Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Story of Thanksgiving

This is a lesson on Thanksgiving for 8th graders. Before watching the film, students are asked to refer what they know about this festivity. Then they watch the follwing video.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FILM “The First Thanksgiving

Food vocabulary in the video: duck, geese, turkey, deer, clam, corn, peas, wheat, barley

• Which king ruled in England around 400 year ago?

• Why were some people unhappy?

• Where did they first go?

• Why did they leave Holland?

• How did they go to America?

• What was the ship called?

• How long did it take to get to America?

• What was the sea journey like?

• What was the weather like when they arrived in America?

• They did they survive winter?

• Who helped them?

• What did the Indians teach them?

• Why did they decide to give a Thanksgiving party?

• Who did they invite?

• Which food did they prepare?

To find out more about Thanksgiving, click here

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Back to the past (simple)!

Every school year we have to revise the past simple and every time we revise it, students stumble over the "awful" irregular verbs ... again and again. Why is it so painful for them to learn anything by heart?
Well, students and teachers alike... just keep on trying, because "where there's a will, there's a power".

So, student, if you're still "haunted" by the "awful" irregular (or regular, for that matter) verbs, give these activities a try ...and have fun! After you have finished, please leave a message on how well (hopefully!) you did.

Games with the past simple

Test your memory


Spelling (Write the missing verbs)


Two betting games
Game one: completing sentences. You get points for the correct answer:


Game two

Matching game


Snakes and Ladders


Quiz Show (exciting)

Now, if you're not really a game lover, here are some exercises:

Negative in the simple past


Questions in the simple past


Mixed exercise


A list of irregular verbs, just in case...


Feeling like doing a test? Here are some:

http://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/tests/simple-past-1 (easy)

http://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/tests/simple-past-2 (medium)

http://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/tests/simple-past-3 (difficult)

Last but not least, DO NOT FORGET to write about your last summer holidays on WALLWISHER. Just click on "post a sticky" and you'll be redirected to the wall! Have fun learning English!

Your teacher.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Studying Vocabulary - Fantastic Tool!

Surfing the net trying to find different ways for my students to study/memorize voacabulary, I came across this fantastic online fashcard programme - www.quizlet.com
As they say quizlet is "...the largest flash cards and study games website with over 6 million free sets of flashcards covering every possible subject. It's the best place to play educational games, memorize vocabulary and study online."
In fact, you can create sets of flashcards (with sound and pictures)with your own terms and definitions for your students, or you can ask students to do so. In case you have no time to create your own flashcards, you can choose from sets created by other users. Everything for free! Pretty amazing, isn't it?
I was so curious to test it, I created this one:

To know how it works watch this tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1AbcKz-_q8
Have fun and ... enjoy your summer holiday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Using Songs to Motivate Students' Creativity

Teenagers and music are inseparable. So it's always an excellent tool to use in the classroom to teach or revise both grammar and vocabulary, or just for fun. I posted some examples some time ago (click here to check).
With songs students can practise the 4 skills: from a simple listening activity, or a reading comprehension, or even a debate, to a more elaborate writing activity, you just have to pick (or let them pick) the song.
I've recently written about arousing student's imagination and creativity through art. Music is art too. So why not using it to stimulate creativity? Here are some ideas:

1. After listening to the song, ask students to create a new verse to it;

2. Ask students to find a photo which best describes the song lyrics;

3. If the topic of the song allows it, you can ask students to improvise a dialogue between the song writer and the character in the song. In this case, you have to make sure students understand the lyrics so as to feel confident enough to accomplish the task. Give them the timing and the setting to give it more meaning and make it easier (Coldplay's Scientist is a suitable song for this activity);

4. Have students write a letter/e-email to the main character (or the singer), or send an answer to the character referred to in the song;

5. "A song talk" - students usually have their favourite songs. Maybe they know interestings facts or stories to tell about their songs, so ask them to prepare a short talk;

6. If the song tells a story, you can challenge students to turn it into a cartoon story using Xtranormal or Goanimate;

7. Ask them to draw or collage the song and compare the visualizations in class.

Well, the sky is the limit! Enjoy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rethinking Education

Reflections and opinions on education in the 21st century. How do we teach? To what extent have we changed the way we teach so far? Are we teaching the same way we taught 10, 15 or 20 years ago? If it's the case, are we willing to change? How and what can we change? These are questions worth answering.
I guess most of us teachers really want to adapt and adjust to these changing times, in which technology plays an important role. Students are no longer the same as the ones we taught years ago!
Here are some videos on the subject. A must see! I hope you get inspired by them as I did.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Motivate your students with GoAnimate

I found this great free tool that allows anyone to create fully animated cartoons by choosing characters from scratch, props, backgrounds, audio and text.
This could be a good tool to stimulate reluctant writers to animate a story, a text or a song in a creative way. I think the best way to describe GoAnimate is to have a look at their demo video below. Check it out here.

An example of what you can do with GoAnimate:

GoAnimate.com: by Cognito

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!


Friday, June 03, 2011

Stimulating Creativity - Art in the English Language Classroom

I sometimes use art (paintings or photos) in the classroom, because I think it’s a good way to stimulate student’s creativity (as important as any other skill), and bring something different to the English Language classroom. As the means to creativity is imagination, this one has to be carefully planned, structured and practiced. In addition, by developing students’ imagination we are providing them with different ways of learning, which is one of our teaching goals.
Many teachers think activities that stimulate student’s imagination will be a source of indiscipline in the classroom, but that is not so. Sometimes students who do not use their imagination may become uninterested and misbehave. Thinking about or even creating art can be very motivating. It can take the emphasis off accuracy and put it onto fluency and the ability to clearly express thoughts and ideas. This is great for students whose progress in speaking is hindered by a fear of making mistakes.

So here are some examples of activities on two paintings (I couldn’t find the authors’ names. My apologies for that!). They were developed as speaking activities, but they can be used as writing ones too.

Painting one: for 7th graders (Places in Town)

GIF animations generator gifup.com
GIF animations generator gifup.com

-Imagine where this town is.
-Is it a large one or a small one? Say why.
-Where is everybody?
-What kind of shops are there in this town?
-Would you like to live there? Why (not)?
-What do you feel when you look at this town?
-Find a piece of music to go with this painting.

Painting two: to be used with 9th graders (Multiculturalism)

GIF animations generator gifup.com
GIF animations generator gifup.com

-Compare the two paintings. What do they represent?
-Where do these families come from? Where do they live?
-Similarities and differences (9th grade)
-Which is the happiest family? Why?
-What feelings are conveyed in these two paintings? (9th grade)
-Choose one of the paintings and write a short story about it.

Well, these are only two ideas to practise speaking and stimulate our students' imagination. You can also teach grammar using paintings. I love this topic. I'll get back to this subject with more ideas.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a talk on creativity by Sir ken Robinson. Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere.
So listen to his talk "Schools Kill Creativity" and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jing - a great tool for both teachers and students!

Ever heard about Jing? If you havent't, give it a look - it's a great tool!
Jing is a quick way of capturing images and videos (up to 5 minutes) of what you see on your own computer monitor. As a teacher, how can you use Jing? Here are some ideas:
- You can create teaching tutorials as a learning tool. For example, explaining students a difficult grammar point;
- you can make a video about vocabulary students have to know for a specific test, or for them to know how to pronounce these words;
- you can highlight a webpage for your students;
- you can give feedback on compositions (correction of mistakes). It’s time consuming though;
- you can talk about a picture / describe a picture (students use Jing themselves). A good speaking activity!
- you can talk about someone famous (students use Jing themselves) as a homework / project work. Also a good speaking activity!
- you can read aloud. Students can choose a passage or a story to read, record it and then send it to the teacher.
- you can create tutorials for working with new technologies.

Well, I'm sure you'll come up with other ideas. Enjoy learning!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! Here is a video about St. Patrick's Day history Enjoy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Activities

GIF animations generator gifup.com
GIF animations generator gifup.com

St. Patrick's Day is arriving! Although it began in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in countries around the world. People with Irish heritage remind themselves of the beautiful green countryside of Ireland by wearing green and taking part in the festivities. Saint Patrick’s Day is usually celebrated with a parade. The one in Dublin, Ireland, is known to some as the Irish Mardi Gras. But the one in New York City is actually one of the biggest. It lasts for hours. Two Irish wolfhounds, the mascots of the New York National Guard infantry regiment the “Fighting 69th”, always lead the parade. More than one hundred bands and a hundred thousand marchers follow the wolfhounds in the parade. To promote sudents' awareness of this cultural aspect in the classroom, here are some ideas. Happy St. Patty's Day!

St Patrick's Day activities.docx
St patrick's Day isa.pptx

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

More Activities to Celebrate Women's Month

Four different activities to celebrate women's month. Click on the link below to download the activities.
women's month activities.docx

Monday, March 07, 2011

Women's Month Activity

In 1911 in Europe, March 8 was first celebrated as International Women's Day. Later, in the United States, March became the women's month. Contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society are highlighted throughout March.
So as to find out about some women's contributions, not only in British and American history, but also in Portuguese histoty, I gave students this webquest (WOMEN IN HISTORY), which I share with you.

women in histoty webquest.doc

To get more ideas and information on this topic, check out this site:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Teaching Listening - Resources

As promised in my last post, here is a list of some sites where you can find useful listening resources for your classes. I hope it'll be useful.

Listening Sites

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


GIF animations generator gifup.com
GIF animations generator gifup.com

Teaching listening skills is one of the most difficult tasks for me as a teacher. I think it is because good listening skills take a long time to be acquired and with lots of practice. It's also difficult for students, because there are no rules as in grammar teaching.
One of the inhibitors for students is often mental block due to lack of practice. While listening, students say they don't understand what is being said, because they want to understand every word and then translate it, which takes a lot of time. As a result they easily give up and listening turns into something frustrating for them, as well as for us.
The key to helping students improve their listening skills is to show them that they don't have to understand everything. I try to teach my students that they need to listen to English as often as possible outside the classaroom. This is not difficult as they usually listen to anglo-american music music, and watch movies quite often.

Listening skills are really important to develop. Of the 'four skills,' listening is by far the most frequently used. Although listening and speaking are often taught together, beginner/elementary students should be given more listening than speaking practice.

There are many types of listening activities. For example:
- Students can be asked to "Close the door" with a physical response;
- Students select an appropriate picture or object;
- Students choose the correct letter or word on a worksheet;
- Students draw a route on a map;
- Students fill in a chart;
- Students continue a story, solve a problem;

These are some activities, but there are much more, of course.
We all (teachers) know how difficult it is to get good listening materials for our students, so next time I'll post a list of listening resources here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


GIF animations generator gifup.com
GIF animations generator gifup.com

Some weeks ago I promised I would write about one of my favourite topics again: idioms. They are not as often brought up in ESL lessons as they should (teaching speaking also involves teaching some idioms). They are not easy to teach, I know. Sometimes I use short texts to introduce them (usually related with a topic). Here is an example (the topic is the present economic crisis!):

On the Dole
Unfortunately the economic crisis means more people are out of work, because firms and factories are firing more people every day. So, presently a lot of people are on the dole. The present number of job seekers is increasing by the minute...

Well, you could go on introducing more idioms on the topic. I then ask the students to guess the meaning of the expressions in bold. Sometimes I ask them to write a short text or some sentences using the idioms they learned. The most creative ones come up with funny stories. Or you culd ask them to "draw" the idioms as in the animation above.
I found this interesting pps (www.worldofteaching.com). It´s another way of teaching them. You could ask the students to create one like this.

Idiom Dictionary

Thursday, January 27, 2011


As I previously promised, here is an example of a worksheet on the song "Empire State of Mind" (Alicia keys).
First I used some pictures to introduce some vocabulary to help them understand the song. Then they had to listen to the lyrics and correct some mistakes, finally they had to answer some questions on the story of the song. "Empire State of Mind" was used with level 3 students and I tell you ... it was a success. They practised listening, they sang an they had fun! Motivated students are easy to teach.

empire state of mind ws

Monday, January 24, 2011


Music is a great language tool that bundles culture, vocabulary, listening, grammar and a great variety of other language skills in just a few rhymes. Music can also provide a relaxed lesson for teenagers.
English songs can be used for a wide variety of learning and teaching activities. They can start discussions on a topic or even become the centre of debate.
Most songs reflect the background of the singer, why not do activities on something like varieties of modern English; or as an introduction to a topic to be studied.
Songs are also great for teaching listening, of course.
You can also teach grammar with songs in many ways.

I try to use up to date songs that are within the students' interests, because it's halfway to motivation. In the following grid you can find some examples of songs and how they can be explored (research by I.S. and S.P.):


Friday, January 21, 2011


Isn't it nice when an expression translates easily into English? It really is a "piece of cake". For instance, if you are living in London on a tight budget, you may "struggle to make ends meet", I wonder if you can get the idea!
Sometimes expressions are not quite the same and the changes can be amusing. Suppose you have a cold and your voice is hoarse. The English would say "I've got a frog in my throat". When someting is impossible to happen, we (the Portuguese) use an expression about chicken having teeth. In this case, in English you would say "when pigs fly".

There's a whole world of idioms in English to explore. They are widely and mostly uded in spoken Elglish. So, if you want to become a fluent speaker of English, study them and use them!

I'll be back with other commom idioms.