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Monday, 22 October 2018


TOEFL is a widely known exam providing information regarding someone's ability in English within the context of universities.

So, if you'd like to study abroad, perhaps in the USA, it is very likely that you'll be asked to take it because universities want to make sure you'll be able to follow the course and be successful, and for that, you need English.

So, that said, I've been asked quite often what the difference between iBT and pdt is. Simply said: iBT is the internet based test and pdt is the paper delivered test.

Not so simply, the differences are bigger than just format.

The pdt is the new version of the paper test which was used until October 2017. It is available in places where there is no internet and has 3 sections: Reading, Listening and Writing. (Yes, that's true: no Speaking).

The iBT is by far the most frequently used format of the test. I believe 98% of people taking the TOEFL take it online. The tests lasts for about 4 hours (the paper delivered test will take a little less than 3h) and includes all 4 skills: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

New project

It seems unbelievable that I haven't written in such a long time.

My apologies to those who actually do read what I write.

The reason is this: since leaving IH Porto last January a million things have happened. First and above all, I wanted time to heal, to recover, get my health back, be able to spend time with my children and my partner, learn how to slow down a bit. My wishes didn't last long and in May, without any warning or preparation, I decided to open my own language school. And in July we opened our doors and I've been working non-stop on this new project.

If you'd like to take a look at our website, please feel free to do so, and in case you've got Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, please follow us there too.

The blog is still open and will be an important part of the school, but I need time to get things in place. Baby steps, one step at a time. :)

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Leave me alone, I said I don't want to learn!

This is a sentence many teachers have heard again and again in and out of their classroom. 

Kids frustrated, with lack of motivation and apparently who don't seem to care in the least.

This is a topic that has interested me over the years, having dealt with teenagers for a number of years.

My response to this and other issues that seem to be related to behaviour always go back to some fundamental principles of being a teacher (and a human being):

1. Plan your lesson: especially transitions
2. Vary the type of interaction throughout your lesson (pair work, group, individual...)
3. Get students to move around whenever possible
4. Establish rapport. If you don't, then don't expect them to learn as you would like them to.
5. Model behaviour, instead of shouting "be quiet" or trying to solve confrontation by trying to intimidate your students
6. Pick your battles, sometimes and somethings are just not worth it 
7. ... but be consistent
8. Remember everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, and teenagers aren't any different
9. Have fun. If you enjoy your lesson and have fun with it, your students are likely to do so as well
10. Finally, remember, it's not (always) about you. Students may actually like you but something is causing their lack of motivation. Your job is to find out what and try to engage them as much as possible

I'll be presenting in Abrantes this coming Saturday. If you're nearby, why not come and say "hi"? :)

Here's the Facebook link with the event. I'll also be posting a video soon about this topic. In the meantime, if you have any questions, just remember you can get in touch with me, through the Facebook page.

#ewsl #teachertraining #classroommanagement

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy New Year!

2018 has just arrived and I'm sure it will be a fresh start for me. :)
Looking forward to it.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Native or Non-native, is that really the question?

Lately, and by lately I mean the last couple of years, I've come across a number of articles about Native EFL Teacher and Non-Native EFL Teachers.

This thing about natives and non-natives has always bothered me. 20 years ago I felt hopeless. I knew I was good (so imagine now ;) ) and it felt absurd having to compete with someone based on nationality. In these last 21 (going on to 22) I've met dozens of teachers. Some have my deep respect for their work. Some I would have liked to help, if they had been open to the idea. All have taught me something. However, this was never based on their nationality. I have to be very honest here: some of the best teachers I know are not native speakers.

Some years ago I attended a training course in England. Just a few days before the course began we were sent a pre-course questionnaire. I was expecting a normal needs-analysis questionnaire. Just that, it wasn't. It had all I expected it to have: questions about the groups I taught, the sort of school, my areas of interest, etc. BUT, a section of the questionnaire was dedicated to me and it started with the question "Are you a native speaker of English?" Kabammmmmmmm And I though "Here we go again."
It was then followed by 2 other questions to be answered ONLY if the applicant was not a native speaker.

"What do you feel are your strengths regarding your own English language ability?"

Grammar                     Speaking                      Pronunciation
Vocab                          Writing                         Other (please specify:----)
Listening                     Reading

What part of I'm an EFL teacher did you not understand?!?!? I ticked all options. I also added another skill - sense of humour, that's something I'm really good at.

"What do you feel less confident with regarding your own English language ability?"

Grammar                     Speaking                      Pronunciation
Vocab                          Writing                         Other (please specify:----)
Listening                     Reading

This time I said "Spelling. I'm terrible with spelling in English, Portuguese, French, German and Spanish".

(Told you I have a sense of humour)

So you see, they were assuming, as many people do, that if you are a native you don't have problems with any of your skills. That only happens if you're a non-native... Oh boy, could I tell you some stories...

Unfortunately, the truth is this myth has been perpetuated and is ingrained in students' minds, too. They enroll at private language schools looking for native speakers and often they say they'd rather have a British teacher because that's the "real" English. Sometimes I think schools are to blame, they allow this fantasy to go on, however I do understand that they are a business and a business cannot survive without clients, in our case: students. 21 years ago I was not allowed to say I was not from an English speaking country. I would have to make up a past for myself. I had to lie. 

Nowadays, things have changed slightly, but not as much as we would have expected or as I had hoped. Or maybe now, in my head, I just think "Your loss. I'm an amazing teacher. I could teach you so much. I could make you improve. Your loss." But inside, it still makes me sad, because I know how good I am, I know that students keep coming back and asking me to keep on teaching them because they know how good I am. So why should they be so concerned about nationality instead of qualifications?

Is that all there is to teaching? Your passport? Or even your qualifications? What about creativity? How about empathy? How about adaptability? And the hundred things more a teacher needs to be good at?

I guess we're still years away from equality. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

APPI conference 2017

I'm so proud of myself.

Maybe I shouldn't say it like this, but I am. This was my second year at an APPI's conference. APPI is the Portuguese Association for English language teachers, so quite a lot of teachers attend the conference, coming from all sorts of places in the country and from abroad. Last year I presented a session called "Learning? Sorry, not interested." which focused on sharing some techniques that might help teachers with those students who are more challenging. This year, I decided to follow up on the topic and did a session on "Leave me alone! I said I don't want to learn!"

I had a full room. I know it wasn't one of the big ones, but still I had 50 people sitting and about 20 other who decided to stand or sit on the floor. There were a number who went away after showing their disappointment when the staff wouldn't let them bring chairs from other rooms. I couldn't believe these people were all there for me! And then I realized something extremely important: they were there because I'm openly talking about a topic that makes a lot of people feel ashamed. A topic that exists, that is ever more present in our schools. They were there because I was able to give them some practical ideas that work last year, and this year they came back for more! And they spread the word!

It felt amazing having so many people come to me at the end of the session and congratulating me and thanking me and asking to keep in touch with me. It really felt good knowing that I was helping them, and through them, I was helping students.

I guess this really was what I needed. I've been so tired this year, involved in such time consuming projects, that I've been feeling a bit under the weather.

Thank you APPI for the opportunity, thank you to all who attended, even if you had to stand or sit on the floor.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Wheel of Feelings

Initially developed as a therapy aid, the wheel of feelings can be used in ELT to expand your vocabulary more accurately. 

If you're into apps, here's one for Android that can help you learn more (and more sophisticated) vocabulary.