Tag Archives: Teaching

Finger Family

By playing games and singing along, kids learn language and also exerience a different culure, besides to have a lot of fun during English lessons. Visit our Finger Family album on http://brazilianfriends.multiply.com/photos/album/70 . It’s impossible to teach these kids and not loving them.


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Which English?

Which English is the correct? Which pronunciation should be adopted? Every teacher have already answered to this kind of question. English has become a linguistic phenomenon and the whole planet has contributed to it.

Let us begin with Kachru’s classification of English as a World Language as consisting of three circles (Kachru, 1982, 1988).

1. The inner circle refers to the traditional bases of English, where it is the primary language. Included in this circle are the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The varieties of English used here are, in Kachru’s scheme,  ‘norm providing’. It means that 375 million people speak English as native speakers.

2. The outer or extended circle  involves the earlier phases of the spread of English in non-native settings, where the language has become part of a country’s chief institutions, and plays an important ‘second language’ role in a multilingual setting. Singapore, India, Malawi and over fifty other territories are included in this circle. The varieties used here are what Kachru calls ‘norm-developing’: in regions using these varieties there has been a conflict between lingusitic norm and linguistic behaviour. Such varieties are both endo- and exonormative. In other words, about 450 million people speak English as second language.

3. The expanding circle includes those nations which acknowledge the importance of English as an International Language. Historically, they do not belong to that group of countries which were colonised by members of the inner circle, and English doesn’t have any special intranational status or function. They constitute the context in which English is taught as  a ‘foreign’ language as the most useful vehicle of international communication. These are ‘norm-dependent’ varieties, and are essentially exonormative in Kachru’s terms. The biggest circle where 750 million people speak English for business, academic and cultural purposes.

750 million people from the third circle together with 450 other non native speakers learning and making use of the language, interacting in English every day means that English language has never been richer than it is now, new expressions have added different color and obviously, many, many different accents. Have you ever heard of Japlish, Spanglish, Hinglish?

This material might be interesting for teachers take a look at http://host.uniroma3.it/docenti/boylan/text/white01.htm and also the book  The Future of English by David Graddol www.britishcouncil.org/learning-elt-future.pdf

In the meantime, if you are one of these people who is still in doubt about what English to use next time you speak to someone, Amy Walker will surely help you to pick up a nice accent or you’d rather listen to my ‘Portuglish’.



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I know an old lady who swallowed a fly

I would like to share this amazing story with you all and also invite you to take a look at my students photo album of this story on http://brazilianfriends.multiply.com/photos/album/58/I-Know-an-old-lady-who-swallowed-a-fly and see how they enjoyed it, perhaps even more than I did. Maybe you want to take a step further and get some wiki information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_Was_an_Old_Lady_Who_Swallowed_a_Fly.

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London Diary, July 25.

Foreign language teachers seem to think alike no matter what language they teach or where they live. In England schools also offer classes in foreign language, usually French, German or Spanish. The teachers with whom we had contact during the time we studied in London, have the same concerns that we foreign language teachers here in Brazil have when it comes to eliciting good reasons for our students to learn English. One might think: ‘if the entire planet is learning to speak English, why do I need to worry about learning another language?’ In the photo below we can see a language teacher in action in order to answer to this question, besides to engage students into studying a foreign language.

 And you? can you think of other reasons to study a foreign language? Leave us your comment.


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Canterbury Tales

If you like storytelling, you must visit Canterbury. The city is famous for the Canterbury Tales and it is amazing visiting the theatre where small groups move into different scenarios to listen to them. In the picture I am imitating the powerful ‘Wife of Bath’, one of the tales you can learn more about on  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wife_of_Bath’s_Tale and visit also the site http://www.canterburytales.org.uk/home.htm

Castles,  the Cathedral of St Thomas, the boat trips and the very streets of Canterbury make you feel yourself in medieval times.

Learn more: http://www.ecastles.co.uk/index.html

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Andrew Articles and Stories

Fantastic material for storytelling in ELT. According to the author:

‘This site is mainly intended to act as a library of stories and articles which I would like people to use if they find them of interest.

By offering what I have made I hope to put a grain of sand in the balance set against all the selfishness and greed, violence and prejudice in this world of ours.’

‘Modern technology is bringing down dictatorships…lets use it to build up companionship as well!’

Andrew Wright

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July 18, 2012 · 9:42 pm

The How to be British Collection

by  Martyn Alexander Ford, Peter Christopher Legon

Very funny way to describe British life.Drawing on their many years’ experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language the authors also offer the wider world a tongue-in-cheek guide on how to get around in English and at the same time make sense of our ‘funny ways’.  It’s a gentle brand of satire, and although there’s the occasional barbed arrow for bland food, fashion disasters or dubious standards of hygiene, the tone of The “How To Be British Collection” is more nostalgic than scornful, and the pet-loving, royal-watching, tea drinking characters that populate its pages are viewed with wry affection.

Learn more http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/martyn+alexander+ford/peter+christopher+legon/the+how+to+be+british+collection/3466442/

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ANIMA MUNDI – Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter is a 2000 Dutch animated short film, made by Michaël Dudok de Wit. It won the 2000 Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

The film also received over 20 awards and 1 nomination and is considered the most successful in the series of works by Michaël. It was also included in the Animation Show of Shows.

Story plot

A father says goodbye to his young daughter and leaves. As the wide Dutch landscapes live through their seasons so the girl lives through hers. She becomes a young woman, has a family and in time she becomes old, yet within her there is always a deep longing for her father.

The story can be seen as a metaphor. The father leaving on a boat signifies his death and the images of the daughter watching for him to come back is signifying her always thinking about him throughout her life. Towards the end when the now elderly daughter begins to travel through the overgrown, dried up riverbed is supposed to explain that she has died and is now travelling in the afterlife to see her father once again.

For more information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_and_Daughter_(film).

This movie was watched during Teacher Sam Duncan’s lesson about cinema in ELT and the groups had the challenge of thinking about activities to go beyond, vocabulary, grammar topics and so on. Cinema is above of all ‘art’, a way of expressing our emotion and share ideas.

Some food for thought.



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Do you believe that a knowledge of theory (pedagogical or linguistic, or both) might assist the English Language teacher?

 By Rose Gimenes

I have been working as a language teacher in Brasil since 1987 when I was still a graduating student. At that time, it was very difficult for me to make a link between theory and practice. I have always focused my teaching actions on my practice and as a consequence regarded theory as less important. In fact, I thought that the time I was ‘wasting’ at reading theory was somehow stolen from the time I had to dedicate to plan my lessons. I have to say that it was very difficult to my teachers helping me to change the slanted view I had on theory. Controversially, I had so many questions unanswered and very often my practice did not match my expectations. In such circumstances, I used to recur to technical books which were mostly focused on ready-made recipes that usually left me alone with all my questions, not mentioning the feeling of frustration for my teaching not to be as effective as I wanted it to.  It was like being from separate planets, me and my students.

My journey towards the theoretical background I have today started in early 90’s with Paulo Freire’s ideas. Reading him made me feel as if we were in the middle of a conversation, his texts dialogued with me and I could directly relate his ideas with the context of my lessons and my students. Teaching is a political thing, every time I plan a lesson, every time I select a text I have to bear in mind who is the people I am teaching, their beliefs, their context, the reasons why they need to learn a foreign language. It is not possible to teach without regard that every lesson is in favor of something or against something and a teacher needs to take sides, the side of their students, not the oppressive system we all belong to. In his words: “The more the oppressed, the poor people grasp the dominant syntax, the more they can articulate their voices and their speech in the struggle against injustice.” Paulo Freire

Little by little I started to make a connection between my practice and the way it could be illuminated through the study of theory. I had already worked for public and private schools, I had also worked for language institutes such as FISK, CNA, Yázigi where I was in touch with language courses and seminars and lots of theory studies both concerning methodology and language skills.  I learned that having a good repertoire in terms of techniques is not enough, you have to know what to use, how to use, to whom you may use it and why you are doing so.

Later on in my career I returned to University in order to make a post-graduation course sponsored by Sociedade Brasileira de Cultura Inglesa aimed to public school language teachers. This course opened a new perspective in my teaching exactly because all theory we studied then and all group discussions we had were very effective in terms or relating theory and practice . In the course called Reflexão Sobre a Ação o Professor de Inglês Aprendendo e Ensinando, I revisited all theory we use to study at graduation courses in general besides to get in touch with new ways of understanding teaching and material production. Reflecting upon my practice, evaluating it and taking action to change what is necessary to change is another positive aspect I gained from theory study. Seeing in retrospect is very important for a teacher, otherwise we start making things in sequence without paying enough attention to the whole.

Pedagogically thinking, authors such as Carl Rogers, Freinet, Piaget, Vigotsky can help me to understand how my students develop their learning process and how I can help them to match their learning needs with their wants.  Other relevant aspect I would like to mention is how it was important to me to have been exposed to authors such as Graddol, Crystal, Rajagopalan among others who guided me through the history of language teaching, how English became an International language since colonization times and some perspectives for the future of EFL teaching. I had never heard before terms such as Lingua Franca, Inner, Outer, Expanding Circle, world language and so on. Having returned to the University for my Post-graduation Studies was definitely the best thing I did for my career and my students were the most benefited from that.

I strongly believe that every reading has its importance to contribute not only to the professional but also, to the cultural background of a teacher. Together with academic reading, literature is also another powerful resource in our improvement as teachers and also as human beings. Tales such as Through the Tunnel, beautifully written by Doris Lessing were so effective in making me think how a person has to be self-motivated to want to learn something and when it happens, the learning experience is so pervasive that it becomes part of a person’s history. Educating Rita, the movie,  is another example of a nurturing story which can give ‘concreteness’ to theory  making it almost touchable by the changes learning process can promote in someone’s attitudes towards life. The Teacher Man by Frank McCourt, Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, Three Cups of Tea by Gregory Mortenson, Freedom Writes by Erin Gruwell are examples of inspiring people and inspiring material to provide us with food for thought about meaningful  the teaching experience can be.

I also believe that another important aspect for every language teacher is to study the language itself, especially when you are a non-native teacher as we are in Brazil and do not have full time contact with the language. English is taught as a foreign language in Brasil. It means that our TV, newspapers, official documents, books are produced in Portuguese and our students do not make use of another language unless in very specific situations such as studying, surfing the net, or for professional purposes. Living immersed in this Portuguese language universe can lead us to reduce opportunities to language practice in our daily lives. Neglecting our language studies can lead us fatally to a poor performance as teachers and not being trusted by our students.

I am convinced that a combination of factors such as theoretical, language and methodological studies can contribute greatly to a good performance in the classroom. On the one hand, living in the cyber-era makes all sorts of teaching material much more accessible than it used to be at the beginning of my career on the late 80’s. All theoretical material, ready-made printable activities are at our computer keyboard reach. You can get in touch with people from all over the world in a question of seconds. Sharing ideas, talking to other teachers and also taking part in discussion forums or online courses is very common practice nowadays. Communicating with our students, recommending them good studying material, giving them feedback, studying tips and even belonging to the same social network is part of modern teachers’ life. On the other hand, it is also very easy to get confused in the midst of such diversity. How not to get lost or in conflict in the waves of this cyber-chaos? As it is not wise to trust in ready-made recipe moreover we must keep navigating in chaotic times, we have no choice but resorting to… guess what?

I conclude this text by reinforcing the importance of theory in our teaching both to understand better the context we live in and as a consequence make good choices concerning what material to use, why to select the material in question, being able to adapt or creating and making adequate choices among so many options.  Separating wheat from chaff is a trick business that can be immensely facilitated by the assistance of theory.

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