”
· “I ask my teacher to explain”
· “I look to see if the word has some part I know”
· “I say the word out loud”
· “I start again from the beginning of the sentence”
· “I ask the other students in my group”
· “I write it in my notebook”
· “I study the words around”
These feelings made me reflect upon what is Reading Comprehension for us, teachers. To me, reading in a foreign language is a skill that needs to be developed; since it is not enough to handle a foreign language and to know how to read to be a successful reader in the target language. But, do we all agree on that?
In order to decide whether we would like to foster these feelings/reactions in our students, we need to define what purpose is in including those activities in the class. Personally, I agree with Michel West’s description of Reading as “to confer greater facility in the use of the vocabulary already gained, to give the child a sense of achievement and a taste of the pleasure to be derived from his accomplishment” (1995:45). Following this definition, it won’t be wrong to say that there is no right or wrong reactions to the encountering of new words in a RC activity. I encourage you to go on reading the positive aspects of each of the above mentioned reactions of our students:
· “I read on to see if the word is repeated” >>> This helps them determine whether the word should already be known (generally, if the word is repeated several times it is because it is considered known for the level)
· “I go to my dictionary for a translation” >>> This proactive motivation can be canalized in a specific activity to train the use of different dictionaries
· “I think if there is a Spanish word like it”>>>This way of thinking can be canalized into cultural awareness of languages’ similarities and differences
· “I ask my teacher to explain” >>> There are some students that even after having been trough different techniques for understanding new vocabulary in RC activities will need the T’s explanation. Now, what we really want to foster is autonomous learning, so T’s explanation of new vocabulary items needs to used as a pre reading activity, to allow a smoother development of the activity
· “I look to see if the word has some part I know” >>> Great attitude to be fostered; family words as well as categories recognition are excellent tools
· “I say the word out loud” >>> May be of help for auditory learners!
· “I start again from the beginning of the sentence” >>> Even though starting from the beginning will make the activity longer, this can help understand the context better
· “I ask the other students in my group” >>> Great for encouraging interaction, as long as we keep the English environment!!!!
· “I write it in my notebook” >>> This reaction will help students create their own bank of new words, however, we need to ensure that this activity does not disrupt the comprehension of the text as a whole
· “I study the words around” >>> This is the best technique for deducing from context!!!
I hope you can share some of your ideas with me…
Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000 (Chapter 6)

August 02, 2009

Teachers need to be ready to deal with the unexpected!!!!

"My question is whether this teacher had planned her classes in advance or she is talented on dealing with the unexpected..."

You are welcome to share with me the experience of visiting a planned class...

Observation 4 - 2nd year - Colegio C - 2009

July 30, 2009

Where should I get with these instructions?

Tricia Hedge states in Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom that "a Communicative Class involves learnes in face-to-face encounters in the classroom with a teacher in a wider range of roles beyond that of providing and presenting new language".
What happen if under unexpected circumstances the face-to-face class needs to be carried out from home? This winter break was unusual, since due to the Pandemia lots of homework needed to be assigned. Learning would have to take place on autonomous basis more than ever had and teacher's role would include setting up activities and organizing resources for a month!
If I were to isolate what I've learnt from this observation, I will go for the idea of keeping a Communicative Classroom at all times!!! Would you like to share with me some of the instructions this teacher needed to give to her students for this unusual winter break?

Observation 3 - 3rd year - Colegio C. - Methods2 - 2009

July 25, 2009

Grammar Ways & Whys

John and Liz Soars, authors of Headway Upper Intermediate TB, give a list of reasons to teachers to explain their prominence of grammar in their materials:

  • It is the mechanism that generates the infinite number of sentences that we produce and receive.
  • It is a tangible system, and can provide one element of a systematic approach to teaching a language.
  • It develops students' cognitive awareness of the language. Language is rule-based, and conscious or sub-conscious knowledge of the rules is the key to "generalizability" and creativity.
  • It conforms to students' expectations of language learning, and meets an often-heard request for "more grammar".
  • It will be of assistance to teachers in the planning of their lessons.

Now, if I were to express my viewpoints without referring to the discussion whether language is lexicalized grammar or grammaticalized language, I consider grammar a tangible system that develops cognitive awareness. It helps us, teachers, to give an order to the teaching of a foreign language and allows students to raise their awareness in learning strategies and conscious knowledge. However, I don´t believe that students associate "more grammar" with "more English". Language is broad enough to cater all appetites. One the one hand vocabulary is what makes the difference between an intermediate learner and an advanced one; on the other hand, learning the grammar rules is handling the ABC of the language. It is up to us to decide in which way to design varied syllabi with the proper combination between vocabulary and grammar. Either one or the other needs to serve our purpose of contextualizing the other; there is no language if one of the areas is missing. What's your idea about it?

Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000
(Chapter 5)

June 28, 2009

More than words…

Teaching vocabulary is far more than just teaching isolated words. Our students may have different ways of acquiring vocabulary and it's our duty to train them in new strategies for doing it. Teaching vocabulary is about making connections and building relations with our words; it is about giving students the tool for mental processing of lexical units.

Teacher who had gone through a Teachers' Training College should be aware of some Language teachers' love for long list of ways of… In a collaborative way, students at the LCB TTC have created a wiki page in which I've made some contributions towards a list that we can call "Ways of Teaching Vocabulary".

You are more than welcome to visit it and leave your comment!!!

"Vocabulary enables us to interpret and to express.

If you have a limited vocabulary,

you will also have a limited vision and a limited future." -

Jim Rohn (Business Philosopher)

Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000
(Chapter 4)

June 14, 2009

Is Independence something we really want to foster???

Before we answer this question, we need to deeply think about ways teachers can promote learner independence and its implications in the classroom organization and course curricula. Dickinson (1992: 2-3) suggested several ways of going about it, from which the following are the ones I’d agree with:

Helping learners to develop learning technique (learning strategies) so that they can exercise their independence

I strongly believe that helping students develop learning strategies should be a key element for a teacher to bear in mind when planning the course program as well as a cross-curriculum item to discuss with teachers from other subjects. Taking these strategies into consideration will shape our way of teaching and our way of organizing the classroom. For instance, if we consider that interaction is one of the strategies to foster, organizing pair work should be a key concept in our class planning.
When choosing the course book and the resources for the class, we need to consider also the degree of independence we want our students to get, i.e. we might encounter students who are exposed to these meta-linguistic concepts for the first time, requiring a more active role from our part in their training of learning techniques. It is important to include our objectives are independence trainers in our global objectives for the course.

Convincing learners that they are capable of greater independence in learning, probably most effectively by giving them successful experiences of independent learning

It is high time to be honest and assume that half of our job is the one of a “top-seller” from the business world, we need to “sell” our views to our students, or as Tricia Hedge says “convince our learners of...” In this particular case, we need to convince them of their own potential and that requires an extra effort on our part since our students are mainly teens or adult who may easily get frustrated. Success oriented experiences are a must in our classes if we professes the independent learning.
The question is if our classes are ready for that. Traditional teacher-centered education would consider self-access training as a way of “disorganizing” classrooms and curriculums; fostering independence can be even threatening for them. So, are we prepared to face the challenge that braking with that traditional viewpoint means? It will demand more time for planning and for organizing different activities; but for sure, it will be a rewarding task!!! :) :)

Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000 (Chapter 3)

June 01, 2009

Who has the power in your classroom?

"It is hard to believe that my first steps given in teaching would be as power-shared as the ones on the class observed, I am afraid I lack self-confidence to deal with classroom management if I resign to the monopoly of decision-making. However, when teaching, besides linguistic and affective objectives, the one of learning how to let go some of the power is one of my personal objectives as teacher, specially in teens’ courses. Hopefully, after several observations I will be better prepare to assume the challenge that this represents for my career."

Come an have a look at my second experience observing a high school lesson... ENJOY IT!

Observation 2 - 3rd year - Colegio C. - Methods2 - 2009

May 31, 2009

Why do we work in groups?

"Communicative language teaching sets out to involve learners in purposeful tasks which are embedded in meaningful contexts and which reflect and rehearse language as it is used authentically in the world outside the classroom."

Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000

When reading Tricia Hedge's quote, I thought of the innate characteristics of group work in the classroom. Regardless of your viewpoint on language teaching purposes, we can't deny that language is a key element in life, and life as we know it today necessarily means living and sharing with others. Therefore, it is not hard to believe that one of the key elements in a Communicative Classroom will be PAIRWORK and/or GROUP WORK.

Some of the often given reasons for using group work in a communicative classroom, which I agree with, are that it increases opportunities for practicing the language and it enables students to take risks with the language and to see if they can negotiate meaning. Working with peers gives the students the chance of practicing the language in a more realistic interaction and allows them to develop their strategic competence, taking risks and accommodating their language to achieve communication successfully.

It is important, however, to highlight that working with groups in the classroom may have a main disadvantage reflected on behavior, students may feel that allowing group work and communicative activities are a waste of time and start misbehaving; the teacher's role, there, is to help students realize that within a group there is always somebody who should be interested in keeping the group on task as well as somebody who should be interested in maintaining interpersonal relations within the group.

Our challenge as teachers is to introduce pair and group work in our classroom, and "selling" our reasons for doing so to our students, strongly believing that they will profit from the activities and that in the end they will become BETTER COMMUNICATORS in life. Are we ready for such a challenge?


Based on Tricia Hedge, Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Oxford, 2000 (Chapter 2)


May 27, 2009

This is my.... TeLeScOpIc ObSeRvAtIoN

As part of my training as a teacher to be, I should observe some lessons at high schools. Today, you'll share with me the experienced I had in a 3rd year in a school in Buenos Aires.
I hope u enjoy reading about this experience....

Observation 1 - 3rd year - Colegio C. - Methods2 - 2009
Observation 1 - 3rd year - Colegio calasanz - Methods2 - 2009 Shorli83 First observation on a 40-minute lesson in 3rd year of Colegio Calasanz, CABA, 2009.

May 14, 2009

First Class in a new adolescents or adults course, what shall I do?

At the beginning of a new course of adolescence or adult students, I'd try to engage them in a set of activities. That very first class (assuming a 40-minute class) will be devoted to get to know each other and motivate them to start the year with the right foot.

Ice-breaker: BRANDED NAME (10 min)

Sit them in a circle (if possible due to sitting arrangement) and ask the first one to say his/her name and a word or brand that they know in ENGLISH. Each student should have to repeat the previous student's word and add a new one. By the end they will have mentioned at least 20 words in English.

OUR REASONS (10 / 15 min): These words should work as starting point for me to ask them whether they use English in their every day life or not? And ask them to carry out a short survey within the class to find out the top 5 reasons why they should study our subject.

After some minutes, I will ask them to write on a poster their reasons and to find out a title that will summarize their objective.

STORY TIME (10 min): After they've finished with the poster, I will read the following story asking them to find connections between the reasons they've written down and the story.

In your hands, NLP in ELT, Jane Revell and Susan Norman, Saffire Press, 1997
In your hands, NLP in ELT, Jane Revell and Susan Norman, Saffire Press, 1997 Shorli83

In the end I will give out the following copy taken from The Teacher's Magazine #110, EDIBA, February 2009, for the to reflect upon for Homework and come up with one thing they can commit themselves to throughout the year:

Learning a Langauge, The Teacher’s Magazine #110, EDIBA, February 2009
Learning a Langauge, The Teacher’s Magazine #110, EDIBA, February 2009 Shorli83

Based on Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom, Tricia Hedge, Oxford, 2000 (Chapter 1)

April 17, 2009

Excuse me, May I come in?

As our first task for this course in methodology, the teacher asked us to reflect upon important things we should mention to a teacher whose lesson we are about to observe, so I took some minutes and this is what I came out with:

• If it’s the first time I meet the teacher I will definitely need to introduce myself, telling her my name and the teacher training college I study at.
• It will be very important also to clarify dates for visiting the class and timetables so as to avoid future conflicts.
• It will be nice to tell the teacher that we are there to observe how the students work for the teacher to be at ease and her work not to be influenced by my presence.
• Something that is really important is to ask all questions before the class starts:
- What book they use so as to be placed in the picture of the lesson
- Where should I sit down in the classroom in order not to influence classroom atmosphere
- Whether she wants to introduce me to the students or not, since some teachers prefer observers to take an active role and some others prefer a passive one
• Finally, I’ll give the teacher the change to tell me/explain me anything she might consider interesting in her classroom (some teachers love to tell you about individual cases or group behavior). This generates a better atmosphere between the teacher and the observer and the class gets less influenced.

It is important to have a humble attitude, we are there to learn different ways to go about a classroom and the teacher we are observing has experience on that. So, I’ll kindly invite you to go on reading how the experience goes about in future posts. =)