Showing posts with label classroom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label classroom. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to Help Adult Learners Deal with the Stress of Speaking


Have you ever had a student in your class struggling to survive until the class is over? Or having a blank when speaking even when they volunteered to participate?  How would you deal with it? This situation can be quite uncomfortable for everyone in class and can be a good reason for a student to definitely quit a project of learning a foreign language.

Having difficulties speaking in class or exposing your ideas in another language to others is not uncommon, but suffering almost the whole class period can hamper the learning process and influence the atmosphere of even a light and productive class.  It´s not easy, if not impossible, to measure the degree of stress one is going through, but there are some steps you can take to help students deal with this stress and feel more comfortable in class.

First, the problem has to be spotted.  Many times, what seems to be an ordinary difficulty is, in fact, a freezing sensation that blocks a student´s thoughts and exposes them to their peers. This happened by chance in one of my groups this semester.  A student of mine confessed at the end of a class that she had been suffering the whole class because she was afraid of speaking and that it was always a relief to see that the class was over. I was really surprised. I had noticed she had some difficulties expressing herself, but not that it was so painful. Helping her find the words that escaped from her mind while she was speaking wasn´t always enough to enable her to express her whole message, and adding comments to her broken speech to call the groups` attention to me and ”save” her from her long pauses and embarrassment wasn´t a solution to this problem either.  So, this situation became a challenge to me.

The next step is to approach the student and find out what is causing all the anxiety. This way, the student can not only become aware of the real sources of the problem and face it, but also see the teacher as a support they can count on. Most frequently, the fear of speaking to a group, being on the spot and being negatively evaluated are the causes for anxiety and stress.  The brain´s capacity to process ideas is affected and the situation gets even worse when the required oral production is in another language.  The result is long pauses, stuttering and difficulty in formulating a coherent speech. My student´s case was specifically related to speaking in English, for she had the preconceived idea that she wouldn´t be understood and that her pronunciation and vocabulary were worse than that of her colleagues. 

Finally, show the student concrete techniques to develop their speaking abilities so that they can become more confident and lower their anxiety of speaking.  One way is through improving their listening skills by doing exercises from specific sites, such as Breaking News English, BBC or English Central, watching movies and listening to songs.  Not being able to understand what is being said at normal speed or being afraid of mispronouncing words are barriers to effective communication and also food for failure and nervousness.  Ten to fifteen minutes of listening practice a day will certainly help improve speaking. Also, taking every opportunity in class to practice in pairs and in small groups before speaking to the whole class and changing partners frequently will help the student get used to different accents and speed, and to gain fluency and   confidence as well.  Another helpful tip is to control the speed of speech

When someone is on the spot, their breathing gets faster, they start perspiring, becoming nervous and speaking faster.  Speaking more slowly will provide better breathing and a chance to organize thoughts, hence lowering nervousness. The teacher´s role is crucial to set a light, sympathetic and supportive atmosphere in class, showing interest in and respect for each student´s challenges.  In the case involving my class, although my student was a bit of a perfectionist and took her performance very seriously, she ended up learning to laugh at her mistakes, becoming more relaxed and motivated.


These relatively minor attitudes can make a big difference in the learning process and should be addressed to the whole class in the beginning of the course and reinforced through the whole semester.  


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Positive Psychology applied to EFL



Here I am again to talk about Positive Psychology and its application to our classrooms.  In 2006, a little before I began my Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Brasília, I heard that I should think twice before assuming such a decision because a Doctorate was a long term commitment and that it involved a lot of suffering.  Also, some people would come to me with stories of doctorate students losing hair, putting on many kilos, or even falling into a state of depression. Nevertheless, I was determined to be a candidate and if accepted, to carry on with my goal.
It turned out to be that I was accepted and very soon, I began to feel guilty for not suffering at all. Actually, I cherished every single moment of my being at University, doing research, having contact and discussions with knowledgeable people, and learning, learning a lot. So if you ask me what my story has to do with Positive Psychology, I will tell you that it is the very essence of this area of Psychology. Learning cannot and should never ever be related to suffering. Learning is discovering, expanding, flourishing. Then let´s see how Positive Psychology may be applied to EFL teaching and learning. Below, I will suggest three exercises I have already carried out with success, and I invite you to try with your own classes.
Gratitude
Research shows that gratitude can be trained and increased. Interventions may result in a positive state of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy. So I got my teen students into a circle to discuss the idea of Thanksgiving. Not everyone actually knew how and when it had begun and what individuals did in such a celebration. After showing them a video from YouTube, I asked each one to write a short paragraph about a person who has had a positive impact on their lives and who they were thankful to. When they had finished, I asked volunteers to telephone the person they had written about and to read the exact words on the paper. That´s when the magic occurred. There was a lot of emotion and tears involved. One of the girls preferred to write about a peer who was present in class.  As she read her beautiful and revealing statement, the whole class was involved in a unique and memorable exercise.

What went well ? Living positive education.
General well-being—how much positive emotion, how much meaning in life our students have is fundamental for the generation of success. Learning to value must start early and can be practiced in any educational environment. Students should have opportunities to speak about themselves and to open their souls and hearts to others. It provides synergy among class members a sense of togetherness, engagement and happiness. Finally, teachers should bear in mind that academic success is not only a function of academic knowledge or cognitive processing. Success is a function of the connections to self, others, and the world that shapes our brain.

The magic ball-making compliments
Students should be standing in a circle. Then, the teacher should start and throw the ball at a student and make a genuine compliment at him/her. The students would carry on with the activity until everyone has had the chance to throw the ball and hear impressions and compliments. The activity involves emotional strength, when students recognize the relationships, and applaud personal accomplishment.


So dear teacher, remember that teaching in joyful and supportive ways is the best means to learning. Thus, I am here to invite you to try differently and practice the conditions that nurture strengths that enable students to self-regulate. I invite you to assure students can find their own meaning in learning and distinguish between achievement and accomplishment. Build your students capacity to flourish

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Positive Psychology


Last year I first heard of Positive Psychology during a course I attended at UnB, and believe me, it was love at first sight. Just like its founder, Prof Martin Seligman, I found my motto and what was missing in Psychology. But let me begin from the beginning and explain what Positive Psychology is and is not.

For over 50 years, Psychology has had a pathology- based view on human functioning, which has proved to be really valid. A wide range of mental illnesses have been described and categorized. Psychologists can now not only identify, but treat and even cure one or another mental problem.  And psychologists and other experts have been able to produce a compendium of disorders, now the DSM- V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). But it is about time to shift interests and to get away from repairing damage or healing only, to developing positive qualities. What about the positive aspects of human experience? What is right in human beings that promote well being?

Positive Psychology is a relatively new field of Psychology that examines how people can become happier and more fulfilled. It is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals to thrive. Human beings want to lead a meaningful life and enhance their experiences of love, work and play. Positive features that make life worth living, such as hope, wisdom, creativity, future mindedness, courage, spirituality, responsibility, and perseverance have been ignored or explained as transformations of more authentic negative impulses. Then positive psychology has been trying to understand and build factors that allow individuals and communities to flourish.
However, it should not be understood as the science of happiness. Nor should it be mistaken with self-help philosophies. It is based on a cumulative body of scientific research. 

Also, positive psychology is not only about thinking positively. To think so is really naive. Part of the misinterpretation comes from the book titles on happiness. According to Dr. Seligman, “a complete science and a complete practice of psychology should include an understanding of suffering and happiness, as well as their interaction, and validated interventions that both relieve suffering and increase happiness— two separable endeavors (Seligman et al., 2005).”  

Then how can we apply it to EFL? It is well known that a positive school climate predicts both the teacher and student satisfaction. If the teacher invests in positive psychology, he/she will have students in class who have a positive outlook, try hard, and help others, present fewer negative behaviors and greater motivation. So positive psychology teaches social and emotional learning skills that change how much -- and how well -- students learn by changing how they feel. In my next post, I will be describing a few exercises that teachers could do in the classrooms.

Patrícia Villa da Costa Ferreira-PhD


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TESOL 2015 - Writing Teaching

I had the honor of being invited to take part in the panel “Crossing Borders, Building Bridges: Second Language Writing in Global Contexts” at TESOL 2015 in Toronto, CA. The presenters shared their experiences in Second Language Writing (SLW) practice and research in global contexts including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The presenters discussed best practices in SLW pedagogy and research projects that are influenced by contextual factors such as medium of instruction, culture, and politics. Below I share a transcript of my talk.


Many thanks to Lúcia Santos, Isabela Villas Boas, Denise De Felice and Vânia Rodrigues for this wonderful opportunity of sharing the hard work we do at the Casa.


OUR CONTEXT


I have been at Casa Thomas Jefferson for fifteen years, the last five of which working as Advanced Course Supervisor. Let me briefly describe my context to provide you with some background information that will, hopefully, help you better understand the scope and nature of our work in the teaching of writing, as well as the challenges we face in our educational context.


Casa Thomas Jefferson is a language institute, which, for the past 51 years, has specialized in teaching English as a foreign language. We currently have a little over 17 thousand students, distributed among 6 different campuses, 10 outposts in private K through 12 grade schools, and a select number of corporate courses  in Brasília. Our students have English classes with us twice a week, which amount to a total of approximately 4 hours a week. We are an extra-curricular program, and a large number of our students begin studying with us from as early as 4 years of age, staying with us until they become young adults, teenagers ranging from 16 to 18 years of age. Therefore, the bulk of our student population are youngsters, some of whose parents have been our students in the past, so we do have a reputation of excellence and tradition in teaching English, which we strive to uphold every day.


The teenagers who have been with us since their early years graduate from our Advanced Course, the course which I oversee; these students speak fluent English, and achieve a very respectable command of the language in terms of structure and vocabulary. They can understand spoken and written English, as well as produce the language with a dependable degree of accuracy and fluency both in oral and in written form. That is a result of our skills-based approach to teaching English, adopting communicative methodologies that are informed by highly regarded, pedagogical practices, such as those informed by social-constructivist principles. Another key feature of our methodology is that our classes are taught in English, since we have a strong English-only-environment policy in our classroom.


We adopt coursebooks in all of our courses, which we choose via a comprehensive book analysis process in which teachers, as well as other members of the school Coordination, evaluate and critique several coursebook series before we make a final choice and adopt one specific series. We are, however, very particular about how we need to adapt whatever material adopted to best suit our own context and our students' needs. That is actually one of the major sources of impetus for the ongoing professional development that takes place at the Casa. Course Supervisors, such as myself, are responsible, among other things, for assessing the success in the adaptation process and spotting opportunities for improvement and development, which result in training for our teachers.


So, as you can see, the work has really only just begun when a new coursebook is adopted. And, traditionally, one of the major components of our courses which require lots of adaptation and personalization is exactly the teaching of writing.


OUR METHODOLOGY


Let me now go into the writing teaching methodology we adopt at the Casa. As mentioned before, we adopt a skills-based approach to teaching English. Therefore, writing is one of other skills that we want our students to develop in English. From beginner levels, our students already start producing short texts, and are exposed to tasks which will foster an experience in writing as a process which not only involves linguistic knowledge but also planning and drafting skills. In other words, we expose our students early on to practices informed by the belief that writing is a sociocognitive process, recursive and non-linear in its creative nature, and the very expression of one's voice.


By the time our students reach the Advanced levels, they have developed a repertoire of basic writing skills, as well as some writing metalanguage. They have also been introduced to the concepts of audience and purpose, with some experience with different genres. They have worked with drafts, receiving feedback on their writing by means of comments addressing content, style and organization, as well as indications of linguistic improvements by means of proofreading symbols used by teachers.


In the Advanced levels, our students, who are mostly teenagers going to high school, are asked to focus on a specific genre, namely the academic essay, which they are required to master both for language proficiency and college entrance exams.


THE ADVANCED COURSE WRITING PROGRAM


I would now like to focus on some of the distinguishing features of the Writing Program we develop in the Advanced Course. Our Advanced Course is made up of four semesters. The first two, corresponding to the upper-intermediate level, are critical for the success of the writing program developed during the last two semesters, which correspond to an advanced level of English.


During the first semester of the upper-intermediate levels, students' writing goals are to consolidate and master the writing of paragraphs, following the linguistic and organizational requirements of body paragraphs in academic essays. Now, once they go on to their second semester in upper-intermediate, they will gradually expand on their previous knowledge to learn how to structure a full essay, containing an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. They acquire some basic training and knowledge of the overall requirements of a well-structured essay before going into the advanced levels in the next two semesters.


Once they get to their third semester in the Advanced Course, they'll get plenty of practice in the four-paragraph academic essay. They will be provided with practice in a variety of writing strategies, producing expository and argumentative essays, for example. In other words, they are learning a specific rhetoric and genre that will benefit their writing skills in and outside of our English classroom.


At this point, it's appropriate that I mention another aspect of our educational context. In Brazil, they way our teenagers are taught Composition in their K through 12 schools, more specifically in grades 10 through 12, is fundamentally different from the experience with Composition they have with us at the Casa. A vast majority of Composition teachers in Brazilian high schools adopt a product-oriented approach, where writing teaching means correcting students' mistakes and grading essays against college entrance exams parameters. There is emphasis on neither the cognitive nor the social dimension of the writing process, which relegates writing to being an end-product, resulting from the mechanical replication of models, which is ultimately a score on a life-changing exam for these teenagers, the one that will get them into a good university as soon as they leave high school.


Back to our English teaching context, in the Advanced Course, teachers are required to use a set of writing worksheets which will serve as the basis for their pre-writing lessons. The writing topics are adapted so as to become appealing to our teenagers, and are chosen in order to fit the subject-matter explored in their coursebook units. Students are assigned their writings at the end of a unit, after they have had plenty of opportunities to explore a given topic. In the case of the Advanced Course, pre-writing lessons are preceded by a Reading lesson, which will serve as an entry point to the required writing for the unit.


Now, keeping in mind that we have approximately 100 teachers working with a population of a little over 2000 Advanced students, we need to adopt instruments that will ensure the quality of every lesson, be it a pre-writing, or any other type of lesson. So, we try to select and adapt topics that we believe will entice our teenagers, stimulating their creativity and willingness to voice their opinions and feelings. We also adopt the use of writing scoring rubrics to try to minimize subjectivity in the feedback process, as well as to provide students with a set of clear expectations for their work. Our students need to know how their writing will be assessed by their teachers.


A pre-writing lesson will typically contain the following stages: think about and discuss the writing topic, brainstorm content, outline ideas, study and analyze a model and focus on specific language strategies to convey meaning. Once students have had their pre-writing lesson, they produce their 1st drafts, on which they'll get feedback from their teachers regarding several aspects of their writing: content (their ideas), text (organization, genre, style), and language (grammatical accuracy and word choice). Students may also get feedback from peers and from one-on-one conferences with their teachers. They are then asked to produce their final drafts, whose grade will be considered for evaluation purposes, together with the other grades they have as part of our course.


We have also been adopting a Portfolio approach, in which students are encouraged to reflect on their overall development through the semesters as Casa Advanced students. One of the strategies we want our students to learn with the collection of a portfolio is to identify areas for improvement and establish goals for future assignments.


Now, the use of portfolios in the Advanced Course presents challenges. Brazilian students, coming from the background they have in their K-12 school culture, do not seem to value their own writings. That is understandable, given the mechanical production of essays for college entrance exam prep. By implementing writing portfolios, we are trying to foster a sense of value regarding writing as a means of personal expression.


Another challenge we face is a certain level of resistance to adopting peer revision, which I personally believe to be a natural fit to a portfolio approach and a writing teaching pedagogy based on socio-constructivist principles of learning.


Another challenge worth mentioning has to do with time constraints and teachers' workload. It is no easy task for teachers to do the necessary planning and keep up with the drafting process, providing the necessary support and the high quality feedback our students need to succeed. One major adaptation we've had to implement is that of bringing the number of drafts from three to only two. That means that teachers now provide feedback on content, organization, as well as language use upon correcting students' 1st drafts. Teachers are also instructed to grade 1st drafts so that, should a student fail to produce a final draft, that student already has a grade for his writing work, even if he or she do not follow through with the entire drafting process.


To the effect of tackling those issues involving time constraints and handling logistics (turning in assignments and providing feedback in a timely manner), we have started experimenting with a digital alternative to the physical portfolios. We are experimenting with the affordances of Google Classroom for the development of our Advanced Writing program. We are still in a piloting stage, having invited a small group of about ten teachers who were eager to try out this new tool with their Advanced students. We hope that, by making the handling of logistics simpler and paperless, students and teachers might find ways of managing the process more rapidly and more conveniently. And of course, that is not to mention other possibilities of sharing content, communicating, and classroom flipping that we have just begun exploring with this tool. Digital portfolios and the possibility of showcasing students' writings to a real audience online are what's next for our students' writings.


I'd like to share a quote by Professor Ken Hyland in his book Second Language Writing, which I feel synthesizes our efforts towards an effective writing teaching pedagogy:


"In practice this (an effective methodology for L2 writing teaching) means a synthesis to ensure that learners have an adequate understanding of the processes of text creation; the purposes of writing and how to express these in effective ways through formal and rhetorical text choices; and the contexts within which texts are composed and read and which give them meaning."


We choose to teach writing the way we do because we believe that effective, communicative writing can and should be taught to our English learners. We believe that the very development of their writing skills directly impacts their cognitive and expressive abilities, empowering our teenagers as they exercise and get to know their own voices.

Clarissa Bezerra













References:


HYLAND, Ken. Second Language Writing. Cambridge Language Education series (Editor: Jack C. Richards) Cambridge University Press, 2003.


VILLAS BOAS, I. F. Stepping Stones for Successful Writing. In: VI Seminário de Línguas Estrangeiras da Universidade Federal de Goiás, 2006, Goiânia. Anais do VI Seminário de Línguas Estrangeiras - UFG, 2006. p. 453-464

VILLAS BOAS, I. F. Process Writing in a Product-Oriented Context: Challenges and Possibilities. Article based on part of the Doctoral Dissertation entitled A Contribuição do Processo de Ensino-Aprendizagem de Produção Textual em Língua Inglesa para o Letramento do Aluno,  presented at the School of Education, Universidade de Brasília, 2008. In: RBLA, Belo Horizonte, v.14, n.2, p. 463-490, 2014.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Promoting a Growth Mindset for Academic Success

Have you ever felt like praising a student whose grade was just a little above the average? Well, that happened to me and that was exactly what I did. I wrote how glad I was to see that his efforts, better behavior and involvement paid off and that he had to keep on doing all the exercises and participating in class. Actually, what I was trying to do was to build in him a more “constructive mental model”. Well, let me share with you a very interesting article I read as part of an online course I took called “Teaching Character to Create Positive Classrooms”.

According to this article, each person holds his/her own belief about intelligence. Some believe they have a fixed mindset, in which intelligence is a fixed entity, it doesn`t change. These beholders are performance oriented, that is, in response to failure they are more likely to give up as they see failure as an evidence of low competence and effort as a sign of low ability (not as a need to change strategy). These students don`t believe in their ability to learn, when they don’t reach a goal they feel like losers, are humiliated and, eventually, they give up. They worry more about proving they are good than improving their learning skills.

However, others believe in the Incremental Theory. This theory says that intelligence can be expanded and developed. These theorists, who believe in a growth mindset, are more focused on increasing their ability, they see effort as a way to nurture and develop intelligence; they show enthusiasm to learn and are not afraid of new challenging experiences. For them, learning is more important than performance and failure is seen as an obstacle to overcome. Moreover, the challenge excites them.

Our belief in what kind of intelligence we have plays an important role in our academic outcome. It is good to know, though, that intellectual ability can always be developed. However, this does not imply we all have the same potential in every area, or will learn everything with equal ease. The good news is mindsets and skills can be taught in order to achieve academic success. Check below a list of some key elements we should be aware of to promote a growth mindset and, consequently, academic success.

Praising plays an important role in the building of a person`s mindset - Praising students for their effort fosters resilience, a key trait in those who hold a growth mindset. Comments like “That’s a really high score.  You must have worked hard at these problems.” make students understand that their effort was responsible for their success and want to work harder to be successful again. 

Cooperation rather than competition promotes a better learning environment. Studies show that students believe that cooperation activities engage students more than competitive ones.

Another predictor of academic success is the feeling of social belonging. Students who develop a bond with their peers and teachers are more engaged, get better grades and are more successful at school.

Teachers and schools need to keep standards high and challenge students. High expectations foster motivated students because teachers invest more time on them, give more attention, constructive feedback and encouragement.

High-quality feedback with clever strategies to facilitate student understanding is among the strongest predictors of student accomplishment and teacher effectiveness. That is because it shows the commitment of the teacher to learning and belief in the student`s capacity for growth. Good teachers are like good parents—at times authoritative but consistently caring.

Scaffolding – Effective teacher seldom gives direct answers and feedback. Instead, they use hints, and gradually provide more specific hints until students answer a question correctly. 

Sense of belonging – It`s important to create a sense of fellowship between students and teachers. One-on-one attention, caring relationships and good rapport is critical. Group work can bring motivational benefits because it encourages cooperation and makes students see that their difficulty with course material is another student`s difficulty as well. Moreover, this sharing lowers the sense of frustration and provides a sense of identity.

In a few words, remind your students that success is possible with dedication, and difficulty is something temporary they can overcome rather than something that is out of their control. Greater effort yields to greater competence and the more we believe in the students` ability to learn, the easier it is for us to do our jobs. 


Monday, February 23, 2015

Tips for a Successful Semester Part 2

One of the best things about teaching is that we get to have a fresh start every semester with new groups of students. We can learn from mistakes made in the past with other groups and correct them, and we can incorporate advice from colleagues into our teaching. We have the chance to adapt new trends and ideas to our context and we have novel learning opportunities with the new people we meet in our classrooms.

Isabela Villas Boas

In order to guarantee a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling semester, some simple tips and rules can come in handy. In this sense, we asked CTJ teachers to write short tips for a successful semester. We hope you find them useful and that you have a wonderful experience with your new groups!


Haline Neiva

Let's try to say positive things to our students; give positive feedback; share positive ideas; create a positive environment; be polite to students, parents, and colleagues. This atitude will surely make the semester lighter and easier.

Daniela Lyra



An inspiring post by Katy Cox http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com.br/2015/02/reading-your-students.html - and her checklist to 'read' our learners reminded me of a document a dear colleague gave me many, many years ago. The document consists of a listo f pbservable aspects, and it could be a gret tool for teachers willing to concentrate on the learners and how they respond and behave in class. I will have it printed out and use it as a starting point for my reflecting back on my classes. 


Carolina Godoy

Be yourself - students are not looking for a carbon copy of other teachers, regardless of how much these teachers are appreciated. Network and collaborate. Try to exchange ideas with other teachers and look for solutions to the problems that may arise duting the semester together. As the saying goes, "two heads are better than one". And last but not least, have fun and learn to laugh at yourself. Being optimistic is a choice we can all make. 




Juliana Ulharuzo

Here are a few tips that have worked for me, personally. I don't bake for a reason. Still, maybe some of you will benefit from them.

- Being friendly and firm are not mutually exclusive events. 
- When planning a class remember to cater for your students. Cater for what they like, but prioritize what they need.
- We usually have a lot of exercises to correct (graded exercises, compositions, etc). Try to correct them as soon as students hand them in whenever possible. If you manage do this during your 'breaks' you will end up having more time for yourself on the weekend. 
- Depending on your group profile, sending one or more graded exercises to be finished home may cause you a lot of stress. You know that class when nobody is absent, you have managed to cover the topics being assessed and your graded exercise is already printed out? It does not happen by accident. Plan it, and when the time is right give them time to do the graded exercise in class. 
- Maybe you are an experienced teacher (or not). Regardless, if it is your first semester at the Casa or your first semester teaching a certain level/book, do not hesitate to find out who else in your branch or outpost is teaching the same level. Rely on this person to ask questions and share ideas, materials with. You both will benefit from it.


Patrícia Villa


Remember: connection is the key to a good class atmosphere and, as a result, a nice and smooth semester. Look your students in the eyes and establish genuine relationship.


Wellington Duarte


Make sure you establish very good rapport with your students. Have in mind that theyare the ones you are going to be with once or twice a week for the next 5 months!


Marcos Augusto


Make sure you don't overwhelm your students with dates and procedures right on the first day. Assess your group's profile first, so that you can choose the best course of action.
Juliana Benedetti

Foster students' autonomy. There are many ways to enhance learners' self-determination, and you can use 5 minutes of your class to teach them simple techniques. Ask simple questions and set them as goals.
- How can you improve your language learning?
- How do you manage your time?
- Do you know how to upgrade your memory?


Cláudia Farias

Two basic and yet very important words: motivation and respect. If you are at ease and cheerful at what you´re doing, students will notice that and respond back positively. Respect has to do with being attentive and really interested in what your students are saying, thus making a connection with them. Who doesn´t want to be in a light, exciting and safe environment?


Victor Hugo Alves





My tip is that whatever happens, do not give up on your Sts. We inspire, we represent strengh and we make a difference in their lives. Let's do out best and I wish you all an amazing semester!




Inez Woortmann

What else can I add? Guess all the tips above have to do with 3 really important teacher characteristics that we strive to develop (in our own individual and very personal ways), and which contribute to a much more positive and effective teaching and learning environment: RESPECT - a non-judgmental regard for others; EMPATHY- being able to see things from the other's perspective, and AUTHENTICITY- being ourselves, without hiding behind masks, roles or job titles.









Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tips for a Successful Semester Part 1

One of the best things about teaching is that we get to have a fresh start every semester with new groups of students. We can learn from mistakes made in the past with other groups and correct them, and we can incorporate advice from colleagues into our teaching. We have the chance to adapt new trends and ideas to our context and we have novel learning opportunities with the new people we meet in our classrooms.


Isabela Villas Boas

In order to guarantee a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling semester, some simple tips and rules can come in handy. In this sense, we asked CTJ teachers to write short tips for a successful semester. We hope you find them useful and that you have a wonderful experience with your new groups!





José Antônio

If you happen to have a large group of teens, create a seating chart. Always write names of students on the board before the class begins, varying the chart arrangement to build a learning community. Inform them you will change the chart every two weeks. This helps you memorize students' names and see what combinations are problematic or productive. Have a wonderful semester.



Fransérgio Macedo


It's really worth taking a look at the students' progress in the previous books. This will make it possible for you to identify students that are likely to need your help more than the others in the group. You will also be able to assess in which areas he/she could improve more. This will work for all ages.



Derrick Mulder

Don't head straight for the teacher's room every break. Occasionally take the time to show interest in your students outside class time. Use what you learn about them in subsequent classes to grab their attention. Really pay attention to what they're saying and respond with thoughtfulness. Have fun with your students no matter what.




Eneida Coaracy

Try to ask negative questions more often! For example, after giving directions, ask “Is there anyone who doesn’t understand?” instead of asking “Are there any questions?” Why? Because the second type of question unintentionally targets more responsible students, who are more motivated and more likely to speak. Asking if anyone doesn’t know what to do, you are asking every student to consider your question. It’s a self-checking device that makes students productively uncomfortable.



Rita Avila

Take the first day to develop expectations. Students need to know what is expected of them. Although we don't want to set unrealistic goals that will belittle and frustrate students, we do want a cooperative and functional group, one that strives to do their best. I like to let them outline expectations and rules in small groups first. Then in plenary we put all our contributions together for a poster.



Carla Arena

Making a first great impression is the first step for a glorious semester. Icebreakers that surprise and engage can be an effective starting point for that matter. Check our post at http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com.br/2013/02/icbreakers.html. Take time to learn more about your students, to know their preferences and interests. By doing that, they will feel you really care and you can use what your learn from them during the semester when you give examples, for example.



Magda Mendes
Try to bring nice, beautiful material into class whenever possible. This material can be a video clip, a song, a picture or anything else, but it has to be something beautiful. For example, once I showed my Teens 4 group a video clip with a very talented and "different" violin player, Lindsey Sterling (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g9poWKKpbU). Two classes later, one of my students came to me and said he liked the video a lot and that he decided to resume playing the violin, as he had stopped playing it some time before. So, I guess we really never realize how a small thing can touch our students, but I think everyone is touched by beauty. Needless to say that something like this builds a connection between you and your students.


Pedro Tapajós

Don't fall behind with your bureaucracy. At the Casa, the rhythm is intense and non-stop. If you leave that memo or signing up for later, you'll inevitably forget it (or you'll get swamped in activities). Be diligent and get those papers in.



Evania Netto

If you are a new teacher at the Casa, you will probably have questions about how things work. Don´t be afraid of asking questions. People here are really helpful and are always willing to explain how something works. Also, it can be an opportunity to make new friends. :) 



Ana Carenina

Every now and then, try and bring a song to work with your groups. Remember to choose a song with the target vocab / grammar / topic that you've been working with in class. It ends up pleasing all ages! Simple and nice.



Check part 2 tips