Monday, November 17, 2014

Google Docs and Interaction

I have used google docs as a means of collaborative document for quite a while, but never thought of using it with my students.
After a meeting with Carla Arena, she inspired me to think about something I could do with my group. Something simple, yet challenging.

I decided to invite Teacher Henry on this journey with me. We have a Teens 5 group at the same time. My students are struggling with question forming using the simple past tense. So, here's what we did:

1. We created a document with some instructions for students. In class we gave them a shortened url as homework (each class had a different url).
2. They were supposed to make a question (using the simple past tense) to another student in another class. So, my students would be making questions to Henry's students and vice-versa.
3. On the following class, we opened the document in class and reviewed all questions. We corrected the ones that had mistakes and talked about how to make questions using their own examples. 

After the questions were all made, we gave them the other class's url, so that they could answer each other's questions. This was also done as homework. One of the challenges we faced after doing the activity was that some of the students weren't able to edit the document and add their contribution. So, we found out that goggle docs can only be edited through a mobile device (cell phones / tablets) if the person is logged on, otherwise he/she can only see it, not edit. However, if the student access the document on a computer, it requires no login. 

As a follow-up, many ideas came to our mind. Some of them are:
- print questions and answers and have students match them.
- have only the answers on a slideshow and then students have to come up with a correct question.
- pair-work where students would use the questions and answers as a conversation.

We decided to gather students in the school gallery. We printed the questions and randomly handed on question to each student. Then, we asked them to ask the question they had in hands to at least five students from the other class. It was fun and very meaningful! They had a very good time! 

As a whole, students got engaged and we felt this practice added value to their learning. It was a meaningful task and involved students in their own learning process, linking the subject with students' own realities. We were able to spot which aspects we still needed to work further on, creating an opportunity for students not only to gain knowledge, but also to be able to apply and use what they have learned in a different yet valuable way. Since students were exposed to the content in a surprising way, the language was possibly more vividly experienced and, therefore, better remembered. 

Here are the pages students worked on:

Click here to watch a nice video about Google Docs. 


     Lilian Marchesoni                           Henry Silva

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

iPads in the English Classroom: Notability

After using IPads to produce short videos with my students, I became more excited and curious about the power of IPads in the language classroom.  If my students had got all excited about using a simple native app, the camera, what impact could other fascinating apps have on their learning? Therefore, I started attending IPad workshops to become more familiarized with other apps and to learn about other teachers’ experiences with them.  That was how I came across “Notability”, a fun user-friendly app that allows you to write texts through typing or by using “a pen”, to take  pictures and to record texts.  Playing with Notability was really fun, but how could I integrate it into a lesson? As I started a lesson on clothes, I could visualize an effective way to incorporate the use of technology through Notability into my lesson plan. To wrap up the lesson, the students developed a simple project on what their partners were wearing.  Each pair talked about what they were wearing and took each other’s pictures. Then, I showed them how to use notability by producing the model below. 

This is my student. He's Hemmanoel. He's wearing black shoes, jeans, a black belt and a beautiful striped shirt. He's so elegant!

They enjoyed “being  a model”, taking pictures and recording their texts. After they finished the task, they  presented it to the class.  In short, students were excited about working on the iPads and felt proud of their digital production.  Notability allowed them to practice the target structure in a fun and motivating way.

Roberta is wearing a pink
sweater, jeans and beige and
black shoes. She’s beautiful!

This is Eduardo. He's my English course friend. He's wearing gray and
blue sneakers, white socks, blue jeans, a brown belt, a purple shirt,
glasses and a watch.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Google docs for synchronous or asynchronous collaboration

Most of us have used google docs to create and share documents with our peers. I myself have done that in several occasions. However, the mindset is always one so concerned with privacy that I had never hacked my google docs. I mean, I have always made them private and sharable with only the peers involved in a given project. That has changed after Carla Arena showed us that we could make it public and editable by anyone on the web.

Here are some screenshots to show you how you can do that. 

Once I discovered that (I mean, I kind of knew it could be done. I guess I was just concerned with privacy), I decided to try it out with my students. So, I went ahead and created an editable document for my 1B2 – English Access group. In that lesson we were working with describing people. What I did for this activity was to create a document with some pictures and some questions and fill in the blanks activities. In class I gave them a shortened url and  took them to the computer lab. They logged in and I asked them to work in twos assigning one page to each pair. Once a pair had worked on a page, I asked them to move to another page. They really liked it and I found it was a very effective way to teach and reinforce what they had learned.

Here is the doc

Another activity I did that was fun was with my Teens 7. We were working on passive voice. So, I posted some pictures and wrote a model sentence with a passive voice. When we got to the computer lab, they accidentally deleted some of the images I had posted. That was good, because it gave the excuse to ask them to add their own images by copying and pasting from the web. It was really fun 
Here is the link 

If you want to do it asynchronously, you can just give the link to students and they will do it from home. 
* I just removed permission to edit because I am publishing and I wanted to prevent unwanted changes to my students' original work. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Flying Higher with the iTDI Summer School MOOC for English Teachers

At the end of July (July 20th - August 17th), the iTDI (International Teachers Development Institute) Summer School MOOC for English Teachers offered  four weeks of daily on-line immersion in TEFL teacher development training, delivering one session at a time by the faculty, mentors, associates, and leading community members of iTDI.

This MOOC was my first step on an exciting journey taken with teachers from over 90 countries, learning to be better teachers together.  In the beginning, I felt lost getting started, especially when downloading the course program into my iPAD (Thank you so much, Cláudio Fleury and Danny Lyra, for your precious help!) and handling the initial session details, especially the necessary audio adjustments. Sometimes, I felt as if I were drowning while I was watching the live discussions and struggled to follow the different types of information I’d get on the screen: listening to the presenters who were usually shown in the right upper corner of the screen; viewing the slides display in a larger portion of the screen; and following the comments in the chat room in the lower right corner of the screen. That seemed too demanding for me! I felt like my brain would go out of orbit and burn! But it didn’t.  Thank god, experiencing the so much celebrated plasticity of brain became a concrete reality to me – sometimes at a high energy cost, I must admit.  However, I’ve learned some strategies and now I know I can do it faster and more comfortably next summer.

All sessions were one hour long, live, conducted in a virtual classroom in Wiziq, and included a pre-session task and a post-session quiz. In accordance with the number of sessions one attended, different certificate participation credits were available.  This year’s program included a wide range of topics such as ‘Teaching English Through Art’, ‘Preflective Lesson Prep: Ideas and Inspirations’, and some curiosity-raising ones, such as ‘#Flashmob ELT’. A variety of inspiring teaching specialists - such as Michael Griffin, Anna Loseva, Matthew Noble, Vicky Loras, Rosely Serra and Ana Menezes - were invited to present in one of the 29 daily sessions in this year’s program.

Experiencing doing this MOOC course was certainly a turning point in my career.  Actually, I’m looking forward to watching the recording of the sessions I’ve missed due to the natural rush and usual demands with coachees and related issues in the beginning of the semester. The fact that the sessions were on a daily basis forced me to miss some of them. The good point about this MOOC is that I can catch up and do the rest of the viewing and tasks at my own pace now at the end of our school semester. Yes.  I highly recommend this MOOC for English Teachers. Fly high with iTDI!

Eneida Coaracy

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Language Use: Yeah, no.

While I was preparing an English class, I came across a book activity that presents a rather recent addition to authentic language use: Yeah, no.

“Yeah, no. we should really try to keep traditions going.”

It’s not exactly slang, but people are now using this with increasing frequency in conversation. At face value, it looks quite contradictory, and I imagined that there are people who aren’t at all familiar with its use.

One question that comes to mind is, “Where did this expression come from?”  Well, a cursory search points to our friends “down under” in Australia.  It is similarly used in South Africa (Yah, nay), yet is not limited to the English language; in German, ‘ja nein’ is used as well!  In fact, in can be found in just about any English-speaking country.

So, how can it be used? Well, in a number of ways. Here’s a list that I’ve put together based on my search:

  1. used frequently to agree, as in “Yes, indeed, and no, I wouldn’t think of contradicting you:
    1. “My car is in the shop, and you had said you would stay home today, so would you mind if I borrowed your car?”
    2. “Yeah, no, that would be just fine!”
  2. used less frequently to acknowledge what was said, yet disagree, as in:
    1. “During the movie, I found myself squirming in my chair!”
    2. “Yeah, no, I don’t like horror movies”.
  3. used to soften the rejection/denial of a person’s request:
    1. “Those are only some of the problems we had.”
    2. “Yeah, no, we can’t give you your money back, sorry”.
  4. used to give a sarcastic and emphatic no:
    1. “So what do you think?”
    2. “Yeahhhh, NO! That’s a terrible idea.”
  5. used as an alternative filler to “um/uh”.

It’s important to highlight that “yeah, no” always appears as a way of starting a conversation or as something uttered briefly before a response to something that has been said. It is never used in the middle or at the end of a comment. Typically, there is no pause following “no”.

I personally question whether or not “Yeah, no” will persist in language or will fade away like a fad. However, Cambridge sees it as a strategy of increasing fluency. So, what do you think? Is “yeah, no” here to stay? Do you agree with my list? Do you have any else to add? Let me know in the comments.


Friday, September 19, 2014

ABLA Conference 2014

It is a great honor to have been invited to present at  the ABLA (the Association of Binational Centers in Latin America) Conference about our ipad implementation project for the classroom and Resource Centers.

It´s been a long ride since 2011 when we participated in a Latin American grant contest from the American Embassy that would award a certain amount of money for any project in the technology area. We had the idea of having a trifold project in which we would implement the use of mLearning at Thomas, work on the ACCESS students´ digital literacies and use the opportunity to train our teachers, besides keep looking ahead in terms of best practices in the realm of Educational Technology.

We got the grant, we started, we expanded the scope of the project, we learned and we keep exploring. So, this is exactly the story I want to portray in the Conference to help other Binational Centers who want to implement this kind of mlearning project. Also, it will be an amazing opportunity to learn from the ones who have been in the same path.

All the resources and slides I´ll be using in my presentations are available online at 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Whatsapp and Education - is it feasible?

Social networks have surely opened up new ways of communication, new opportunities of interaction and collaboration, and teachers can take advantage of these tools by including them into their lesson plans. 

One of the most popular social networks nowadays is WhatsApp. It is basically an instant messaging application for smart phones. Everyone uses it, everyone has it. Many times, teachers can see students' phones constantly receiving WhatsApp messages or notifications during classes. In addition to text messaging, users can send each other images, videos, and audio messages.

We believe that the use of WhatsApp might encourage students to get more engaged in their own learning process, which might lead to a better long-term retention of structures and vocabulary. Teachers are able to work with all four skills, and should consider designing different tasks and activities in order to cater various learning styles.

Thus, to improve reading skills, the teacher can send the group a text (i.e. a short story). Then, as a follow-up, the teacher can ask comprehension questions about it , and also questions on specific vocabulary presented in the text. It is also possible to ask students to come up with a different endings for the story they've read.

Teachers can also create several writing activities by proposing a topic for discussion, for instance. Students can also write descriptions of a place, based on an image sent by the teacher. 

An interesting function in this application is voice recording to practice speaking skills. Students can record their voices to present their ideas/opinions about a certain topic, or answer specific questions based on a text or image sent by the teacher. Furthermore, the teacher can also record his voice and send to the student and work on listening comprehension. There is also the possibility of sending a video and then ask questions about it. 

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Some practical examples now.

1. I designed two slides on PowerPoint and saved them as images. Then, I sent them to students and asked them to perform a simple task: write sentences using the passive voice.


2. This is another very simple activity that can be done using WhatsApp. I used it with a group of teenagers to practice adjectives. After having explained the meaning of the adjectives from the lesson, I made a numbered list of the adjectives on the board. I, then, asked them to pick up their cell phones and log into our WhatsApp group. I gave them 3 minutes to find an emoticon for each adjective from the board. They would have to make the whole list and only hit send when they had finished. The following class we performed the activity a bit differently. First, I sent the adjective and they had to find an emoticon to show they remembered its meaning. Finally, I sent the emoticon and the students had to type the adjective (in order to practice spelling).  It became a competition. We had a blast!

        3. Another activity I developed using emoticons was concerning 'if clauses'. I prepared the if clause in advance and the main clause should be provided by the students. However, they had to create this main clause using a key word that I provided using and emoticon. For example: "If I get a book on my birthday, :) ". They were supposed to say something like "I will be happy."  Although I included the emoticon to control their answers, they had different and funny ideas.

       4. This activity was done with an advanced group. I just wanted to check their pronunciation of certain words. I sent the word to the group and they had to send the a recording of their voice pronouncing the word.

Ask students to choose an object they own to put up for sale. They got to take a picture of the chosen object and add a description saying the story behind it and why it is special for them. Students can then bid on each others items and justify why they'd want to buy a certain object and not the other. I have used this activity in class with my 5B group and it has worked quite well. 

This is a fun game which  can be done with any group or age. Teacher starts the game by saying a random adjective, for example the color "red". Then students have to type up as many combinations as possible using the word red. Ex. red lipstick, red light, red dress.

As the title already gives away, it's a verb tense game. Teacher starts by typing up a verb in the base form and students gotta type it up in the past simple or past participle. Students can also join in adding verbs and competing amongst themselves. The points can double when the teacher adds a talking face Emoji and the students record a voice message pronouncing the word accurately. 

The teacher send a sentence and students have to decide if its right or wrong. That can also be done to practice pronunciation. 

Teacher sends part of a picture (you can easily use your own phone's camera to take a picture of a pic) then students have to guess wha or who it is by saying "It might/can't/may/could/must be..." . It's great to practice modals. 

The teacher writes the answer to a question and students have to guess what question was asked. Ex. Answer: Hardly ever. Possible questions: How often do you...? Do you still see each other? Do you go dancing? Did you use to go to the beach? etc...

The players send part of a song and the others have to sing the following bit. 

The game starts with a description of a phrasal verb and students have to write a sentence using the corresponding phrasal verb. Extra points if they know if its separable, inseparable or always separated. 

One assigned student at a time has to to narrate (using the voice message) an impromptu  part of a story using the words the teacher types up. The other assigned students follow the story line trying to give sequence to it. Ex. Anna - gold, chest, gun, shoot, man, get away. Pedro - robber, blue eyed, charming, laughter, dream. etc. 

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Have you tried using this app with your students? If not, would you be willing to give it a try? Let us know about your outcomes! 


        Paola Hanna                      Tatiana Severo                  Lilian Marchesoni