So many great tools!

The infinite amount of information available on the Internet can get to be overwhelming because everybody has so much to say about everything, and we have so little time to read it.  This, I’m afraid, will continue to happen since every second millions of people are checking or adding something to the web. This last thing has became a great advantage for Internet users due to the now available variety of applications that allow them to exchange all sorts of multimedia such as images, videos, audio, text, etc.  No matter your profession or your interests you can benefit from all these tools, the Web 2.0 tools, without feeling frustrated in case you’ve just started to use them because they have been designed to be friendly, easy to use.  The teaching and learning field is a wonderful example of how Internet can help us keep an active classroom without having to spend much time. There is an unimaginable amount of pages that provide you with video clips that can either give you tips on how to plan a class or be shown to students in order to involve them in all sorts of fun activities that can help learning grammar and vocabulary, or exercising their listening and their speaking abilities. There are pages students can go to in order to practice through simple quizzes or funnier activities such as crossword puzzles. Besides helping teachers save valuable time, Web 2.0 tools can help them share ideas about teaching in order to expand their horizons (just like us, right now!).  In some cases, they can also help to stay in touch with the students, so that time and space mean no barrier for learning and communicating.

Finally, another great advantage of these kinds of tools: you can find something useful no matter your age or your English level! The next link is a great example of how to get both the information and the practice exercises from a single site, in this case we are shown different idiomatic expressions that include an example of how to use them and how to pronounce them: http://www.englishpond.com/vocabulary/idioms/idiomsA/ This is useful for advanced students, since beginners find this harder to understand (specially children). Now let’s see an example of a video we could use to help our youngest learners get what a pronoun is:

We must not be afraid of trying new stuff, especially if it can help us become better teachers, and if it can help our students learn better and enjoying it.

Care about making it fun…

Hi! this is a comment I added to a post about grammar in the blog of my TKT course.  I decided to post it here because it shows how I feel about teaching grammar and the methods used for it.

When I was around 10, I was lucky enough to have a teacher who actually cared about us enjoying learning. (Keep in mind that I live in Mexico where that is not very common.)Since internet videos weren’t so popular back then, the best thing she could do was playing songs and lots of games. I still remember my friend Jaime showing off proudly the giant chocolate bar he won at the “noun song contest”, he was the one who memorized more nouns from the Noun song  than anyone. Now I realize that the goal of that activity wasn’t to memorize a big bunch of words, but to learn grammar and some vocabulary. I bet my friend Jaime, just like me, will never forget that nouns are “words that mean a person place or thing…”, and right after that I’ll always think about “a cabbage or king.”
Examples like these were used for helping us understand (which is more important than “learn”) other parts of speech. Did my teacher know enough grammar? Should teachers know a lot of grammar? Of course! Any discussion about it is simply worthless. We are not teaching a newborn his native language, we are teaching people that already have the codes for a different language inserted in their brains, although they may not be able to explain it yet, therefore, we must be able to explain the structures that our students know already and compare them with the ones we are looking forward for them to understand. Adult learners have the need to understand the structure of what they’re learning. This, however, may be very hard for little kids. That is why a structuralist and normative explanation of grammar isn’t suitable for working with them, this only leads to frustrated children that can neither memorize words and their parts of speech nor appreciate how important grammar is for learning a language. Luckily, they are a bit more able than us to learn things naturally, without having to be explained a lot.  Keep it simple, keep it fun.

To conclude, let’s think of the next question: “What makes grammar so boring and so difficult for children to understand?” I would like to give an answer by making another question: Why do teachers expect children to be interested in it if they (teachers) don’t seem to like it either? Loving what you do is the best way to make others start appreciating it, and tips such as using movie segments or singing songs are only some of the tools that can help you express that love!

Off to a good start!

First day of school! Remember those first days at a new school? In my case, they have meant nothing but awkwardness. You know you and your classmates are all strangers to each other, yet you feel like you’re the only one who is totally uncomfortable no matter where you are and who you talk to.  Now I know it doesn’t always have to be like that. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is possible to feel comfortable and enjoy learning since the very first day of school! I think this was a very different start for many reasons: first of all, we are all taking the class because we really want to. No one is forcing us to be there, so at least we know we all have one thing in common: a big interest in becoming great teachers. How else was awkwardness avoided and learning enjoyed? By feeling your teacher is an actual human, just like you. Calling her by her first name, sitting in a different position from the one of an ordinary classroom, having the chance to interact with my classmates and not just having artificial conversations because we were told to do so… These are all things that helped me have a great first day of school. They have also convinced me of what a great experience this can be.

So… this is Nemo’s omen

The name of this blog is a palindrome, that’s what matters, not so much what the palindrome means.  Why? Because palindromes are just an example of how playing with language (any language) is fun! Learning is fun, or at least it should be. An English class is not supposed to be a circus, we all agree, but that doesn’t mean students can’t have a great time learning. The future posts in this blog will hopefully help us analyze what’s better to do when we try to transmit our knowledge to others, providing us new perspectives about both teaching and learning.