30 Oct 2008

NEWS: Education for citizenship in English

Everybody knows that "Education for Citizenship" is the name of the subject designed by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for ESO and Bachillerato students, in Spain. In this subject students learn about how our society works, to respect the others, about human rights. I mean, it promotes human values. However, not all society sectors are happy with the introduction of this subject in education, among them the President of the Valencia government, Francisco Camps, who has decided that all high schools teach this subject in English. Therefore, there are two teachers in the class, one Philosophy teacher, and an English one, but the students have to express their ideas in English. This is meaningless since 12 years old children, for example, has not a so high English level to express complicated ideas. In my opinion, they are victims of an educational system ruled by political ideas. Teachers, students and students parents are really angry because of this Francisco Camps decision. They have done an exam and 199 of 201 students have failed it in three high schools in Valencia. This was the exam (Taken from El Pais Newspaper):

1. Read this tale carefully. What is it trying to tell us? Do you think that human life can be limited to this? Why? Establish an imaginative relation with G. Klimt painting. What does it mean? What does it mean to you?

“A young king of ancient Persia ascended the throne full of great wishes. Willing to learn, he summoned the wise men of the Court and asked them to write a summary of the history of humanity. This took them thirty years. Once they had finished it, they loaded their five hundred volumes onto twelve camels and went to the palace. But the king, who was already in his fifties, said: “I won’t live for long, I will die before having read it. Write a shorter version”. The wise men started to work again. Ten years later, they brought the summary to the palace. This time they only needed three camels to carry the volumes. But the king, who was already in his sixties, did not feel like reading so many pages and asked them to write a shorter version. This new version took them ten years, and they needed just one camel to carry it. However, during this time, the king’s sight had been getting worse, so he needed something even shorter. After five years of work, the wise men reduced the work to one volume. However, by then the king was ill in bed. He told them sadly “Am I going to end my life without having learned the history of humanity?” The eldest wise man leaned towards the headboard and whispered “Majesty, the history of humanity could be summarised in three words: Humans are born, suffer and die”. Then the king nodded and died. A Persian tale.

Lee este cuento cuidadosamente. ¿Qué nos trata de decir? ¿Crees que la vida humana puede reducirse a esto? ¿Por qué? Establece una relación imaginativa con la pintura [Die drei Lebensalter der Frau] de G. Klimt. ¿Qué significa? ¿Qué te dice?

Un joven rey de la antigua Persia ascendió al trono lleno de grandes deseos. Deseoso de aprender, convocó a los sabios de la corte para que escribieran un resumen de la historia de la humanidad. Les llevó 30 años. Una vez lo hubieron finalizado, cargaron los 500 volúmenes en 12 camellos y fueron a palacio. Pero el rey, quien estaba ya en la cincuentena, dijo: “No viviré mucho. Moriré antes de haberlo leído. Escriban una versión más corta”. Los sabios empezaron a trabajar otra vez. Diez años más tarde, llevaron el resumen a palacio. Esta vez sólo necesitaron tres camellos para llevar los volúmenes. Pero el rey, que estaba ya en la sesentena, no se sentía con ganas de leer tantas páginas y les pidió que escribieran una versión más corta. Esta nueva versión les llevó 10 años y necesitaron un solo camello para llevarla. Sin embargo, durante este tiempo, la vista del rey había ido empeorando, por lo que necesitaba algo aún más corto. Después de cinco años de trabajo, los hombres sabios redujeron el trabajo a un volumen. Pero, para entonces, el rey estaba enfermo en la cama. Les dijo con tristeza: “¿Voy a acabar mi vida sin haber aprendido la historia de la humanidad?”. El hombre sabio más anciano se inclinó al cabecero y susurró: “Majestad, la historia de la humanidad podría resumirse en tres palabras: los humanos nacen, sufren y mueren”. El rey cabeceó y murió. Cuento persa.

Would your 12-13 years old students be able to do this exam? Not mine. It is clear that Camps purpose was that this subject was a spectacular failure. He is not really interesting in the students learning process. I don't know if this is happening in other Spanish communities or European countries but it is really sad to see how Politics can be a tool to manipulate Education. In the following link you will find the didactic units for this subject. There is no reference to the level.
You can also watch this video about the topic but it is in Spanish.

WHYVILLE, an educational virtual world

Whyville was one of the first educational virtual worlds focused on children and preteens learning. The site was created in 1999 by teachers from the CALTECH whose methodology is based on a social constructivist approach.

In this safe virtual world children have to choose an avatar just to move around Whyville, where they will find games to play , places to visit, stores to shop, Maths problems to solve and facts about healthy eating habits and recycling. The avatars eat, play, dance, go shopping, travel, take part in online book discussions... You only need to register, although you can also enter as a guest to decide if you want to be part of the community or not. It is mainly for children but teachers and parents are also welcome.

Now, there are more than 4 millions of users!!! If you are a teacher, you can create your own avatar and share activities and experiences with your students in this virtual world. In this way, they can learn while they have fun!

29 Oct 2008

Halloween game rules and resources for children

Halloween is very near and it is because of that, I have decided to make a game related to this festival after teaching my students some vocabulary and ideas about this special celebration in some English speaking countries. I would like to share it with you, therefore if you want to download it, just click on this link. I hope you like it! You only need two dices and counters.

1. Make a chart with three columns and write down three things you would like to get on Halloween in the first one:
Dracula cape

Witch dress

Frankenstein mask

Dracula teeth

Halloween tomb

Witch hat

Monster boots

Jack O’Latern

Witch boots

- In the second column, write price and above, the price of the things you want to buy.

- Finally, in the last one, write money left.

2. Throw two dice. The number you get is the number of pounds you have. Write it down.

3. Now move along the board with one dice. You can buy the Halloween things of the squares where you fall –if you have the money, of course! Speak to the person on your right.

YOU: Hello. Good morning.
SHOP ASSISTANT: Hello. Can I help you?
YOU: Yes, a ______, please.
SHOP ASSISTANT: That’s £___.
YOU: Here you are. Thank you. Bye, bye
SHOP ASSISTANT: Thank you. Bye.

4. Make a note of the things you buy and the money you spend.

5. The winner is the first person to buy the three things he/she would like to buy for Halloween.

If the player arrives to a TRICK or TREAT square, he has to play trick or treat on the person to his/her right. The player asks to his/her partner: Trick or treat? Depending on his/her partner’s answer:
Treat: Your partner gives you £2

Trick: Your partner move 5 steps forward.

Halloween has its origin in the Celtic culture, in the Celtic festival known as Samhain. As everybody knows, it was celebrated on 31st October, which is the last day of the Celtic calendar. It was a time in which those people believed that the boundaries between the alive and the dead didn't exist. They felt that dead people were dangeroues for them and their crops, therefore they decided to decorate their houses with sculf, bones... to frigten the dead. This tradition has arrived up to us, although not the beliefs, but as a party. You will find more information about this topic in the following link.

But if you are looking for other activities to teach your students about this cultural topic then, maybe you are interesting in the following ones:

Donald Duck 1952 Halloween Trick or Treat. With this video you can do many activities, please revise this Video tips old entry.

If your students like solving misteries maybe you can recomend them some games such as Mystery Case Files.

However, if you are looking for activities or songs for little children, you will find useful information in DLTK, ESL Kid's Stuff's, Kids music.

If you have got more ideas and you want I post them in my blog, please do not hesitate in sending them to me.

23 Oct 2008

Using flashcards in class

What is a flashcard?

A flashcard is a card which has a picture on one side and the word in the other side, or the picture and the word in one side.

What are they useful for?

They are really useful for many things, it depends on the vocabulary or grammar point you are teaching to your students. You can use them to introduce new vocabulary or to ask your students to tell a story based on the pictures shown in the flashcards. They give students interesting and challenging speaking practice. And, students can remember the vocabulary easily because they can see the image.
Using flashcards our students will be able to understand the new vocabulary without the need of translating it.

How do I make a flashcard set?

You can buy them but making them it is quite easy and cheap. You only need to buy a blank big card and do little ones. After that, you can draw the pictures if you like it, write the word with a thick pen, or crayon and put them into in a little plastic pocket to avoid they break.
If you are good at computers, you can do them easily using a word processor, searching for pictures on the net since there are a lot of them, and finally, writing the word. Besides, there are free flashcards in some links I have posted in the blog.

Flashcards games

1. What is missing? (school objects or another topic)

The teacher puts the set of cards on the table. Then, the teacher asks to a student:
Have you got a pen? The student answers: Yes, I have got. Then, he/she goes to the table, takes the flashcard with a pen, and gives it to the teacher saying: Here you are. The teacher asks him/her to stick the card on the board. When all the cards are on the board, the teacher asks a student to leave the class. Then, another student takes a card and hide it. After that, all the class says: Come in to the student who is out, and ask him/her What is missing? The student has to guess it.

2. Who is who? (yes / no questions)

The students sit down in a circle. The, the teacher sticks a flashcard with a famous person picture on each student's forehead. After that the teacher asks one student to start making a question to guess who is him/her. For example: Am I an actor? They only can ask yes/no questions but not the question "Am I a girl or a boy? They game finish when everybody has guessed the character.

3. Tell a story (past simple)

Divide the students in groups of 3 or 4. Give to each group some cards with interesting pictures to retell a story in the past simple. They have to put the cards in order and then, make up an story with them and tell it to the rest of the class. They have to reward the best story.
You will find great ESL/EFL Flashcards Website on my blog right column. And if you are interested in more ideas related to flashcards to use in the classroom you shouldn't miss this site: TOP ENGLISH TEACHING

16 Oct 2008


ESL Printables is the most complete ESL resources website I have found up to now. It was created by Victor Gayol, a Spanish English teacher, who had the brilliant idea of creating a database with resources for ESL/EFL teachers.

Teachers from all over the world upload their masterpieces, I mean, their own worksheets, powerpoints, games, online exercises and leave comments on the forum about great tips, resources, opinions...

Belonging to this great teachers community is very easy. You only need to register and start uploading your own works, not copies from books or from other sources. Once you get 30 points because people have downloaded your works, you become a premium member and will be able to download 30 new worksheets for free each day or spend one point for each older workshett, powerpoint... you download.

Nowadays, we are 82366 registered teachers and we have posted 80343 worksheets!! You can find all kind of resources: grammar and vocabulary worksheets, powerpoints, games, songs, online exercises...

Would you like to be part of this big family? Then, go here.

15 Oct 2008


In a society where we are exposed to a wide range of Information Technology and which has changed a lot in recent years, NTIC are really important to ‘revolutionize’ teaching methods and didactic contents in foreign language teaching. Thirty years ago the main aim was that students could learn grammatical points but nowadays the aim has changed and, communicative competence is considered more relevant. NTIC are not a method in itself but a mean that helps to create the methods and pedagogical approaches which can be applied. Only those who are able to bring technology to the pedagogical field, will find new ways to enrich their educational programs and increase their students learning opportunities.

AUTHORING TOOLS let teachers to create new worksheets in an easy way, without programming knowledge such as. Some of them are free but other ones are not:

- WIDA It’s not free, although you can download a demo. You can create a great variety of exercises for your students with it (gap-filling exercises, multi-choice questions, matching pairs exercises, text reconstruction ones, etc).

- FUN WITH TEXTS has been used in UK since 1985 but it is neither free.
- SUPREME TEXT SCRAMBLER: it allows you to encrypt some words in order to your students decrypt it. The web is in Spanish

- TEXTSALAD: there is an article about this program in this webpage.

- MALTED is a tool to create multimedia lesson plans for your students. It is FREE and has been particularly designed for language teaching.

- JCLICK: you can create puzzles, crosswords exercises… with it. It is FREE. You can downloaded from here, where it is said Descarga e Instalación.

- CONTENTGENERATOR is for creating educational Flash Games but it is not free.

- HOT POTATOES allows to create short answers exercises, crosswords, matching exercises…) You can downloaded from here. It is FREE although all the documents you create with it, are of public domain. Once you have created your own materials you can export them to your website through a link…

- MAXAUTHOR is a program which was designed by Arizona University to create dictation, pronunciation, multiple-choice activities… It is FREE and you can downloaded from here.

- TASKMAGIC is used a lot in UK to create an amount of different exercises online. You can see more information here. It is not free but you can download a TRIAL VERSION.

- VOKABEL has got vocabulary exercises in different languages and allows you to create your own test. It is FREE.

- GAPKIT 2.0 is a program for creating multimedia gap-filling and multi-choice exercises with pictures and sound. It is not free but it’s quite cheap, 35 pounds. Besides, if you want to check it you can download a trial version.

- SPELLMASTER is a program to create your own Flash vocabulary. It is FREE.

14 Oct 2008


Using a video in class has not always been really appreciated by administrators in education since they considered it as something used by teachers when they did not have anything better to do, or when they had not prepared their lessons. But using a video in an appropriate way can be really useful for your students because they can learn English in a natural way and associating vocabulary to a context. It is really important to present vocabulary within a context. What is more, as videos are a tool for communication they become more motivated than just doing exercises in their notebooks, because they can express their ideas and therefore, they feel important in class.

I have posted some interesting and funny videos which just last some minutes. Some of them are songs for primary and other ones are children stories but I am sure you will find also resources for teens.
Videos are a source for listening and speaking practice.

Teaching tips:

ONLY PICTURES: Introduce the video without sound (only in children stories) and ask your students to tell you what happens in the story. After that play the story again and make them questions about it.

ONLY SOUND: It is the other way round. Play the video but without the pictures, and students have to interpret what they listened.

THE FROZEN PICTURE: The teacher stop a picture and asks his/her pupils what they think it is going to happen next.

ROLE-PLAY: you can adapt a story to perform it, and do a video with your pupil’s story. You can also use the grammatical points you have explained in class for doing other communicative activities with your students. For example, when you have taught present and past simple they can be journalist and make interviews to other partners or to the people who works in the school; they can make a recipe, a cake… and explain how they are making it in order to practice food vocabulary and the imperative. While they are making the cakes or other recipes you can record them.

DICTATION: we can also use the video for dictations. This video is not for children, but it is for elementary learners. It deals with directions and places in real situations.

This one is for introducing yourself and spelling names

There is another interesting video about countries and nationalities. Maybe they cannot understand everything but I am sure they can identify some simple structures they have learn, such as “My name is…”, they country they are from…

There are many videos about this topics in YOUTUBE. BE CAREFUL WITH COPYRIGHT, there is no problem if you only use them in class.

FILL IN THE GAPS: you can also use the videos to create your own worksheets with the text where they students have to fill the gaps with the right word.

JUST A HALF: divide the class in two groups and show just the half of the story to one group. After that show the second part of the story to the second group. Then one group have to tell the part they have seen to the another one and vice versa to reconstruct the story.

MAKE A NEW STORY: the students after watching the video have to create a new story using some words which appeared in it.

a) This is a 4 years children singing Ten in a Bed. They are really adorable! This is a song which was performed by a class. It is important to teach songs through mimic since they can remember more easily.

b) An ABC song for children.

c) Teaching tips with the song Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

d) Song with body parts + can. THE BATH SONG.

e) Teaching Tips. Game: Who took the cookie?

g) Funny video about Itsy Bitsy Spider Song. Animated.

h) A teacher teaches the song to their children through mimic.

There are several versions from the song There was a lady who swallowed a fly. It is very useful for teaching ANIMALS:
1. Muppet Show - "There was an Old Lady who swallowed a Fly" Super, super funny. It is from a Sesame Street Chapter. It is a simple and funny story to learn animals since it is very repetitive.

2. Song There was an Old Lady… It is another version performed by an Asiatic teacher.

3. This is another version with the animals pictures while the song is listened.

4. The tale with images in a video.

5. And this is my favourite one (CARTOON SONG) There was an Old Lady who…

The visual must enrich the text but don't forget that we cannot exploit a song and a video in the same way.Tom y Jerry’s video.

All these videos are good because they don’t last too much, just a minutes, so you can plan many activities with them. And at the same time, children will pay attention because it is a different activity, it has got images, a different voice…

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