miércoles, 18 de enero de 2017



Is it a Must to Teach Grammar? 
Elucidate What to do or not to do

                                                         By Zarela Cruz 




When it comes to grammar, students’ (and even teachers’) reactions can be quite diverse: from enthusiasm to boredom. It should not necessarily be like that. Students do need grammar to speak and write correctly.  Without that knowledge, they may be fluent, but not accurate.

As teachers, we must keep in mind that grammar should be contextualized; otherwise, any grammar point we teach will end up as a set of rules that form a pile of information for the students to memorize. Needless to say, this is not a bright prospect for any learner, regardless of their level.

So, how could we teach modals, for example? By teaching functional language, that is making polite requests, giving advice, giving orders and so on. How can you teach and contrast the present perfect and the simple past? By preparing a list of “Find someone who…..” and adding information questions to clarify students’ answers. You want to teach regular and irregular verbs? Play bingo! Do you prefer action? Sit students in circles and throw a small ball to a student while asking the past tense of a given verb. It the student does not know the answer, they have to leave the circle. If they answer correctly, they will throw the ball to another pupil and mention another verb for the receiver to come up with the past tense, and so on. You are not allowed to make such a fuss within the classroom? Well, “noughts and crosses” is another option.  Have you ever tried “Change your place if....?” You may use this activity not only to practice grammar, but also to reinforce new vocabulary.

Not your best choice? Then you may want to use pictures from famous people and ask students what they know about them using for example, simple past, or future with will to make predictions, or make hypothesis. You may also want to compare two by using comparatives, or mention more elements and look for superlatives. The list is endless. And remember:


                          

Now your turn:
How do you make your students feel eager to learn grammar? or Have you already given up?
Let us know by leaving a comment!  Your colleagues will benefit from your experience! Peer support is always a plus!

References

Biodata
Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her masters studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in English and Spanish. She has also completed a number of online certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor. This article aims to reflect on the teaching of grammar



viernes, 13 de enero de 2017

Mobile phones in class: a Friend or a Foe?

By Mayra Yaranga.


Mobile phones are part of everyday life, and teachers can take advantage of their many features to help students improve their speaking skills, whether in or out of the classroom.

Mobiles can provide an effective resource in accuracy-based speaking activities. For instance, they can be used to practice different pronunciation features by having students record themselves shadowing an audio recording. Later, the recordings can be shared through WhatsApp for feedback from the teacher.

As for fluency work, m-learning can become a very useful ally for teachers. First of all, it can supply the lack of background information that students may need for a speaking activity such as a talk or a debate. Preparation time for such activities could include some kind of webquest* with the help of students’ phones. The fact that nowadays people store photographs and videos in their mobiles can give them immediate access to these materials in class, so that any speaking activity (a talk or conversation) set by teachers can gain from the visual stimuli stored in the phones. Tasks which involve students reporting current or personal events can also be recorded and shared, and students can add comments if a common WhatsApp group is created by them. This provides a sense of describing real things, real people, and using real communication.

In conclusion, it is sound to regard mobile phones as useful tools to develop speaking skills, provided that this is done responsibly and with effective monitoring to avoid any distractions from our actual goals.

 *WebQuests are activities, using Internet resources, which encourage students to use higher order thinking skills to solve a real confusing problem. WebQuests are a sub-set of Problem-Based Learning (PBL). (http://www.webquestdirect.com.au/whatis_awq.asp)

Now it’s YOUR turn
Have you ever used mobile phones in class to develop speaking skills? If so, what were the results?
Reference:
Azabdaftari, B.; Mozaheb, M. (2012). Comparing Vocabulary Learning of EFL Learners by Using Two Different Strategies: Mobile Learning vs. Flashcards. The EUROCALL Review, v20 n2 p47-59
Jung, H. (2015). Fostering an English Teaching Environment: Factors Influencing English as a Foreign Language Teachers' Adoption of Mobile Learning. Informatics in Education, v14 n2 p219-241

Biodata
Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ; she holds a Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London)  revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada from IPNM. Currently she works as IELTS trainer, Cambridge Oral Examiner and Member of the Research Area for Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacifico. She is also ESP coordinator and Pre-University Centre Director at UNIFÉ. She has published papers in the fields of English Language Teaching and Cultural Studies.

lunes, 26 de diciembre de 2016


It is the right time to remember that
‘Year’s  end is neither an end or a beginning, but a going on, and all the wisdom
that experience can instill in us’ (Hal Borland)

lunes, 19 de diciembre de 2016


Five Valuable Lessons Learned in 2016

              By María de la Lama E.



One of the things I’ve really enjoyed through my teaching career is that our classes provide indeed the best opportunity to find out about how people learn foreign languages.  As  reflective teachers,  every day we have a chance to see  how new generations incorporate new techniques to their learning  style while keeping, at the same time,  those techniques that have proved to be effective when dealing with a foreign language.  Let me share with you my observations on how students seem to react in class when dealing with: communication, error correction, usage of textbooks and the acquisition of new words.


1.   To communicate is still the most important goal for our students. No grammar exercise, reading or writing activity can produce in them the thrill to engage in a real communicative situation. Being able to connect in a foreign language is one of the most powerful sources of motivation.

To enhance communication, bringing the real world into the class does pay off. By engaging the teaching and learning of a foreign language with the written media, TV, literature and music, the learning of a foreign tongue becomes a fun and interesting experience which makes the desire for mastering it sustainable through time

2.   Error correction: When correcting mistakes, students   seem to prefer the teacher not just supply the correct form, but to guide them in discovering and solving their mistakes on their own. By the same token, our students seem to prefer us to furnish them with   strategies to learn on their own rather than being spoon fed with language knowledge.  It’s important to reject a still unfortunately common idea:  that the very manner in which we learnt (many years ago) is the best way for our students to learn. We can realize how wrong this idea is if we consider that today most of our language learners belong to the Y generation.
 
3.   Using the textbook: A recipe that never fails is to constantly innovate the way we do things in class. As I said many times to other colleagues, “predictable” teachers who tend to stick to a textbook seem to have more difficulties to connect with their students affecting their rapport with them. The idea is NOT to stop using the textbook but to use it in a creative way. It’s incredibly boring for students to know that after exercise A, the teacher will continue with exercise B and C... This can be done by inserting in the lesson plan activities based on different sources; much better if they are authentic materials.    

4.   Learning new words: Teaching collocations has given way to a more effective way to improve the vocabulary of our students. Thus, instead of providing them with a set of new words, even if they belong to the same semantic field, students seem to learn more easily a new word if this word is learnt  with the words that usually go with it. Thus, instead of “wine” students can learn: red wine / a glass of red wine, etc.  In this manner they do not only increment their vocabulary but their recalling of new words seems to improve. Most importantly, the learning on collocations contributes to their fluency.

5.   Pronunciation: the ugly duckling?  Quite contrary! Adult students, in particular, highly appreciate the teaching of pronunciation since they need simple explanations, rules and demonstrations of how the phonological system of the language being learned works and what are the main differences with their own native language.

BIODATA:
DE LA LAMA, MARIA, holds a Master´s Degree in Applied Linguistics and Bachelor´s Degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California; MBA Universidad del Pacífico. Current Director at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacifico.




jueves, 8 de diciembre de 2016

Becoming the Greatest Teacher? You can always start Over Again!

                                                                                                   By Flor de María Vila A.







When one begins another year, usually feels one can start anew. It´s like beginning a new relationship or moving to a different house. Do you remember establishing a new friendship or moving to your present home? Doesn´t one try to enhance oneself or embellish one´s new place?
What about beginning a new relationship with that teacher we carry inside? What would you need to enamor that educator? What about brightening ourselves up?
Probably, what we will do is trying to enhance what we already possess or are. As an alternative, we would dare to do new things in order to have more chance of becoming interesting enough to captivate that teacher. Thus, we need to identify the qualities that should be beautified or try new deeds.
We know that first impressions are the ones that may open opportunities or, adversely, narrow our chances down to zero. So, let´s start with the most important: your business card. What is it? It is quite difficult to choose, but I will venture an attempt and make a list with the minimum to embellish our qualities. You can consider it to decide what to study in summer. 

1.    Language: It should be like the irresistible song of a mermaid.
In order to achieve that, we need to reinforce at least pronunciation and grammar. There are always pronunciation, advanced grammar or conversation courses that could be useful to help you accomplish that goal. Even better, we could take a preparation course to take an international exam and obtain a certification of a higher level. If you are well organized, you could always study on your own. There are so many free websites and apps that could serve like a dream. Just type the exam you want to take and there will be thousands of entries from which to choose. Furthermore, having a higher certification will give us many more opportunities to get a job and even better to choose the job we want. A higher certification also means a better salary or the possibility of exploring new areas, courses and so on.
2.   Methodology: It should be connected to the idea of innovation
Answer this: How much of what we do or use in our classes is truly ours? Have we been copying or adapting materials? Have we incorporated new tools, technological tools for instance? Who can innovate?
Innovation means change, and that could be drastic or progressive. But, how is it done? I would say that the only way to have new ideas is by exposing ourselves to new knowledge and, most importantly, by daring to try new things in class. We need to leave our comfort zone and gently move to a routine laboratory experiment. Our classes should be that space that creates new types of engagement, experience, and commitment.
We do not need to invent the gunpowder, just use our imagination!
Another way to picture innovation is to think of it as an ability to combine existing resources. Thus, we need to learn about those resources. We need to nourish creativity by permeating it with reading. 
We need to set goals if we want to feel we´re moving forward and even better to feel that it is worthwhile to spend the time we´ve got on whatever we decide to do.  You do not need to set out to make far-reaching change, just start with the simplest.


We just need a single butterfly to change everything. Do you remember the following saying?  “When a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane in another part of the globe.” (Author unknown). Then, merely dare to begin FLAPPING!!

                          What about sharing your ideas about this topic?
What do we need to "upgrade" ourselves? Is it necessary to make structural changes?


BIODATA

M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development (c) from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Pedagogic Advisor and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico and Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory). She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS).


jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016


How to Select the Appropriate English Textbook
    
By Enrique Rojas R., M.A.




Nowadays very few people refute the convenience of using textbooks in the endeavor of teaching English as a foreign language, at least at the primary or secondary levels of instruction, when they are considered indispensable. The question is: what considerations should we have at the time of selecting a textbook or a series? There are various important points to be reflected.

     Textbooks are deemed useful because they guarantee a quota of structure, consistency and logical progression in a class. Besides, they meet the expectations of having something concrete to work from and take home for further study that also allows them to review past material or preview future lessons.

                 For teachers, they minimize class preparation time and for novice instructors they provide guidance in course and activity design. Many books in our times also provide multiple resources: tapes, CDs, videos, self-study workbooks etc.

     Before everything else, we should  have perfectly clear in our minds the reason or reasons why our students are trying to learn English; what sort of students we have, their ages, aspirations, necessities, etc. And decide accordingly. Among the apparent characteristics we should look for books that were recently made. In a world that changes as fast as the one we live in now, it is important that the text deals with recent things and does not display old fashion matter. Another point is the ratio of print to pictures. We don’t want a purely illustrative manual, as we wouldn’t accept pages covered with just type.

     The book should tell the reader what they will learn. It ought to be weighed if the textbook should be part of a series since this can be helpful to your ESL program, or your multi-level class, as students never have exactly the same level, a uniform text and activities across levels would provoke a better result. And a consideration that must always be present is price. Can the students or the students’ parents afford to pay the price tag?

     Other concerns are of a methodological sort. The textbook ought to appeal to students of different learning styles, cover all the receptive and productive skills, along with grammar and vocabulary, suggest different interaction patterns, activities in pairs, groups and team work, be contextualized, present the vocabulary and recycle it  a number of times; all the new items should be revised later, the pace should be according to the level while being flexible enough, it must integrate writing activities in the text, offer interactive and communicative exercises and preferably be useful for individual learners as well as for group classes and certainly incorporate higher level thinking skills  and problem solving.

     Additional advantages that the good textbooks of today offer are recordings, DVDs, digital books, a website full of extra material and other technological features. It is very convenient when they provide teachers with unit tests and final tests. Each educator will adapt them according to their own reality, but they are a valuable start. Finally, we must remember that every language textbook should promote cross-cultural awareness.

      And now, YOUR TURN: What considerations do you or your institution take into account when it comes to choosing a textbook? Would you suggest any other? If so, why?

BIOGRAPHICAL DATA
Graduated in Journalism at the PUCP, Peru, Enrique Rojas R. holds a MA in Journalism and MA in Inter American History from Southern Illinois University, USA; an MA in Literature from University of the Americas, Puebla, Mexico, all the coursework for a MA in TEFL at Universidad de Piura, Peru and BA in Education from Universidad Federico Villarreal. He has also obtained Certificates of Proficiency in English both from Cambridge University and the University of Michigan and the Diploma for EFL Teachers from Universidad del Pacifico. He is an Oral Examiner for the Cambridge University exams and has been awarded the title Expert in E-Learning from Asociacion Educativa del Mediterraneo and Universidad Marcelino Champagnat. He has worked as a professor in universities in Peru, Mexico and the United States; as a newscaster and a producer in radio and television stations in the United States and Mexico, and as a writer and editor in daily newspapers of the same countries. He has been in the staff of CIDUP for 17 years teaching English and Spanish specializing in International Exams, English for Business, ESP and Teacher Training. He is a member of the Research Area of Centro de Idiomas de la UP.


miércoles, 23 de noviembre de 2016


Assessing Our Own Achievements
                                              
                                                       By Zarela Cruz



The culmination of the year is getting closer and closer; students are being persistently evaluated; and last but not least important, end-of- the-year exams are just around the corner. Perhaps a question to ponder is: Is it the time to assess only our students’ achievements or wouldn’t it be judicious to gauge our own ones as well?

How can we measure our own achievements?
As I pointed out before (see post Sep, 29th), most of our time is devoted to reach the set objectives, but, are we up to it? If we do not set our own goals, how can we demand our students to reach theirs? I do not mean at all to blame ourselves, what I do mean is to be consistent. At the beginning of the year, we should also prepare a list of the goals to be reached and also figure how effective we can be in doing it. We have to plan not only summative assessment, but also formative one; we have to be aware of the techniques we will implement and the reasons why we choose one or the other; we should be ready to make adjustments all along the year. Our achievement is not measured by how much our students like us, but how eager we are to expand their knowledge and to teach them not to be satisfied; to challenge themselves to get the well-known Krashen’s I + 1. That in itself will show us that we made our best effort.

Is being highly qualified opposed to being highly effective?
Not at all. Being highly qualified should be a starting point, but not the only one to be taken into account. Flexibility is the key concept that should lead our practice. Students highly rate a teacher who is able to inspire them by showing different strategies, one who is not afraid of trying harder and harder and who is capable of reflecting on their own performance. We do know that most teachers are perfectly proficient, but we do prefer the ones  whose techniques and styles can be perfected every time, that are never satisfied with what they already know, that are flexible enough as to allow themselves to find a more suitable way to educate. These are the ones that deserve our gratitude.

And now, YOUR TURN:
 Are you satisfied with what you have already achieved? If so, why? What else are you looking for? What strategies do you apply when you reflect on your own teaching?

Let us know what you think. Your expertise, your experience and your ideas are valuable to us!

References


Biodata
Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her masters studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in English and Spanish. She has also completed a number of online certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor. This article aims to reflect on the self-evaluation all teachers are expected to do to assess their own achievements.




miércoles, 16 de noviembre de 2016



Assessing Students Learning Achievement,
is it Applied the way it should?


Corroborating students’ effective learning is one of the central concerns for us teachers, especially at the end of the school year. The question is whether by this time we have at our disposal the precise information to substantiate students’ learning achievement. Is it enough to take the final exam and bestow the scores to say the process has been accomplished and everybody is ready to move on to the next step?

Unfortunately, the standards oblige institutions and English teachers to follow the system and the fact of being involved in this, makes teachers finalize the academic year with still another exam. One more with the same characteristics: structure, scores, and out of the expected context of production. Frequently, exams are taken from the textbook CDs, thus limiting teachers´ creativity and ways to exploit students’ performance in real-like contexts; and this does not only occur at the end of the year, but during the whole leaning process as well.

When do students learn more effectively?

Practice has shown that when students know what the learning goals are they get more involved and try harder to make things work. The suggestion: good planning. This will provide students better performance opportunities and allow teachers to implement a goal-oriented coaching process. This may sound unconvincing at first, but effective learning requires attention to outcomes and demands the acquisition of the know-how that leads to those outcomes. Here is when assessment helps the learning process and provides information to identify which students learn best under what conditions. So teachers are able to make the necessary adjustments at the right time.

Assess, why?

Assessment results can be used for many purposes. However, applying the following: a diagnostic assessment at the beginning of the school year,  formative assessment during the whole process, and the summative assessment at the end of it, not only will allow teachers to get information to gauge the course grades, but to know how much students have learned.  

Assess, what?

On the other hand, what to asess is one of the greatest challenges foreign language teachers face due to the pressure to encompass  the curriculum. This often converts teachers into mere data providers; and, as a consequence, unnecessary papers are assigned, and too many tests are applied which do not produce the expected results. The point is, teachers need to monitor progress toward the intended goals in a spirit of continuous improvement. Beginning with clear objectives should be the first step. Later on, setting different aims will require different types of assessment. Some of them will facilitate to provide the necessary data, while others will serve to empower students to identify their best way to learn. This second group of assessment tools will help students to become problem solving, decision making, creative individuals, and much more, just as the new generation of students needs to be.

Designing assessment instruments to do what you want?

It has been stated that where program purposes lack specificity or agreement, assessment as a process moves forward toward clarity about where to aim and what standards to apply. With the advent of norms, it is expected to see students performing in authentic contexts and situations using the foreign language they learned in class. So assessment will demonstrate that students reached the standards in bigger or lesser dimensions.

The end of the year is approaching and we should ask if students are ready to be problem solvers, critical thinkers, tech savvy, you name it.

As educators, our responsibility is huge. If we don’t have a clear idea where we are going, we may or may not get there. Performance assessment will allow us to check not only for engagement, but also for deeper learning. Effective assessment is no longer done to students, but with them.

Thanks for following and telling us how you are using assessment
 to empower students to own their learning.

Bio Data:
Carmen Hurtado, graduated in the educational field and studies in EFL - Universidad de Piura with over more than 20 years of experience teaching English, Spanish and tutoring students of different age-groups with great satisfaction. She has also participated as a lecturer in the late Annual Congresses at CIDUP and is currently working as Academic Coordinator at Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre.



viernes, 11 de noviembre de 2016


Ending the School Year Actively

                                    By Mayra Yaranga



It is almost the end of the year and our students might be counting down the days left to go on holidays. Together with this excitement we can also discern some other less cheerful feelings, such as stress, tiredness and anxiety. How to get the most of these last weeks and turn those negative feelings into a healthier environment? Here are some suggestions.

Checking progress
It is hard not to think of evaluation when the end of the term arrives. There are likely to be aspects to continue working on, but it is highly rewarding to have students highlight how much progress they have made. Our students’ sense of achievement could be boosted, for instance, by asking them to create and award “diplomas” to each other, in order to praise their effort, performance, etc.

Content is always there
Christmas and the forthcoming summer holidays prove to be very compelling topics for any kind of classwork to close the academic year. For this reason, teachers can take advantage of them to provide meaningful language content and work on the four skills. Even the simplest of tasks, such as creating a Christmas card, will involve intensive exposure and use of the language. However, we must remember that every activity needs to have a clear and feasible communicative goal supporting it.
Seize every opportunity to help your students improve their language skills, even if it is the end of the year!

Now it’s YOUR turn.

What activities have you planned for the end of the academic year?

Biodata

Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ; she holds a Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London)  revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada from IPNM. Currently she works as Pedagogical Specialist, Cambridge Oral Examiner  and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and an Associate Professor at UNIFÉ. She has published papers in the fields of English Language Teaching and Cultural Studies.

jueves, 10 de noviembre de 2016



Dear colleagues,

We are about to start this year’s last series of articles. It is a good moment to make a pause to reflect not only on our teaching practice and achievements, but also on our resolutions for the coming year.
               


Keep following us!


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