Sunday, March 31, 2013

The sounds of English and the International Phonetic Alphabet

Here´s a great website which summarizes the sounds of the English language and also the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Enjoy! :D

The sounds of English and the International Phonetic Alphabet

Other Cool Functions of Online Dictionaries!

Did you know that many online dictionaries have much more than just words and definitions? Check out some of these links for lots of great activities like spelling games, crosswords, word origins and special features!

1) - this site has the most dictionary activities. Check out Word Dynamo ( where you can test how many words you know, as well as practise with lessons on lots of topics. Or you can try word games like these - 

2) Oxford Dictionaries - you can find lots of great stuff here too like their spelling bee (, Hangman ( and more difficult crosswords (

3) Cambridge Dictionaries - this site has a great blog that looks at new words every week which you can't find in regular dictionaries. It's great!

4) MacMillan Dictionary - this dictionary is unique in having sound effect buttons! Do you ever have trouble imagining what words like moan, groan, whine etc. really mean? Well with MacMillan you don't have to - you can hear for yourself! Just click the little musical note button!

5) Collins Dictionary - finally, as we talked about last week in English is GREAT, we use many borrowed words and Collins have collected together Anglo-Saxon, Arabic, French Latin and Hindi ones in one place. Great reading!
Have fun!

Thinking Strategies

I came across this great website about Thinking strategies and ways to integrate them into our teaching practice to make learning more meaningful for our students.  Have a great one!

Thinking strategies

Saturday, March 30, 2013

FORUM English Teaching Magazine

Here´s a great English Teaching Magazine: FORUM! Which is now in American English, read Volume 51 here:

English Teaching Forum 2013, Volume 51, Number 1

Payback Time: Lessons From The Harshest Teacher Trainers (My Students!)

I found this interesting and very brave post on the internet, hope it can help you as it´s going to help me in my teaching practice.

Students, the harshest teacher trainers?
This semester I decided to compile as much data as possible from my students and co-teachers regarding my performance and effectiveness over the past four months. The results have been invaluable as a tool for my own professional development, but I also believe that, despite the variation in contexts, they can provide some useful tips and insight for other educators too. Here are my reflections on the feedback I received and the lessons I've learnt.

I've embedded the full document with my students and co-teachers feedback at the bottom of the blog.

My Reflections

The feedback from both my students and co-teachers has been unexpectedly positive, my co-teachers have enjoyed being a part of the lessons and my students seem to have really appreciated the structure of the lessons and my passion for their education. I've been overwhelmed by how constructive (both critically and favourably) and honest their feedback has been, it has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to improve as a teacher.

I’m going to split my reflections into three sections: firstly, I’ll look at things I need to keep doing (that I have started doing and have worked well), secondly, I’m going to consider things I need to start doing and finally, things I need to stop doing!

Things I Need to Keep Doing (I’m going to concentrate here on things I don’t feel I did so well in previous semesters.)

i) Use of Short Films

The student response to the use of short films in class (usually between 1 minute and 10 minutes in length) indicates that students are really enjoying them, that they are seeing the benefit of them and that they have been extremely important a motivating and holding the concentration of my students. I think there are a number of reasons for this:

1) Teenagers now live in a much more visually stimulating world. Everything is on computers or T.V’s, and this is what the students are used to.

2) Some of my classes are very mixed ability. Short films allow my low level students to understand the general gist of what is happening, the information they get visually can help them understand and contextualize the language that is being taught. For my highest level students videos often come with very natural pronunciation and expressions, this presents a great opportunity for them to hear language how it is naturally used and challenges them to pick out language and expressions they wouldn't find in a text book.

3) Videos allow students to absorb culture as well as language. I find my students genuinely interested in other cultures around the world and video present a great way for them to explore that.

ii) Praising the Students and Displaying Their Work

It has really become apparent to me this year just how important praise is to the students. My girl classes visually show how much they want positive feedback and so it is easy to find opportunities to provide them with positive feedback and praise. At this age boys can’t really be seen to desire positive feedback from the teacher, I think this is especially apparent if the teacher is male. This means it is harder to find opportunities to provide them with positive praise and feedback. From the student feedback it seems I have done this successfully with my first grade boy classes, but not my second grade boy classes. The classes are much larger and the boys are naturally much louder and more boisterous, so it is harder to find opportunities. Next semester I really need to actively find opportunities to provide them with positive feedback.

We’ve done two activities this semester purposely designed to give the students opportunities to make some really great work that can be displayed all over the class. The feedback shows the students have both acknowledged and appreciated this. Other than this feedback I have noticed the students really taking a keen interest in other classes’ work that is displayed around the room. It seems to have created a kind of competition between the classes.

iii) Having Clear Rules

Although I have the same rules this semester as last semester, I am working at a different school that provides more levels of support when enforcing rules. This semester has shown just how important the support of the institution is in enforcing rules. As an example, last year if a student walked into class 5 minutes late eating cake nothing was done about it, although I disciplined them, the institution itself took no interest in this. This semester there are clear consequences, both from myself and the institution, regarding the consequences of a student’s actions. It has become very clear how important having your institution on your side regarding discipline is.

iv) Catering to Multiple Intelligences & Learning Styles

Something that has been made absolutely clear in the feedback from the students is the variety of learning styles and preferences the students have. The students indicated that they recognized the use of many different forms of activities, but when asked what they would like more/less of next semester and what they enjoyed/didn’t enjoy, other than wanting more short films, there was a huge variation. For me, this clearly shows the importance of providing students with a range of activities and stimuli in order to keep all students motivated and interested in class.

Things I Need to Start Doing

i) Giving Students More Time to Complete Activities

Although the students rated me favorably for this it was still one of my lowest scores, and I have to say that on reflection I absolutely agree with them. For the majority of the semester I was at conflict with my institution. They wanted me to teach key expressions every class, I wanted to teach skills. This meant I was trying to fit both into a 50 minute period and the classes felt a bit too rushed. I’ve now reached a compromise with my school; we are going to have spread topics over two classes, meaning half the compulsory amount of expressions and more time for skills. This will hopefully result in the classes being less rushed. It’s amazing just how observant and sensitive the students are to issues such as this.

ii) A Better Introductory Lesson

I started at a new school this semester and my directives were to start teaching my syllabus from the very first class. They asked me to only take up 10 minutes for introductions etc. and I used this time for making the rules of the classroom clear and introducing myself. I think this was a mistake and something I should have strongly objected to. The students have shown in their feedback that they weren’t sure exactly what they were supposed to achieve from the course, something that should have been made clear to them in the introductory lesson. Although almost all the classes adapted well I think this could be partially responsible for the behavioral problems one class faced at the beginning of the semester. Quite simply they weren’t sure why they were there. This is a mistake I won’t be making again.

iii) Explaining the Reason behind Activities

On reflection something I hardly did this semester is tell students why we were doing the activities we were doing, what skills were we practicing, what could they achieve from the activity, how is it useful for them in real life etc. This is shown in the relatively low score for ‘providing students with opportunities to practice creative thinking, divergent thinking and critical thinking’. Although I strongly believe these skills were practiced in almost every class I didn’t make the students aware of this. This is definitely something for me to bear in mind next semester.

Things I Need to Stop Doing

i) Compulsory Homework

Feedback from the students is quite clearly against homework, and on reflection I think they might be right!

Why am I giving them homework? The honest answer is ‘I’m not sure.’ Maybe because it’s what my teacher did when I was at school, maybe because I want them to see my class is serious, maybe it just felt right.

What did I achieve from it? Probably not much, the students who wanted to do it did it, and I hope gained from it (it was usually to interview someone, in English, on the topic we had done in class), but by forcing students to do it who didn’t want to meant that all they were probably doing was either copying their friends answers or making it up. Next semester I will make students aware of the reasons for doing the homework, but make it optional. This will also mean I have fewer to grade and so can do a more thorough job.

ii) Presuming I Can Motivate 2nd Grade Boys with Stamp Sheets!

The 2nd grade boys have made it very clear to me this semester they really don’t care about stamp sheets (a technique that works very well with my other classes). So, I’m going to have to think of something new, something sports related. At this point I’m not sure what, but I have a month to figure it out! For me this was a really clear reminder that we teach students, not lessons, and all students have different needs we must adapt to.


i) This is the first time I have performed such an extensive self evaluation and the amount I have learnt from it has been invaluable. I wasn’t required to do it by my school or regional office, and it took a lot of time to put together all the data, but I highly recommend doing it. The main reasons I have never done this before is firstly, because I’ve never been required to do it, and secondly, because I was nervous that the feedback might be negative. However, I really encourage teachers to do this once or twice a year as you will be surprised how much you will learn, both about what your co-workers and students appreciate in your work, and what you can improve. In terms of professional development, it seems essential.

ii) The low score for the ‘level of the exam was appropriate’ is something I haven’t mentioned as it is not something I had much (or any) control over. The results of that question have been fed back to the institution I work and it is something that we are going to work closer together on next semester to rectify.

If you took the time to read this I really hope it was useful for you. I would love to hear any comments regarding these reflections, especially if you've got any tips for motivation 40+ 17 year old boys ;-)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Paso a Paso con el PNIEB (Step by Step with PNIEB)

I found a resource book that it could help us PNIEB teachers to better understand what we have to do in the classroom and what expectations we are to meet.

It seems affordable and I think is worth checking it out at least. It’s called Paso a paso… PNIEB.  If you want to check it out, the webpage is

Finally this month, I have been able to get hold of this book.

I haven’t finished it reading it. So far, it looks OK to get a better idea of what it is this PNIEB phenomenon. It has graphic organizers as printable appendix.

I have read it and it’s a great tool, but I won’t call it the BIBLE for the PNIEB teacher. The book helps you to grasp ideas, but it’s no miracle worker or a planning guide.

To have a better look, I am posting the index right here.

Information taken from the page: 
Teaching PNIEB… ideas and stuff

Tools to build vocabulary

Learning and most of all, acquiring new vocabulary is a matter of obsession for both, English Language Learners and Educators, here I share with you some useful strategies to help you deal with this matter.

How do you record new words? Do you use mind maps? Tables? Flash cards? Or some other way? Check out these tips and practice exercises to help you choose the best way for you! 

Word cards:
Mind maps:

Friday, March 22, 2013

PNIEB Organization in the different states.

I think is something we all need to have at hand. If you want to see the stadistics of last school year, check this out
If I made a mistake with a link or there is an official webpage that I couldn’t find…. Please tell me with your comments. I promise to make the changes as soon as posible

Great vocabulary games!

Here´s an excellent page to find new ways to practice, review and recycle vocabulary, get flashcards and overall teaching ideas.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ten little things that steal your happiness

You ultimately become what you repeatedly do.  If your habits aren’t helping you, they’re hurting you.  Here are a few examples of the latter that will steal your happiness if you let them:

1.  Focusing on everyone’s story except your own.

Don’t be so satisfied with the success stories of others and how things have gone for them that you forget to write your own.  Unfold your own tale and bring it to life.  You have everything you need to become what you are capable of becoming.  Incredible change happens when you decide to take control.  This means consuming less and creating more.  It means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and deciding for you.  It means learning to respect and use your own ideas and instincts to write your passage.
If you want your life story to soar to new heights, you’ve got to clear a path, reduce the time-sinks and burdens weighing you down, and pick up the things that give you wings.  Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close to your heart and dedicate time to them every day.  If you truly care about what you do and you work diligently at it, there’s almost nothing you can’t accomplish.

2.  Waiting for the perfect moment.

Don’t buy into the myth of the perfect moment.  Moments aren’t perfect; they’re what you make them.  So many people wait around for the stars to align to do what they’re here to do.  The perfect moment, the perfect opportunity, the perfect state of being, etc.  Wake up!  These states of perfection are myths.  They do not exist.
Your ability to grow to your highest potential is directly related to your willingness to act in the face of imperfection.  You will come to succeed not byfinding a perfect moment, but by learning to see and use life’s imperfections perfectly.

3.  Working for nothing more than a paycheck.

Work without interest is imprisonment.  Even if you aren’t super-passionate about your work, you’ve got to at least be interested in it.  When you design a lifestyle in which your work is something you suffer through daily strictly to pay your bills, you end up spending your entire life wishing you had someone else’s.
Think about it.  This is your life; your work will fill a large percentage of it.  It’s not all about the money; it’s about you.  Ignore the propaganda, especially from people who say, “Don’t let your work define you.”  Reverse this message and mediate on it:  “I will do work that defines me.”  When the essence of who you are defines at least some slice of the work you do for a living, that work generates fulfillment.
Bottom line:  Interest in your work puts quality in your output and happiness in your mind.  Don’t settle for a paycheck.  Shuffle around until you find work that interests you.

4.  Harboring feelings of hate.

As Martin Luther King Jr. so profoundly said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Truth be told, when we harbor feelings of hate, it eventually gets the best of us.  It takes control of us.  We forget why we hate, what we hate, and whom we hate – we simply hate for the sake of hating.  And then, naturally, we begin to hate ourselves too.
Everything and everyone you hate rents permanent space in both your head and heart.  So if you want to eliminate something or someone from your mind, don’t hate.  Instead, disconnect yourself, move on, and don’t look back.

5.  Holding tight to worries and fears.

Someday when you look back over your life you’ll realize that nearly all of your worries and anxious fears never came to fruition – they were completely unfounded.  So why not wake up and realize this right now.  When you look back over the last few years, how many opportunities for joy did you destroy with needless worry and negativity?  Although there’s nothing you can do about these lost joys, there’s plenty you can do about the ones that are still to come.
You will find that it’s necessary to let some things go simply for the reason that they’re heavy on your heart and soul.  Let go of them.  Don’t clamp shackles to your own ankles.  It’s incredibly easy to enjoy more of your life right now, no matter what the situation.  It’s just a matter of letting go of the layers of nonsense that are weighing you down.
Let go of your worries and fears, of your rage and jealousy, of your need to always be right and control others.  Let go of your pretentiousness and your need to have everything your way.  Underneath all these layers of nonsense there is a happy, productive person.  When you start peeling them off and simply appreciating everything for what it is, life can be wonderfully fulfilling.

6.  Dwelling on difficulties.

A bad day is just a bad day.  Choose not to make it anything more.  Times of adversity will inevitably affect the conditions in which you live and work; yet you don’t have to let it affect who you are and where you’re headed.  Take note of the setbacks and adjust to them, but don’t expand on them by making them a bigger part of your life.
Every day brings new lessons and new possibilities.  There is always a way to take the next step forward on the path you’ve chosen.  Events may be terrible and inescapable at times, but you always have choice – if not when, then how, you may endure and proceed onward.

7.  Constantly seeking fleeting contentment.

There are two variations of contentment in life – fleeting and enduring.  The fleeting type is derived from instants of material comfort, while the enduring type is attained through the gradual growth of your mind.  At a glimpse it might be difficult to decipher one from the other, but as time rolls on it becomes vividly obvious that the latter is far superior.
Enduring contentment sustains itself through life’s ups and downs, because through them your mind remains confident and at peace.  On the other hand, when life’s fleeting changes have the ability to ruffle your mind into a frenzy, even the most elaborate physical comforts won’t make you any happier for very long. 

8. Trying to make a big difference all at once.

If you want to make a difference in the world, start with the world around you.  Making a big difference all at once is usually impossible, and the process of trying is extremely stressful.  However, instantly making a difference in a few lives is entirely possible and usually fairly easy.  You just have to focus on one person at a time and start with the one closest to you.
Work to make a bunch of small splashes, and let the ripples spread naturally.  If you want to change a person’s mind or mood, sometimes you have to change the minds or moods of the people around them first.  For instance, if you make one person smile, their smile just might make others smile too.  In this subtle way, you can touch the masses with your thoughtfulness without stressing yourself out.

9.  Holding on to someone who hurts you.

Sometimes you have to walk away from people, not because you don’t care, but because they don’t.  When someone hurts you time and time again, accept the fact that they don’t care about you.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s necessary medicine.  Do NOT strive to impress them any further.  Waste not another second of your time trying to prove something to them.  Nothing needs to be proven.  Do not act with any thought of them ever again.  Read 1,000 Little Things.

10.  Over-amplifying the importance of physical attractiveness.

Infatuating yourself with someone simply for what they look like on the outside is like choosing your favorite food based on color instead of taste.  It makes no sense.  It’s innate, invisible, unquantifiable characteristics that create lasting attraction.
Just as some people enjoy the smell of mint, while others prefer the scent of cinnamon, there is an undeniable, magnetic draw that attracts you to the qualities of certain people, places, and things.  Sometimes it’s even the scars your soul shares with them that reels you in and creates the very hinges that hold you together in the long run.