Saturday, December 21, 2013

Online Authentic Videos for meaningful ESL learning

One of the most difficult issues to work without published English course books is to find good videos (and listenings) adapted for the ESL class at any level. Even if you work with published materials, videos are not as authentic as children deserve for their learning.

With the help of my colleague Patricia Meneses, an awesome Art CLIL teacher and teacher trainer, we did a research in Internet on web pages, You Tube channels or Vimeo channels with videos, short films or commercials suitable to be used in the class with elementary, pre-intermediate and intermediate students.

And here you are the result. Hope you find the right one! Safe videos for kids, organized by age. KidsTube is like YouTube for kids, where ages 3-13 upload and share their own videos in a monitored, safe environment that's 100% family-friendly. They also have social networking for kids to prepare them for teen sites like FaceBook. Delicious recipes for kids, written recipe and video. In order to find what you are looking for you need to choose, so kids have to start making decisions right from the beginning. You'll love this website!

Film English. By Kieran Donaghy. Lots of short video films including lesson plans to go with them. Some of them are silent films you can paractice dubbing or subtitling activities

Makemegenius, A You Tube channel with science videos for Primary students. A bit difficult for esl learners, but maybe useful with some scaffolding.

Bookbox, which has a lot of short stories less than ten minutes, all with subtitles, designed for teaching children. You can watch some favorite stories a whole new way through the eyes (and fingers) of kids. Amazing! This is a great site for children to watch videos of celebrities reading popular children's books aloud. Free educational videos organized by age, subject, topic, common core. Lots of amazing animals, nature, science and history videos for your CLIL or science classes. Videos dealing with all subjects. Children can discover the world through the museum of science, art, and human perception with tons of programmes... Film trailers, books reviews,  video clips, … It can be a  great resource to start a project, a lesson or whatever, it will arise your students interest! This is a video sharing platform, specifically designed for students and educators with best videos from schools and students everywhere.

Filminute With 25 different films all chiming in at a minute! You can use them as listening activities, attention getters, things for students to describe, or inspiration for your students' own events!

Geico commercials. Commercials provide wonderful conversation prompts and clear, easy to follow audio and text that reflect natural speech. This is a good one to start with. A site with a lot of great ideas for teaching. There are links to video and accompanying lesson plans that are easy to adapt to your class.

YouTube Pixar Channel Just a classic!

Ringling College of Art Design channel in Vimeo. HQ videos for reflection and starting discussions about personal topics. Watch here the latest!


But if you are not still happy with this list, you can have a look to the following stacks:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Big Book Of Fears

While celebrating Halloween in the school, we could notice that some young children were scared of some decorations, masks and stuff.

I found a beautiful opportunity to talk about children’s fears seriously in the ESL class, learning some new vocabulary and, at the same time, helping them learn to cope with their fears.

“There is nothing to be scared of”.

Fears are an integral part of the normal development process of children. Fear reflects the insecurity the child experiences in a frightening world, whose rules he does not yet understand. Fear is also an opportunity to understand your younger students better -- a process from which you will emerge both stronger and encouraged.

“That ghost decoration looks scary to you? If you look underneath the sheet, you can see it’s just plastic. It is not real.”

Pretend play can provide children with excellent opportunities to work through their fears. Providing props and costumes that are related to children’s fears can give them the space and time to work through those scary feelings and ideas in a safe and developmentally appropriate manner.

But another great way to help children work through fears is through children’s literature.  Reading about a character in a book who is facing their fears can give kids strategies to deal with their own.

There are many books on the market that deal with fears and other emotions. Find one or two in your bookshop, and read them with your young students. As you read, talk with them about the story. If they bring up their own fears or emotions, this is an opportunity for you to talk with them, to learn some new vocabulary, structures and grammar and, above all, to face directly with their fears and reassure them.
Reading the story will allow your students to identify with the characters and learn how they coped with their fears.

Some book recommendations:

  • There's a Nightmare in my Closet, by Mercer Mayer
  • There's an Alligator under my Bed, by Mercer Mayer
  • The Berenstein Bears and the Bad Dream, by Stan Berenstein
  • Chester the Brave, by Audrey Penn
  • The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson
  • The Little Old Lady Who is Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams
  • Tickle Monster by Josie Bisett

We read Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett. After reading and understanding any single fear, talking about personal fears and learning how to ask and answer about them, we made Our Big Books of Fears.

Have a look!

Sources: and

Monday, December 09, 2013

Teaching English to the Little Ones

I'm not very used to bring activities, songs or videos for the youngest in the school; these are not my ages. But I'm really convinced that if one day I had to teach English to 3-4-5 years old my days as English teacher will change dramatically!

And this is the reason sometimes I like to surf on the net and find some resources and stuff for the teachers who deals with them.

Today I like to share one of my precious findings: "Teaching English to the Little Ones", a blog managed by Sara, a kindergarten English teacher who never gets tired of finding and sharing new materials.

I'm completely sure you will like it a lot!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Where do People Speak English in the World?

Many students do not realize the importance of English language in the world until someone shows them some empirical data.

English is not only the most spoken language in the world, but also, the one that has been “adopted” by many countries as one of their official languages.

Doing this short project students discovered how many English speakers are in the world, how many and which countries speak English as an official language and what continent has more English speaking countries.

In addition, students read about the reasons why English has become so popular and has become the international language. They also discussed different reasons to learn English and why it is so important nowadays.

As an extension they also recognized which of the so-called "emerging countries", use English as an official language and which countries were the ones who “originated” the English language.

At the end, it is important to make a visual infographics to present the results of their research to other students in the school or to parents (display, Power Point, blog ...)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

At the restaurant

Lucky me, during this school year I can split the grade 4 class in two groups of 12 children. This means I can devote some “golden” time to oral production without the inconveniences of a big group.

Last October we prepared a role-play, in which children had to play the role of customers and waiters/waitresses in a restaurant.

Children made their own special menus, they gave a name to our particular restaurant, they wrote the dialogues, and they look for some “attrezzo”, plan the rehearsal of the role-play and design the assessment rubric!

Lucky me (again!), the only thing I had to do was to correct some mistakes, and record the play in video.

And, this is the result! (only one group).

At the restaurant from Enric Calvet on Vimeo.

For those of you who wants to try this role play in your class, here you are the menu prepared by the students (with a little help of new technologies!)

Role Playing? What's that?

Why and how to use it in your classroom. From Western Washington University, Woodring College of Education resources

Thursday, November 21, 2013

100,000 thanks

At some point — perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow –this Blog will welcome its 100,000th visitor.

I just wanted to say thanks to all the followers of the blog, and you know who you are:
  • 100,000 small ladybugs doing the most wonderful job: teachers!
  • Lovers of magical moments, of challenges and surprises.
  • Lovers of teaching but also of learning from children.
  • Lovers of being on your feet most of the time, acting out, drawing, playing or interacting.
  • Lovers of new technologies, puppets and board games.
  • Lovers of Teaching English as a Second Language.
These are the reasons why I still love teaching, even after 33 years. I’m energized!

And this is my wish for you all: Be Happy!

Just some suggestions to remind us of the important things...
The illustrations and the captions are from the book "Be Happy - A little book to help you live a happy life." by Monica Sheehan. The music is "Cuore di Sabbia" (Sand Heart) by Pasquale Catalano, from the soundtrack of the movie "Mine Vaganti" (Loose Cannons) directed by Ferzan Ozpetek.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Is there any Difference Between Doing Projects and Project Based Learning?

I’ve been posting a lot about PBL (Project Based Learning) and Teaching English as a Second Language:

But there is a big difference between doing projects in the class and learning through projects. The main goal of a project is the final product, while project-based learning main goal is the process.

Paul Curtis recently shared some excellent visuals on  #NewTechNetwork that shows a different approach to clear up the difference:

A “Doing Project” unit is teacher-directed and it will see a linear series of often tightly-scripted activities that will culminate in a project.

Project Based Learning is student-centred and there is constant checking, revising, feedback, and reflection. PBL has a recursive nature: It starts at some point, and then at another point later the class moves on. This is the authentic–and messy–project-based learning.

Have a look at the following infographics, shared by Paul Curtis, with some key ideas on Project Working, Project Assessment and The Inquiry Process.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Games about Dinosaurs, Birds and Mammals...

Some days ago I was surfing the net in search of some information for a project about dinosaurs we are planning in the school.

I landed in The Canadian Museum of Nature and, surprisingly I found a great collection of online games and animations about mammals, birds, and dinosaurs!

(Follow this link to get the gallery interactives)

I just tried two games in the Fossils section. The first one “Dinos in Time” is very well organized information about the Mesozoic Era, from 225 million years ago, to 65 million years ago when dinosaurs suffered mass extinction. The second was about reconstructing the bones that make up a horned dinosaur's front foot (a Chamosaur) and then watching a video.

You can find up to 30 games in this section related to fossils and dinosaurs, but you also have the mammals section and the birds section with dozens of on line games.
Just have a look! You will find the games and animations very appropriate for elementary school students. You can link them in your school blog as fun activities or for students to test the knowledge they gained from one of your lessons about mammals, birds, or dinosaurs.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Locality, an example of multilateral project working

The materials I want to share with you today are quite old, but they are still very useful if you want to offer your students the possibility to work the town or the city in a more "multilateral" and "sharing" way.

The OUR LOCALITY poster project consists of two activity booklets containing 15 photocopyable cut-and-paste pages, and two posters, each consisting of two A3 sections, a top and a bottom.

The activities follow a cross curricular theme and could be attempted by any primary class group, depending on the level of expectation. Any activity could be expanded for greater depth of study or could accompany a series of photographs, drawings or a video of the locality.

In the Our Locality project the children present aspects of the local area in a project format. In all classes it is possible to include pictures of the area, physical features, other cultures and languages in the area, shopping in the area, things which can be seen from the school, flags typical of the locality, etc. High level classes could draw maps and plans of the area.

The children should be encouraged to work in teams on different aspects of the project thus building a class project.

This project offers opportunities for linking schools in a multilateral school partnership, as the project could be exchanged with children from other countries working on a similar project. In high level classes the inclusion of videos, photographs, stories, poems, dances and recorded music from the area would greatly enhance the project work.

If the school is on Internet, the children could publish their articles, photos or videos in the school blog, in a wiki or in the school web site.

The 15 photocopyable cut-and-paste pages

And the two posters, each consisting of two A3 sections, a top and a bottom.
These materials were produced with the assistance of E.U. Socrates funds in and European Training Programme in 1997. The project co-ordinator was Seamus O'Neill from Navan Education Centre in Ireland,  with the help of teachers from Denmark, Finland, and Ireland.

You can find another project proposal called My City, Project Based Learning or Content Based Learning in the ESL class in this same blog

Monday, October 21, 2013

How do cultural differences affect the English Language Learners ability to succeed in school?

I’ve been teaching in a CAEP School* for two years and primary ELL’s show cultural differences that really affects how they respond, act and react in class.

Sure. Some cultures don't talk about the future and so won't answer questions like, "What job would you like?" "What will you do this summer?" They think it is bad luck to talk about it. Some cultures think Fairy Tales are lies and they are upset when they talk about fairies or elves or flying dragons. Some cultures don't mention the name of the dead and so are upset when you ask about Grandma or Grandpa. Some cultures don't let you touch the children on the head. Some of our body language means different things to different people and can be very offensive.  While it is very important to some children to remind me about their nationalities and their background, to some others this is something they don’t want to talk about a word.
I had a student who always answered my questions with another question, and, another who didn’t do his homework because "his nationality." I had another student who thought it was appalling that people would keep dogs and cats as pets. Or another who wouldn’t have eye contact because “you could lose your soul”…

I welcome this kind of dialogue with the children because it generates great discussion and opens up everybody’s' mind to different ways of thinking.

Does this happen with your students?

We all bring differences to the table. But as a teacher, it is our job to celebrate the diversity in the classroom. Not only will it help the students to respect one another but, also, it may allow us - the teachers - to better understand why our students do what they do.

I do agree that it can sometimes be hard for the teacher and students to cope with cultural differences in the classroom. However, I do think that it is the teacher’s role to create an atmosphere that promotes cultural awareness so that everyone can be open-minded to others.

When the curricular calls for cultural subjects that relate to the English culture, the teacher should always make links between the different knowledge with those from other students’ cultures. In doing so the teacher helps students to construct meaning by establishing new relationships with themselves and with others and helps to share practices and beliefs regarding the subject that is being talked about.

People's cultures are a huge part of their life. It has a huge effect on how they see the world, and how they do activities and work in their life. Whether this comes in the way of their learning and our teaching depends on our ability to see all these differences in a positive light and encourage everyone to share these differences and point out the merits of each.

So, I think it is important to learn more about the cultural differences and similarities of your students in order to facilitate their cultural adaptation in your classroom, help them to increase their cultural awareness of the culture of the target language and help them to interact easily with you and their classmates.

Of course, there are some great books on what to do and what not to do, but they are usually written for business people. It is fun to talk about these things with the parents, especially what they expect from the school and teacher.

You never stop learning.

The iceberg model of culture

One of the most well known models of culture is the iceberg. It focusses on the elements that make up culture, and on the fact, that some of the elements are very visible, whereas others are hard to discover.

The idea behind this model is that culture can be pictured as an iceberg: only a very small portion of the iceberg, can be seen above the waterline. The top of the iceberg is supported by the much larger part of the iceberg, underneath the water line and therefore invisible. Nonetheless, this lower part of the iceberg is the powerful foundation.

Also in culture there are some visible parts: architecture, art music, cooking, and language, just to name a few. But the powerful foundations of culture are more difficult to spot: the history of the group of people that hold the culture, their norms, values, basic assumptions about space, nature, time etc.

The iceberg model of culture implies that the visible parts of culture are just expressions of its invisible parts. It also points out that, how difficult it is at times to understand people with different cultural backgrounds because we may spot the visible parts of their iceberg but we cannot immediately see what are the foundations that these parts rest upon. 

(*) A CAEP is a school where the students have especial education needs to achieve the main basic skills and objectives. It is mainly due to their poor socio-cultural and economical conditions.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is that CLIL or what?

I have received some comments and questions about what’s CLIL and what’s not and, especially about the definition of "language showers"...  it seems to me that this is an aspect not clearn enough!
Is teaching a subject in a foreign language CLIL? Are immersion programmes CLIL? Are “language showers” CLIL? Are “workshops” or modules CLIL?

Have a look at the following article and decide by yourself if you are doing CLIL or not!

The many faces of CLIL

CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. It refers to teaching subjects such as science, history and geography to students through a foreign language. This can be by the English teacher using cross-curricular content or the subject teacher using English as the language of instruction. Both methods result in the simultaneous learning of content and English.

CLIL is an umbrella term covering a dozen or more educational approaches (eg immersion, bilingual education, multilingual education, language showers and enriched language programmes). What is new about CLIL is that it synthesizes and provides a flexible way of applying the knowledge learned from these various approaches. The flexibility of the approach is, above all, evident in the amount of time devoted to teaching or learning through the second language. CLIL allows for low- to high-intensity exposure to teaching/learning through a second language. The approach can also be used for short-term high-intensity exposure (see figure below).

Language showers

Language showers are primarily intended for students aged between six and ten years old, who receive between 30 minutes and one hour of exposure per day. This includes the use of games, songs, many visuals, realia, handling of objects and movement. Teachers usually speak almost entirely in the CLIL language. 

Routines are developed and considerable repetition is used so students know what to expect. This creates a sense of security, lowers anxiety and boosts learning.

Language showers aim to help students to:
• be aware of the existence of different languages;
• develop a positive attitude towards language learning;
• be prepared for language learning.

Suggested activities
Teachers focus on routine activities with which the students become comfortable. They set the stage by telling students what to expect and then switch to the CLIL language, for example:

  • to manage snacktime or lunchtime. Instructions are given in the CLIL language, vocabulary for foods is learned and students answer questions about what they are eating. The teacher says: ‘Mmm, apples. Shelly has an apple. Who else has an apple? What is that Paul? Yes, very good. That’s right, it’s an apple. What colour is the apple, red or green? Is it red like Igor’s shirt or green like Chantal’s skirt?’ Simultaneously pointing to Igor’s red shirt and Chantal’s green skirt will facilitate comprehension.

  • to help students get dressed for breaks or for going home. Articles of clothing can be put on in various sequences while the students repeat the new words. Considerable gesturing/pointing is used to help students associate the object with its name in the CLIL language. The teacher may say: ‘What shall we put on first? Our gloves? Our hats? Our coats? Our boots? What colour is Vadim’s hat? What colour is Penny’s scarf? Today, let’s put on our gloves first. Now let’s put on our coats and try to button them. Is that difficult?’ (Said with a grimacing face.) ‘Is that easy?’ (Said with a smiling face.) Students answer with one word or in short phrases using the CLIL language.

  • singing songs that include considerable movement and that help teach vocabulary (eg the Shimmy Shimmy Shake, also known as the Hokey Cokey: I put my left hand in, my left hand out, my left hand in and I shake it all about …). Using actions together with new vocabulary helps students to learn and more easily recall vocabulary. Also, words in songs are more easily retained than lists of words.

 Are you a CLIL teacher?

Even if you are unaware of the term CLIL, you may already have been using CLIL methodology for many years. You may already be following and using many of its principles.
•             Bilingual Integration of Languages and Disciplines (BILD)
•             Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
•             Content and Language Integration in Primary CLIP
•             Content-based Instruction (CBI)
•             Content-based Language Instruction (CBLI)
•             Content-based Language Teaching (CBLT)
•             English Across the Curriculum (EAC)
•             English as an Academic Language (EAL)
•             English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI)
•             Foreign Language Immersion Program (FLIP)
•             Foreign Languages as a Medium of Education (FLAME)
•             Languages Across the Curriculum (LAC)
•             Teaching Content Through English
•             Teaching English Through Content

Part of this article is taken from onestopenglish 

Monday, October 07, 2013

A Science Workshop in English

English language teachers enjoy a flexibility that few other teachers have.

Teaching English as a Second Language has the advantage that the courses can be designed based on the spoken language, in the display of productions and peer interaction.

But it also has the advantage that, in addition to language, you can do many things in English, even scientific, natural or social content. This is a multidisciplinary challenge, and without good selected materials you can fail on the try!

This year, once again, it has been impossible to start a project CLIL at school. Local governments in Spain have made a dramatic reduction on education investment. This means a lack of material and human resources. Most of the schools have been forced to reduce innovative projects and forced to develop alternative plans. And what's more, schools have decided not to start a project that won’t probably have continuity...

The solution taken by many schools is to offer “workshops” (taller" in Spanish) on language and content, one or two hours per week. The aim of these workshops is to offer a "language shower" and to cover some basic aspects or sub-competences both in English and the chosen subject: “short-term high-intensity exposure"!

So more than a CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) becomes a CBLT (Content-Based Language Teaching), that is teaching some content in English.

At school we chose science and today I would like to share some materials with which we have organized our workshop.

  • The Thinking Lab® is a project promoted by Cambridge University Press for the purpose of generating knowledge and debate on CLIL teaching. The findings will eventually be transformed into specific publications. The project is formed by a varied team of authors, teachers, editors and others who work together to achieve a more effective, dynamic and engaging approach to content teaching using English as the classroom language (CLIL).

  • Sue Cahalane  propose lots and lots of hands on activities to experiment science. She says "Kids are natural scientists! I created this teaching blog with the hope that we can share ideas about teaching science to children.  By teaching this subject in a hands-on, fun and interesting way, it is my hope that children will never lose their love for science".                           It is an incredible blog! 

  • Little Miss Hypothesis a blog created out of "the love and passion for Science and Early Childhood Education". This is a great blog to take you into a real Kindergarten classroom and show you that Science is possible even in this level.

There are many more blogs, wikis, webs and materials and I'm sure everyone has their favorite ones about science. But I find these great if all you wanted is to start with some experiments that fill the learning of the language with content (or vice versa!).

Monday, September 30, 2013

Web 2.0 tools... How to choose the right one?

Start working with Web 2.0 tools in the classroom can be a hard and painful process that can lead to throw in the towel, before getting some results.

But if you have a little patience and keep some considerations, I promise you some immediate successes.

Internet offers many and different tools to work English as a Second Language in the class: online text editors, visual dictionaries, audio books, virtual Bulletin Board, corkboards, presentation and display tools, interactive games, micro-blogging and even a complete ESL Lab full of audio files to listen and learn English.

But... how do we choose the right one? 
How to build our “Web 2.0 Tool Kit”?

I found an article in with suggestions for building our “Web 2.0 toolkit” and for finding the right tool for every occasion.

One first idea we do never forget is: "Like real tools, your Web 2.0 “Tool Kit,” will get old, and better tools will come around, so always remember to go back through the process every once in a while to see if it’s time to re-tool. Also, by all means continue to add new tools and grow it as well!!"

Here it is a very useful 2.0 tools web. If you click on the + you can have some examples of these tools.

Another interesting article is Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Teaching and Learning, in which TomPreskett suggests you ask the following questions befor to add a new 2.0 tool to your tool kit:
  • How intuitive is it? 
  • How many stages are there? 
  • How easy are key functions? 
  • Does it do what I want it to? 
  • Is the language and terminology they use right for my context? 
  • How much learning would it take for learners to work it out? 
  • How does it look, and is this what I had in mind? 

I suggest you to read about the ways others approach the problem and introduce you to a lot of different, powerful and useful tools.

But meanwhile you decide (or not!) how to organize your Web 2.0 toolkit, you can start having a look to this site: K-12 Tech Tools.

 It is actually a collaborative wiki driven by a core group, but also relies on contributions and editing from its members (842 nowadays!). Its goal is making "it easier for you to integrate technology into your classroom."

The site includes "more than 1,000 free online technology tools...categorized by subject, grade level, and standards." I looked at English (vocabulary development and writing tools), Tips for Integrating Technology into Your Classroom, and their listings for Art 6-8 sites, and I was impressed with their listings.

And do not forget to have a look at Flipped Learning if you are interested in “flipping” your classroom.

Something that should be appreciated is that the links are frequently checked, reviewed and corrected, so you won’t find many dead links!

Finally: Improve your confidence level, explore new technology tools, look up online tutorials/videos, spend a few hours familiarizing yourself with different software programs and online tools, and ask for help!

You won't want to teach a lesson with a technology part if you don't feel confident using technology.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Resources for Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Preschool

If you are one of those brave ESL Teachers who has decided to start teaching English as a Foreign Language in kindergarten, then this post may be of your interest.

Anyone who has taught preschoolers will tell you that it is a challenge. While they are cute, funny and often eager to learn, preschoolers are also energetic, active and often difficult to keep on any particular task for more than a few minutes at a time.
Image f1rom

That is why it takes a special kind of teacher and special ideas for your ESL preschool class to work. Games, stories and songs are the perfect answer to the challenge of teaching preschool ESL classes.

For this reason it is very important to find good materials, tips and suggestions that help you preparing your ESL sessions. 

First, I would like to recommend “Preschool Teaching” an article written by Sandee McHugh-McBride and Judie Haynes, and published in In this you will find themes, lessons, and materials to implement in your preschool classes, as well as some ideas to effectively teach the ELLs in your preschool class. It is worth to devote some time for the reading and for to do some research through the links they propose.

And second, do not miss this blog I especially like from a Venezuelan teacher, Rosa Amelia, in which you can find hundreds of resources, most of them made by her.

There is a complete explanation on how to use each resource and links to for downloading them.

Due to the cut out of expenses and investment in public education, and the lack of time to plan and carry a successful session with very young learners, I think we, teachers, must do a "perfect" exercice of imagination to save time and effort preparing and sharing materials.

It is a good way to start with!