Friday, July 29, 2011

At the End of the Day

When I went to New Zealand I discovered a wonderful little book written and photographed by Trish Puharich called "At the end of the day". This book describes what happens in a much-enjoyed class massage circle. A group of children form a circle and massage each other's backs using a range of finger and hand techniques.

"Why don't do something similar at the end of my English language classes?" -I thought. And I did it! It worked great with my "youngs", mixing instructional TPR and some psycomotricity elements in a very relaxing way.

So, I decided to make a mini book for myself to be published in our school e-magazine. “I'm really sorry Trish but I couldn't ask you permission to borrow your idea”. Thanks a lot!

Oh, yes! And what's more gave me some more ideas that I will put into practice very soon!
Just some few quotations to support this “massage circle activity at the end of the English language class”:

I believe in action and activity. The brain learns best and retains most when the organism is actively involved in exploring physical sites and materials and asking questions to which it actually craves answers. Merely passive experiences tend to attenuate and have little lasting impact (Gardner, 1999, p. 82).

When drama and movement are integrated within the daily curriculum, engaging and numerous learning experiences transpire for early childhood learners (Chauhan, 2004; Royka, 2002)

Besides being "fun" for most children, kinesthetic activities can help young learners, especially English language learners, develop decoding skills, fluency, vocabulary, syntactic knowledge, discourse knowledge, and metacognitive thinking (Sun, 2003).

Teaching language skills through drama and movement gives children a context for listening and meaningful language production, provides opportunities for reading and writing development (Chauhan, 2004), and involves children in reading and writing as a holistic and meaningful communication process (McNamee, McLane, Cooper, & Kerwin, 1985)

The brain learns best when it is dynamically involved in exploring, inquiring, and analyzing (Gardner, 1999).

Of course! Using movement and action, roleplay and drama, facilitates the brain to learn and to retain information and it provides a stimulating environment for most young English Language learners. These experiences help children build literacy skills such as reading, writing, listening, and language production.
You can integrate movement and actions in your daily classroom instruction, using techniques from Total Physical Response (TPR) and Language Experience Approach (LEA). “These strategies enable teachers to effectively employ kinesthetic experiences through all content areas and support learning as an active, physical process”. (1)

  • Gardner, H. (1999). The disciplined mind. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Chauhan, V. (2004). Dramatechniques for teaching English. The Internet TESL Journal, 10(10).
  • McNamee, G.D., McLane, J.B., Cooper, P.M., & Kerwin, S.M. (1985). Cognition and affect in early literacy development. Early Childhood Development and Care, 20,229-244
  • (1) Sue A. Rieg, Kelli R. Paquette (2009) Using drama and movement to enhance English language learners' literacy development
  • Sun, Ping-Yun (2003). Using drama and theater to promote literacy development: Some basic classroom applications. The Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication Digest #187.

PUHARICH, T (2000). At the End of the Day. Welllington:Learning Media (New Zealand) ISBN: 9780478123609. Story and photographs by Trish Puharich 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

English Language Activities… Keep the Simple!

The role of any language teacher is to come up with language activities that allow a student to develop their skills and comfort with the language being studied(1).

Just 4 things to consider in deep!
This simple and obvious statement means to consider many variables, thinking a lot, extra time and full dedication. And we do not forget either that communication is important for the social construction of the individual, for acquiring knowledge and for constructing thinking skills.We've got a hard job in here!

What are the necessary "premises" to design good activities for learning a foreign language in primary school? What should we consider to be successful in the goals we set?

Designing a language activity to be a competence activity is not a difficult task.

The fact is, that language, communication and processing information are part of the general mind development. So, any carefully well planned activity drives students to learn the language, to learn the content and to develop the thinking processes needed to solve any question or activity.

The Mind map that comes below was the product of a research carried out among more than 100 English as second language teachers. The questionnaire asked:
What things do we have to take into consideration when planning an activity (an activity with the presence of languages) to become a competent activity?

Musts of a competent activity

The result was a set of 6 guidelines:

To be "competent" a language activity must...
  • Use the language in any form or skill, oral or written; using different language register and with a good linguistic model.
  • Promote interaction in the class through collaborative and cooperative work.
  • Be challenging but feasible.
  • Bear in mind cognition and low and high thinking processes such as understanding, reasoning, classifying... (Bloom’s taxonomy).
  • Involve children in the process of learning the language, with different strategies such as defining assessment criteria or having clear outcomes.
  • Be content based or interdisciplinary.
How do we teach? -The question to ask

But don’t forget: what we develop as language teachers will really depend on the level of our students (both in terms of language ability and age), as well as exactly what it is that we are currently teaching.  And one very important thing: Teaching a language is more about how do we teach than what we teach.

Finally, I suggest keeping in mind three simple concepts as you develop language activities for your students. If you follow them you will make simple what it seems hassle and you will do more cohesive and coherent lessons:
  1. Try to design language activities that you can recycle and use again, either with the same students (in another time) or with a new group of students.
  2. Try to develop activities that link all language skills: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing, and don’t forget interacting, as an “umbrella” term.
  3. Try to think about different uses you can give to an activity. They should be easily “convertible” from a speaking activity to a writing one, for example.

"Curiosity killed the cat" (not always!)
Paraphrasing Javier Zanon in his article “Como no impedir que los niños aprendan inglés” (How do not prevent children to learn English), what it is really difficult is that children do not learn it!

References and links
  • (1)
  •  BRUNER, J. (1983) Child's Talk: Learning to Use Language, New York: Norton. ISBN-10: 0393017532
  • CANALS, R (gener 2008) Un currículum per a l’adquisició de competències. Perspectiva Escolar, 321. Pp 75-85. Barcelona: Publicació de Rosa Sensat. Veure també el seu blog: 
  •  CARRETERO, M. Reyes (27 de maig 2008) Competències bàsiques: què i com ensenyar i avaluar-les. Conferència a la Universitat de Girona en format en Power Point.
  •  MERCER, N. and LITTLETON, K. (2007) Dialogue and the Development of Children's Thinking: A Sociocultural Approach. Oxon: Routledge. ISBN: 978-0-415-40479-2
  • SANTMARTÍ, N (Febrer, 2008). Qué comporta aplicar un curríulum orientat al desenvolupament de competències? Barcelona: UAB
  • ZABALA, A and ARNAU, L (2009) Como aprender y enseñar competencias. Barcelona: Graó. ISBN: 978-84-7827-500-7
  • ZANON, J (1992) Como impedir que los niños aprendan inglés en CL&E (Comunicación, Lenguaje y Educación), núm 16. Pp 93-110

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Animal Boogie

Down in the Indian jungle, my pupils and I have been learning about actions like leaping, stomping, shaking and flapping while meeting different jungle creatures. 

Would you like to join us? Would you like to go into this jungle, find these animals and dance a boogie-boogie with them?

The Animal Boogie is a Barefootbook. It has been illustrated by Debbie Harter and sung by Fred Penner.

Barefoot Books is an independent children's publisher,  specialized in carefully crafted books, gifts and digital content for children - using timeless stories and captivating illustrations to tap into the wisdom of many cultures, while never forgetting that childhood is a time for fun. Since 1992, Barefoot Books has published more than 400 titles that help children on their journey to becoming happy, engaged members of the global community.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Tongues out! Tofa, Tafa...
One of my favourite songs (and of my pupils, too!) in the ESL class is “Tofa, Tafa”.
 When I first knew this song in 1994, thanks to a “kiwi” teacher trainer, the chorus of this song was the beginning of “Singing in the rain” song:
 “I’m singing in the rain,
 just singing in the rain,
what a glorious feeling,
 I’m happy again”
I couldn’t find this version in You Tube. Instead of this, there is another with a new chorus:
“I’m gonna reach up high and sing out loud,
 I’m gonna jump and clap, cos I feel real proud”
with the same actions and movements.
I have had lots of fun with this song because my pupils like to sing it when it rains (unfortunately not so often in my country!) and it is a memorable way to end (or start) a session.

Here it is my “activity file” for this song!

Title of the activity

TOFA, TAFA (action song)

Age group / Level
I use it with very young learners, but it works extremely well with olders, too)
I use this song as a rainy day routine on rainy days and as a warm up or class ending. I also use it for revisiting or introducing parts of the body.
When the class is very calm and relaxed and I need to stir it up, some body movement and sing helps me a lot.
Main language (vocabulary, chunks, sounds, …)
Arms, thumbs, elbows, knees, bottoms, tongue. Out and up. Together.
Present continuous: I’m singing in the rain.
The sound /f/
5 – 10 ‘, depending if you have to introduce new vocabulary
Your voice, your body. Children’s voice and body
Grouping and interaction
Whole class or in pairs
Linda Adamson, (1991) Love to learn songbook. Auckland: Scholastic (New Zealand). Love to Sing collection

As children need some room to move and dance, I invite them to stand up, put chairs under the tables, split around the class (or in the nearest hall). I show them the movements, the chorus and how they perform when the leader tells them to do a movement.
           Teacher starts the song with the chorus.
 Chorus: I’m singing in the rain       (dance alone or in pairs)
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again.
Leader: Hang about Child/group: hang about (arms and elbows up as wings)
Leader: Arms out     Child/group: Arms out
Leader: Tofa, tafa, tofa, tafa, tofa, tafa I said, (swing movement of arms)
Child/group: Tofa, tafa, tofa, tafa, tofa, tafa

Repeat chorus

Leader: Hang about Child/group: hang about
Leader: Arms out     Child/group: Arms out
Leader: Thumbs up  Child/group: Thumbs up (swing movement of arms and thumbs)
Leader: Tofa, tafa, tofa, tafa, tofa, tafa
Child/group: Tofa, tafa, tofa, tafa, tofa, tafa

Repeat chorus

-          Elbows together
-          Knees together
-          Bottoms out
-          Tongues out

Leader: Dig in!   Child/group: Dig in! (finish with the arms and the forefinger pointing the sky)

The first time teacher is the leader, but after two or three goes, one or two children can be the leaders and conduct the whole group.

Observe children participation when singing the song and doing all the movements. Have all children being engaged sing and dance the song?
Observe children when perform as leaders and conduct the song: vocabulary, pronunciation, intonation, rhythm, stress…

ISBN 1-86943-080-8

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blogs or wikis to work English language in the school?

Does it really matter? Well, it depends on what we would like to use them for and what level we will use them.

Blogs are a great source for concrete information and tend to be chronologically oriented. They provide good tools for public attribution of contribution.

Blogs are used to post interesting finds or questions for students to comment on or to respond to. They probably are more of an opinionated tool, so if you're trying to encourage your students to express their different viewpoints, then a blog would be a good tool.

Blogging is also a good option because students can share their work, ideas and thoughts with different people in the world.  They also learn about different cultures and they communicate to see different opinions from teenagers like them.

In a Blog students can post images or videos that are related and tell their opinion of what they felt was important in the lesson they have just covered. They can also post research they have found useful in their learning such as online articles or websites that support what the students have learned.

Our school (Ruiz Amado) in the neighbourhood.
I think a blog would be the best tool to work with older students to show their learning, opinions and critical points of view. In this way it can be used as a portfolio and as an evaluation tool.

Wikis tend to be more content oriented and have less capability for public acknowledgment of contribution.

Wikis allow a constant update of information, a continuing work ethic, while giving the teacher and other students the possibility to add anything they think is missing. You can get a lot feedback from the students work.

In a Wiki students can collaborate with the discussion tabs. The best thing for a teacher is the history tab so that you can see who did what and when, who changed what and when.

Wikis allow the students to go in and edit other people's work in the same wiki page, so if you're trying to get the students a truly interaction, that would probably be the best tool to collaborate and share ideas.

Working in the English classroom (School Ruiz Amado)
But if you are considering using a Blog or a Wiki as a final product of a project or a task, I think it is important to think about  the age of the students. You can let older students to choose the medium by which to demonstrate what they've learned. This gives them the freedom to show their creativity. For the youngest, maybe Wikis are easier for them: it can be used for quick edits and for directed exercises or assignments.

Cooperation, collaboration, interaction... these are tags than can be addressed to the use of wikis.

Points of view, ideas, reflection, giving opinions... then, maybe, blogs are the best choice.

Better to see an example of “Best teaching” English with a Wiki. It has been made by a terrific primary English teacher, Rosamaria Felip Falcó, in the school Ruiz Amado in Castelló d’Empúries (Costa Brava - Girona). It is worth having a look:

You can also have a sight for the Blog made by another great English teacher in the school Splai in Barcelona: Oscar del Estal Martínez. He uses the blog as a bank of resources and, above all for assignments and homework:


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One of my masters... Michael Rosen!

Music gives a soul to the universe,
Wings to the mind,
Flight to the imagination...
And life to everything.


"Establishing a sense of rhythm can be used to increase a student's awareness of rhyming patterns and alliteration in other areas of reading and writing. Through music, memory skills can be improved, and aural discrimination increased (Chong & Gan 1997). Music can focus the mind on the sounds being perceived and promote learning through an interactive process. It is important in teaching early childhood students to be conscious of auditory and discrimination skills. Music and songs help increase these listening skills in a fun, relaxed manner. Listening skills are key in singing, language and expressive movement, and later reading and writing (Wolf, 1992)".
From the article "Promoting Literacy Through Music. Laura Woodall and Brenda Ziembroski

One of my favourite stories (and songs!) is "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen (former Children's Laureate), with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury.

It is not only an excellent reading but also a great chant because it is musical, rythmical, repetitive and VERY FUNNY!

Have a look to this Michael's fabulous performance of the story. Enjoy him as well as I did!

You also can get a video version of the book in You Tube.

If you like to know a bit more about Mr. Rosen, visit his site:
More Michael Rosen's performs in
Chong, S. & Gan, L. (1997). The Sound of Music. Early Child Development and Care, 323.
Wolf, J. (I 992). Using Song Picture Books to Support Emergent Literacy. Young Children, 56-61.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Art in English. Art en Anglès

Let me suggest to visit this blog:

More than a blog, it is a little jewel!
A complete site about how to work art in the English language class or how to work English language in the art class: what it is called CLIL.  Ana Esteban has been carrying this CLIL experience in her school Jaume Ferran i Clua in Valldoreix (Barcelona) for many years with great results, not only in Content but also in Language.

Ana tells about it: “My artistic side began with a granted license in England, at St Helens School, in 2005. There, I developed a website in English with lesson plans and proposals on plastic and visual arts in English. After several years of implementation of these teaching units, I have begun to develop and organize workshops in English: sculpture, drawing, painting and crafts with paper. The main idea is to set monographic workshops with a length of 10 sessions for students in the middle or upper cycle*”

Do not miss it.

* In Spain, middle cycle: 8-10 year olds. Upper cycle: 10-12 year olds

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Multicultural "Hello" song

In how many languages can we say "Hello" or "How are you?
Is at the begining of the school year, when you have a new group of students, when you "discover" children coming from everywhere, from different cultures, and speaking different languages at home: Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, English, Romanian, Catalan, Chinese...

Although I am an English teacher, I think it is important to greet everybody in its own language, as well as it is important each child can greet anyone in different languages.

This is one of my favourites for breaking the ice!

More from Global Wonders You Tube Channel
Videos and songs for multiculturality work