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
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
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
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
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?
beginning a new relationship with that teacher we carry inside? What would you
need to enamor that educator? What about brightening ourselves up?
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.
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
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?
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!
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.
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.” (Authorunknown).Then, merely dare to begin
What about sharing your ideas about this topic? What do we need to "upgrade" ourselves? Is it necessary to make structural changes?
M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development 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).
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?
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.
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:
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
Let us know what
you think. Your expertise, your experience and your ideas are valuable to us!
Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator. She
also finished her master’s 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
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
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
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.
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?
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
following and telling us how you are using assessment
to empower students to
own their learning.
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.
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
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?
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.
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,butalso on our resolutions for the coming year.
As educational institutions around the world seek
to internationalize and attract international students, educators are being
called to deliver content courses in English and to prepare learners to work in
multilingual, multicultural contexts. This presentation (see link below) from the 10th Latin
American Congress of Professional Development explores professional learning
needs of university professors, school teachers, and language instructors as
they face these challenges. Topics include using English for the specific purpose
of teaching, effective strategies for supporting language learners in content
classes, and frameworks for building intercultural communicative competence.
Attention will be given to Mount Royal University and the steps we are taking
to meet these challenges both locally and internationally.
de semana, en el Décimo Congreso Latinoamericano
de Desarrollo Profesional, analizaremos junto a ustedes la problemática de la
enseñanza del idioma inglés en nuestro país. Examinaremos los desafíos que los
docentes de la especialidad tenemos que enfrentar en diferentes campos: la metodología,
la evaluación y la tecnología.
por las exigencias para ser profesores de inglés; la importancia de las
certificaciones internacionales y debatiremos también sobre el empleo de los
libros de texto, la guía metodológica que acompaña al texto y la metodología
que se emplea en las diversas instituciones donde se imparte la enseñanza del
inglés a nivel primaria, secundaria y/o superior.
también la problemática actual en cuanto a la demanda de docentes de la
especialidad en el país y, lo que no es menos importante, cómo se forman los pedagogos
en este campo, además de las metas que
deberíamos lograr a mediano y largo plazo.
además sobre el rol de las TICs en la enseñanza del inglés, de las plataformas
virtuales, de los cursos online y de la efectividad de las nuevas modalidades
mesa redonda contempla también interacción con los docentes asistentes.
Tendremos una ronda de preguntas y respuestas que serán contestadas por los
panelistas requeridos y, en caso todas las interrogantes no lleguen a ser
contestadas en ese espacio, recibirán la respuesta al correo electrónico que
nos indiquen al recibir el formato de la consulta.
Y ahora, es nuestro turno de hacer
¿Ha analizado qué espera de usted la
institución en que trabaja? ¿Está preparado para asumir el reto? ¿Qué puede
aportar como docente? ¿Qué debe aprender para lograrlo?
Estamos seguros de
que esta actividad le será de mucha utilidad para poder contar con una visión
más completa y clara del panorama, no sólo profesional, sino también personal.
Unfortunately, there are
many teachers who still believe that teaching English means to “display” the
knowledge which students are expected to acquire. Yet, some educators are eager
to find the right methodology for their courses because they think it would
help themselves achieve their objective: make pupils learn. On the other hand,
some professionals are willing to accept any help that avoids their spending
too much time preparing materials, exercises, activities, exams and even lesson
plans. It is a fact that teachers, in general, work more than 8 hours daily, so
anything that reduces their load of work is highly welcome. Everything mentioned
above may be reasonable. However, the main challenge is that even having a very
favorable scenario, there still are students who do not learn, or even worse,
stop trying to learn. Teachers may have the perfect methodology, resources and
books, yet they still cannot feel completely satisfied with the results they
actually achieve and all their efforts seem to vanish.
the right methodology, books, or any other resources does not guarantee the
success of a class. There are some other aspects that may be even much more important
and that´s something we need to find out.
Would the solution be excellent lesson
plans, amazing visual aids, and outstanding technological resources?
May having enthusiastic students assure
their success in learning?
Share your ideas with us and unveil the
Cognition, Learning and Development 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).