Small ways to give up control

14 12 2017

One of the best features of my job is that I get to observe teachers in their second semester in the language institute where I work.  In their first semester, they go through a mentoring process and are then observed by two other academic specialists.

These observations usually go very well. The teachers are very professional in their attitude toward the whole process; they submit their lesson plans in advance and participate actively and reflectively in our pre and post-observation meetings. I find it a very rewarding experience in that I am able to gauge how effective our initial teacher development program has been and what still needs to be worked on. In this sense, I always look for patterns in these teachers’ performance so we can plan future continuous professional development initiatives.

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Thirty years in ELT – some thoughts about then and now

18 12 2016

My passion for English began when I was a child and lived in the U.S. for three years while my parents went to graduate school. Upon coming back to Brazil, I was enrolled in a traditional language institute in Brasilia, Casa Thomas Jefferson (CTJ). There I went from the intermediate to the advanced level and then took several ESP courses until I was old enough to take the Teacher Training Course. It’s not that I wanted to be a teacher. I just wanted to keep up with my English. What I really wanted was to be a journalist, and that’s what I majored in.

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Are our teenage students learning English for today or for tomorrow?

8 11 2015

At the school I work for, we have a large teenage population. If you’ve taught this age level, you know the challenges they pose to us every day, but you also cherish the lively interactions with them once you’ve established rapport. It is true that in order to establish such rapport, we have to be acquainted with the topics they like to talk about, the songs they listen to, the TV shows they don’t miss, the stars they worship, where they like to hang out, what they like to do, etc. However, to what extent should “their reality”, as teachers like to put it, be the focus of our classes?

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Aligning lead-ins and “lead-outs”

21 05 2015

My last post dealt with a tendency I have been noticing in my classroom observations regarding lead-ins being either used to pre-teach language that should actually be discovered by students or turned into loose conversation activities with no clear pedagogical purpose beyond “just talk”. I also commented that this long time spent on the lead-in resulted in teachers’ having to rush through their lessons, preventing them from dedicating more time to the actual communicative production as a result of the lesson of the day.

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What a lead-in should and should not be

22 04 2015

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to observe around ten teachers each semester. These observations provide me with the chance to assess how effective our mentoring system and teacher induction sessions have been, as I typically observe teachers in their second semester at the institution.

Methodologically speaking, most of the classes I observe are generally effective and there are only a few minor aspects to consider. However, if there’s one aspect that is recurrent in my observations and that some novice teachers have difficulty grasping, it’s the role of a lead-in in a communicative, interactive, student-centered classroom.

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From professional photography and smartphone cameras to ed-tech and challenges in ELT

28 10 2014



I’ve just returned from a National Geographic Learning conference for ELT leaders in Latin America, where I had the honor to participate in a panel on the use of technology and the main challenges faced by ELT institutes in the 21st century.  It was a very exciting presentation followed by  highly thought-provoking questions, and it was facilitated by Hugh Dellar and delivered by six leaders from different Latin American countries – Ana Sylvia Ramires, Instituto Guatemalteco Americano; Lenise Butler, Unversidad del Valle de Mexico; Luz Ribia Rey, Centro Colombo-Americano, Bogota; Maria Tereza Tejeda Gonzalez, Tecnologico de Monterrey; Vinicius Nobre, Cultura Inglesa, São Paulo; and myself.



Nat Geo panel


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Finding Dogme Moments

12 10 2013

The Dogme movement has been around for over a decade and has generated heated debates over the years.  It was first proposed by Scott Thornbury in 2000 and it discourages the use of textbooks, which should be replaced by conversational interactions between students and teacher on topics that emerge in the classroom.  Its main principles are (Thornbury, 2005):

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