On Motivation (Part 2)

Considering the work of Dörnyei and Csizér about the Key Areas in which the teacher can influence lernears’motivation, these are my contributions in four I found fundamental for teaching secondary:

1)      The teacher

People learn by observing others (Bandura). A teacher always is a model to be followed, however sometimes in the wrong way.

A thing to keep in mind has to do with the hidden curriculum; the teacher and the school organization give away a lot in this matter. Sometimes we show a face of discontent or cynicism that is very powerful to the people who don’t understand the reasons of our behavior so, they speculate and can also make erroneous judges and “label” us (the rebel, the critic, the bitter, the clown)…

If we are kind, active, smiley, challenging and funny just because we are like that it’s great, those qualities can really make us be very popular with our students and surely they will like to join our classes anytime.

2)      The classroom atmosphere

To me in these days, the point of the moment is to create a “safe space” free of aggression and cruel jokes that can guarantee a free stress environment for teaching. We are living the ages of bullying, and the times of frustration also. So, a good place must be clean, ordered, with a few noise and with our best attitudes all the time (Asher and the reduction of stress) and we must have the knowledge and skills to detect when hostilities show up and reduce them then first and then eradicate them.

Feeling good

3)      The task

The advices these scholars state are real important and sometimes not considered seriously. To know how to give instructions clearly is a trained skill! An advice to improve this is this:

  • Record on film any class you teach, then, analyze the way you explain the activities to do. You can be surprised how unclear you can be at times!

Of course, clarifying what is the usefulness of every task can increase the interest in the topic.

4)      Rapport

Considered as the quality of the relation between teacher and pupils, the more respectful and communicative the better.

In this area I had some peculiar problems when I was teaching secondary level. Some immature and neurotic students (generally female children of an overprotective mother) used to complain about me saying I have “favorite” students, the chosen ones. The funny thing in this was that those students referred as my “close” ones belonged to any of this category:

  • Siblings of a student I shared time with (computer games, trips to the hill, music sharing) but not with my new “new favorite”.
  • Students who were very polite to me and held me in high regard (so, my reaction was reciprocal in any occasion I was flattered).
  • The “supposed to be” queen beauties, no matter to me beauty has no schemes and the non-hegemonic treats are the aesthetic I could admire.

In these cases, a girl student complained about me at her mother and the woman was in total agreement with her no matter we never met before (she already knew “everything” about me). So, as I already said, in these exceptional cases a psychopathy was evident to me.

Saying hello

5)      Self-confidence

One thing to make clear since the first day of classes is that everybody can make mistakes. This condition depends on the way we feel on any day (stress, tiredness, distraction). The teacher must accept them in them and in the others. Time to time they appear and it’s better to take them in a relaxed and friendly way, and correct one selves kindly.

Another thing that was more amazing to my pupils was that there were some fields I did not know neither in my own tongue so, in English less.

I was working in a rural area so “barbechar” and “milo” were totally out of my conception (fallowing and sorghum). Names of flowers I know a very few and kitchen terms are also out of my scenery. Scrunchie was the word a girl told me it was the “donita para el cabello” so common in those days! So, I found out those terms and gradually integrated to my vocabulary repertoire.

6)      Culture

In the secondary level English is planned to be taught thrice a week for times that vary from 35 to 50 minutes. The days are not precisely distributed so we can have classes in consecutive days. Speaking about culture is a way to calm and relax students but I would not dare to say motivate them. I seldom did that when I needed to cool them down (after a long break, after a “puente” or on an uncommon day of labor. There is no much time and we are asked to work mainly on functions.

A happy girld

I hope these experiences help you a little in your future.

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On Motivation (First part)

I took these notes while revising some motivation theories; they can be useful to anyone so I publish them.

Skinner (Behaviorism)

A child acquires verbal behavior when relatively unpatterned vocalization, selectively reinforced, gradually assumes forms which produce appropriate consequences in a given verbal community.

Reinforcement— desired response= verbal praise, good grade, accomplishment (conditioning)

Bandura (Social learning theory)

Considers the symbolical behavior wished to be showed. Consistent instructions, use of familiar examples, use of brain teasers. Check the Bobo doll experiment.

People learn by observing others.

The same set of stimuli may provoke different response from different people or from the same people at different times.

The world and a person’s behavior are interlinked.

Personality is an interaction between three factors: the environment, behavior and a person’s psychological processes.

From my garde

Piaget (Stage of learning)

Sensori motor (0-2 y.o.), Pre-operational (2-7 y.o.), Concrete operational (7-11 y.o.) and Formal operationl (from 11).

Vygosky (Social Congnitive Development)

Emphasis on culture, on social factors, on the role of language. Cognitive functions may be affected by beliefs. Values, and tools of intellectual adaptations.

The Zone of Proximal Development is considered as the area where the most sensitive instructions or guidance should be given.

Krashen (Theory of second language acquisition)

After understanding is proved, then the production comes.

Natural orders hypothesis for any given language some grammatical structures tend to be acquired earlier than others.

Language is acquired by using In real communication.

Bruner (Constructivist Theory)

Previous knowledge, categorization, spiral curriculum

Four features in his theory: Predisposition to learn. Structures for knowledge. Modes of reproduction: visual, word, symbolic. Effective sequences.

Real acquisition takes place as meaningful target in language. Grammar is only a monitor or editor.

Just outside my door

Asher (Theory)

Bio-program. Listening before speaking and synchronize with individual’s body.

Brain lateralization. The adult should proceed to language mastery through right hemisphere motor activities, while the left hemisphere watches and learn.

Reduction of stress. Offer relax and pleasurable devote full energy for learning.

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My voicethread first experience!

Let’s talk about places to visit…

I am exploring new tools to work as a teacher and I found Voicethread a nice one!

Check it out and comment about your favorite places!

Places you like!

And this is the rubric I designed to grade this first and brief activity, later on more complex tasks will be proposed and with them more elaborated rubrics.


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Graphic organizers: A great help for Teaching

While searching the web for large and printable graphic organizers I found a very interesting site where I could easily download plenty of them.

Graphic Organizers: Over 100 free, printable graphic organizers for a wide variety of topics.

Available in: http://freeology.com/graphicorgs/

Sincerely I was surprised because such graphic tools are so handy and offer lot of help to anyone to understand better any topic, or they can guide any person into an intellectual process like composing a text.

And precisely, digging into Writing (Unit 6 in the TKT Course) I paid attention to this paragraph:

“Teacher sometimes work with models (clear examples) of text types when teaching writing. Models can show learners what patterns of language, vocabulary, register or layout to use, or how to structure their writing. They can also help learners get ideas about what to write. Models are used in guided/product writing.” (p.40, bold letters as in original)

Of course a graphic organizer can be adapted even for the use of vocabulary no matter its elemental help can be referred to writing structures.


Spratt, Mary; Pulverness, Alan & Williams, Melanie (2011).  The Teaching Knowledge Course, Cambridge University Press, UKTaken from FreeologyThis organizer can help tale composing beginners in defining the elements of their story to tell.In an intermediate level, if a time to speak about a famed person or artist, this paper can help a lot!For giving opinions about certain topics, this organizer certainly helps!

Ok, it is now the time for using some of them!!!

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How to promote Vocabulary learning: A linguistically enriched room

After my last post related to that topic I was still thinking about the possibilities (theoretically) and my own experiences and many choices came to my mind. However, I felt more attracted in discussing about the context itself than explaining single examples or searching the web for finding fancy new ones. I mean with this to my micro-context referred to my single and peculiar classroom.

A lot can be said about using any technique, any new text or any special activities to make kids to learn new words or language usages, but it is necessary to keep in mind some individual treats that may promote o slower this knowledge continuum. When you work with kids in public education you DON’T choose your students origins or backgrounds, so you cannot think of self-motivated people all the time. You just have to work with them and try to involve them in English as much as you can (and in this task is never an enough).


Classroom 1: Books, charts and friendly ambient.

Many of your students will be engaged and focused towards learning and using English in different ways, but a very other significant number of them will not. So, reflecting more of a list of techniques sometimes is better to think in bigger panoramas, like the environment.

If as I teacher you manage your own classroom (o you share a space with others) is a challenging and funny way to create a good physical environment. This means a room with a variety of stimuli to attract and encourage students in acquiring vocabulary in English, so what could be better than walls full of charts? Or corner tables with illustrated magazines? Maybe some news notes stuck on small boards and even a variety of songs with a complexity level to teach the kids’ ears to distinguish words and sound as possible? These ideas are to be considered seriously.


Classroom 2: Quietness and freedom to think

The English Room can be “the spot” by itself, but this is not so easy to get. If you are lucky enough to be in a school with “Science-rooms” you may have your place, it is up to with others’ help to design it (and to keep it clean and proper) (The others will always be all the people involved in the educational assessment, mainly your students, colleagues and school coordinators).

But if you have to share a place, things are someway harder and then, you have to conceive how your pupils may decorate their rooms or even their own school stuff to reinforce vocabulary.


Classroom e: Stimuli all around can really help

Some examples to run:

a) Divide your group in team

b) Choose a main topic to work for a certain period of time

c) Each team has to show something related to the general objective

d) After the time period and just before getting into the new theme, some oral or written exercises should be done and consider them integrated evaluation.

Main theme: Clothes (Visual presentation)

Team A: School (uniform, shoes, sweater, shorts)

Team B: Labor (overall, gloves, boots, helmet)

Team C: Sports (tennis, spikes, t-shirt, tights, suspenders)

Team D: Winter (scarf, stockings, wool socks, beret)


ImageClassroom 4: Not all the schools are lucky enough to have modern equipments and adequate infrastructure

Post-script: This article just came in time about the ideas I was working on, so, I use it as reinforcement and example, hope you enjoy my post.

 “Create an English atmosphere. Decorate with English posters and cultural items. Use music and other listening materials to surround your students in English. Make the atmosphere comfortable where speaking English is the norm and where criticism, especially from other students, is simply not acceptable. Respond positively to every effort to use English and spend a lot of time allowing students to express their ideas without correction. “Hear” only English -meaning when students use L1 to pose a question or express an idea, only respond when an effort has been made to get the idea across in English.

Taken from: Using L1 in the TEFL classroom (By International Teacher Training Organization)

Available in: http://www.teflcertificatecourses.com/tefl-articles/L1-teflclassroom.php

Pictures taken from the web, the list of sources:

Pic 1: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2012/08/explaining_classic_rock_bands.php

 Pic 2: http://travelinglibrarian.org/blog/2007/04/tibetan-childrens-village.html

 Pic 3: http://blogs.cornellcollege.edu/cornell-fellows/2009/11/

 Pic 4: http://dragondon.net/tag/english/Image

My school, my classroom (2009). As you can see, some students are pretty motivated in learning.

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Learning Vocabulary

Well, according to my experience songs are a nice and funny way to do this. The consideration is ti find good ones talking about the quantity of words and ideas in game, and of course, songs with enough good feelings to be liked!

For mentioning some songs I have used for my classes and they were cool hits:

Paul McCartney’s “Let’em in” (great for first graders! Problably the song that has helped me the most)

Find it here! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orAkeA7jLss

Paul McCartney’s “Another day” (good for daily routines and some clothes, the story of loneliness is pretty emotional to teenagers, although is sort of a long song)

Here is this lovely piece http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFzEA7ZAfZQ

Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” gives some good and short imperatives and polite invitations (and everybody likes dancing it)

Time to dance!!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyhrYis509A

Other way to go into vocabulary is to check it and offer it before a new presentation, trying to make connections into the terms in both languages. Sometimes is easy because of the friendliness of the word or some resemblance in some letters, here some examples:

1.- Plane, comes to airplane, and airplane is easily understood as a “aeroplano”, so AVIÓN ca be inferred.

2.- Comfortable is a word to be presented as follows… which adjective in Spanish begins with com-? So, it is said “cómodo” and not confortable which also exists but applied to another pragmatic situation.

3.- Before a new theme related to any topic, sometimes is possible and funny to make a drawing with the basic elements to show, like a kitchen (stove, refrigerator, table, chairs, counters, oven, drawer, cabinet) and have those images for some time in the first exercises of presentation.

Check this for example: http://visual.merriam-webster.com/food-kitchen/kitchen/kitchen.php

Well, there are more, but now it’s time to go reading some others’ experiences!

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About CEFR and ALTE

Well, now it’s time to think of a new world tendency in English proficiency standards and English teaching certifications.

I guess it all began when a community of developed countries decided to go as one. This only could happen in Europe, and its first great challenge was to unify the major management factors. The coin was the first to show up, but since this union was conceived to help each other in his economy, products sales and workhand interchange. Then, it came the standardization of knowledge backgrounds in universities, and of course, in those hegemonic languages spoken there, like English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.

So, CEFR comes to mean the Common European Framework of Reference, and this all has to do with “The CEFR describes language ability on a scale of levels from A1 for beginners up to C2 for those who have mastered a language. This makes it easy for anyone involved in language teaching and testing (learners, teachers, teacher trainers, etc.) to see the level of different qualifications. It also means that employers and educational institutions can easily compare qualifications and see how they relate to exams they already know in their own country”.

Taken from: http://www.cambridgeesol.org/about/standards/cefr.html

So, according to this system of scales, new programs of teaching languages are designed according to these expectations to accomplish and to be measured. Since Cambridge ESOL was involved, that’s why we, as an ESOL teachers should understand this. For instance, SEP and Cambridge ESOL run together TKT that is considered in the “Agreement in which are determined policies, standards and recommendations related to the Teaching and Certification of Foreign Languages, even Spanish as Additional Language” (free translation from: http://www.cambridgeesolmexico.org/ )

What is referred about ALTE:

“Cambridge ESOL is a founder member of ALTE (Association of Language Testers in Europe), a group of leading language testing organisations in Europe. In order to make examination results easier to understand, ALTE members have developed a series of Can Do statements for each of the CEFR levels. These statements describe what language users can typically do with the language at different levels and in different contexts (general, social and tourist, work or study)”.

Taken from: http://www.cambridgeesol.org/about/standards/can-do.html

A reflection that is meta knowledge comes to mind, “how much I know what I know”, and “how much I know I can teach properly”. This frame helps to think over about where I am and where I need to be. Precisely, this will be our new topic of discussing in our next class, to have a wider and deeper vision in what are into as teachers.

One thing personally challenges me is the reflecting on the amount of hours of practicing a language to be scored in any rank, and how the social and cultural contexts have influence in making it easier or harder. English in Mexico, if well just in a few occasions is spoken in any context of business or education, lots of real life examples are everywhere: music, movies, and advertisings in many means will help in teaching and helping students to learn faster and friendlier.

Let’s keep finding out more!


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