Monday, December 4, 2017

Exams: The eye of the tiger

The term is finishing and the exams are around the corner. You might be worried, you might be tired, but NEVER GIVE UP!

C'mon!! Sit down at your desk, open your books, play this Rocky music and pave your path to success in the upcoming exams!! ๐Ÿ

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Biology and team building

I was trained in the mindset that a quiet classroom was the ideal when it comes to learn. But, I love to talk when i'm learning and when I'm around friends, so why wouldn't my students. In that sense, is a productive classroom only one where the students are quiet? In my experience I can say that not always.

Generally speaking, and regarding California Departament of Education, seventh graders are intensely curious, they prefer active learning experiences, they need to interact with peers during learning activities, they consider academic goals as a secondary level of priority where personal social concerns dominate thoughts. Additionally, my colleagues are complaining about environment problems and internal issues (common in this range of years) so, as a home-teacher, I thought that team building activities could promote better teamwork in the class. They are a great way of improving communication, motivation, productivity and it helps students to get to know each other better, and learn about one's strengths and weaknesses as the challenge of a new experience requires students to collaborate and work together in close proximity.

We were finishing Unit 2 in Biology (Geosphere, minerals and rocks) and I planned a project to study the layers of the Earth and I tried to break the routine using Play-Doh. I have found that the secondary students jump at the chance of using it in the classroom. The steps were easy and instructions were clear, they all started with an equal level of knowledge about the given task: to represent the layers of the Earth with Paly-Doh and cardboard. It gave them the opportunity to be engaged, enabling team building and fostering creativity at the same time. Organization was vital, students had roles and assignments that ranged from bringing the materials needed to planning and allocating time to fulfill the task.

The results were fantastic: it improved leadership skills, the ability to solve a problem and communication between students and, last but not least, they had fun.

Here I share a summary in the video below.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Problems that come across with listening comprehension.

Quoting Raphael Ahmed, teacher at the British Council Bangladesh, we must consider that listening occupies about 45 per cent of the time adults spend in communication, which is significantly more than the rest of skills, such as speaking (30%), reading (16%) and writing (9%).

Students can make different mistakes in English pronunciation, grammar, orthography and vocabulary usage. When students listen to English language, they face a lot of listening difficulties. 

Listening comprehension skills vary a lot from person to person and it may take years of painful and frustrating learning depending on the age, motivation, and aptitude.

According to Harmer's book, The Practice of English Language Teaching, there are two types of listening, external and internal. The external listening is that which students come across in situations outside the classroom, (listening to the radio/songs, TV, watching movies and with native speakers). Nonetheless, the internal listening problems take place within the classroom with the teachers and classmates (instructions and conversations).

The reasons why some people find listening in a foreign language difficult vary just as much, so here I list the possible reasons why it might be so based on personal experience when it comes to external listening:

1. They spend time to get used to the accent and pace of the activity. 
Unfamiliar accents both native and non-native can cause serious problems in listening comprehension.

2. They try to understand word by word.
When listening texts contain known words it would be very easy for students to understand them. If students know the meaning of words this can arouse their interest and motivation.

3. They find it difficult to read and listen at the same time.
We must understand the text as we listen to it, keep the information in memory, combine it with what follows and adjust our comprehension of what we hear through previous knowledge and next information.

4. They got lost in translation trying to guess the meaning of the previous word.
Teachers should encourage their students to develop listening strategies. Predicting, asking for clarification, and using non-verbal cues are some examples of these strategies that improve learners’ listening comprehension ability.

5. They can't tell the difference with how the words are pronounced.
Listening is related to good pronunciation; therefore, teachers should have good and acceptable pronunciation which can help learners to become better listeners.

6. People speak too fast for them to follow.
Teachers should ask their learners to always listen to music, documentaries, and news on the radio and television, talk to native speakers face to face or on the Internet so that they can create and reinforce a good habit of listening in themselves.

7. They get tired as they don't usually practice listening skills.
It is very difficult for lower level students to listen more than three minutes long and complete the listening tasks. Short listening passages make easy listening comprehension for learners and reduce their tiredness.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What are you up to?

Do you know what is the meaning of that expression? It is an informal conversational question which means "tell me what you are doing at the moment". And a very casual way of saying this expression would be "What's up?". Does it sound familiar to you??? EXACTLY! It recalls the renowned app called WHATSAPP. "What's up" is very common in English language; So Whatsapp is very similar like "what's going on", though what's up is a little different in spelling.

What are you up to? What are you doing? What's going on? What's up?... It sounds like a tongue-twister! Doesn't it? ๐Ÿ˜†

And remember, today is FRIDAY!!! And, we love Fridays!!! Have a wonderful weekend!! ๐Ÿ˜

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Listening exercise: New rules (Dua Lipa)

Hi there!

Not only music is one of the most fun and effective strategies you can use to learn and improve your English pronunciation, but it also helps you to practice listening in a very relaxing way.

  • How are you learning? When you make an effort and you try to understand what you are listening to.
  • What are you learning? Due to the fact that we sing and listen to a song over and over again, once you learn the lyrics you will never forget them. That way, you can memorize vocabulary and expressions easily. Another advantage is that you practice your grammar and spelling by repetition.
  • Why listening to a song? Songs give you perfect pronunciation models, so try to mimic them. It will help you to speak more fluently.

Thus, for all the reasons above, here I share the listening activity we did at class last day. Remember to use the "lyrics video" first, and then, the "karaoke version".

Fill in the gaps activity:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fruity Day!

It's 11.15 and I'm at the playground. I see children playing something similar to basketball, football and many different games. Then, while waiting for the bell to be rung, I found out that my kids have a special ability... They can play and chew at the same time without dying in the process! After a while, I spot that every single student is carrying a sandwich as a snack, and the question came from out of the blue: What about fruit?

My school is in Guaro, which is located on the northern foot of the Sierra de Mijas, inland Mรกlaga, overlooking the spectacular Guadalorce valley. That valley is one of the most fertile areas in southern Spain. During my first days in my new school I tried to get to know my students asking about their hobbies and what they do in their spare time. All my 7 graders answered the same: they have a country house and almost all my male-students go hunting with their families. They collect their own fruit, vegetables and wild animals, such as rabbits/hares or partridges. Thus, the next question was: Don't they like fruit?

I talked to my students and they just prefer a sandwich, sweets or chips instead of fruit and I couldn't believe it! I spent more than a week to find a solution for that as I consider that schools are a key to teach children healthy eating. I was asked by the school to participate putting on the wall of the class a "Fruitmeter", in which I should register the students who take a piece of fruit, and, what is more, one of my colleagues came once with a pear stuck to a headband! But I knew that wouldn't catch my pupils' attention. One day, I asked one of my students to bring my schoolbag from the teacher's room and she said very enthusiastic: "Miss Ellie, are we going to use the selfie stick today??". Whoopee!! (I thought). Luckily, I had brought melon as a snack and I said: "Yes, today is Wednesday and it means that it is the Fruity Day. The selfie stick was a surprise" and that was how I started to take pics of ourselves on Wednesdays.

Amazingly, six of my students are bringing a piece of fruit every Wednesday so far (I could have never imagined that could happen!) and that is the way I'm trying to increase daily consumption of fresh fruit at school.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The consequences of having a blast.

- Did you have trouble to wake up this morning?
- Yes, Miss Ellie.
- I supposed so...

Getting back to routine can become a big problem when it comes to secondary students, specially after enjoying a bank holiday. According to The Mirror, renowned sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley, when you are out of your normal routine, the body isn't expecting to wake up at the time the alarm goes off, so it's still in deep sleep and just isn't ready, that is why you feel so exhausted.

While theoretically the more students there are in a class, the more possibilities for interaction there should be, this is not the case when it comes to a bank holiday or Mondays; let me say that the more learners there are, the more difficult developing interaction can be since there are more people to monitor and, therefore, more chances of problems. Thus, when I notice my students are dragging, I try to add energy (without completely abandoning the lesson) playing a quick "wake up, you sleepy students!" game:

- With my youngest graders I sometimes make the kids stand up and jump up and down and then, after doing it a couple of times, I call for silence clapping my hands and I order them to get into groups of a certain number of students and the left over students have to do a challenge in the middle of the class. It is funny and it entertains them. It usually takes 4-5 minutes.

- With my 5 or 6 graders I use cards. They play a cooperative game called "pick-a-card". The focus of this strategy can be to review a concept, discuss an issue, demonstrate understanding of content, or share information about a topic. In pairs, student 1 holds question cards, reads the question out loud and allows thinking time; then, student 2 answers the question. If the answer is right, student 2 picks the card, but if it is wrong, student 1 keeps the card. Then, they change roles. The aim of the activity is to collect as many cards as possible.

- With the oldest ones, I tend to use the computers. I found out that they adore flipped classroom so I schedule activities in order to avoid boredom in these tough classes. If students watch lectures or correct their own homework the day before, you can spend time focusing on revision activities, such as crosswords, jigsaws or fill in the gaps exercises. Everyone appreciates games instead of reading the traditional book early in the morning.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What did he say???

One of the best ways to improve listening skills is watching TV, videos and movies. That can become a tough time specially if the speakers' pace is high. But, DON'T PANIC!! Miss Ellie has the solution!

There is an option to add subtitles while using youtube. Here I explain how to do it:

  • STEP 1: Type the name of the video in which you are interested in the top search bar.

  • STEP 2: Click on the settings button.

  • STEP 3: Select subtitles.
  • STEP 4: Set the language (English).

And now, why don't you try and watch this commercial in its original language? I'm sure you it will make you laugh! Doritos commercial

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I bet you have all played this game at least once in your life.

No one is sure of where Rock-Paper-Scissors started. It became popular in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, following Europe and Japan.

Nowadays you can have an eternal opponent. Someone who can play non-stop. Yes! All day, everywhere... It sounds like a dream come true! Nonetheless, there are two things to take into account: it is a robot and it always wins! Don't you believe it? Take a peek...

(Learn more about the history of Rock-Paper-Scissors here)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Brushing up

It is very clear that our pupils' favourite season is Summer, undoubtedly. In our students' heads, Summer is a time for fun and that means that there is little room for academic activities. Nevertheless, that is not good news when it comes to education. In other words, September becomes a hard month for us.

While I was planning the revision activities I feared they could become boring and time consuming. In addition to that, I wanted to raise awareness of the importance of the paper (I'm tired of wasting paper with infinite lists of vocabulary) and I thought I needed something catchy and cheap. After two hours trying to buy the coolest case for my Ipad, an English game came from out of the blue in Amazon: its name is BrainBox. The object of the game is to study a card for 10 seconds and then, answer a question about what it shows, that way they are brushing up vocabulary, practicing reading and working in a cooperative way seamlessly.

The game is made up of 71 cards, a sand timer and a die; the drawings have bright colours and they catch the students' attention immediately, easing vocabulary acquisition.

Summing up, this is a great example of leveraging existing board-games in an academic context in order to promote learning without having to create explicit materials ourselves as teachers.

This is the link to the game.