Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Earnest to gain vocabulary

The teacher will try to promote in his/her student the attitude to learn vocabulary, by talking with him or her, so that this student will get cheerful to find out how to say further things in English, to communicate with native speakers or practice new things with his teacher in the class. The teacher will try to provoke necessities of communicating new things in the class. It's like a game. A friend of mine, Francisco, is all the time eager to communicate with English-speaking people. Once we were in a plane of the British Airways, and at once he politely tried to speak with the flight-attendants. This person is willing to always learn new words. A person like that, with such an attitude, is the kind of person that wins the war of learning a language.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More about effort in learning English

"Mistakes are easy; mistakes are inevitable. But there is no mistake so great as the mistake of not going on." This was written in 1876 by Jex Blake, and I assure you it hasn't lost its value in our time. In Spain, my country, experts say that children today have more than ever before, but lack in receiving affecion and also lack in discipline and effort: everything is at hand just in a blinking of the eyes. Notwithstanding, as I proposed in previous posts, effort is crucial. That is, the firm resolution to do it, to learn English. That person, with that quality, wins the battle always, and the war as well. What is worth to gain, it implies effort. Best students enroll themselves in a program of a school or an academy, precisely to be exacted by a teacher. In my doctorate research I also used other terms that round up the concept of effort---think of them, because they constitute a nice program of education for the learner: willingness, energy, self-control, desires to communicate in the target language, self-involvement, initiative, responsibility, self-planning (Oxford 1990), studying, creativity, constancy, to intervene and participate in the class, autonomy, capability of intuition (Stevick 1989), discerning, perseverance, the more you dedicate to this process the better. Put in other words, Thomas A. Edison said:

"The three great essentials to achieving anything worthwhile are; first, hard work, second, stick-to-it-iveness, and third, commonsense."

OXFORD, Rebecca (1990) Language Learning Strategies. What Every Teacher Should Know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.

STEVICK, Earl W. (1989) Success with Foreign Languages. Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall International.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Your students should use all the means!

All the means at hand! Studying, learning vocabulary and useful expressions, practicing them by using them in conversations and written sentences, talking with natives, losing fear to do so, trying over and over and making mistakes, reading readers or unabridged books, listening to a radio station on the Internet, watching movies... Let's tell them: You are so smart, you can't depend on me all your life, use the means, don't limit yourselves to what I teach you...

Want success at teaching English?

I'll try and post further factors of success in regard to both teaching and learning English. Right now I'd like for you to make clear that---from what I've found along my research in TEFL---the most important thing for a learner of Englisn or any other language is for him or her to really and eagerly and earnestly want to. In other words, what matters is the student's attitude: I know some people who have had success in English because they wanted to really learn! The teacher might be so concerned with teaching, not to sleep at night to prepare a big amount of material for his or her students, climb Sierra Nevada's highest mountain in Granada (Spain), however if the students don't use the means to learn English as their own motors and engines, not just as a dead weight, the teacher will achieve nothing or nearly. We've got to encourage our students, and motivate them, like you well know, as a class or better in individual and friendly tutorials. Thus those friends of mine tried to use all the means at hand and with imagination to acquire this language. When I start a program or a course of English, I say to my students, after the polite and kind introduction and such, "I'm not here to teach you English... (a great silence among them) It's you who come here to learn English, you are the protagonists of the class, I can't learn for you, it's you who can and should invest efforts to learn English", or something of the like, adding a friendly smile.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Most important: Communication

Our students don't learn English, or whatever language, just like any other subject: math, history, geography, literature... Yet we as teachers must help them become conscious they are learning a tool, and this one in order to communicate with the world. That very activity or exercise she has to do as homework, if the case, is a step farther on toward success in mastering the means of communication. Even more, the teacher can exploit the vocabulary or the grammar inherent to that activity as an activity of communication. The teacher both uses that language in her question and besides expects that language in the response. In that way, our student will realize that what he or she is learning is useful for something else! So the important thing in the class is to raise communication, though this might be from a zero level or nearly. And remember the necessary rapport with your students: sometimes an appropriate sense of humor helps more than a stern face look.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Once again with you all!

I've decided to continue with my old blog. It's so because I think I have a lot of things to tell you both about TEFL/TESL and learning English. Of course these tips are valid for teachers of almost any other language---even I'd say for any language. The sources of the information I'm going to give you are my doctorate, subsequent research, and experience at teaching in the classroom. Track down this blog!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The importance of being... communicative

With our classes we, as teachers, intend that our students acquire the language and the capability of communicating with other people, right? Here precisely we have the important thing for our classes: there must be communication in the target language among the teacher and the students, even among the students... It's obvious, anyway, this means that someone says something to someone else. Rebecca Oxford (1990) (1) says that many teachers didn't use to be prepared to establish this real communication in the class. Are we like those teachers of the past? Let's stop and think about this point... Do my classes reduce in the end to just giving the grammar and a lot of words...? Are my students able to hold communication with others, with native speakers? And I mean not merely simulated communication (which is necessary as well), but real communication... English classes must have the goal of preparing our students for that communication.

Just one more hint: in my classes I used to make a warm-up at the beginning where I asked my students about their activities of a few days before and further related questions.

(1) Cfr. page x from OXFORD, Rebecca (1990) Language Learning Strategies. What Every Teacher Should Know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Aural and written games list (3)

21. Verbal tenses revision.
22. Elicit colors for example on the board, and turning around one student says as many ones as he or she can remember.
23. Films game.
24. One student draws something on the board and the rest have to guess the word.
25. Same but with gestures instead of drawings.
26. Write a story among all the students.
27. Broken telephone.
28. Debates.
29. The teacher(or the students) asks wh-questions about a given sentence.
30. Translate sentences into L2.
31. Role-play with a previous vocabulary.
32. Looking-up-words-in-dictionaries competition.
33. Repeat longer and longer sentences.
34. Mental mathematical calculation.
35. The students translate classroom language into L2.
36. Chained words.
37. The students give synonyms.
38. Give opposites.
39. Match meanings with words on the board.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Want success at teaching English?

You know what? I just can't remember who said it, but I consider it paramount to mention it. She was an American lady, a brilliant scholar, who was it?, who was it? I read it somewhere... Anyway, let's go ahead (sorry, ma'am about this forgetting). It's about what is the single factor of success at learning a language (so as well at teaching it...): attitude. Yes, please, ponder it: the person who really, really wants to learn, say, English, will move the world if necessary to actually learn it... and I know singular people who seem they'll achieve this goal. That person will put the means for this objective: if he or she attends classes, he or she will for sure make good use of time, means, classes, study, practice, communication with other people in the target language (language is a thing of two at least!). Thus, attitude is the motor that moves the learner to strive for actual learning. Now, could we talk with our students to promote, to foster, to encourage that attitude and try to remove the problems that hinder the learner from learning? -In August I posted the Factors for Success, for further reference.

Starts a new academic year!

I was thinking of something to write for today, when a new year starts, would to God with hope for parents, teachers, and students. Yet I'd like to say a single thought, and next days I'll continue with my advice for teachers: I have lots of ideas.

Today every one of us remember with pain what happened five yars ago against the Twin Towers: every one of us got hit in some way. Today I'm specially praying to our Father God about the victims of Ground Zero and all the other victims in some way who were all of us: may such things don't happen any more. Here in Spain, in Madrid, we had our March 11, in 2004: there are people still who recall this fact every single day. On the other side, I also pray for the terrorists' good and forgive them with my entire heart, as the Lord taught us with his words and life and when dying on the Cross.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Aural games list (2)

Today I'm presenting further games you can do in your class with your students: they foster participation a lot, they're fun, the students practice fluency or a grammar aspect, they learn new words... So they are worth to apply. Of course, variations around the same game are possible.

11. Guess the meaning of a new word from the context (of a sentence, a text...).
12. Listening activities. For example, they listen to a text (or a paragraph) taken from the Internet, and comprehension (or the like) activities follow up.
13. All kinds of competitions. They like them a lot! For ex., a pair of students have to say the name of a job each time; the last in saying a job is the winner.
14. Dictionary game. The teacher says a word from a dictionary and the students have to guess its meaning.
15. The teacher describes his or her family, and later questions are asked to the students. Then a student can talk about his or hers and the others will have to answer questions.
16. Sentences exploitation. Elicit sentences from them and ask them wh-questions about specific parts of the sentences.
17. Unscrambling words.
18. Unscrambling sentences.
19. Elicit words about a topic and make a network.
20. They talk about a topic for X minutes, with a previous vocabulary it was elicited.

Friday, September 08, 2006

teaching English!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Definitely this is not my job!"

While I was thinking of further entrances for my blog, remember, to help you, I encountered a book I've already recommended to you, and do it right now again: HESS, Natalie (2002) Teaching Large Multilevel Classes. CUP. It's plenty of advice and activities that you can apply to your classes!

Something I read from it made me think this morning... Some of the ideas are hers and others mine or I've read them someplace else...

Feel disappointed as a teacher? Do you think you're useless, that this is definitely not your job and you should return to your dad's butcher's? No way, man! (I respect your dad's job absolutely). All of us had had bad, even very bad beginnings, dire straits. Who hasn't had the experience of the class getting out of hands? Or otherwise they look like dormient cows, absolutely uninterested? "Shrug off your irritants" (cfr. 7 and 8) .Try and try and try again: each try is a step forward! Persevere! And you'll call yourself a winner.

I'm writing by thinking of novice teachers, or prospective ones as well, or even those who have spent the first years of his or her career as a teacher. You'll reach masterhood and expertise and maturity, with the passing time, and facing up your next class with optimism. I'm serious, continue reading. You had a bad lesson? Next can be much the better. A bad lesson is just that, a bad one, but next, I assure you, may be a great one (cfr. pages 7 and 8).

In a serene way think of what didn't work out satisfactorily, and plan something else. If one activity you see it doesn't get along with them, stop right then and do the next. You'll find the activities which work out good, little by little. But remember to plan each class.

That maturity and "dominance" over the students veteran teachers have and that you admire, you're gonna reach it as well. Concede patience to yourself. Nobody's born just knowing his or her profession. Also lean on experienced colleagues if they're accessible (most are!). Learn from them. For discipline problems, be coherent with a truss you set to your students at the beginning of the grade. Lean on their parents and the school staff as well. But even better, gain them little by little, without becoming just their buddy. Talk with them in tutorials: understand them, put yourself in his shoes, in his family's problems, treat them with affection... and at the same time exact and demand high expectations from everyone... and set specific goals that you both are gonna track together.

Last but not least, talk with them about the importance and need of English today, at the beginning of the academic year. Elicit this stuff from them. Make them aware that it's them who have to learn: they are the protagonists of the process of learning.

Further recipe for success

Asociacion Cultural y Deportiva Alayos (, from Granada, runs English courses in Malaga for kids, in August. It's been doing it for years. Today I present the ingredients which made the classes work out fantastic: the students really learned and had fun. I also have to say that the groups were small.

1. Positive tutorials with each student
2. It’s them who have to learn. They apply learning strategies
3. All in L2, by both the teacher and the students
4. They should use L2 as such, not to translate from L1
5. Communication
6. Massive input
7. Massive output. Through games
8. Emphasis on aural activities
9. Teacher-learners positive rapport
10. Give positive points for their scores
11. They work on "survival" topics: expressions and vocabulary
12. Listening activities
13. Watch and exploit movies (they saw one which they had already seen in L1)
14. The students need a high-reference-classmate

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Aural games list!

I learned some of the following games at Altocastillo School, Jaen, of Attendis Group ( I found others everywhere, you may know some of them; others were invented by me or modified in some way or another. The key thing is that they introduce fun in your class and plenty of practice...

The following activities are mainly of the output type. In your class, as well a lot of input should be provided. Give them points for their scores!

Games can be applied just to foster communication and output, but also it is sound to think of an objective and then “invent” a game that covers that aim.

1. Work out survival-topics lists.
2. Watch and exploit movies.
3. "Simon says" (for young learners!).
4. Hangman.
5. Guess a famous person I pretend to be by asking me yes/no questions.
6. Make out words with given letters.
7. Who knows...? (as a basic starter: animal, some food, etc.).
8. Personal questions to the students.
9. The teacher describes a picture the students don't see, and then some follow-up.
10. One student describes a picture which the others can't see...

11. The teacher defines/describes a word and the students've got to say the word.
12. One student defines a word and the others have to find out what the word is.

(To be continued!)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Survival topics to teach!

You as a teacher can teach your students expressions and vocabulary for them to "survive" in an English-speaking country, and also practice it in the class. It results something very practical.

1. Language in the class.
2. Language during the day at an English camp.Relationship with the teachers.

3. Language in the street. And how to ask about directions.
4. Shopping.
5. With “their” families (in case they stay with a family of that country).
6. The airport.
7. The train station.
8. The bus station.
9. The hamburger place.
10. Prayers.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Basic principles to raise communication

1. Massive input.
2. Massive usual vocabulary and language.
3. To deal, to play with language.
4. Maybe (not) a single topic for the whole program.
5. To exploit the language the students have already learned previously.
6. Mostly in English.
7. They say and write sentences with the stuff they know.
8. To exploit those sentences for communication.
9. Even to hold communication by isolated words at the beginning.
10. Oral and written messages by them.
11. Aural mainly.
12. They use learning strategies. “How do I get to…?” The students set their own goals and write them down.
13. Logical steps: first, listening and speaking. (Mary Jane Amaya)

14. Logical steps when teaching a grammar point, like for example, a verbal tense: listening, speaking, reading, writing. (Mary Jane Amaya)
15. Molding the responses we expect from the students. (Mary Jane Amaya)
16. Repetition of the pattern, of the activity, of the procedures or routines, revision, etc.
17. Perseverance and continuousness, both by the students and by the teacher.
18. Also drills.
19. As well as communication.
20. Fun.
21. Everyday topics.
22. To excite communication.
23. Realia and visual aids.
24. Activities can take the form of games.
25. To demand speaking in English from them.
26. To make good use and take profit and advantage of what they have already learned.

Friday, September 01, 2006

It's their responsibility!

Note.- Inspired on: Hess, Natalie (2002) Teaching Large Multilevel Classes. CUP.

1. It’s them who have to learn! It’s them who have to want to. We as teachers can help them want to.
2. They have to monitor themselves (and can monitor the others in some way).
3. They need the language… for the games, for the communication in the class...
4. The bigger the effort the more they will learn.
5. What can I do, as a student, with the material and the classes so as to learn English?
6. It’s the same work both by the teacher and by the students: not only the teacher does have the"responsibility".
7. "Though we can have the best teacher, it’s them who have to make the effort, take risks, and exert the energy that demands learning English". (160)
8. It’s sensible to make them work in small groups or in pairs.
9. At the beginning of the course, elicit their concerns about learning English and learning at this very course. As well the expectations for this course.
10. "Allow the students to create study guides before a test". (160)
11. Make them get aware of their learning potential, get responsible for their learning.
12. About famous homework...They should do their homework: it’s their own business.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Philosophical basement of teaching a language

(Partially inspired on the ideas of Víctor García Hoz)

1. Learning a language should be a profoundly human action.
2. It serves to communicate among persons.
3. Explain to our students the theory of communication: Emissor-message-receiver. Examples.
4. Learning is not only something technical, but human.
5. Communication offers a message which can enrich me.
6. Communication creates a convival as well. We have to learn to live with others, to get to know the others.
7. In the classroom there should be communication. It enriches us as human beings.
8. Debates as well are interesting: the students give their opinions and learn to listen to others.
9. Learning grammar and vocabulary are instruments for communication. Drill-activities teach us the tools for communication.
10. Games create communication.
11. Also help them learn how to work well and neat.
12. Make them engage their minds, solve problems, think, in a word. Include texts with substance, either historic, biographic, ethics, philosophy, thought, science and technology…

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Keys for success at teaching English!

Very briefly: (think over them). They summarize the findings of my Doctorate.

1. Communication in the class in L2, all the time.
2. Learning strategies that the students propose and the teacher suggests. (HD Brown, Rebecca Oxford, Wenden)
3. Reflexive learning.
4. Motivation.
5. Effort.

6. Personalization by the teacher.
7. Massive input, also vocabulary.
8. Massive output.
9. Imitate real life.
10. Practice the four skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing.
11. Discipline in the class.
12. Learn and practice verbal tenses. (Mary Jane Amaya)
13. Varied and fun activities.
14. Visual aids. (Mary Jane Amaya)
15. Good teacher-learners relationship, rapport.
16. Materialization of the stuff the teacher wants to teach.
17. The teacher’s creativity facing up emerging problems.

Some specifications:

1. Conversation. Imitate real life. Communication.
2. Attitude. Eagerness for learning. The students should imply themselves. It is them who want to learn. Autonomous learning. Problem solving. What can I do to learn. Each class, each time of study are important, one step forward. What can I learn with this activity. What can I teach with this class. Not to wait for an ideal future: each class, each unit are important.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Oncoming soon!

My name is Fernando Díez, I live in fantastic Granada, south of Spain. I'm an English teacher, I used to manage English courses for all kinds of students, and as well I am a teacher trainer, and Doctorandus in tefl. I intend on this blog to tell you my findings as well as others' in regard to teaching English, which could be applied to many other languages. Something I tell you right now is that I'm enamored of my profession. I've got a lot to tell you. Soon I'll start to publish the stuff right here. I'm convinced I can help you with your teaching, either if you are a prospective teacher, or just to get a hint about new things to do in your classes, in case you're a veteran... And, remember, I'm very optimistic! All of us need tricks or rather principles (as HD Brown says) for our teaching.