March 9, 2016

Learning with String Phones

I remember Giselle Santos' workshop during Braz-tesol Technology Seminar in SP in 2015 and how excited teachers were when making their own string phones. I thought, "how can use this activity in an English Class?".

This post aims to share my first attempt of a "MAKER" activity with a group of undergraduates who are taking an English course with me. I planned it carefully, however, I have to confess I feared students would find it childish. After trying it out, I'm happy to say their reaction was rather positive.

These are the steps of the activity developed in class yesterday:

1. I prepared the plastic cups with holes and strings beforehand. (2 cups and a string)
2. In class, students were divided into groups of 3 or 4 students.
3. Each group received instructions in English (about how to make a string phone) which were out of order. Students had to read the sentences, try to understand the words and order the instructions.
4. I elicited the order of the sentences on the board and called their attention to sequence connectors.
5. Then, I asked them what the instructions were for. Many of them guessed right. I asked them to tell me what words helped them come to that conclusion.
6. At that moment, I took out the cups and strings out of a bag which I had hidden somewhere and told them we were going to play a little bit.
7. Groups followed the instructions to make their string phone and instructed to test their device by asking each other questions in English. Pairs stood up around the room and had some fun. It was nice to see that some of the students had never played with string phones and a few were pleasantly surprised at how well they work.
8. Making use of a text taken from the website Fun Science Projects for Kids, I used the site to create a fill in the gap activity. The text explains how string phones work scientifically speaking.
9. Each group used a piece of paper to write down their guesses for the missing words. I used my laptop and the projector to show them the sentences one by one. Finally, we corrected the answers.

Created with GoConqr. You have to sign in to play the game.

The aim of this activity was to develop reading comprehension, language awareness, speaking practice and have students play while making a physical object which they used not only during the activity, but throughout our class.

September 26, 2015

Flipping the Learning Experience

If you attended my talk during FAAPI 2015 in Cordoba, Argentina, you might be interested in exploring the links shared.

These are the slides I used

These are some of the links mentioned and used:


BERGMAN, J.; SAMS, A. (2012) Flip your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. International Society for Technology in Education, USA.

BISHOP, J. L.; VERLEGER, M. A. (2013) The Flipped Classroom: A Survey of the Research. American Society for Engineering Education. Available at

GUO, P. (2013) Optimal Video Length for Student Engagement. Available at

PRINCE, M. (2004) Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. In Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), p. 223-231. Available at

Some photos taken during the conference

September 12, 2015

How to convert webpages into pdf files

  • Imagine you want your students to read an article from a webpage or a blog post but don't want to rely on the internet. 
  • Imagine you want to share a text from the internet with your students but don't want all those images from ads.
  • Imagine you want to print an article from a webpage but don't want to waste so much ink with images and ads.

What can you do?

I'd like to share one of my most used tools at the moment. I often assign readings to students and more and more good articles can be found online. However, relying on wifi connection is not something I can count on right now, unfortunately.

This is what you can do:
1. Download the google chrome extension PRINT FRIENDLY & PDF .
2. Open the website/article you would like to share with your students.
3. Click the Print Friendly & PDF extension.
4. Delete the parts of the text which you think are not vital.
5. Download the pdf file.
6. Share the PDF file with students.

Learn how it works.

August 25, 2015

Why aren't you Tripppin yet?

I have the pleasure to introduce a guest post by a very talented Brazilian teacherpreneur, Mau Buchler. I met Maurício during my talk at the Braztesol Technology Seminar last July and was amazed to learn about his website and English course material "TRIPPPIN" (yes, with 3 ps). He has brilliantly put together three things nearly everyone loves: travelling, culture and games.

I take the opportunity to voice my admiration to his creativity and initiative.

"I remember the first English class I ever taught.
I had no experience and no training whatsoever, but my employers saw no reason why I shouldn’t start immediately.
It was a private class for one of the directors of Banco Santos. I was 18 years old at the time, and I remember being ushered into the man’s impossibly huge office. He sat behind an enormous desk, and the morning sun was shining through the wall-to-wall window behind him. He looked like some kind of corporate sun-god, who gazed down at me and asked in disbelief:
“YOU are my new teacher?”
I managed to utter a brief: “Yes.”
He snorted: “Well kid… have a seat then.”
I sat down and asked him what he was doing. He started explaining and I started correcting his grammar, which he quite enjoyed.
He went on about investment funds, stocks, bonds, assets and liabilities. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked questions. All I did was ask questions, listen to him explain and correct his mistakes. It was fun, he was happy, and we had several good classes together, but this technique couldn’t last forever.
Conversation classes are great, but sometimes people aren’t in a talkative mood (and some people just aren’t the talkative type). Plus, if you don’t follow or create a learning structure, progress may not be as expected, so after a while I decided to start using the textbook and CD that had been supplied to me, and forced upon him.
He hated it.
He hated the texts, the audio prompts, the exercises. Everything.
He said they were out of touch with reality, fake and therefore: useless.
I agreed, and looked for other books, but found none that could live up to our standards of “reality” because… well, the world is constantly changing, and reality changes with it. It’s difficult for books to keep up. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of books. Once they’re printed, they’re done. They can’t be easily updated.
As I couldn’t find what I wanted, I started creating specific material for my student.
Now, keep in mind that this was 1991 and the internet wasn’t really working yet, so specific material was hard to find. Basically, I worked with texts from magazines, and movie clips.
And by then, I already had several other students of different ages, levels and backgrounds, so making specific material for each of them was becoming a full-time job. I started thinking: “How can I supply personal, relevant material to EVERYONE?
EVERYONE is a lot of people, but if you’re going to make material, why not make it for everyone in the world that wants to learn English? What’s the unifying thread? What does everyone like?
Then it hit me: Travel and fun. Who doesn’t like travelling and having fun? 

I won’t bore you by detailing the years of research and work that followed, but it’s enough to say that after 2 decades of building prototypes and teaching English around the world, I developed

Tripppin is an English course material in the shape of a game and a TV series that covers the world. It extends the school/teachers’ influence beyond the classroom. You can use it as main course material or as a supplement. You can use it in classrooms, online classes and computer labs. Students can use it independently, wherever they are, on their tablets, computers and smartphones.

Tripping was made by an English teacher for English teachers and schools. Next time, I’ll show you how to use it in class, step by step, but I do believe that the best way for teachers to get familiarized with it is to use it as a student.
That’s why we’re giving away VIP memberships to teachers. All you have to do is

  1. Leave a comment below, so we know who you are.
  2. Sign up free at
  3. Go Tripppin!"

In a few weeks, Mau Buchler will be writing a follow up post explaining how he uses the website with his own students. So, keep an eye on LIFE FEAST to learn more. 

Have you gone Tripppin yet? I have. :)

August 13, 2015

Google Keep in the classroom and in life

One of the Google tools I use the most on my cell phone is GOOGLE KEEP. Funny enough, it's one of the least known Google apps. The objective of this post is to share some of the ways I use Google Keep in my personal life and how we can use it with students.

Google Keep is an app (for androids and IOS) and website which can be accessed from your cell phone or any laptop, once you log into your google account.

With GOOGLE KEEP you can create different kinds of notes: a text, a list, record your voice or take a photo. These notes can be shared with others so that they can collaborate with you. You can also add a note as a reminder which will pop up when you need it (based on time or location). Imagine getting to the supermaket and your shopping list popping up, or getting to the library and the names of the books you need to borrow come up on the screen.

IN LIFE, I use it to keep myself organized:

  • I take photos of flight reservation info for quick access when I travel. I believe it's much faster to find it instead of storing the photo on an email or  among so many other photos in my phone gallery.
  • I make shopping lists and  lists of chores I need to get done on a daily basis.
  • I register some WIFI passwords (from my mom's house, from ours, from my sister-in-law's). It's very useful when we change devices or for guests. It has been a lifesaver.
  • I register addresses I will need soon (hotel addresses).
  • In other words, instead of using the notetaking app, I use Google Keep for any note I need to keep.
What I haven't used yet:
  • Record my ideas with my voice which is then transcribed automatically. It's great for those moments when you have an awesome idea for an article.
  • Share a list with other people while planning an event and see when things are ticked and done.
  • My notes are usually white, but as we can add colors to them, they might be easier to find if we adopt a color system.
  • Used reminders based on location. 

How can we use it with students?

  • Students can use it to store photos they take of boards in class and use tags to organize them according to subjects.
  • Students can make lists of homework they need to get done and create reminders.
  • They can brainstorm topics for class sharing a list with classmates.
  • When doing group work and deciding who is doing what, they can make a list which is shared and everyone can see when each item is ticked and things are done.
  • Students can create study notes about any subject so that they can revise quickly before a test.
For more reading on GOOGLE KEEP and its features:

April 26, 2015

Chinese Whisper with Whatsapp

The more I use Whatsapp in class, the more I realize how rich this tool is.

Last week, I tried a very simple activity with my Basic Students who had just learned how to express themselves in the Past.

Have you ever played Chinese Whisper with your students? It is an activity where Student A whispers a message to Student B who then tries to whisper the same message to Student C, so on and so forth. Or another one where the first student says "Last weekend, I went to the shopping centre", then the next student repeats the first sentence and adds one more sentence? We adapted these activities using the recording feature of Whatsapp.

These are the steps we followed:

1. I recorded the first sentence saying "Last weekend, I went to the cinema."
2. Then, I asked students to make their recordings for homework. Before they made their recordings, they would have to listen to the last recording, repeat all the sentences and add one more.

It was amazing how fast they started making their recordings as they knew the later they did it, the longer their sentence would be.

3. In the following class, I asked all the students to get their cell phones ( the ones who didn't have a device, sat with someone who had one) and listen to the last recording, which was the longest one, in order to write it down. It was great to see how involved they were listening to the sentences, repeating them, until they were able to write everything down. Similarly to Chinese Whisper, the last student to record the sentences ended up getting a few words wrong as he misunderstood what the previous student had said. As a result, students had to go back and listen to previous recordings to see where the mistake started. We heard quite a few laughs.

4. After most students had written all the sentences down, I asked them to dictate the sentences to me as I wrote them on the board. I used the opportunity to correct mistakes and practice the right pronunciation of words and verbs in the past.


In the initial phase of the activity, students had to create their own sentences with verbs in the past. As more sentences were used, they had to think of different verbs and their collocations to make new sentences. They needed to take special care pronouncing the sentences clearly so that their classmates would understand their sentence and continue the game. The longer the sentence became, it was necessary for them to write the words down in order to make the recording. Step 3 was a great way to practice listening and writing again. In a way, it was a dictation created by students themselves. During the feedback moment, I tried to focus on the right forms of the verbs they had chosen and their collocations.