miércoles, 27 de abril de 2016

Are we Really Using 
The Communicative Approach?

By Marita de la Lama

Very recently, in a teacher training course, one of the participants avowed that the Communicative Approach was the latest approach to teach foreign languages. This thought still remains a common assumption for many local English teachers, despite the fact that new methods such as the Task-Based approach, among others, have emerged.

Why is it that even in 2016, many English teachers consider the Communicative Approach as the latest method? To begin with, it is by far one of the most popular systems all over the world.  Its popularity lies in the fact that this procedure involves the best teaching practices that have proved very effective in the teaching-learning process.  However this conveys another problem: everything we do in class is indiscriminately labeled communicative. We need to put together theory with practice and reflect on what is actually communicative and what is not. Since many teachers know the characteristics of the Communicative Approach by heart, it will be helpful to  list just the teaching practices that are not communicative, in particular in our popular grammar lesson.

1.    Many teachers insist to start a lesson by writing a sample of the structure to be learned on the board.  But what happens to the idea that presentations are to provide students with real input of the new structure? Presentations need to display the new structure within a real context, one that turns out appealing to the students. Quite contrary, we start using the written language since the very presentation stage.

2.    The written exercises offered in the textbooks have a leading role overshadowing the development of oral communication skills in the learners. Commonly I have observed lessons in which the teacher “leaps” from a controlled practice of the new structure to the textbook’s written exercises. Where does that leave the Communicative Approach?

3.    The very few activities of pair work or group work conducted in class do not usually bare a real need for communication. Two things constantly materialize in class: or the students know the answers to the questions before they are even asked, or perhaps the answers allure them slouching shamelessly at their disposal at the back of the textbook! Thus, our communicative activities have stopped being real, are out of context and wind up being quite boring for our students.

4.    Skills are not integrated at all.  Often, due to time restrictions, we end up working only one skill in a lesson, whether it is reading, listening, or writing, without linking at least a couple of skills, such as reading with speaking or listening with reading. We need to remember that the integration of skills is one of the main characteristics of the Communicative Approach.

5.    It is still considered that to use the Communicative Approach implies to have our students speak the language without receiving any feedback from their teachers about their oral production. Teachers proceed from one activity to the next without giving the students appropriate feedback about their oral production.   The command of a language does not improve just by asking students to speak it; this is just half of what we need to do; we also need to provide our students with the needed feedback in order to prevent them from committing to memory their own mistakes.



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 Pacifico. Current Director at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacifico.

miércoles, 20 de abril de 2016

Lesson Plan: A teaching tool or an administrative requirement?

By Flor de María Vila A.

Scripting lessons may be considered time-consuming by many, both experienced and novice teachers. In fact, a great deal of us consider lesson planning utopian and claim that the time spent drawing them up could be better spent preparing the activities and materials needed for the lessons. On the other hand, the authorities of schools and other institutions insist on its convenience in order to ensure that the aims and objectives of the lesson be achieved and that teachers do their job adequately. Which side is right?

Why would it be necessary to prepare lesson plans?
First, think of any occurrence that you wish with all your heart to take place. How would you  go about to make it happen? Wouldn’t you need more than your desire to make it become a reality?  You would very likely agree that you need to abide by at least a short list of steps in order to achieve your goal. However, to be able to maintain a balance between student-centeredness and content-centeredness, and to keep the lesson on track at the same time require, in most cases, more than a “short list” of activities. Preparing a lesson plan helps mentors design and conduct their sessions in an orderly fashion, increases teachers´ confidence, displays properly sequenced lessons and enables users to anticipate some problems and, consequently, be more ready to deal with contingencies. Furthermore, it offers clear evidence that teachers have taken the time and put a great deal of thought and effort into the design of the lesson. Thus, lesson plans turn up being not just an administrative requirement, they come to be crucial.

Who needs to prepare lesson plans? Old hands or rookies?
It is evident that some sort of strategy is needed, but individuals may argue about how much information the plan should contain or how specific it should be. Experienced educators may contend that only novices ought to prepare lesson plans because the veterans already know what to do in class, and how to respond in certain cases. Likewise, skillful professionals have repertoires of well-mastered routines for a number of situations which they can call upon without much distress. Although this could be true, not having a lesson plan may prove, in the long run, lack of efficiency and probably of effectiveness regarding the objectives of a course. Even worse, some teachers may rely too much on the students´ own effort and discipline to study by themselves. We should say that both categories, green and seasoned, necessitate to concoct some kind of magic potion for their lessons. However, the specificity of those plans may vary according to expertise.  

What’s the difference between a veteran and an apprentice teacher? How does it affect planning?
One of the main characteristics of knowledgeable teachers is that they can readily recognize a number of well-known patterns in classroom events and hence make sense of them because of their hundreds and even thousands of hours of experience in the schoolroom. They have an ample baggage of routines, and know how to handle a variety of situations.
Expert teachers process simultaneously transmitted information very quickly, attend to multiple events at the same time, detect indicators of disruptive behavior and act on them appropriately and before they become problems. They are also able to anticipate the difficulties that students are likely to have and take precautions. They reach for a wide range of knowledge: of the pupils, the curriculum, classroom organization, student learning, as well as subject matter.
On the other hand, beginner teachers are in the process of acquiring all this know-how. They may have all the knowledge needed but may need to go through different situations before being able to recall them with ease. Consequently, they may need more guidance in the first few years of teaching, and it would help them be better organized and more confident in front of their students if they have a more detailed lesson plan.

What is most important when preparing a lesson plan?
At any rate, expert or beginners must have a clear vision about something extremely important: the aim and objectives needed to achieve their goals. Every single activity should revolve around them.
In the same way, they need to have a clear sample of the evidence needed to state that the objectives have been achieved. Otherwise, the lesson may be enjoyable, dynamic, and everybody may have fun but that will not necessarily mean that students will crown the objectives. We do not only need that students enjoy learning but that they do learn what they are expected to learn.

You may like to take a look at the following article which explains what to consider when preparing a lesson plan. It shows an easy and practical way of designing it.
Do you agree with the following statements? Share your views about them.
Without a lesson plan, classes will definitely be a disaster.
                       Both experienced and novice teachers must prepare lesson plans.       
Lesson plans should be very specific even if you are an experienced teacher.

Flor de María Vila. 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. She is Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory) and Relationship Associate Manager for American universities´ MBA admissions officers with International Contacts. She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, former 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, 14 de abril de 2016


By Enrique Rojas R. M.A.

Seemingly using technology in the educational field is today the name of the game. More than 4 million students in Latin America have an individual electronic device conducive to support its differentiated learning. (Severin and Capota) Phones, tablets and kindles (digital book readers) are expanding places of learning beyond schools. In countries such as ours, in addition, programs like "One Laptop per Child are being embraced. Yet, in spite of all this,   there is a large number of teachers who have real fear of technology.
The Confederación Española de Centros de Enseñanza, CECE  (Spanish Confederation of Schools) indicates that 70% of primary and secondary schools of that country do not have projects of educational computerization and 40% of teachers do not use information technology and communication (ITC) in the Classroom. They consider that the main reason for this is lack of training.
The aforementioned report also says that six out of ten teachers use these technologies in the classroom, but 35% said they "would be willing to use them but do not dare", while 5% reveal they are not interested in using them whatever the case.
In our country, although we have no precise figures due to lack of statistics, the portal Universia Peru, disclosed that 82% of teachers participating in a recent survey they conducted do not believe that new technologies are used appropriately in class. In opposition to that, 97% of respondents sustained --at the same time-- that new technologies mean "an opportunity" to improve education in the country.

The teachers responding considered that the main obstacle in implementing technological resources in their classes, is the lack or inadequacy of the infrastructure installed in their workplaces. But we consider that at the kernel of the dilemma is the lack of proper training.

In recent years most private schools in Lima and other large Peruvian cities, and a good deal of public ones, have been equipped with computers, projectors, screens, sound systems and sometimes even smart boards. School administrators have been willing to dedicate significant sums to equip their classrooms. But unfortunately they did not often allocate a similar amount to train their personnel. And this is the result.
This is not a phenomenon restricted to Peru, not even to the Third World. The Guardian. Influential daily British newspaper, reported that some 30% of teachers surveyed by the University of Bristol failed to make good use of computers in the classroom -- despite the government's £1bn investment. The study divulges that many teachers dread computers will interfere with 'genuine' or book-based learning, particularly in the humanities and creative subjects, and use ICTs only for administration and routine tasks. Furthermore, the document implies that many instructors lack the confidence to take the risk of using technology in their subject areas, although they have reasonable facilities at school and they use computers at home.
On a more earthly terrain, on the part of the teachers, there is a fear of letting go of control. Besides this, many educators are uncertain about their own ability to create tech-integrated lessons. On addition, while books are perceived as educational and as the classic vehicle to approach ethos, (acquire knowledge) there is a cultural association of computers with business as well as leisure, play and slackening.
Beyond that is the anxiety of teachers at handling costly equipment. Who will pay if something breaks? They also worry about off-task behavior online and cyber bulling. That leads to the establishment of many anti-technology rules in the name of safety.
Other instructors find it very difficult to recognize the wrongness and untimeliness of their non-tech approach. The argument that computers have been oversold and underused is not completely deprived of accuracy, although we identify it many times as a cop-out.
But perhaps one of the strongest arguments that lead educators into the inactivity corner is the recognition that in these matters it is very frequent that the students outperform their teachers. And a good number of us are not willing to ask our students what to do with the devices or how to do things with the seemingly uncooperative machines. Maybe they still live in the time when teachers were supposed to be the depository of all knowledge. On our part, we feel no shame in asking students and plea for their help. And they are usually cheerful to award it.

Now your turn:
Have you ever wondered if Technology in Education is a friend or a foe?
Do you know why  High-Tech sends a chill down the teachers’ spine?

We are looking forward to your posts letting us know what you think.


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.

martes, 5 de abril de 2016


                                                                                  By Zarela Cruz

There you are! The last day of your English lessons! You are about to get your long-awaited certificate of English and suddenly you become concerned.  You start thinking about something that went unattended before: “How am I going to practice my English now that I am not taking classes anymore?

Does this scenario seem familiar to you? Most people study English because it is a requirement for their studies, work or for other personal goals. Indeed, once they get the required level, they stop studying it formally and eventually, lose practice. Is there something you can do to enhance the level of your 2nd /or 3rd language? Of course there is, In fact, there are a number of ways to keep improving your English once your courses are over! And here comes the best part: most of these are tuition-free! However, they demand commitment and organization

Below, there is a list of ideas:

1.       Use the social media to practice your English: chat in English, post comments in English, share information in Twitter in English. You may form a circle with your former classmates and keep in touch.

2.       Enjoy movies in English. If you do not feel confident enough to understand the gist, read the captions (also in English) and pause the film when you need to reflect on a new word that caught your attention. Keep curious!

3.       Are you a music fan? Get the lyrics of your favourite songs and sing them as many times as you want. First for pleasure, then try to decipher some segments you did not understand at first. You will learn a lot about slang, contractions, blending, silent letters and even silent syllables. And have fun while learning!

4.       Dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to read in English: there is no need to be an intellectual to practice your new language. Start reading texts that you understand and are of your interest. This will give you confidence and little by little you will start reading more complex texts.

5.       Read graded novels or classic stories: there is nothing better than reading a novel in its original language, even when it is graded. Nowadays you can find audio books and listen while you are reading, so you have a double input: auditory and visual.

6.       Practice different kinds of exercises: listening, grammar, vocabulary, whatever you feel like practicing. There are many of them on the web waiting for you! In your classes, you were used to drill with some of them; you may keep using them for practice, ask your ex-teacher for other resources, or share some sites with your friends.

7.       Write to your friends abroad: now with a vast number of academic exchange programs or work and travel, there are plenty of chances to keep in touch with the ones you met when either they visited your country or you were in theirs. There are no excuses!

8.       Change the setting of your mobile phone and email account to English. That way you will always be exposed to this language and you will internalize that routine quickly!

9.       Organize your learning: keep a diary, a journal or start with simple things like classifying vocabulary or reading aloud.

10.   Be informed: read about international affairs. It is always interesting to know how the English speaking world sees us.

So you see?  Your course may be over, but not your willingness to learn or keep practicing the language you studied. These ideas apply to any new language.

And what about you? What works for you?  Would you like to share any of your strategies?
We are looking forward to your posts letting us know the tactics you have tried out yourself and proved effective.

Stay tuned!  Until soon!



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: Higher Education, Virtual Courses Design, and Spanish for Foreigners. She has also completed a number of certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses.   During her more than 20 years teaching experience, she has taught different courses, programs and levels. This article depicts what has proven effective for her.