Monday, April 28, 2014

Lateral Thinking Stories for the ESL Class

What is lateral thinking? 

In 1973 Edward De Bono developed the term “Lateral Thinking”. Lateral thinking involves looking at a situation or a problem from a unique or unexpected point of view, avoiding the linear and step by step approach of a normal problem solving.

He proposed instead a more creative answer from taking a step “sideways” to re-examine a problem from an entirely different and more creative viewpoint.

De Bono suggests that lateral thinking is necessary for coming up with solutions that aren’t so straightforward. Teachers and students can find that lateral thinking is an especially useful technique for the creative arts. When writing a short story, for example, lateral thinking would be an effective tool for coming up with unexpected twists and turns in a plot.

Lateral thinking is also a skill that researchers use when evaluating evidence or interpreting sources. De Bono explained that typical problem-solving attempts involve a linear, step by step approach.

In ESL, Lateral Thinking Puzzles are a great resource for thinking, speaking and writing because they are often strange situations which require an explanation. They are solved through a dialogue between the teacher who sets the puzzle and the student or students who try to figure out the answer. The puzzles generally do not contain sufficient information for the student to uncover the solution. So a key part of the process is the asking of questions wheter in a cooperative or collaborative way or indiviguallyThe questions can receive one of only three possible answers - yes, no or irrelevant.

There are many Thinking Puzzles you can find in the net (I offer you some links at the end of this post!) that you can use as prompts to speak or to write (dialogues, short stories, discussions...).

As a taste here you are two materials you can use whether in late primary or secondary:

1. "Four Pictures One Word" From It is a simple way to practice English in class while having fun. This game is suitable for a number of age groups and English levels. Students view four related pictures and they must guess the word that connects them all. Try this example:

You can find the complete game and rules in

2. Some Lateral Thinking Puzzles to think, question, discuss and solve...

As an example, a famous Lateral Thinking story: The man in the Elevator

"A man lives on the tenth floor of a building. Every day he takes the elevator to go down to the ground floor to go to work or to go shopping. When he returns he takes the elevator to the seventh floor and walks up the stairs to reach his apartment on the tenth floor. He hates walking so why does he do it?

Answer: The man is (of course) a dwarf. Variants of this puzzle include the clue that on rainy days he goes up in the elevator to the tenth floor (he uses his umbrella!)

As a reinforcement of Lateral Thinking you can use DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats method, adapted to ESL students by opening a dialogue exploring any issue from six possible points of view:
  • the white hat reflects neutral, factual information; 
  • the yellow hat takes a sunny optimistic perspective;
  • its counterpart, the black hat sees problems or pitfalls; 
  • the red hat allows a thinker to express him or herself from an intuitive, emotional point of view without any need for justification;
  • the green hat encourages “out-of-the-box” thinking or lateral thinking 
  • and finally blue hat-thinking is the summarizing, moderating perspective, pushing the conversation in a certain direction and concluding the observations with an overall resolution. 

"When focused and collaborating in these specific directions, my student have experienced a new freedom from generating the conversation structure and enjoy the common goal of solving an issue, beyond debating it from a right or wrong perspective. The goal of the ‘debate’ is not a consensus but a resolution. After the initial teaching and structuring of the technique, I have been able to withdraw from the conversation, enjoy the magic and spend my time on the emergent language" (

Where can you find Black Stories, White Stories, Brain Teasers or Lateral Thinking Stories for the ESL Class? Have a look at these links! Here they are plenty of them!

To learn more about Lateral Thinking related to ESL teaching go to 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Teaching Art through English or Teaching English through art? CLIL!

This is an old post that has been revisited. All links have been checked and I included the following paper about some things you can do in the ART CLIL class. Hope you find it useful!

1. Resources to make digital art.

Here you are some interesting web resources for children to use to create a digital image.
Many of them use Flash. So you will need to capture the image you want by taking a screen picture with the PrintScreen key, with Grab or Jing or whatever other program: as soon as you have the capture... just use your imagination!

  • Incredible@art Probably one of the best sites! 126 links to pages with art games,experiments, digital art... 

  • PicassoHead. Children can drag face elements to the canvas and make a painting in a Picasso style.

  • Play different games related to art visiting the Tate Gallery.

  • The Scribbler. Children make a simple drawing and Scribbler trace over and create interesting line patterns. 

  • The Pictomizer. Just choose a photo, a colour and a saying, and you get a Warhol style photo. 

  •  ZigZagPhilosophy. Children build up lines and piles like sand falling from above. Try some other interesting effects from the same site.  

  • Design a Mosaic. 16 different sites to create mosaics: Roman, fishburn, celtic, greek, geometric... 

  • Jackson Pollock. To get a Jackson Pollock-style pattern is very simple just by using the mouse.

  •  Kaleidoscope. Like in a real kaleidoscope, patterns and lines are mirrored and multiplied.

  • Iconscrabble. It is in German. Children type a word up to 18 characters into the box (Begriffe eingeben). They click Scrabble to see their word converted into icons. Then press “Bild herunterladen” to generate a png image.

  • Graffiti Creator. Children can create a “professional-look" graffiti from any selected word. They play with the settings until they generate what they want. 
  • Dreamlines: Type in a word or words and it generates dream-like images that change before your eyes.

  • Bomomo .Using the icons from the bottom of the screen, children click and drag on the screen and see the results. They repeat as many times as they want.

Aminah's World. Click on “Create your own artwork”. Children can choose from a very complete set of objects, material, papers, to build a collage. You can print it or save it as a .jpg.

Now it is time to think about how to use all of these resources in your Primary Art CLIL classes.

2. Resources to explore art. Resources for teachers.

  • Google Art project. Explore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share your own collection of masterpieces.

  • Webexhibit. An interactive museum of science, humanities, and culture.

  • Take one picture. The National Gallery's countrywide scheme for primary schools. Different ways of using pictures in the classroom

  • MoMa K-12 Teachers. Make MoMA your classroom. Learn to look closely, discuss art, and think critically.

    Resources for teachers and lesson plans

    • Explore Art & Design at the Smithsonian. Activities and games.



    Well! I think you've got for a while! Hope you enjoy!

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Brush Your Teeth

    One of my teaching English mottos is “Learning with Fun”. A simple end of the term task can become a collaborative learning ESL activity... having lots of fun! And this is what I do with my students of grade 4.

    As we are learning how to say the time in English, I choose the Song: Brush your teeth (Linda Adamson's version), just to have a little practice on “quarter to” and some routines (simple present).

    With the help of my Language Assistants from the project “Sharing to Learn”, we plan to produce a simple video of this song.

    First, children learnt the different “routines” of the song and then the decided how to mime them. It was a group decision to select the pairs to become the main characters of the videos. Then, in pairs, they discuss and collaboratively decide the different choreographies for each strophe (some TPR was required!). The rest of the group did the same for the chorus of the song.

    Some children became the “video technicians”, one was the producer and another the director (jobs vocabulary!)

    After recording the videos, we edited in one video (with Windows Movie Maker) and sync the music... And this is the result!

    I know that the quality of the video and the music sync is not the best, but Easter Holidays were waiting for us and we hadn’t much time to do it better!


    Brush your teeth from Enric Calvet on Vimeo.

    When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to one
    And you want to have a little fun
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch

    When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to two
    And you want to find something to do
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch

    And when you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to three
    And your mind starts hummin' tweedle dee dee
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch

    When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to four
    And you think you hear a knock on your door
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch

    When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to five
    And you just can't wait to come alive
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch

    When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to six
    And you want to have a plate of Weetabix
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch
    You brush your teeth, ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch

    Monday, April 07, 2014

    A Visit to Mercabarna

    I am very lucky to be an English Language “specialist” teacher because it offers me the possibility of having a broad view about what is happening in every class. In my school all teachers do project working and this means that proposals, topics and tasks appear here and there at any time.

    Sometimes I take benefit of this by doing a part of the project in English language or by helping the tutor preparing a presentation or a display.

    As we are participating in a health campaign called “Five a day” (five portions of fruits and vegetables per day), every year we plan a visit to the wholesale market of fruits and vegetables of Barcelona (Mercabarna).

    In the following Power Point, made by a group of grade 3, you can see a selection of photos made by themselves and some comments they wrote in collaboration with the help of our “High school language assistants”.

    The Power Point gave us the opportunity to present the fruits and vegetables we saw in Mercabarna to other groups, to learn how to pronounce and speak in clear way and to control the "tempo" of a presentation (interesting issue!)

     It was a fantastic recall and an excellent oral practice, as well!


    Friday, April 04, 2014

    Teaching English Creatively

    10 creative ways to teach English that deliver outstanding results is an article that Anna Warren published in The Guardian for inspiration and different approaches for creative English lessons.
    Of course, teaching English as L1 or L2 or, even ESL matters a lot, but inspiring young imaginations using the arts and plannning a creative curriculum offers a good support to maintain high expectations from all our pupils.

    As a ferver defender of project working and open curriculums, I really like the idea of teaching Language through arts: through painting, music composition, a film project, in role drama or sculpture, always having a real purpose in mind. I was happy to find such a clear article like this because some of the approaches are right now in my teaching portfolio.

    • Immersion activities
    • Clear purpose
    • Professional publishing
    • Meaningful planning
    • Focus on strategies
    • Inspirational learning environement
    • Drama to engage and inspire
    • Rigorous teaching of spelling and phonics
    • Grammar concepts taught creatively
    • Peer and self assessment

    If you want to read more about these approaches, then have a look to the following link: 10 creative ways to teach English that deliver outstanding results (it worth it!)

    Anna Warren is the English subject leader and the year 6 teacher at Holy Trinity and St Silas School, London.