September 21, 2013

Learning about PBL: A blended course

Changing our way of teaching is not an easy task.
How can we help teachers learn, discuss and try out new approaches in English Language Teaching?

With this objective, we've started a  blended (part face2face + part online) methodology course at the school where I work when we'll be studying about 3 different approaches: PBL, the Flipped Classroom and Mobile Learning.

The course started at the beginning of September. Each week, we have presential meetings as well as online readings and tasks to carry out.

Following a PBL model, we started our course with a "driving question" :
How can we use PBL in our classes at Cultura Inglesa? 
this question was later refined to "How can we create a project which could be used with our students?"

Our final goal would be to think of a feasible project which could be implemented in our classes considering our reality.

But, how could we reach the final goal? What would be our NEEDS TO KNOW?
We needed to know more about characteristics of a PBL lesson, see some examples, talk to teachers using PBL.

Our group came up with the following steps:
- read different articles about PBL.
- watch different videos about it.
- interview a teacher who uses PBL for teaching English.
- try to imagine our own projects.

As a teacher to interview, I suggested a dear friend, Vicky Saumell, from Argentina, who has successfully implemented a Project-oriented approach at the school where she works.

The interview happened assynchronously, first we brainstormed some questions at our EDMODO group, then I sent Vicky the screenshot of our thread and  hoped Vicky would have the time to record a  video-response for us.

Here, I take the opportunity to thank Vicky again for kindly taking her time to share her experience with us.
For those interested in examples of projects for ELT, check  one of Vicky's presentations on slideshare


It has been a great opportunity for me not only to study with a group of teachers who are my colleagues but also to try to be a more collaborative teacher.

Our next module is about "The Flipped Classroom".

September 14, 2013

Enriching Study Guides with Thinglink

How can I make Study Guides more visually appealing?

Many times I feel my students don't really know how to organize themselves to study. I often hear them say they only studied by reading the lessons in the book.

These are different ways I've tried to help students get ready for their English exams:

1. A Study Guide with links to resources shared in our EDMODO GROUP

2. I've created a wordcloud with topics and used THINGLINK to add online resources.

3. I've used the app VISUALIZE to create a visual poster and added links by using THINGLINK

September 8, 2013

Tiny steps: flipping part of my class

There are several things I like about the FLIPPED CLASSROOM model:

- First, you save a lot of time for really practising the language if students have access to the theoretical part of the explanation beforehand (at home).
- Second, if a student is absent, he can always catch up.
- Third, if a student needs more explanation he can watch it as many times as he feels is necessary for his comprehension.
- Fourth, before tests, students can always watch the videos again to help refresh their memories. 

This is how I've been TRYING to flip part of my class.

I'm aware there are various ways people have been flipping their classes but it's always important to think of each reality. I work at a Language Institute in Brazil and have to follow a course book for my classes. A moment which I've been finding useful to flip is the grammar explanation part of the lesson during which I would probably deal with the grammar focus. There are various videos available online, however, I sometimes prefer the ones I make myself as I try to make them more personal and as short as possible.

My most successful "flips", in my opinion, have been recording screencasts of myself explaining the grammar focus with examples. In addition, I assign a quiz to my students using Edmodo after a few classes of practice.

The instructions
The Quiz

I normally create a multiple choice quiz with 10 questions. They have 5 mins to answer the quiz which is corrected by Edmodo automatically.

The following class after the quiz, we go over each question and answers as I have access to the question most students had problems with.

This week, I wanted to try something different so I started to look for different tools I could use to make flip videos. The result of my search is a board I've created at

My board: Tools for Flipping Classes

Then, it was time to try some of them out.

Oh, the first step was to create the video screencast I wanted to use. Therefore, I used the EDUCREATIONS app on my ipad.

The first flipping tool I tried was Nik Peachey has created a very helpful post about it

My trial:

Then, I decided to try

I had watched one  of Tamas Szakal's metta videos and just loved it. Unfortunately, I had no idea I would find it so hard to figure out how it works. I tried to find a tutorial, but to no avail,  I had to rely on my trials and errors to manage to make this first trial video.

September 4, 2013

QR Code guessing game

I prepared a qrcode game activity for my Upper Intermediate students last week which I'd like to share with you. Our last lesson had the theme "Hidden Messages". We discussed several ways people used to hide messages in the past and nowadays, including the use of QR codes.

The lesson grammar topic was language to express different levels of certainty. As a warmer for the following class, I decided to create an activity which involved sentences using the language learned recently, and QR codes.


-  First, I had asked students to download a QR code scanner to their mobiles at home so after checking how many students had remembered to do that (only 3), I divided the class into 3 groups.
- They had to read the sentences and try to guess the ending of the sentences and write them on paper.
- Then, they would use a cell phone to scan the code and see if they had guessed the idea of the original sentence. They would get 1 point for each correct guess.
The activity worked well. Students were involved trying to guess the sentences and I saw some enthusiasm during the time they scanned the codes for the right answer. Now, could I have done the same thing simply giving them the answers on a separate sheet of paper? Of course, I could, but using the QR CODES to hide the rest of the sentence made a lot of sense because of the topic of the lesson and it also avoided some cheating.

What would I have done differently? 

- Maybe I would have asked different groups to check each other answers.
- Or I would have asked students to create their own sentences one class and done the same activity with the codes but this time with their sentences.

The idea of guessing the ending of sentence can be done with any kind of content, I guess.