Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Autumn Song and Game for VYLs

Before it's too late, here is a little song and game that I use with my very young learners. It's a song about autumn and you can use it in conjunction with Sue Heap's book "Wait and See". You sing it to the tune of "I'm a little Teapot" , it goes like this:

I'm a little squirrel, small and fast,
these are my hands and this is my tail,
when I'm very hungry,
I like eating nuts,
Give me one and I'll jump, jump, jump.

It's a TPR song so you need to do the little actions that acompany it, small and fast, these are my hands and this is my tail, hungry and eating nuts and jump, jump, jump.

Kids seem to love the song and the game even more.

Choose one student. Sit them in a chair at the front of the class, give them a picture of the nut, we sing the song together and then the squirrel is very tired and goes to sleep. When he's asleep choose a child to come and steal his nut. They take it back to their seat and sit on it. The squirrel wakes up sees that his nut is gone and then has to ask "Was it you?". Students answer "yes" or "no".

Thursday, 29 September 2011

S is for Sponge

I'm back to working in an academy after a break of a few years, and it's that time of the year when parents come in to ask about courses. This week, I was asked to speak to a father about his 5 and 8 year old. Now, silly old me had forgotten the mad (IMHO) questions people ask. I remember in my first year of teaching I was asked "When will my child be bilingual?" I kid you not. This child was four and was coming twice a week for 50 minutes. I remember being amazed at this question at them time. I was even more amazed when I found out that the parent in question was a teacher! 

Where do people get the idea that children, especially young learners between 3-6 are "sponges" when it comes to language learning and what does that mean exactly? Why would a child be a "sponge" at learning a foreign language but struggle in their own language? The mind boggles. 

Getting back to the father in question, he asked me, if after a year, his five year old would be able to "defend" himself in English. When I told my boyfriend this, he fell around laughing saying what did he want me to teach him. Basically, he was aksing if his five year old would be able to answer questions and have a conversation after a year of English. 

I spent about ten minutes explaining that he would be able to produce between 50 and a 100 words and have a passive knowledge of classroom instuctions, that he would be able to sing some songs in English and that he would improve his ear. After my long and honest explanation, he said that he would have to go away and think about it. I haven't seen him since.

Children are like "sponges" it is said, yes, they suck it up without fear and then it slowly leaks out!

Anyone teaching any "sponges" ?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mixed Ability Madness

The Scenario

At some point during our career we get one of those classes that are made up of mixed abilities. By mixed abilities, I mean different levels within the same class, not students who are good at writing and others who are good at listening. Of course, I understand that within a level descripter such as Intermediate there are more and less capable students. 

I'm talking about a class where students are really different in levels. At the moment I've got a false beginner and an Upper-Intermediate student in the same class. The problem is when it's a closed group and you can't move them to an appropriate class. "You can't please everyone all of the time" takes on a new meaning in this situation! If you're not careful you can end up pleasing nobody.

This is my reality at the moment.

What I've been doing.

I've only had two classes with this class and I've tried a few things.

1. I've used the stronger students as peer teachers, explaining simple rules to weaker students and helping them complete exercises.
2. I've given the stronger students more teacher like roles, such as reading out texts used in dictagloss activities.
3. I've got the stronger students at the board eliciting vocabulary from the weaker students and writing it up on the board.
4. I've given the higher level students work to do separately whilst in class with the other students.


I'm not happy with this situation. It feels like I'm short changing everyone. The lower levels are perhaps being made to feel uncomfortable and the higher levels are probably feeling used.
The problem is that I have no alternative. What can I do? Any suggestions? What do you do with mixed ability classes?

#ELTchat Mixed Ability Classes

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Work/Life Balance

This is a post I wrote back in February. I didn't post it then. It seems the right time now, as I've not been here for a while. I'd love to say that it's because I've been writing a book or taking part in an International conference but nothing so grand as that only the beach.

Life is a balancing act it seems. Last night after dinner whilst my boyfriend was watching football , I sat in the kitchen cutting up and laminating things for the class. I was quite content as he walked by, patting me on the head ,which I took to mean either poor thing or you're mad!

It's not the first time someone has given me that look. I know as far as my efforts blogging are concerned there are a whole host of people who think that I'm wasting my time and that it could be better spent on other things.

I wrote a book review recently and I was given the same pitying looks. Like what is she doing. The looks grew even more pitying when I informed people that NO I wasn't getting paid for this. 
I enjoy my job. One of the best lessons in life that my own parents taught me was "if you're going to do a job, whatever job, do it to the best of your abilities" . I've applied this to all of my jobs even when I worked in Burger King as a student I took it seriously. My counter service time was fast!

All joking apart. I'm a teacher and as a teacher I have a duty to my students to do my best which I try and do. Sometimes I spend more time planning than others but my guding principle, is that which my parents installed in me as a child.

Commitment to professional development is part of this and increasing my knowledge by following blogs and by joining in with #ELTchats on twitter are ways that I can try to be as "good" a teacher as I can be.

Work is important but so is play and I make sure that I get my own free time whether it's to go riding, to the beach, to the pool or just to lie around and read a book. I find time for myself!

Hopefully this explains my lack of blogging here. I've been at the beach! I'm still reading blogs and trying to make it to #ELTchat but that's all, at the moment. Next week, I'm painting the house and the shed, so I don't expect to be back until September.

If you're on holiday enjoy it!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Who's that guy? - PLN Interview number 2 with @europeaantje (Guido)

This time I interviewed Guido (a.k.a @europeaantje). I met Guido on Twitter, and had the pleasure of tweeting him this year , at  the TESOL Spain Convention in Madrid in March. Guido is from Belgium but lives in Sevilla , you can find him on twitter and he has a toolshed somewhere too. Many thanks to Guido because he took the time to be interviewed, even though he's planning a big move! A big #FF to YOU!

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

 I asked my teenage students. This is what they said:

● “qualified”


● “strict”

2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?


the usual breakfast food, sandwich fillings, yoghurt, veggies and some left-over gazpacho;
the special homemade candy to make brigadeiro …. and lots of drinks (the local Cruzcampo beer, summer wine etc) for our Big Farewell Do in the park Sunday 19 June. Guido and his family are moving back to his native Belgium this summer in search of an even brighter future...

3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

 A postman, a builder or a fruit farmer (nearly became one in New Zealand)

4) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

 The most difficult part of being an EFL teacher in Spain is getting to the end of the month with the money I make. Something´s that been grating me for a long time is the fact that a teacher who contributes to the education of children and adds value to society makes infinitely less than bankers who shift other people´s money and immerse the planet in an economic crisis that others need to try and pay their way out of.

I can´t remember ever having taught a really difficult class but that is probably saying more about my memory than about the classes I´ve had.

5) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

Last books: the Spanish translation of “O Homem Duplicado” by José Saramago and “The Stories of English” by David Crystal.
Last movie: I can´t watch movies til the end. I can´t help but see people pretending to be someone they are not.
 Seen too often: Here´s a real Belgian. After too many viewings my kids now think this is their grandfather. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QksqWRqEfy0

Extra question.
We met online on twitter and you did a presentation at TESOL Spain in March about Twitter so, my extra question to you is, What are the top three reasons teachers should use Twitter?
to learn and develop professionally
● to connect, share and collaborate
● to have fun (and make conference going more fun)

There´s real people behind those funny names:
@bcnpaul1=Paul; @fuertesun=you!; @sallyswinfen=Sally; she who doesn´t tweet=Alison; @lingliziya=Kirsten; esolcourses=Sue; @michelleworgan=Michelle

The End!

Friday, 10 June 2011

New Blogs on my Block

Everyday it seems there's a new TEFL blog spring up from somewhere. It's quite hard to keep track of them all, I have enough trouble trying to post something here on my own blog, maintain some kind of presence on Twitter and keep up with all blogs I follow with my Google Reader. So, in an attempt to keep up with the flow of new blogs and to help others find their way to them, I thought I'd share a few new blogs with you. These blogs are new to me but maybe not new to all of you (my 60 readers!)

The first blog is from Lesley Cioccas. I met Lesley on Twitter through #ELTchat, although Lesley isn't  new to blogging, this is the first time her blog has come across my radar and I will certainly be going back there.

The next blog is from Chiew Pang many of you may be familiar with his old blog A ClilToClimb or recognise him from Twitter. Chiew has started two new blogs that have just passed my radar. One of them kicked off with an interview with Scott Thornburry! Beat that if you can!

Last but not least. I've just started following Sharon Hartle's Blog. On closer look it seems that Sharon's blog isn't new, but again it's new for me. 

If you have time why not have a look at these or recommend some other blogs.
I challenge you!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

As part of Brad's PLN Interview challenge, I interviewed Michelle Worgan. Michelle and I have known eachother for more than 10 years (I think), we knew eachother before blogging and Twitter, in the days of summer school and cassette recorders. 

Here are the five standard questions with two more thrown in for good measure!

Many thanks to Michelle for agreeing to do the interview.

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

Hmm I think I might ask my students this afternoon...I forgot so I'll have to make them up myself. I think each age group would describe me in a different way, so I'll give you one from each. I think the adults would describe me as HONEST. I am completely myself in the classroom and for that reason I always tell the truth (if it's negative I try to find a postitive way of expressing it though). The teenagers would say I was SERIOUS as I make them work hard and don't let them play enough games! And the younger ones would probably only come up with "nice" but I'll go one further on their behalf and say WARM. It is of course likely that they would all say something completely different! I want to say HARD-WORKING but students never think about the work or preparation you put in!
2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

There is always cheese in my fridge - a big block of medium-strength cheese, some Philadelphia or Laughing Cow triangles (I love the stuff), Feta. There is an open carton of UHT cream for making sauces to go with pasta. Salad, pitta bread, milk (nasty UHT stuff but it's ok in tea!), water, Aquarius (because I go running and need to replace liquids), some chicken, ham, smoked salmon, broccoli... there is also fruit but it's mostly eaten by my other half!

3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

Difficult question. I've been teaching since I left university (too long ago to mention) but if I didn't have to make a living from it, I'd like to be a writer. Realistically though, I'd probably end up doing translation work and absolutely hating it! I'd like to carry on working with children.

4) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

For me the hardest part is successfully convincing learners that they need to use English or study outside the classroom. Our contact time is not enough and we don't have time to do much recycling, which is why it is so important that they try to find a few minutes each day to recap. I don't often set homework, but it seems that my students, even adults, won't do anything unless it has been specifically set :(
I have had many difficult classes over the years - my first year teaching children was a nightmare! It was only a small group but their ages ranged between six (non-readers) and nine, there were a couple of naughty boys in there too - mixed age, mixed ability - it was impossible to get them all sitting in their seats doing what they were supposed to. I would still find that class a handful now, but I would be much better prepared! Now I love kids' classes!

5) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

I'm currently reading Emile Zola's Germinale in French! I had a Kindle for Christmas and I haven't stopped reading since. I've probably read about 25 books in the last 5 months! I haven't seen any decent films for ages. The last film I enjoyed was The King's Speech. I've seen the film Hi-Fidelity quite a few times, as well as my boyfriend's favourite: Ocean's Eleven! Oh and, Dirty Dancing, of course...

Our connection is that we met at summer school years ago before we started blogging. Could you tell us what you think are the best and worst things about working at a summer school?

Good question! The best thing is that it can be so much fun! The sense of community and friendship you get from working with a team of people in such a short space of time. The fact that you are not only a teacher but can have fun with the kids by leading activities and excursions - it's one situation where the students actually see you as a human being! The worst thing is not being supported enough - so many demands are placed on the summer school team and you are not always in a position to be able to provide what has been promised. There is often a lack of co-ordination between the management, the sales team and the people who are actually running the course, who are the ones that have the difficult task of making sure everything runs smoothly. Note: I "retired" from the summer school scene two summers ago!

I know that you're a mad football fan. How did you get into football in the first place?

Well I wouldn't say I was a mad football fan! But I've always liked watching football really. At home we would watch the World Cup and that was about it, but I've always tried to follow Stoke City's progress. When they got promoted to the Premier League, I could then watch the matches on the internet! And two years ago I decided to become a season ticket holder of my local club, Xerez CD.

Thank you Michelle and Brad! 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime..............

I have to admit that although I love telling stories in class to young learners, I'm very reluctant to ask adult students to do creative story writing activities. Last week I tried a story writing activity in class with a group of mixed level (Al-C1) adult students (who are all teachers). Motivated by the #ELTchat on storytelling I gave it a go. I vaguely remember using different pieces of music to create a man meets woman story many moons ago when I first started teaching.

I guess I've been reluctant to do this kind of activity in class because I think it's an activity that has the potential to "bomb" really easily. In general, in my experience, adult students and teens are reluctant to write in class and maybe even less willing to write stories.This is because writing is somehow seen as boring or not valuable in class time and creative writing is not something everyone enjoys. I'm not sure why, but it's a definite feeling that I get. 

The groan is often audible when you say the magic words "Today we're going to do a writing activity". Perhaps for that reason I didn't utter them on Tuesday. It was a two hour class, and the last 35-40 minutes we did the writing activity. I used a combination of two ideas that were suggested in the #ELTchat on Storytelling .

First, I wrote the first and last lines of the story on the whiteboard. They were:

It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime.
If I had known what was going to happen, I would have stayed at home

I thought this would act as a very bare skeleton to guide their written work.

The next step was to show them the suitcase with random objects that I had run around the house collecting the night before class. I included:
  •  a pair of binoculars
  • a knife
  • a couple of syringes
  • a travel brochure for Asia
  • a guidebook for Costa Rica
  • a tin of tuna
  • an earring
  • a lipstick
  • a self help book
  • my passport
  • a pack of Nicotine patches
  • a plastic toy shark
  • a purse
  • a key
 The aim of giving them props was to try and help stimulate story lines for their writing and give them more support to create imaginative texts.

Here are their stories published with their permission:

Group 1

It was supposed to be a holiday of a lifetime. I did a cruise and during the cruise I fell off the ship while I was watching the dolphin with my binoculars.When I woke up I was in hospital, I didn't remember anything! The police told me that they found me inconscious at the beach. One man in the beach saw how the doplphin carried me to the beach. But I realized that I didn't have all my documents and passport. I didn't know who I was. So, I had to spend more time, 20 days until my husband found me. then we cameback to fuerteventura and I found my memory slowly, I suffered from depression and my husband gave me a book called "How to mend your broken heart". It was very useful for me. Nowadays, I feel happy but I couldn't travel anymore.

Group 2

It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime in the jungle in Costa Rica. She was walking hrough the jungle when she found a dolphin.  She realized the dophin was hungry, so she fed him with the tin of tuna. She had to make an important decision because she was also hungry but finally she decided to save the dolphin. Now, she was lost and alone on the jungle, she started to cry because she felt that she was going to die. Then, the dolphin showed her the way to get out of the jungle. Once she felt saved she came up with a small village. When she started to walk she saw the siluette of a handsome man running towards her, immediately their eyes met. She thought she was saved but she couldn't imagine that the man wanted to eat her. She then thought: if I'd know what was going to happen I would have stayed at home.

It was a group writing activity. I felt that there were definitely times when the students were not engaged in the activity. I think some students found it difficult to write a story in a group and would have been much happier wrtiting alone or at home. This is just the feeling that I got. Maybe the props I gave them were not quite right or perhaps it was the weather and the mix of students that turned up to class. Perhaps I didn't set it up right but there was definitely something missing. It worked with one group and not with the other. I'm glad I tried it but not sure if I'll be doing one again soon...........

    Friday, 20 May 2011

    #ELTchat Summary : Storytelling

    Once upon a time there were a group of teachers who got together and formed a group of professionals on twitter discusssing topics relevant to ELT. On Wednesday 18th May in the evening session we discussed: The use of ‘storytelling’ in class, (real storytelling, reading stories to our learners, using storybooks with YL and teenagers, digital storytelling). 

    I have to say when I saw the topic , I was very excited. I even volunteered to write up the chat before we started, such was my excitement. Although we touched on reading stories to our learners and using storybooks, the main focus, was on how to get students to create, tell and re-tell stories. As usual the pace was fast and furious and I hope that I can do all 43 pages justice!

    Storytelling is one of those great lessons where students are mostly in control and have freedom to be creative.

    Here are some of the tweets that addressed the question : Why should we use stories in class?

    Marisa Constantinides: Stories are extremely powerful when learning and teaching English.
    Theteacherjames: I think the joy of storytelling is that it’s universal, across all ages and; cultures.
    Marisa Constantinides: Story telling is an essential part of communication in our daily lives so very important to teach the skill of narration.
    Shelly Terrell: Getting students to tell personal stories motivates them to use language that is relevant to them.
    Marisa Constantinides: I think everyone likes storytelling- from fairy tales to anecdotes, stories from our daily lives.
    David Warr: Everyone loves stories, well, good ones.


    There were so many ideas; here they are in no particular order:

    • Ask all of the students to tell you their favourite word in English and write them on the board. Then get them to write a story using all of the words.
    • Play Alibi a classic speaking game where students have to come up with an air tight alibi for a crime. A couple of criminals and a class full of detectives trying to get to the truth.
    • Encourage students to tell ‘stories’ of job related anecdotes and episodes.
    • Tie storytelling into presentations like student Pecha Kuchas!
    • Get monolingual classes to re-tell universal/widely known stories like Red Riding Hood  or what about getting students to write modern fairy tales similar to those of Roal Dahl in Revolting Rhymes.
    • Try a chain writing activity where everyone writes for 1 minute then pass papers down the line and continue the stories.
    • Try some drama. Create soap opera characters and write scenes for them.
    • Give the old classic Consequences a go. Write the first line of a story then pass it to the next student. They read it and then write the next line and then fold it and pass it on.
    • Try Speed Story Writing set a time limit so it doesn’t drag on.
    • Get hold of a copy of the fantasy/sci-fi prompt cards from Intermediate Communication Games resource pack. They are great as picture prompts.
    • Try @SeanBanville’s Breaking News English which is good for topical stories http://bit.ly/3h0PzD
    • Try Lie Detector a fun story-telling game http://esllibrary.com/blog/2011/04/21/lie-detector/
    • Try a story telling competition with a limit of say 50 to 60 words (some given) are great fun.
    • Try chain stories on a class blog! http://tinyurl.com/dn9kwj
    Try using a dictogloss to start off a story. Read the first part and then students can finish the story.
    • Get students to re-tell stories from films / books as if they are one of the characters - also less personal than their own stories.
    • Try a live listening where students re-tell and finish the story.
    • Use true-life magazines. Cut out/scan pictures without text and make story boards, students make up the stories then report.
    • Open a suitcase and explore the items within to create a character, the place they are going to and the reason for travel.
    • Narrative poems can be good too. Another thing may be to use Kennings. @oliverquinlan used them with his kids http://bit.ly/fBrbXN
    • Expand a story adding verbs adjectives or reduce it getting rid of all the adjectives and leave a telegraph version.
    • Try getting children to bring a photo of their pets and use them as characters in a story.
    • Make a Gapped dictation - teacher gives scaffolding, students create their own variations - good for mixed ability groups
    • Use music to create a story. Choose pieces of different music to represent different stages of the story.
    • Try a dictate - write-dictate process.
    • Use a few random photos from our photo gallery and tell a story. http://tinyurl.com/5vtssnm
    • Try ‘modernizing’ folktales http://bit.ly/izkhwz
    • Give students a bag of objects - they have to guess the story.
    • Take well know fairy tales or stories and turn them into dialogue.
    • Give students the first and last sentence. They have to get from one to the other
    • Try a Dice story 1. Who? 2. What? 3. Where? etc Throw the dice and add a sentence to the story. Then reorganise to make logical!
    • Use ‘story’ songs which students re-tell after hearing: http://wp.me/p18yiK-8g
    • Show learners a short video & ask them to write either a prequel or the sequel. Example: http://bit.ly/m1tSze
    • Try to mime a story. Have the words on a PowerPoint and display them when the students guess correctly.
    • Give one group 1st half, other group 2nd half of story. They complete the other half, and then compare it to the original.
    • Get 1 student to tell a story and a second to add sound effects.
    • Another idea for stories using music - start with song lyrics &; expand them into a full story.
    • Take stories from c/books &;‘improve’ them, students have something to work with.
    • Skull Cinema, an idea from IATEFL - use music to create a film soundtrack. Tell story to your partner.


    • Younger kids are generally more open to storytelling.
    • Storytelling is great in lower level high school classes to build emotional connections with course work.
    • I’m always willing to tell anecdotes and personal stories.
    • Teachers’ voice important part of storytelling with adults and kids .It’s a great source of live listening. The problem is we think Teachers’ voice is bad.
    • Little ones can have a lot to say and sometimes adults don’t know where to start from.
    • Adults love whodunit type stories.
    • I was a great storyteller at school until adolescent self-consciousness spoiled it all &; I just stuttered and glowed red.
    • Teachers’ own stories potentially the most powerful form of listening practice, live listening practice . Andrew Wright says we are all storytellers, important to help students to structure their own and give them confidence to share.
    • The build up to the telling is quite important.
    • Preparation time is the key to storytelling with teens. Let them think it through and practice before going ‘public’.
    • My most memorable teacher told us lots of stories about her family life.
    • The advantage of collaborative storytelling is that it creates a scaffolded situation. Digital storytelling gives them the chance to do amazing things, comic strips, short films etc. Plus a real audience.
    • My students love being taught fancy ways to say, “he said” and; “she said.” e.g. She gasped; he said hesitantly.
    • Assessment, I do ‘assess’, I don’t give a grade, just feedback on whether or not they held the audience’s attention
    • Accept all their ideas! No idea is silly/worthless.
    • Important to remember students often need prompts/a push in the right direction-quite daunting to just be told “ok now make up a story!”
    • The more I use my imagination or “open up” the more they seem to follow suit.
    • Get them to share OTHERS’ stories- less embarrassment.
    • Publishing students’ stories online is a great idea, especially if they are not too personal.
    • Storytelling apps I recommend include Story Robe, Story Kit, Puppet Pals, Animoto and Fotobabble.
    • Stories can integrate all the language skills really well.
    • Peer assessment is great and with no discouragement.
    • Encourage drafting process - best possible final product.
    • Avoid judging the story. 


    • Every picture tells a story http://bit.ly/mjg3nP
    • A list of around approx 50 websites used for a teacher training course: http://bit.ly/lgDpdx
    • This teacher does great storytelling online classes called Pass the plot. Watch the recording http://ow.ly/1t0IlK
    • @cybraryman1: My Digital Story Telling page: http://tinyurl.com/3673yqq
    • Storytelling: the language teacher’s oldest technique by Mario Rinvolucri http://tinyurl.com/6h5w3v8
    • @bethcagnol Lamb’s Tales (PD simplified versions of Shakespeare’s plays for kids) are great for lower levels http://bit.ly/iYaZQc
    • Online stories for children from the University of Calgary http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dKBrown/stories.html
    • Bilingual stories for younger audience written by ... http://t.co/fSKHUDpThis is another example: Bilingual stories for younger audience written by ... http://t.co/qoSZ0qO
    • Online collaborative story writing: http://www.storytimed.com/
    • Digital Storytelling/Literacy Apps for Kids http://bit.ly/koJvDP
    • wonderful stories, with lots of activities to be used in class http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/try/britlit
    • All of the warm ups/fillers from ESL-Library are now free on the blog. Lots of ideas for storytelling: http://bit.ly/mo4uD5
    • Love story “fact or fiction” was really fun (how did your parents meet): http://tinyurl.com/bsn338
    • Online stories for children from the University of Calgary http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dKBrown/stories.html%20
    • This is from a workshop at British Council Istanbul Alec Williams told stories for older kids http://www.vimeo.com/album/1576401
    • Story/ Picture+book+Making http://t.co/mnNNlT2
    • This is a great website for young kids or English beginners. Story maker http://t.co/iLWvgKq%20
    • Paul Braddock’s Mobile Storytime post http://bit.ly/kKyq7N
    • An old favourite book of mine is “once upon a time” Rinvolucri and Morgan.
    • Fantastic digital storytelling examples http://bit.ly/mfrW1A
    • Digital storytelling links here: http://bit.ly/mtmLgy
    • Unravel the #IATEFL Story: http://tinyurl.com/443q88l
    • Some ideas on that in a post I did a while ago http://bit.ly/cRwkY1
    • Predict the story based on a list of novel titles: http://bit.ly/jbK7UJ
    • Cambridge English Readers, great stories full of suspense http://bit.ly/l3Yg5U
    • Loads of storytelling ideas in these ways to support writing from @tombarrett http://bit.ly/lHMSkV
    • Mini sagas in 50 words http://slidesha/
    • e Card Flickr - useful for generating story ideas: http://bit.ly/kJwve1
    • Let’s not forget http://www.storybird.com/ even if you don’t have web access in class you can find some great ideas for class work.
    • Storytelling and drama | TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC http://t.co/RHu7ROd
    • Pixengo.com http://bit.ly/7X2lGe Pixengos - great for creating holiday-related photo stories: sent by email, retold in class.
    • Ways for students to record & develop stories with mobile devices. http://bit.ly/iC5TM0
    • Binyameen’s story http://t.co/8R9GwrX
    • Use Voicethread for storytelling projects. http://www.voicethread.com.re/mkzoCa%20
    • Videotelling by @cheimi10: http://bit.ly/ksJ4Bm
    • iphone app Storycubes for storytelling http://bit.ly/iqJePW

    Colorín, colorado este cuento se ha acabado. I’ve finished. I hope that I haven’t missed anything and that it’s useful. There were certainly a lot of great ideas and links. Thanks everyone.

    Post Chat Extras:

    Storytelling with Ceri Jones

    Wednesday, 18 May 2011

    My Latest Excuse for NOT Blogging

    These little monsters are my latest excuse for NOT blogging! I found them dumped at the rubbish bins in my village. There are times when polite words fail me. They're as ugly as sin, but I love them already. Now, the search for a forever home begins.

    Monday, 2 May 2011

    YL Blog Carnival - Shelly Terrell

    A big, big thank you to the "great"  Shelly Terrell for  including me in her Young Learner blog Carnival. I'm very happy to be mentioned alongside all of those other great bloggers and teachers.  Thank you so much!

    Saturday, 23 April 2011

    Nagging Questions and Doubts about CLIL

    Content and Language Integrated Learning CLIL is one of the 'Buzz' words in ELTing and mainstream education today. Many people, publishers included have a vested interest in CLIL. Jeremy Harmer wrote a piece on CLIL on his blog recently questioning it's worth. It got me thinking about CLIL and the problems on the front line. I've just checked my google reader and seen that the #ELTchat I missed last week was infact all about CLIL. I can't believe I missed that one!

    I've been working in CLIL classrooms since 2007 as a language assistant and have seen firsthand how it's being implemented here in Spain. While some countries such as Malaysia are rejecting CLIL , the Ministry of Education here in Spain is pushing it through. 

    It's much too early to tell whether it is a successful method of Language and Content teaching, but here are a selection of problems that I've seen at ground level.

    1) I've heard many people in the staffroom asking what the point is in teaching Maths in English when there are children failing the subject in their own language. They may have a point here. CLIL supporters will probably tell you that these are teething problems which will iron themselves out, but I'm not sure.

    2) There are children who resent learning other subjects through English. I've had children who are openly anti- being taught  content in English. I've encountered a layer of resentment about the priority being given to English.

    3) It's difficult for English teachers to become content teachers and difficult for content teachers to teach in English. Teachers struggle planning lessons and finding appropriate material. It's very time consuming and often results in teachers preparing their own materials which is not easy, especially in a second language.

    4) There seems to be a shortage of content teachers in secondary who are willing and able to teach in English. Teachers are expected to have a B2 level before they can teach content in English.

    5) There doesn't seem to be much guaranteed continuity. One class who had music this year in English won't be having it next year. This begs the question when are they going to use the specialised language they learnt this year? I'm sure that in everyday English and in their English classes they won't see the words pitched and patched very often. Are we just filling their heads with useless vocabulary?

    6) There is fierce disagreement about how to choose CLIL students. Do we choose the "best" English students to take part in CLIL programmes or do we have an open policy based on the students' interest? This year we had an open policy towards CLIL. I'm in favour next year of choosing students based on their English and on their willingness to participate. I don't think that it's enough that they're willing.

    I've painted quite a bleak picture of CLIL which is not all true. Despite its problems I've seen succeses too. Its success or failure depends very much on the teachers and I've seen some excellent ones.

    Is it the future? 

    At the moment it seems that in mainstream education it is for the time being. I have a feeling that it may go the way of Malaysia and other such countries. It's an enormous undertaking for an education system that has so many other issues to attend to. Whilst I love the idea, I can't help but think that they've bitten off more than they can chew with this one.

    Only time will tell, but while we wait are students loosing out?

    Saturday, 16 April 2011

    punctuation whats that

    I readily admit that I couldn’t punctuate my way out of a paper bag. It wasn’t something that I was taught at school and I don’t seem to have really picked it up along the way. I remember when I first started teaching, I tried to memorize punctuation rules, but that didn’t go very well!

    This week an advanced teenage student of mine asked me if she could use “however” in a mid clause position after a comma and before another one. I told her that my punctuation wasn’t up to much and that I’d double check with my friend Sally, who is most definitely, a punctuation “Stickler”.

    I’ve just finished re-reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss and, I can now safely say that the answer is a resounding NO. If you haven’t read this book I can heartily recommend it. It’s a witty, no-nonsense, zero tolerance approach to punctuation. I now know, that linking words such as “however” and “nevertheless” require a semi-colon.

    The problem is, that I don’t think I’ve used a semi-colon since university, and even then, I think I may have just thrown the odd one or two in for luck. When was the last time you used a semicolon or a colon? Are they outdated and old-fashioned or are they the crème de la crème of punctuation?

    Here are some facts from the Eats, Shoots & Leaves that tickled my fancy about punctuation:

    • The earliest know punctuation dates back to 200 BC which involved a series of single points at different heights on a line.
    • For more than a millennium the job of punctuation was to guide actors, chanters and readers-aloud.
    • The first printed semicolon was in 1494.
    • The exclamation mark was introduced by printers in the 15th century and was called “the note of admiration” until the mid 17th century.
    • In newspaper circles the exclamation mark is known as a screamer, a gasper, a startler or a dog’s cock!
    • The first word of a sentence was first capitalized in the 13th century but it didn’t become uniform until the 18th century.
    • The question mark started out in the 8th century and was called punctus interrogativus.
    • There is such a thing as an Oxford comma.
    • The apostrophe dates back to the 16th century.

    How many punctuation errors have I made in this post? Come on, you punctuation sticklers, I’m sure there are tonnes!


    Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss - Profile Books - 2003

    Tuesday, 15 March 2011

    ELT Chat Wiki

    Every Wednesday on twitter at 12pm and 9pm GMT a group of like minded individuals get together on Twitter to discuss relevant issues in English language teaching. If you can't make the chat or if you don't feel comfortable chatting through this medium, take a look at the ELT chat wiki where you'll find summaries of all the discussions. They're available in PDF format so you'll be able to print them off or save them for future reference.

    Why not join us tomorrow for the chat ? You won't regret it!

    Thanks to all the #ELTchat moderators, chatters and summary writers for their dedication to professional development.

    Thursday, 10 March 2011

    TESOL Spain - Animating Text

    made on Wondersay - Animate text with style

    Thanks to Richard for sharing this cool web tool. It's very simple to use. Have a go!

    Wednesday, 9 March 2011

    Great Ideas for Lessons about Dreams

    I saw a nifty tech tool over on Paul Braddock's blog the other day, which got me thinking about a lesson I did last year on DREAMS with a group of Upper Intermediate adults. Here are a list of links and ideas from other people that I've used in some way to create great lessons.

    Many thanks to the authors for their inspiring lesson plans. Some of you may be familair with these lessons but if you're not, they're a great addition to your teaching tool kit.

    The first one is a real favourite of mine. It's a lesson plan by Jamie Keddie for Elementary/Pre-Intermediate Ss, but I've used it successfully with Upper Intermediate classes.You can find the lesson plan here: A Dream Sequence . I love the way Jamie combines Teacher Talk and drawing in this lesson. I've included the song and the lyrics below.

    The second lesson is also based on a song I love. It's taken from the show Les Miserables and I found a great lesson plan over on Karrenne Sylvester's blog to go with it. Just click on this link to see the lesson plan.  Susan Boyle.

    The final lesson plan comes from the archives of  One Stop English by Renee G. La Rue . You can find it here Dreams . I used the two poems in a student led pairs dictagloss activity.

    Thanks to all of the authors for their great ideas and generosity in sharing their lesson plans!

    Tuesday, 8 March 2011

    Confessions of an English Teacher - In Spanish and English.

    This is a copy of FWD message that I received from an English teacher recently. Should we be laughing or crying?

    Esta trascripción, aunque parezca exagerada, es verídica y exacta. Esto me pasó dando una clase con 1º ESO (12 años) un jueves a 5º hora. Sólo es un ejemplo.
    Los nombres de los alumnos son ficticios para que su ignorancia quede en la intimidad de la clase.

    Yo: Bueno chicos, hoy vamos a estudiar el vocabulario de las comidas en inglés: copiad estas 5 categorías (las escribo en la pizarra) y escribís en cada columna todas las palabras que os sepáis.
    Amanda: ¿En inglés?
    Yo: Sí, mejor que en Ruso, en inglés.
    Luis. Profe, ¿cuántas categorías?
    Yo: 5. Las que hay en la pizarra.
    Luis: A mi no me caben.
    Yo: Pues prueba a poner la hoja apaisada
    Luis: ¿qué significa apaisada?
    Yo: Horizontal, o sea: así (lo demuestro)
    Juan: ¿qué título ponemos?
    Yo: Prueba con “Food”, que es el que he escrito en la pizarra.
    Fran: ¿puedo hacerlo a lápiz?
    Yo: No, no puedes. Ya sabes que en el cuaderno sólo se escribe con bolígrafo.
    Jessssika:¿Cómo se dice pepino?
    Yo: He dicho que escribáis el vocabulario que sepáis vosotros. No el que sepa yo.
    Noel: ¿El huevo es una verdura?
    Yo: No, no es una verdura
    Federico: ¿qué título ponemos?
    Yo: Lo he dicho ya dos veces.
    Amanda: ¿Se puede poner “rechicken”?
    Yo. No, porque repollo no se dice así en inglés (risas generalizadas)
    Nieves : ¿Cómo se dice calamar?
    Yo: He dicho que escribáis el vocabulario que sepáis vosotros.. No el que sepa yo.
    Jesús : ¿Hay que escribirlo en el cuaderno?
    Yo: Pues a no ser que quieras escribirlo en la mesa...
    Ricardo: Profe, ¿Pero, qué hay que hacer?
    Yo: ¿Pero tú te has lavado las orejas esta mañana?
    Nieves : ¿Puedo poner zumo en la categoría de postres?
    Yo: Mejor ponlo en la de líquidos.
    Fran: ¿Puedo poner pollo en la categoría de postres?
    Yo: En este continente, no.
    10 minutos después
    Yo: bueno, ahora vamos a empezar. Levantáis la mano y vais diciendo palabras; yo las escribo en el encerado. Empezamos con las verduras.
    (Levantan la mano 10 alumnos y todos gritan a la vez distintas verduras)
    Yo: he dicho que los huevos no son una verdura. Y por favor, levantad la mano y esperad a que yo os nombre para decir la palabra porque no tengo 10 orejas para entenderos a todos al mismo tiempo. ¡Arturo, no le pases notitas a María que se las leo al resto de la clase!
    Arturo: ¿con cual empezamos?
    Yo: con las verduras. Empieza tú, Marisol.
    Marisol. Es que se me ha olvidado el cuaderno en casa.
    Yo: ¿Y qué llevas haciendo estos 15 minutos, criatura? A ver, hazlo tú, Pepe.
    Pepe: ¿quién, yo?
    Yo: Eres el único Pepe que hay en la clase, así que vas a ser tú.
    Pepe: Orange
    Yo: La naranja me la pones en frutas, por favor.
    Juan: Profe, el otro día oí un chiste verde, ¿puedo contarlo?
    Yo: Pues aunque haya verduras de por medio, no, no puedes contarlo.
    María: ¿Esto cae en el examen?
    Yo: Bueno, puede que tengáis suerte y para entonces esté recuperándome de esta clase en un sanatorio mental, y entonces no habrá examen.
    Todos: BIEEEEEN!


    Me: Okay kids, today we’re going to study food words in English. Copy these 5 categories (I wrote them on the board) and write the words that you know in each column.
    Amanda: In English?
    Me: Yes, better in Russian, in English.
    Luis: Teacher, How many categories?
    Me: 5. The ones on the board.
    Luis: They don’t fit.
    Me: Well, try and put the paper in landscape.
    Luis: What’s landscape ?
    Me: Horizontal, like this ( I demonstrate)
    Juan: What’s the title?
    Me: Try “Food”, the one that I’ve written on the board.
    Fran: Can I do it in pencil?
    Me: No, no you can’t. You know that in the notebook we only write with a pen.
    Jessssika: How do you say cucumber?
    Me: I told you to write the words that you know. Not the ones I know.
    Noel: Is an egg a vegetable?
    Me: No, no it’s not a vegetable.
    Federico: What’s the title?.
    Me. I’ve told you twice.
    Amanda: Can you put “rechicken”?
    Me: No, because you don´t say“rechicken” in English( laughter).
    Nieves: How do you say squid?
    Me: I told you to write the words that you know. Not the ones that I know.
    Jesús: Do you have to copy it into your notebook?
    Me: No write it on the table.
    Ricardo: Teacher, What do we have to do?
    Me: Did you wash your ears out this morning?
    Nieves: Can I put juice in the dessert category?
    Me: Maybe better to put it in the liquid category.
    Fran : Can I put chicken in the dessert category?
    Me: In this continent no.
    10 minues later.

    Me: Okay, now we’re going to start. Put your hands up and say the words, I’ll write them on the board. Lets start with vegetables.
    (10 Kids put their hands up and shout out at the say time different vegetables)


    Me: I told you that eggs are not a vegetable. Please put your hands up and wait for your name before you speak because, I haven’t got ten ears to understand you at the same time! Arturo stop passing notes to Maria if not you'll have to read them to the rest of the class!
    Arturo: Which one are we going to start with?
    Me: with the vegetables. You start, Marisol.
    Marisol: Well, the thing is, I forgot my notebook at home.
    Me: What have you been doing for the last 15 minutes? Pepé, you do it!
    Pepe: Who me?
    Me: You’re the only Pepe is class aren’t you?
    Pepe: Orange
    Me: Put the orange in fruit, please.
    Juan: Teacher, the other day I heard a joke, Can I tell it?
    María: Is this going to be in the exam?
    Me: No, you can’t tell it!
    Me: Well, maybe you'll get lucky and there won't be an exam as I'll be recovering from this class in a sanitorium.
    Everyone: Great!

    ( a quick translation, sorry if it's not exactly right!)
    Are you laughing or crying?