Never 'Only' an English Teacher

My brand new blog post for iTDi  is on

Thank you  Kevin Stein and Ayat Tawel for the invitaion. I fell really honoured.

Check it out!



Gail Ellis and Nayr Ibrahim
Session date and time:  2015-04-13 10:30

Summary : Gail Ellis & Nayr Ibrahim (British Council, France)
This talk will discuss the theoretical and methodological concepts of learning to learn in the primary English language teaching classroom. It will show how teachers can apply the 'Plan, Do, Review' routine systematically and explicitly to activities and to whole lessons, in order to help children learn how to learn and to gradually become aware of their own learning preferences and differences. (

I have very good memories when I have first met Gail Ellis in person in in Brazil. Her book Learn to learn English is an awesome and handful timeless source for teachers and leaners.  I have used it for years with my students (regarding learner training) as well as with teachers, when I am delivering teacher training sessions. She has worked together with Nayr Ibrahim at the BC in France for many years.

The book is divided into three parts:
1.        Rational and theory
2.       Activties for learners
3.       Teachers’ development activities

The theoretical background of learn to learn:

The presenters claim that the theory of learning to learn is based on the philosophy of constructivism which is a view of learning and teaching and has the concept that learning  at school happens inside the heads of leaners.  In other words, the teacher cannot learn from the learner.  So there’s a gap between teaching and learning and learners have to negotiate in order to construct new knowledge, skills and attitudes.  

It’s also based on the theory of social interactionism where teachers can help the process of learning by creating optimal conditions for teaching, learning and interaction in the classroom.
So what’s learning to learn? Basically it’s an umbrella term that comes with a wide variety of activities which is concerned with the processes of learning.

It aims to focus people’s attention on how they learn as well as what they learn.  It aims to lead them gradually to a constructive development and how to become more independent.

As for instructions, in the slide below they cite Bruner (1966).

Learning to learn is dependent on all learning in all areas of curriculum and life. Mostly, it’s linked to learner autonomy, one of the most important areas in a child’s educational development and it’s something that they start learning at very early age. It values diversity and take into account that children learn in different ways at different grades, and have different preferences regarding their activities and materials.  

Learning to learn is not a new concept

However, teachers tend to remain at abstract levels and official documents because they have very strong views about learning to learn:   
·         They didn’t learn like this - Teachers feel uncomfortable to implement an approach they themselves have not experienced.
·         They think children are too young for this aspect of learning
·         They don’t have time
·         They have to use the mother tongue
·         It takes a long time
·         Our materials don’t show us how to do it

Probably one of the greatest constraints is the lack of training and practical guidelines on how to implement learning to learn.

Different types of learning strategies:

The literature on learning strategies generally refers to four main categories:
1.       Metacognitive
2.       Cognitive
3.       Social- affective
4.       Communication

In the session they focused on the cognitive and metacognitive strategies.
Metacognitive strategies are those that involve learners in thinking about their learning.  It includes planning, monitoring and evaluating learning.

Cognitive strategies are task specific and involve children doing things with the language and their learning materials and relates to skill areas.
Leaners have a lot of implicit practice in developing cognitive strategies. They are usually embedded in the tasks they do such as sorting or classifying, listening for specific information, predicting, sequencing, and so on.  Unfortunately most classroom situations or materials rarely explicitly inform leaners about the strategies they are using and why, and they are not encouraged to reflect on their learning. In other words, the metacognitive dimension is missing as we can see from the quote below: 

So the teachers need to take an expanded world and incorporate this missing metacognitive dimension.
Suggested activities are designed to implement learning to learn which obey on the following pedagogical principles:

1.       Provide different modes of input by using  multimodal resources to present language and convey meaning and  with a large different types of responses such as physical, spoken, written, creative analytical and personal. It helps to create an inclusive learning environment which accommodates children’s learning preferences and differences.

2.       The English Language Portfolio: Each activity is linked to an English Language Portfolio – The use of portfolio is an integral part of the learning to learn methodology. A portfolio helps children organise their work, monitor their progress, take pride on their work and help them to talk about and account for their learning. They are supposed to teak their portfolios home to encourage family involvement and maximise their time. It lays an important role and fosters home involvement.
3.       Assessment:  Assessment for learning is incorporated and it is based on the principle that children progress best when learn aims to make explicit and share them and they know what to do to succeed in that activity by negotiating success criteria. Assessment for children also involves children in peer and self-assessment.
4.       Value the children’s voices.  Children are encouraged to talk about their experiences.

5.       All activities are informed so that there’s a spirit of transparency. This means teachers share information. For example, they tell the aim of a lesson and the activities, they explain the purpose of an activity so that children understand what they are doing and why, they negotiate success criteria together, and they explain strategies use.

6.       ROUTINES: All activities are structured around routines as routines are a central part of a primary classroom.  They help children feel secure, they help children value a sense of time, develop what’s going to come next ,  and provide exposure to repeated language and familiar situations.

7.       Home involvemvent : Which includes children and parents awareness of the possibilities of conserve English outside the classroom in order to maximise earning.

8.       Beliefs: Learning should promote a philosophy based on valuing self, others and the environment and 5 values on the pillar of activities: Accountability, caring, flexibility , resilience and tolerance.

9.       Cross- curricular activities : Activities can and should be linked to other areas of the primary curriculum to provide a broader view of learning English and of the world . It moves away from the traditional and sequential view of English as a subject approach to a holistic approach.

10.   Each activity has a main outcome :  Children are informed at the beginning of each activity where they work is leading  in order to make this more purposeful, meaningful and motivating.


These three stages provide a framework in which children can be systematically and explicitly helped to learn how to learn by combining cognitive and metacognitive strategies training through reflection, experimentation and further reflection.

The plan stage: Children are involved in the learning aims of the activity and they are encouraged to reflect on what they are going to know and how best to plan for the activity. They then identify and negotiate the success criteria with their teachers.

The do stage involves children with experimenting and doing things with the language and the language materials.

The review stage involves children in reflecting on their learning by responding to five reflection questions* and participating in a variety of  familiar activities such as Simon says.

1.       *What did you do?
2.       *What did you learn?
3.       *How did you learn?
4.       *How well did you do?
5.       * What do you need to do best and why?

As for the DO stage, it gives opportunity to further extend and consolidate learning. Gives children opportunity to work independently and personalise learning.

The share stage takes place when children take their portfolio home to share with their families and are also given an activity to do together,. They aim is to maximise time and get families involved.

The presenters believe learn to learn is best developed in the classroom context as learning is considered to be affective, emotional and a social process which requires a face to face interaction.

As a teaching learning aid, they’ve chosen a mascot which plays 4 roles:

1.       A procedural role
2.       An affective role
3.       A behavioural role

4.       An interactive role 

The presenters then demonstrate some activities with worm the puppet that aim to :
·         Integrate learners
·         Develop awareness
·         Express the experience of learning English through the five senses
·         A variety of presentations and representations by classmates

Children are always informed about the aims of the activities
Example:  Learning English looks like, sounds like, tastes like, etc… (all represented by students’ drawings)

At the end of the activity or the lesson, children are involved in reflection  through reflective activities or the completion of a “my activity record page “ which they organise in their portfolios and share with their families.

They conclude the session giving the teachers a rest at their mind regarding the use of mother tongue and shared classroom language: 

As stated at the beggining of this post ,  the presenters say that teachers also concern they haven't experinced or been trained to learning to learn. So it's important to have teachers' development activities designed around the plan-do-review routine.  This is to enable them to also experince this approach as related to their own personal and professional development. The share stage encougaes teachers  support t, exchange and collaborate with their colleagues, their key source of information , inspiration and ideas. 

The TD activities should :

Involve the learning to lean Pedaggical principles
Be a long term and ongoing project
Include action research, peer observaton, self assessesment and the development of an action plan. 

Teacher development activities help the  teacher: 

Their new book will be available soon but can be seen on DELTA website  , including the download of sample pages. 

Interview with Nicky Hockley - Manchester ONLINE IATEFL 2015

In  this interview Nicky talks about the evolution of technology within IATEFL, the most significant emerging technologies and the role of women in educational technology.

Acoording to Nicky, in terms of technology the biggest changes are based on the fact that technology is becoming more and more mainstreamed, totally different from what happened 10, 15 years ago.
Now people have finally realised that technology is everywhere and relevant to all areas.

(Nicky Hockley is the joint coordinator of the IATEFL  LT SIG )

As for the LT SIG ( Learning technology Special Interest Group )  this year they tried to focus more on unusual technology and emerging technology as well as new areas such as the wearable reality. Google glasses and digital watches, for example are wearable tools and how those might be incorporated in the language classroom, The LT SIG has also reviewed apps and other (new) web tools they have been talking about for a few years now.

Wearable technology seems to be the biggest growth area and there has schools and educators are still find ways how to deal with those new technologies.  Wearable technology is becoming mainstreamed too. Nicky states that google glasses are not going to be developed anymore because they were considered intrusive. So due to privacy issues,   they have been substituted for small watches and / or smartphones.  It’s noticed that students have taken those mobile devices  with them more and more frequently, specially the smartphones 9 the smart watches are not mainstreamed yet but they’ll become soon ) .

The big challenge is how to support students to make good use of those tools in order to learn languages.   It’s a fact that technology is totally relevant in any topic area from  Busniess English and EAP to young learners or whatever we are doing as language teachers.  It is an undeniable reality. Opportunities should be created so that Technology could   be integrated in all those area. It’ doesn’t mean you have to, but technology should be an option. Those teachers should be confident enough whether to do or not to do. This seems to be a lack in our profession as teachers don’t feel confident enough to use new technologies and / or what technology to use with particular groups of students.  Most of them have not received any training on technology either for reasons such as age, interest, etc. or because they don’t have CPD (continuous professional development) structured in their schools. 

Actually it is not about technology but about the teaching as you can teach perfectly well without technology.  Interestingly   when schools decide to implement technology such as IWB (interactive white board), they think it’s enough, that things will be then fantastic and students are going to learn better, which might not be true.

When asked if classes without a classroom (100% online learning) are the future, Nicky claims that schools are not about the spaces where you are and the school has an important social role and for this main reason it will not disappear.  Nicky doesn’t think about schools as institutions but they will need to reconfigure learning.  Flipped and blended learning (part face to face part online) are real good effective models. Nik points out that as for adults who have   a certain level of motivation and developed study skills, it’s easy to think about those models. As for kids, it’s different. We cannot think about this structured learning. If kids are to use this massive technology, there has to be a lot of motivation behind that work.  There’s a movement in some education courses to push primary and secondary school learning more and more online. However, Nik claims that she’s not quite sure how much it’s going to be effective.

As for her talk , Nik will be speaking about mobile learning this year at the IATEFL conference, exactly about the fact that students have use mobile devices more and more frequently each day, and how teachers can integrate this fact within the approach in there schools and in the classroom in terms of pedagogical plan.  In other words, she’ll examine how the school can plan for the teachers to use mobile devices with their students if they want to. If so, it’s necessary to have a kind of structured approach for this to work. It’s not only about asking students to bring their mobile devices or buying a set of tablets for all the students to use in class and simply expect some sort of learning to happen.
The will main focus will be on the challenges we will need to address as teachers and institutions: pedagogical challenges, technology challenges, and management challenges in the classroom. 
Finally she will provide the audience with a ten-step plan to deal with each of the mentioned items at work.

Being a “ big name “ and known  as one of the most recognised women in the world of LT, Nik concludes the interview stating that there are a lot of women working with technology in the classroom doing  a fantastic job . Not to mention that the number of female bloggers who have blogged about technology  has grown for years.  

Reflective practice : Happy Teachers' Day!

This post is dedicated to all teachers and educators all over the world , mainly to my PLN (professional learning network) , teachers and educators who I honour , respect,learn from and care and share. A special mention to Malala Yousafazai, the  young brave girl who bravely fights for education and has just won the Nobel Peace Prize 2014

Image created by Roseli Serra 

October is the month when we celebrate Teacher’s Day: On 5th, The World Teacher’s Day and on 15th we celebrate Teacher’s Day in Brazil.
Regarding this celebration, I’d like to share some ideas with you based on what I’ve read, talked and shared with lots of teachers around the world.
No matter how long you are in the market, education is and will always be crucial for the human being character formation. Being a teacher and an educator is much more than just simply know the theories and techniques. It has a philosophical side, considering our responsibility upon our learners and what role(s) we play in our students’ lives.

Image by Ugur Dinçer -from eltpics 

It reminds me of Paulo Freire , a Brazilian educator, who said: 

“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
(Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change)

Image by @sandymillin -from eltpics

When I recently read it again, I started to think about how much we teachers have been able to do in order to make the difference and shape our students’ lives in some way.  After all,  the world has changed, it’s in permanent change and we and our students are part of this brave new world. I have changed. I'm older, more impatient, more critical, and sometimes I feel weak and tired to face students’ lack of interest and parents’ lack of care about their children.  Recently I've found myself complaining about a particular group of 10-11 year old students and I realised that for the first time in my life I have such a difficult group to deal with regarding everything: impoliteness, lack of interest and responsibility and very few parents concerned about their children behaviour and learning process. What’s important is the final result, the final grade: pass or fail, no matter if they have learned or not.  This conversation was like group therapy in the teacher’s room where other brilliant and experienced teachers were having the same kind of complaints.  We had the need to talk and share. A teacher was almost crying. She was so disappointed and feeling deeply sad. 

In Brazil we teachers are underpaid.  Yes, we are, even if you work in the richest  school which pays the best salary, still you are underpaid. It’s the Brazilian educational system and the society that not value teachers as they should be valued.  I've heard from lots of colleagues they are looking for another alternative to survive apart from teaching. And to tell you the truth, I've thought about it many times as well.

Image by @ceririannon -from eltpics

Being a very optimistic person you must be surprised I'm writing these words.  Well, I've never said teaching is a bed of roses or that it’s only darkness and pain. No! Not at all!

And yes, we have to study to teach, to teach and learn, go to conferences,  prepare lessons, correct workbooks and students’ compositions, deal with discipline, contact parents, prepare and correct tests, face endless meetings, find nice activities to engage students, write comments on report cards and an endless list of duties. Not to mention the fact that most of us around the world have to deal with low salaries to survive.

Image by Hana Tichá - from eltpics

Well, I have said too much already about how hard being a teacher is.  I want to talk about the joy of being a teacher, because the suffering of being a teacher is similar to suffering the pains of childbirth: The joy of giving birth to a child does not compare to the pain we suffered before, which it’s quickly forgotten. And then you'l have the hard and delightful job to raise your child with love and care. What a job! 

Being a teacher is indeed one of the most rewarding jobs ever. How can we forget students who hug you, bring you flowers, a bar of chocolate or simply smile sweetly? What about when you meet former students, and years later and they recognise you, come to you and say: ‘She was one of the best teachers I've had”.  Not to mention those very few students who became  teachers because of you? I have some who are now my colleagues working at the same school.  It’s priceless and I'm one of those cases. I became a teacher inspired by my second grade teacher (see the photo below) who passed away less than two years ago and who I had the pleasure to meet after 38 years.   How wonderful!

Image from Roseli Serra personal files

Teaching is a treat for the soul, isn't it? If it is not, we should not teach.  And if it is, then it is necessary that, ideally, our learners feel the same pleasure from our teaching. If not, perhaps we have failed our mission in some way, as the cook who intended to offer pleasure, but the food was too salty or burnt.  Perhaps it’s time to stop and reflect our mission as educators and teachers. Perhaps it's time for another change. 

But if you were born to be a teacher and if you love what to do, you will not give up. Like me, you’ll insist on teaching and educating people.

Someone once said:  “A master is born from the exuberance of happiness”. So when asked about their profession, teachers should be brave enough to say "I am a pastor of joy ..."
But, of course, only your students can attest the truth of this statement.
Last but not least: “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”  (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed).

Image by Hana Tichá - from eltpics

Enjoy your teaching! 
Happy teacher’s Day!  

How to Integrate Extensive and Active Reading to Creative Writing

It's been a while since I  have written a  blog post for my own blog. As a Brazilian, I spent half opf my winter holidays enjoying  the Football World Cup and the other half I was working for pleasure, form my home, writing posts and articles for teachers' sites and  newsletters and , the best of all, presenting and attending presentations online in online conferences such as RSCON2014,   TOBELTA and #ITDIMOOC . 
Amazing holidays , indeed,  when I learned a lot form educators , friends and colleagues from all over the world and who are part of the best PLN on Earth. What a pleasure to watch them , share ideas , learn, discover and having them watching me too. Great!

Having said that,  this blog post is the result of what I presented for TOBELTA  , with a few more ideas that time prevented me to present.

Although I am a very talkative person, reading and writing are my favourite skills because I am  very visual and emotional too. On the contrary, as a teacher and  a leaner, I've noticed that reading and writing  have been a burden for a lot students , mainly when learning a second language. In order to change this situation a bit and make my students have fun while reading a writing, I've tried my best to show enthusiasm ( one of the best skills for effective teaching) , create and learn activities from my PLN and colleagues to make my students make the most of their learning.

This post has to do with the use of literature in the EFL/ESL classroom  and I aim to show how reading literature is an excellent way for students to make progress in English.

       " The best way to improve your knowledge of a foreign language  is to go and live among its speakers. The next better way is to read extensively in it." 
 ( Nutell 1996)

Let's then define some basic concepts before we share ideas :

Reading : The activity of understanding written  words ; it's  perceiving  a written text in order to understand written words. 

Extensive reading : A way of language learning through reading : reading for pleasure.  

Active reading :  Refers to the assumption that reading is an active -meaning - building process

So is reading a passive skill? No!  After all, when you read you assimilate information , follow instructions, perceive meaning , make inference and bring a number of emotions to an action , don't you?

Literature:  According to Macmillan English Dictionary, literature consists of stories, poems and plays , especially those that are considered value as art and not just as entertainment.

                                             Photo from eltpics  by @mkofab

Why should we use literature in the language classroom?

There are four many reasons: 

1. Literature encourages interaction: Reading a book is like sharing your feelings with the author and characters. Sometimes it serves us as a mirror where we see some scenes of our lives, some of our dreams and experiences reflected there. Texts are often rich with multiple layers  of meaning which allow us , the readers, to make inferences and different interpretations. Furthermore, in the classroom, literary texts can be effectively mined for discussions and the sharing of feelings and opinions.

2. Literature expands language awareness: Literary texts are, perhaps, the best standard of written language (usually high standard) we are exposed to. they have sophisticated or non-standard examples of language which will certainly raise students' awareness of the norms of language use ( Widdiwson, 1995). So it enriches our students' vocabulary acquisition and , consequently, will improve their speaking and writing skills.

3. Literature is authentic material: Literature produces language to fulfil some aspects of the society.It often exposes us to exciting plots, interesting characters and authentic dialogues to learn a language in context.  It also allows students to examine values in literary texts and develop attitudes towards them. These values and attitudes relate to the world outside the classroom . which is of great benefit for the students' growth. Literature reflects different aspects of society in different cultures, and when those cultural doors are open, they have a deeper understanding of other countries, peoples, cultures and values.

4. Literature is motivating:  As an avid reader and cinema fan, I have similar feelings when I read a book or watch a film. You just get into a new world, meet new people, get involved , picture scenes in your mind and your imagination simply flows. Literary texts are of high status in most cultures and countries. So they help students to feel real sense of achievement when they understand and interpret any piece of  respectful literary text. In addition, literary texts are usually more interesting than those texts found on coursebooks.

In spite of all these benefits, the wrong approach to reading literature can make it a boring and frustrating endeavour. In order to change this scenario, let's reflect a little on extensive  reading , mainly on the use of readers in the EFL classroom and how I integrate them to creative writing

Why Readers ? 

So readers have graded language for : vocabulary, grammar complexity and number of words according to the students' level.

Why Extensive Graded Reading?

To make literature more accessible and enjoyable.
Because readers reach all levels of literate learners
Readers develop good reading habits  as they encourage learners to take responsibility for their learning process once they develop good reading habits.
Reading can be easily done anywhere (it's not necessarily  a classroom activity)
It incorporates a content- based approach to language learning and  a lot of other benefits.

Creative Writing 

"Creative writing is anything where the purpose is to express thoughts, feelings and emotions  rather than simply convey information." ( Ali Hale) 

                                                                                                                                photo by Ali Hade  
Creative writing:
Involves fluency-based activities
Students can use their creative-thinking and language skills
It can also include discussions, simulations, communication games and/or also real life experiences 
It can be expressed in many forms such as acrostics, haiku, poems, storytelling from a narrative and once you start writing you discover new and different ways to express yourself and it will never stop. 

Creative writing combines handwriting and cognitive processes (mental behaviour) mainly associated with the memory integrating information from different sources and spontaneous thoughts and feelings. 

Writing has been reinvented 

No! Don't panic! Everything we have learned and taught about writing matters a lot! Nothing is irrelevant. All we have done is important and value. It is just done differently now. but the basic concepts are there , even if taught differently. However, notebooks, notecards and other types of writing are now electronic
Handwriting is not to be despised , but we should recognise the benefits of electronic apps and web tools for collaborative writing, for example , that makes it easier for  the students to work together than if it were to be done with pencil and paper. The picture below illustrates very clearly how writing has been reinvented:

A lesson plan 

This lesson plan is about one of my favourite books " Of Mice and Men" . I was  very lucky to have a very motivated  upper intermediate group of students who engaged this project and  worked beautifully on this moving and touching  novel. 

You can see the whole lesson plan  including the students' production below on slideshare:

A bag with six  ideas - More activities 

Important : These activities were experienced and worked for my groups  of students of different levels. Feel free to adapt them to your groups and make sure they'll fit your students's needs and learning styles.

Activity 1:

  1. The cover : Deliver different readers to groups  of  students and ask them to guess the story from the cover. Get some feedback from the students. 
  2. If you have a screen (IWB) for example, display each cover  with a very short summary of the plot. Don't forget to introduce the characters. 
  3. Presenting vocabulary in context : Provide each group of students with  sentences from the stories.  These sentences should contain difficult or unusual words. 
  4. SS could look up the meaning of words in their mobile devices  or in a regular dictionary 
  5. Set  a date for the students to read the book and present the class projects that (preferably) should contain some of the following items: 
  • Information about the author 
  • The historical context when the story was written  (cultural background )
  • A film on the book ( if there's one)
  • A song  that reminds the plot or the film  based on the book 
  • Their impression about the book. 
  • If they would recommend the book  to other people or not.  ( They should give reasons for their choices) 
  • A creative written summary about the book  such as  : Ghost stories and New Zealand  both written by teenage students . 
Activity 2

1. Each student chooses a book from the school library ( in my school , a monolingual language institute, books are organised by level from starters to advanced) 
2. They read the book and prepare a  presentation 
3. For each book there is a quiz for the other students to answer after the presentation so that it raises interest. 
4. Students who get more correct words  should be awarded with sweeties or any other treat. 

Activity 3

Using comic strips : My favourite is bitstrips. If the whole group is reading the same book , each group could choose a chapter that could be broken into chunks tp make a comic strip . Encourage students to be creative with the characters speeches. What they said or would say, etc. Provide students with the type of language they should use in the speech bubbles. 

Activity 4 : Using Animoto and 

These electronic tool is great for projects . After reading the book and working  on the language, students can create a video with Animoto using their drawings and/or photos, adding texts and  music.  The other students can write comments and ask questions. Animoto can  also be used to make book trailers , click here to check. 

Activity 5: Using  Voicethread 

Voicethread is a totally web -based application that allows you to have conversations and to make comments around images using any mix of text, a microphone , a webcam , a telephone or upload audio file.
See here an example of  students  narrating a story  based on a book they've read  after they have written the story with their own words. 

Activity 6 : An interview ( An activity adapted from Lindsay Clanfield  ) 

Another way to have students writing creatively about the books they've read is asking them to write questions and interview the characters of the book. Students role-play interviews with  the main characters ( on, two, three.. depending on the size of the group). Teachers assign the students the roles of the characters  and the rest of the class prepare questions   they would like to ask them. The students playing the role of  the characters must try to put themselves into the characters´shoes and give suitable answers. Time and support must be given by the teacher to both interviewees and interviewers in order to make this successful. Depending on the book and character to be interviewed,  you could imagine that the interviews are taking place in a police station, on a TV, in a famous hotel, in a big party full of famous people or simply in the character's house or wherever seems appropriate. It can  also be recorded. " With a little imagination it can be a lot of fun" (L. Clanfield)

Sources of inspiration


I have already mentioned the benefits of  integrating reading and creative writing. However I'd like to reinforce what other  benefits I've observed (and still do ) when my students engage in projects like those mentioned above:

Students feel real and quick sense of achivement
They interact better ( using Edmodo has helped me a lot to have my students interacting better )
The four skills are naturally integrated 
It's  a great opportunity to raise students´s curiosity and cultural awareness
reading and writing allow students to good range of vocabulary acquisition 
And most of all, they read and write for pleasure! 

All the book projects can be done electronically or not, and all the activities can be adapted accordingly.
 For the written projects to be presented, students can use web tools such the ones you have just read about and some others such as thinglinkglogstersmoreprezi, or any flipping book creator ( and many many more web tools or apps).  They can also use cardboards, role play scenes of the books and / or  create paper-based books.

A final reminder: It's crucial  that reading and writing projects have a clear purpose, It's worth being to meet students needs but also wants as they usually don´t have the best experiences with extensive reading at school ( at least in Brazil,  in most of the cases).  If possible, negotiate with them what to do, what to read , what to write and how to present. You won't regret at all !

Enjoy your teaching!

Reflective Practice 2 , Professional Development and Gratitude

This post is dedicated to my friend and  mentor Ana Maria Menezes whose work , strength and example of woman and educator have inspired me to keep on following my dreams and start my career as a blogger.

It's a year now since I've started blogging and it's been a long time since I've written a blog post.  Looking back I see my first blog post so naive , not  to mention it seems to be badly written and empty. I cannot help laughing at myself when I read it and I feel really happy I have improved . Well, there's still a long way to go!

                                         Image by  

A year later , I find myself so different whether as a teacher, a blogger or a person. New people in my life, new challenges, a lot of changes, some disappointments, gains , but especially  so much gratitude for who I am, for who I've become,  for what I do , and mainly for those around me who've supported me in many different ways.

After a year I've  been to many different conferences, presented online and ftf,  mentored teachers ,published articles,  travelled, studied, worked ,  struggled against things and people I should have already left behind and lately I have been celebrating life with  my family , friends and colleagues ( those who really have made the difference in my life) more than ever!

                                Image created by Roseli Serra
This is a special blog post;  not  only another post but a post written from the heart which reminds me of Luiz Otávio Barros' pleanary session which I attended at the 14th Braz- TESOL International Conference last week. He said " It was just from the heart". And it made a huge difference and touched all of us educators there.

So let's start with Reflective practice:

Why do we teach?

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It's not necessary to be in the market for almost 30 years to have a clear idea of how demanding , time consuming and rewarding this profession is and how tough it can get sometimes.  Novice teachers easily and quickly have this idea as soon as they embrace this job. In spite of all the complaints, low salaries, extra working hours , teaching is a job usually embraced with the heart and soul.

As a teacher, I cannot imagine not reflecting as a regular part  of my teaching practice.
Most of us who are educators ,  probably wonder from time to time about why we do what we do, and whether efforts we make on behalf of our students have any lasting impact.

I've been thinking about what I'm actually accomplishing in the classroom. The standard view is teaching imparts knowledge , either knowing how (skills) or knowing that (information) .

In one hand, teaching is compared to priesthood: a lot of studying, dedication, extra working hours, investing a lot of money to go to conferences and  to develop ourselves as professionals. Teaching  also demands from us counselling and mentoring skills, the willing to learn more and an endless list of  work which demands from us creativity and passion

Oh the other hand,  teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs one can ever embrace. You connect with your students and learn form their stories. Teaching allows us to change the world  as our jobs influences hearts and minds and people indeed benefit from what we do. After all we teachers empower people and guide them to creativity and freedom.

One of the realities of teaching , of course, is that our students disappear from our lives quickly and usually permanently , of course,  giving us few opportunities to see how we have affected them. One of the rewards of good teaching , therefore, should be the knowledge that we have instilled , modes of thinking, created intellectual passions, promoted forms of tolerance and understanding, and, of course, increased knowledge.

What about our classroom practice? Perhaps it's of some help if we think about learning in terms of what we expect our students to remember for sixty minutes, sixty days or sixty years. Let's see:

  • The sixty-minute material  would generally be information that we would use to introduce students to an area of study or grab their interest in what we hope they will learn; 
  • The sixty-day material would be knowledge of content of the areas of study that we would expect our students to use in their assignments and tests. 
  •  Finally,  the sixty-year material would be the wisdom tat we hope our students would develop as a result of their work shape their lives.

Or, put another way here quoting Gary Gutting:

"  We should judge teaching not by the amount of knowledge it passes on, but by the enduring excitement it generates. Knowledge, when it comes, is a later arrival, flaring up, when the time is right, from the sparks good teachers have implanted in their students souls".  

What about Professional Development?  

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Developing as professionals and keep on believing you are on the right track  has been a daily challenge we all have to face. It has to do with making choices, investing time and money and focusing on what really matters. It's like a magic trip we have to do in order to get real and consistent foundation as professionals involving theory , practice . reflections and acquiring experience. 

The initial teacher training courses such as CELTA and lately the more demanding ones as DELTA are indeed of great help and solid  foundations for out careers , but stopping studying and developing would be a huge mistake. 

I have probably mentioned before that I believe professional development is an ongoing  and endless process. After all,  we teachers will never stop being learners! 

Having said that, I have some reminders* ( yes,  "reminders" because there's nothing new in my words) for the teachers who are starting and for those who are on the way. 

*(Inspiried by JJ Wilson's ideas at the 14th Braz- TESOL International Conference) 
  • Plan your career - set goals and deadlines
  • Read deeply
  • Learn form great educators such as Paulo freire, Piaget and Vigotsky
  • Do action research
  • Write your own materials and articles 
  • Build up a PLN ( Professional Learning Network) and make the most of it. 
  • Collaborate; share. It's fantastic! 
  • Give workshops for colleagues and presentations in conferences (Yes, you can! )
  • Go to conferences, do courses and apply what you've learned from them . 
  • Mentor - It's a great way to develop professionally because it forces you to devise your practice. 
  • Observe and be observed. 
  • Reflect on your practice
  • Be brave
  • Be flexible 
  • Be grateful

Where does Gratitude take place ?

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Last but not least . I'd like to talk about gratitude regarding  my personal and professional life. Yes,  your personal life has all to do with your professional life ,   to the ways you face the bad and good moments, disappointments and happiness , failure and/or success. 

Gratitude means thankfulness. The psychologist Michael McCollough claims that " gratitude shifts your  focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present"

Needless to say I have all the reasons in my life to be grateful. From the past 18 months I have been introduced to a brave new world, I have built an amazing PLN. Thank to this PLN I discovered real friends and amazing colleagues and I have had the chance to do things I have never thought I could.  But most of all I have confirmed that "when we are giving and sharing people, the best things return to us"

I cannot help quoting  a thanking message I've read the other day:  

" This is a deeply personal and honest message to thank you for your unpretentious , instinctive, impulsive and warm reaction when I first showed you my blog. To thank you for your support and sharing me so many times. To thank you for introducing me to such a wonderfully intriguing community of educators. To thank you for making me smile so many times when I see your posts. From simple moments of your life to professionally excellent work I'm honoured to know you. Thank you. "

This is my gratitude message copied from a friend. It's to all of those who, in some or  many ways have been part of my life. Apart from my family, I'd like to thank  this amazing community of educators, friends and colleagues who have helped me built my PLN and from whom I have learned so much. Thank you for sharing , for caring , for the opportunity to talk to you online, to hug you face to face or  for simply being there. Thank you from the bottom of my heart 

I am just a passionate teacher and educator. I teach , I learn. It's not a bed of roses, but it's worth indeed! 

Enjoy your teaching!