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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Welcome to the dark side...

When I was a teenager there was hardly any talk at all about sex at home. Even though my mum had taught me the basics this meant that sex was something you only had after you got married. I remember friends telling me their parents reasons why (as girls) we should wait until we got married to "do" it. Here are some of my favourite:
1. because that's what the bible said 
2. you could get pregnant and decent girls didn't get pregnant without getting married 
3. boys would lose interest in you if you slept around, you'd be nothing but a used ragdoll for them to play with and you'd never find a guy who'd want to marry you
4. it would be shameful to your family 
5. you could get ill. 

Now number 5 was not the most publicized one, let me tell you. It seemed all the adults had set their minds on us not having sex, which was a dirty, awfull thing women had to subject themselves to. Sounds familiar?

I'm not going to talk about my particular experience with sex or how I felt/feel about the ideas described above - sorry to disapoint you. What I'm interested in is in telling you about what sex and drugs mean to your children, our teenagers today.

You see. I remember reading Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (Os Filhos da Droga) and thinking how was it possible that this girl did all those things? I was 13 at the time and like some people my age I soon found out drugs and sex weren't as out of this world as parents/adults had led us to believe. I think we'll all agree that there were different groups of teenagers and that some groups were more open-minded and willing to experiment than others. I met people and had great friends who acted like characters taken out of books such as the one I have just mentioned. When I was 16 and started a new school I felt like Dorothy, way, way away from Kansas... 

So like most people my age reading this, I thought I knew it all. No kid of mine was going to be smarter than me. I'd been to clubs too. I'd partied too. Maybe experimented with drugs... Guess what? "You know nothing John Snow." is what best describes what I, and most probably you, know about what it's like being a teenager these days. The drugs are different and easier to find. Sex is everywhere from films, to cartoons, to TV adds and let us not forget about our blessed internet with all the chatrooms and chat roulette and blogs and social nets like Facebook. If you're still wondering what chat roulette is, oh boy, you really need to learn a lot...

All this talk for what? To tell you you need to watch out for your kid? But you know that already, don't you? And I bet you're not one of those parents who believes all they do in their bedroom with their friends is study. Right? And that when they go online it's to watch music videos on youtube. Seriously? Have you taken a look at those videos? Listened to the lyrics? No, I mean, seriously listened and paid attention? I really do miss the time when music was supposed to convey something, when lyrics made sense and women were not displayed as meat at the butcher's... But that's another topic for another day. 

Welcome to the dark side... This is what I felt watching a book presentation by a couple of students some weeks ago. The girls had chosen to talk about two books by the same author. I confess I'd never heard about him - Francisco Salgueiro- but the topic caught my attention and soon the girls were leading me into  world of teens that I didn't know much about.  These two books are about 2 teenagers and their secret lives. They're both good kids from good families. They go to good schools and have the right friends. Their parents trust them because their grades are good and they've never been in trouble and they think their kids can't fool them because there's nothing they'll do their parents haven't done. Well, that's where they're dead wrong....

Here are the book trailers.

O Fim da Inocência 

O Fim da Inocência II

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Personalized Feedback with Automated Tools


Feedback, feedback, feedback.... So important yet so time consuming! I've been trying to find ways of giving personalized feedback to students while trying not to spend a long time on it. Here are a few of my tips at the IHTOCMay214. Hope you find it useful!

Teacher Report Assistant
Conference Handout
Conference PowerPoint

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Slang & Swear words in ESL

Attention! - The following post contains language that some people might consider offensive. If you are sensitive to the topic or if you're underage, please stop reading as this post is not suitable for you.



Swear words are sometimes one of the first things people find out when learning a new language. When it comes to English, I think most people (even if they don't know "a word in English") will have heard words like "fuck"; "shit"; "bitch" and so on, and so on. Sometimes the student's own native language has equivalent swear words, some the learner might actually use. Sometimes learners believe that by using slang and swear words they are showing command of the language. Well, yes... and no... You see, on TV, music, etc. swear words have become so common that one might think "This is the natural way to speak." or "I'm sure every one talks like this, so I should, too." When what happens is that some people use swear words more often than others, it's usually considered offensive and rude, and what is OK for one culture/person might be completely wrong for another.

So, when it comes to swear language and to what you listen to on the telly, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I use swear language in my own native language? Who am I trying to imitate? Do I, in any way relate to this person? Does s/he have a lifestyle/expectations/job that is/are similar to mine?
  2. When I watch films, in which situations do people use swear language? Is it in a formal or informal context?
  3. You've used it. How did it go? What were you able to achieve? Could you have used other (normal) words for the same purpose.
And always remind yourself that even if it is natural for you to use 4 letter words, other people may not like it, so watch out for signs that the person you're talking to may be feeling uncomfortable.

The following link will take you to a page full of short videos about slang. My favourites are the ones with Ronnie, a teacher that makes me look like a saint! Don't believe me? Watch "SEX with Ronnie" :)

engVid - Slang videos



Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Learning Tip 1 - Guessing the meaning of new words

When you read a text you will see many words you don't know. Try to guess the meaning of the word or phrase first before running to Google translate every 5 minutes. It is sometimes possible to do this by reading and imagining what the text is describing. If you can work out the meaning for yourself, you will probably remember the word or phrase better.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Checkers for basically anything

Checkers is one of the easiest games to learn. Most children like it and adults never forget how to play it. Many years ago I started to use it to teach grammar. It started with the Simple Present and the 3rd person -s. However, I've used it with so many different things I think you can teach virtually anything using it :-) .

Here's a list of topics I've worked on with this: phrasal verbs, prepositions (at, in, on) Simple Present, phonemes, stress patterns and word formation. I'm sure you can come up with other ideas for how to use this, wouldn't you like to share?

The pictures describe how I build my pieces and I've uploaded the image I use for the board. If you laminate these (like I do) they'll last and you can reuse your pieces if you make them in card. I have a box of different sets according to what I want to work on. 

The rules are the normal checkers' rules with a twist, you can only take your opponents piece if they're a match. For example: if black has "in" and white has "June". Sometimes the game will come to a dead end, which can also happen when playing the regular game. Just tell your students that the player who has taken more pieces wins the match and that they can have another turn. Hope you like it. 

Board for checkers
Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3 Picture 4 Picture 5 Picture 6 Picture 7 Picture 8 Picture 9 Picture 10
Picture 11


Friday, 25 April 2014

KET for Schools (KEY)

Some students will have to take the KET exam at school next week. Here are the links to 2 online practice tests that can help you feel a bit more confident about the exam structure. I'm also posting two videos of the Speaking exam and further practice exercises. If you need some help, just leave a comment bellow. On the day before the test remember to go to bed early and eat a bit of chocolate (always helps me to relax). On the day read instructions, be careful about time - don't spend too much time on one task or you won't have time to do everything. And remember to have some time at the end to go over your answers. Don't leave anything blank - a blank will give you no marks and maybe you'll get the right answer if you try. Best of luck!

Practice Test 1
Practice Test 2

Speaking test video 1
Speaking test video 2

Grammar exercises (try the highlighted topics in A1 and A2)
KET practice (on this link you'll find exercises for different exams, try the KET ones only, these are the ones that come first on the list)


Personality Adjectives

The following exercises are meant to help upper-intermediate students improve and expand their vocabulary on personality. There are lots of lists online that you can use, but remember that just looking at a list won't help. You need to use the words and preferably you should have a vocabulary notebook where you can write any new words down. Don't just write the word, people learn better when language is meaningful. So try to think of a sentence where you would use this new word and write that as an example.