Friday, November 1, 2013

Activity 27- What Did They Say?

Are you teaching Reported Speech? Learn how to connect students with this grammar topic in a very meaningful way!

Level: beginning/low internediate/intermediate
Language skills: speaking and/or writing
Grammar Topic: Reported Speech
Device needed: a tablet or a smartphone (students' own mobile devices) 
Number of devices needed:  one per student or one per group of students
Internet connection: on
App: Twitter
Price: free
Operating System: iOS or Android


Ask your students to enter Twitter and check what some of the celebrities they follow are saying. Ask them to report what they have said recently using the Report Speech structure. The students can write down their sentences or simply sit in small groups and orally report their findings.

Justin Bieber said that he loved music.
On October 13, Oprah Winfrey said that she had just finished a delightful meeting with her 8th graders.
In July, Michael Phelps said that airports might be the best people watching place ever.
Katy Perry said that she was really excited to share those songs with her fans and that she was proud of them. She asked if they would let her know what they thought and how they made them feel. 

Source: Vinicius Lemos
Picture credits: Twitter

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Activity 26- Relative Clauses Practice

Here is a fun and simple way to work with Relative Clauses through digital photography!

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Language skills: speaking
Grammar Topic: Using Relative Clauses to describe people and things
Device needed: a tablet 
Number of devices needed:  one per student or one per group of students
Internet connection: on/off (on if students need to search for an image/off if students decide to use their device to take a picture)
Apps: PS Express, Be Funky or Mega Photo
Price: free
Operating System: iOS

First model the activity by showing the students some samples of images that have been modified by a special effect. Show them the images and tell them that they have to guess the famous person, place or object. Before eliciting their guesses, give them some hints using Relative Clauses. Here is an example:

Hint 1: This is a man who works as an actor.
Hint 2: He is a famous Hollywood actor who has a twin brother.
Hint 3: This is a man whose ex-wife is also a famous Hollywood star.

After the three hints, ask students to write down their guesses or just elicit them orally. Then, later, show them the original picture to check if their guesses were correct. 

After modeling the activity, divide students into small groups and set up the time that they have to prepare their material. Then, ask groups (one at a time) to show the whole class their images and read their hints. Students can write down their guesses individually and compare them later or simply say them orally right after they hear the hints. 

Source: Vinicius Lemos
Picture Credits: by Vinicius Lemos (PS Express/effect: obscure)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Text 1- My Reflections Upon M-Learning

How long has it been since you heard the term “m-learning “ for the first time? Well, in my case it was in 2010. Not long ago, right?  As a matter of fact,  that might be true for you, too! But how much of your time have you actually dedicated to learning more about m-learning and how it is affecting the way we teach today?  I am a huge educational technology enthusiast and I would like to share some of my reflections and discoveries upon this theme based on  events I have attended and books and articles I have recently read.
 I`ve been to several different conferences before and it  is still not very common to find many sessions on m-learning. During this year`s TESOL Conference, for instance, I tried to attend as many m-learning sessions as possile but the options were very limited. There were  less than 10 (including the session delivered by Lilian Marchesoni and me ) and most addressed similar content, such as using QR codes  and other widely known apps like Educreations, Popplet and Show Me.  These numbers are ridiculous if you consider that there were over a thousand speakers at the event!
So, was I frustrated? Definitely not!  The use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in the classroom is a very recent trend in education and not many professionals are familiar with it. As a matter of fact, the number of teachers who seek innovation in their teaching practices through mobile technology grows each year as such gadgets become more popular and accessible. It is a growing movement which seems to have no turning back  and it means wee need to be better prepared to deal with the current technology.
Learning through mobility (while you are in movement) is actually not a very new and innovative concept. For many decades, people  carried books, magazines and paper notebooks with them.  Learners , thus, could always choose where and when to learn if they had access to those “portable devices” . Today, however, such “devices” have evolved to very sophisticated gadgets,  giving “mobile” a whole new meaning and status.
So, how can we take full advantage of such rich and and unique resources and make the teaching and learning experience as effective as possible?  Unfortunately, the answer for that question is not 100% known yet. Because it is a very recent phenomenon, there aren`t many scientific studies or published books linked to this field . We are actually living the blossoming of mobile computing and transformations in the teaching practice are taking shape as we speak.
But, is m-learning just a fad or should we teachers embark upon this venture?  Well, how many times have you already had to tell your students to turn their cellphones off while teaching something very important on the board? I am sure you will not be able to answer this question! We cannot ignore the presence of such devices in the classroom anymore!  Dede(2005) states that we are witnessing the rise of generation Y and that the new technologies offered clearly match a new profile.  This new generation of learners belong to a group labeled as “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001), that is, people who were born after 1982 and grew up in the Internet era, surrounded by many of the tech gadgets we know and use today. For them,  the traditional education centered in the teacher and developed in  a linear way does not make sense. They are used to acting instead of watching or taking things passively. Instead of simply absorbing knowledge, this generation is used to producing it individually and in groups and sharing it in social networks.  No wonder why Orkut, Facebook and Twitter have become so popular. Moreover, materials produced by this generation do not rely on text and written materials only, but rather on images, sounds and animations, in other words, the use of multiple medias.  In sum, The Y generation is empowered by the massive use of technology and that is why the use of mobile devices should be considered a serious issue and an important element in the teaching and learning process of today`s generation.

            M-learning has become such an important educational issue that UNESCO (United Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organization) launched a document called “ Policy Guidelines for Mobile Learning” in February which listed down 13 unique benefits of mobile learning. According to UNESCO, mobile learning:
·      expands the reach and equity of education
·      facilitates personalized learning
·      provides immediate feedback and assessment
·      enables anytime, anywhere learning
·      ensures the productive use of time spent in classrooms
·      builds new communities of learners
·      supports situated learning
·      enhances seamless learning
·      bridges formal and informal learning
·      minimizes educational disruption in conflict and disaster areas
·      assists learners ith disabilities
·      improves communication and administration
·      maximizes cost-efficiency
This document not only adresses the use of mobile devices in the classroom but also the unique opportunities it can bring to distance and ubiquitous learning experiences. By the way, as a matter of fact, after attending several seminars, workshops,and webinars and reading a few books, I learned that m-learning is not limited to what we might know as “using  smartphones and tablets in the classroom” but it also comprises the use of devices to enable distance learning (online education).

So, should we then start using mobile devices on a daily basis? Not really. The use of technology itself does not imply innovation in education.  Indeed, the indiscriminate use of technology in the classroom might lead to ineffective  learning outcomes.  We need to leave the initial “enchantment” behind and focus on the true potential of technology. M-learning practices might have a focus on  its technological nature rather than the pedagocial one and that is exactly what should not happen.  Mobile devices were not specifically designed for educational purposes, so their use should be carefully planned. It is still very common to see teachers using mobile devices in practices that simply reproduce what is in the book. Honestly speaking, there is no point in taking advantage of technology if it will not improve the quality of learning.  So when is the use of mobile devices appropriate? Brazilian EFL teacher and EdTech guru, Carla Arena, likes to bring up a question which, in my opinion, is perfect to solve this dilemma :” Can you do the same thing and have the same outcome if you don`t resort to technology?  If the answer is yes, then you should think twice and consider not using it.”

According to WIN (Worldwide Independent Network of Market Research), the use of mobile devices is growing at a staggering rate all over the world.  On average,  people spend  74 minutes a day using smartphones and  71 minutes using tablets.  It is thus,  paramount that we educators, researchers and teachers observe how users handle these protable devices, how they access information, how they communicate, interact, produce and share knowledge and information. These are elements that can signal how technology can contribute to major changes in the way we think, solve problems, live and teach. In the March 2013 issue of Você S/A, a Brazilian magazine, there is a very interesting article on how technology is quickly affecting human behavior. In the article,  Kelly McGonigal, a professor at Stanford Univerity, claims that recent studies have shown that the human brain has adapted to the digital era in the sense that we starve for information just as we feel the need to eat food in order to survive. That certainly explains why people feel the need to be “connected” 24/7. Don`t you think this is another issue that we teachers also need to look at closely if we want to deal with technology in our teaching practices?
So, when going to the next seminar or conference, how about picking some sessions which address the use of  smartphones and tablets in the classroom?  Attending the sessions on m-learning at TESOL 2013 definitely contributed to my better understanding of this complex universe in which m-learning is inserted and has definitely been helping me make better decisions regarding the general use of technology in my teaching practices. By the way, have you heard of the new terms “digital visitor” and “digital resident”? I have recently learned that there is a new current which prefers to use such terms instead of “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”? When it comes to technology-related issues, concepts, trends and practices might change as quickly as technology itself. I guess we all need to get used to this new dynamics if we want to be a teacher in the 21st century!


DEDE, C. Planning for Neomillennial Learning Styles. Available at: http://net.educase/ir/library/pdf/eqm0511.pdf. Accessed: April 18,2013.

Jornal Destak. Uso de smartphones no Brasil duplica. Available at: April 23, 2013.

MARINO, C.; NEVES; N.; ROSSI, L. Viramos Escravos da Tecnologia? Ela pode melhorar sua produtividade ou disparar sua ansiedade. Como usar as ferramentas da tecnologia a seu favor no trabalho. Revista Você S/A, São Paulo, issue 178. March, 2013. (pages 27-37)
PRENSKY, M. Digital natives,digital immigrants, 2001. Available at:,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf. Acessed: April 20, 2013.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Activity 25- Tips for Tourists

Have you ever heard of Tellagami? This free app allows anyone to quickly create a short story that can be easily shared with friends and family. Basicaly, you need to choose the background image and a customizable 3D character . Then, add your own voice to your Tellagami story and it`s done. Simple like that! By, the way, students will beg you to work on a Tellagami project again! 
You can use Tellagami for several different purposes, but here a an idea for teachers who would like to practice the use of SHOULD for giving advice! 

Level: beginning
Language skills: writing and speaking
Grammar Topic: Using SHOULD to give advice
Device needed: a tablet 
Number of devices needed:  one per group
Internet connection: off (on if students need to search for an image)
App: Tellagami
Price: free
Operating System: iOS


Divide students into small groups and explain that they should make a "gami" (that is how a short story is called in Tellagami) giving advice to tourists visiting their hometown or any other city in their country (if students come from different countries, this is a great opportunity to learn about different cultures). Show them a sample and go over the main features in the app. Remind them that they can choose the city and what background image they are going to use. Ask them to write down their text before they record it (there is the option of typing in the text and using one of the native-like voices that come in the app- in this case, students would`t record their own voice). As a follow-up, students can watch each other`s stories, discuss the pieces of advice given and even vote for the nicest "gami".

There are different ways the stories can be shared: they can be posted on Facebook, embedded on a blog or sent to an e-mail account. It is a great opportunity to show family and friends some of the projects being developed in class!

 Here are some of the "gamis" produced by my students:

Source: Vinicius Lemos
Picture credits:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Activity 24- Vocabulary Ping Pong

Here is another idea for a very dynamic activity that requires absolutely no preparation. Guess where the material for this activity will come from: students` own mobile devices! 

Level: any
Language skill: speaking
Focus: vocabulary
Device needed: any device with a camera

Number of devices needed:  one per pair of students
Internet connection: off


Use ping pong to draw a metaphor to this activity: students are competing against each other and they have to think fast while they alternate their turn in the game. In pairs, they should choose a picture from their own mobile device's photo library. Explain that the challenge is to point out as many vocabulary words as possible from the picture they are looking at. Remind them that words do not need to be about concrete objects and that they can use words that describe feelings or abstract things (examples from the picture I took a while ago: Student A: statue, student B: church, student A: tired, student B:  family, student A:  money, student B: music, student A: shopping, etc). Each student should say a word at a time. If a student is unable to say any more words, then the opponent is the winner in this competition. Pairs can pick up another photo and compete against each other again. 


-Model the activity before so that students understand how it works.
-You don`t need to set the time for each opponent to come up with a new word but remind them that common sense is a must. If  the student takes more than 15-20 seconds to think of a word, he/she should  admit the defeat.
-Since they are working on the activity in pairs and independently, set a 5-minute time limit and let them challenge each other as many times as time allows.
-It would be interesting to establish a rule: no naming body parts allowed in the competition. Otherwise, students might focus only on the body parts vocabulary. The idea is that they explore the picture as a whole. 
-This activity works better in tablets because the picture is larger and more details can be spotted.
-If the classroom has a projector and a VGA cable, you can project the photo on the board and turn this activity into a two-group competition. In this case, group members could raise their hand when it`s their turn to say a word.

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Activity 23- What is Bernardo Doing?

Here is an idea for a class project young learners will definitely love! It requires the parents` participation and might take up to a month, so plan it carefully before you carry it out. 

Level: beginning
Language skills: speaking, writing
Grammar Topic: Present Continuous

Device needed: any device with a camera
Number of devices needed:  one per student 
Internet connection: off

Bring a stuffed animal to class and explain he/she will be part of a very special class project.
Bernardo is the stuffed bat I own which was used in this activity. Reinforce the idea that their commitment and engagement will be essential to the successful completion of the task and that you believe they will be able to carry it out responsibly. Then, explain that each day a student will be chosen to take the stuffed animal home and take some pictures of him/her doing different things (ex: sleeping, watching tv, doing karate, having dinner, playing video games, etc...). Remind them that there is no limit to their creativity and that they are going to choose how they want their pictures to look like. Then, explain that their parents should send the pictures to the teacher`s e-mail address and that they will be used in a class activity after everyone has completed the task. Then, after you have collected all the pictures, show them to students and elicit sentences in the Present Continuous ("What is Bernardo doing?"). This can be done orally or you can ask them to write the sentences in their notebooks. 

-Contact parents beforehand and explain the purpose of the activity and how they should help.
-Show students a few examples of how their pictures should look like. It`s always a good idea to model it before!
-Ask them to keep their photo shoots a secret. In class, comment you are getting very creative and sometimes funny pictures. This will boost their excitement and interest in the project!
- You don`t need to use all pictures you get, but make sure you use at least one from each student.
- If you have a very large group, you might consider using more than one stuffed animal  to make it more dynamic.

- Have them write sentences instead of just saying them out loud.
-Have students ask each other Yes/No Questions (ex: Is Bernardo skateboarding?)
-Save the pictures to practice other verb tenses they already know or might learn in a future lesson (ex: using the Simple Present to describe Bernardo`s daily routine or using the Simple Past to describe what Bernardo did yesterday).

I tried this activity with a group of mine and here is what I concluded:
-They absolutely loved the idea of taking the teacher`s stuffed animal home. They were always excited to know who the next one to work on the task would be and they reported they loved spending one or two days taking care of Bernardo as if he were their little brother. 
-Students improved rapport among themselves and got to know a bit more about their classmates since many pictures, in a way, revealed their personal tastes and habits (Ex: some students took a picture of Bernardo playing their favorite sport or eating their favorite food).
-Parents responded very positively and enjoyed helping and being engaged in their kid`s school project.
-They developed a sense of ownership and active participation because they were entirely responsible for all the material produced and used. 
-Students had a chance to practice and learn new and more meaningful vocabulary.
_Students reported it as being a very "cool" and different "homework" and that they would love to work on another similar project.

So, how about trying this project with your own group of young learners? Everyone, including you, will have a blast!

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Friday, March 29, 2013

Teaching Tip 3- Instagram Missions

Instagram is one of the most active social networks these days. People from all over the world, including celebrities and popular companies, share pictures that get loads of "likes" and  comments every day. So, why not take advantage of its potential to engage students in meaningful communicative activities using a tool in which many of them are already familiar with?
"Instagram Missions" are tasks or challenges in which participants have to post a photo and write a sentence related to a certain topic or theme previously determined by the teacher. When you give your students a mission, you should also provide them with a hashtag (#). When a hashtag is used in the posts, all pictures are grouped together and can be easily found and viewed by anyone who has an account on Instagram. However, it is important to think of a unique hashtag for the post, otherwise lots of other pictures from people who are  not part of the project will appear on screen.
Using Instagram in class is a decision that requires a good deal of pondering because of many issues  that come to the surface when linking social networks to the learning process.  The golden rule is: Is this suitable to my group and is this kind of activity allowed in the school and community where I teach? If the answer is "yes", then there are other things that should be addressed so as to turn it into a successful and effective experience:
1. Do not make it an obligation
At first, some students may feel uncomfortable to participate in the missions because many of them might not even enjoy being in social networks. Let them understand the dynamics of the project and after a while they might choose to participate in them.
2. Let them work in pairs/groups
Some might not have a device and some might not want to be in a social network. Let them work with a partner and explain that they can help their partners with the creative aspects of the posts.
3. Relate missions to lessons in the book
Even though they are using a social network in class it should be clear that the purpose is to complement their learning process with more interesting activities. Never use it only for entertainment.
4. Always model it before
Show students what is expected from their posts. When you model, they know exactly what kind of sentence and image is appropriate for the mission.
5. Remind them that they are in control of the images being used
Sometimes students don`t like to show their faces or reveal much of their private life online. Remind them that they can choose what image will be used, they never need to post pictures of themselves.
6. Do not focus on accuracy only
The purpose of the Instagram Missions is to let students use the target language is a more meaningful way and increase rapport among everyone. It is O.K if students make grammar mistakes in their posts. Never make corrections on Instagram, students might feel intimidated if they are drawn the attention to every little mistake they make. In another opportunity, talk to the students personally and let understand the mistake they made. 
7. Inform parents 
Many parents don`t like to have their children exposed online, so it is always a good idea to inform them on the project and get their authorization. If they understand the nature and dynamics of the missions, it is very likely that they will let their kids engage in the project. Inform them that the account can be private, avoiding other people from viewing the pictures and that they can always have a username that is not connected to their real names.

Here are two examples of ideas I have already tried with my own groups when they were learning the use of Present Continuous for future plans and the relationship between Simple Past and Past Continuous. I asked them to post a picture and  write a sentence using the grammar structured being studied and, in the other situation, I asked them to write the beginning of the sentence and instructed others to finish it.

Once students get fully engaged in the project, the missions can be assigned as homework. This way, students will start practicing the target language and interacting with their classmates outside the classroom. 
Give it a try and discover different ways your students can take advantage of Instagram to practice English in a meaningful and fun way! 

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Activity 22- His and Her Favorites

This activity is aimed at teen basic level students who are learning the use of possessive adjectives. It has been designed  for 1- iPad- only classes!

Level: beginning
Language skills: writing, reading and speaking
Grammar Topic: possessive adjectives

Device needed: a tablet
Number of devices needed:  only one 
Internet connection: off
App: Popplet Lite
Price: free/ $4,99 (Full Version)
Operating System: iOS


Show students the pictures and popples with pre-established topics. Each picture can only have 4 popples, so use different topics for different photos. Suggestions of topics: actor, color, actress, tv show, movie, writer, book, sport, day of the week, month, animal, song, etc.

 Invite volunteers to add information to the popples. When all popples have been filled, show them the finished product and elicit complete sentences using the appropriate possessive adjective. 

HIS favorite tv show is X-Factor.
HIS favorite color is yellow.
HIS favorite actress is Emma Watson.
HIS favorite writer is J.K Rowling. 

1- Project the poppet on the board if the classroom is equipped with a projector and necessary cables.
2- If there is internet connection, let them decide and find which pictures to be used.
3- If there are more iPads in class, students can work on this activity in pairs or small groups.
4- Students can use their own pictures making the activity even more meaningful.

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Activity 21 - This is Me

As teachers we know how good it is to share and exchange ideas with workmates. The post today was inspired by one of those moments! The idea belongs to my colleague Maria Cristina and I added a little flavor to it based on an idea suggested by blog visitor Denise Özdeniz. Thank you ladies!

Level: intermediate/advanced
Language skill: speaking
Device needed: any device with images stored in the photo library
Number of devices needed: one per student
App: Pic Collage (iOS and Android)
Price: free


Explain that the purpose of this warmer is to get students to know a bit more about each other by having very informal conversations about meaningful things to them. Ask them to select some of their pictures in their mobile devices. Reinforce that they should pick pictures that they feel comfortable showing to everyone and that, in a way, reveal a bit more about who they are, what they like to do, their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, etc. Sit them in small groups and let them show their pictures and talk freely about them. As a follow-up, invite some volunteers to show some pictures and talk about them or invite classmates to report interesting things they have learned about each other.

Tip: You can ask students to select their images and use the app Pic Collage to put all the images together in only one. 

Sources: Maria Cristina and Denise Özdeniz

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Activity 20- Things in Common

Here is another speaking activity that requires zero preparation and a lot of critical thinking!

Level: intermediate/advanced
Language skill: speaking
Device needed: any device with images stored in the photo library
Number of devices needed: one per student


Pair up students and explain that for this activity they are going to be using the images from their photo library. They should randomly pick out any image from their device`s photo library (an object, a place, food, people, a situation, etc) and share them with their partner. Then, they should discuss what their chosen images have in common. Set up a time limit (2 minutes, for example) and check out what pairs were able to come up with. Have students do it a few times with different partners so that they can use different images and explore different ideas.

Tip: If you wish, you can turn it into a competition to see who can come up with more similarities faster. 

Source: Vinicius Lemos
Picture credits: Flickr (Loony Libberswick)