BE DARING!! – Vicky Lora’s advice on CPD

Today, right at the equator of my webinar watching marathon challenge, I cyber-bummped into Vicky Loras’ webinar about Professional Development on the Sundays with BELTA archive and I couldn’t help write about it and share my excitement 🙂


This photo of my lovely Moma, staring eagerly at the open sea, mirrors how I have often felt about my teaching career so far: 

I’m stuck here and there’s so much more out there. 


This didn’t come as a surprise to me at all. That’s why I am writing this post, to share all I have been up to in the last 4 months ever since I decided to BE DARING 🙂


Just like her, I threw myself in and the rewards have kept coming since then. 

6 years vs 4 months 

Although I have been teaching for a while, I’m starting to realise I have probably been in the wrong contexts and haven’t had much luck when it comes to professional development opportunities. The worst part is, this affected me to the point where I was actually starting to consider teaching might just not be for me. The classes went fine, but I did feel stuck and lonely 😦 I don’t pretend to blame anyone here, I know I am responsible for my own development, but being fair, the ambient and colleagues in each workplace can make such a difference.

These 4 months have taught me how and why Continuous Professional Development and creating a PLN are two of the greatest mainstays in teaching.

I’ll go over Vicky’s advice on HOW to professionally develop, step by step as they appear in the presentation:


My motivational boost came about this past February, when I took part in Steve Muir’s course on Multimedia for ELT. Every evening after the course, I couldn’t help feeling a bit down because I wouldn’t be able to take any of those incredible ideas and tools into my own teaching just because this year I happen to be with 3-6 year olds.

Nevertheless, it was a clear reminder of the excitement and possibilities that this wonderful job entails. Here is my thank you post to Steve 🙂

Just a week later after the course finished, I attended my first conference, TESOL Spain’s 37th Annual Conference. There’s just one word for it …. WOW!

I absolutely understand why Vicky uses all kinds of positive adjectives to describe the experience of attending a conference.

A weekend filled with the adrenaline rush I had been missing for so long. It was a pity I didn’t manage to convince any of the teachers I know to join me because I would have loved to discuss live the countless ideas and concepts I came across. Once again, that didn’t stop me this time. 🙂

Blendend learning is one of the topics that most grabbed my attention and of course EDMODO!

But, like I said earlier, I wasn’t going to be able to use it with my actual students due to their age. I had to come up with a way that would allow me to try it out, play around and discover. Guess who I got involved??? MY OWN FAMILY 🙂

Yes, my mom, aunts, uncles and cousins, all around a beginner level. I registered and created a group called “English for us”. It’s been absolutely amazing and fun to do this. I sent them links with videos and online exercises, they worked on grammar, reading, listening and spelling . They had assignments to complete and I even had them send me voice messages through whatsapp to be graded on their pronunciation. We got together about every two weeks for a face to face “class” filled with communicative activities and games.

EDMODO is just one of the many interesting insights. I got so much out of just one conference. I can wait for the next opportunity. 🙂


This is where the idea of ISOLATION that Vicky talks about comes in for me. I have worked in 4 different schools and I can say that most of the teachers I have worked with were quite burnt out or too comfortably settled. Out of an estimated total of 5o teachers whom I had to coordinate with, there have been only 3 who were a bit more willing to get out of their comfort zone, discuss ideas, try new things or reflect out loud. It’s quite sad actually.

I understand how energy draining our profession can be, but I was quite sure there had to be a way to keep up our own motivation. I grabbed on to these teachers very strongly and once in a while we had great chats related to teaching matters and came up with some nice projects to work on in our classes.

On the other hand, while taking the CELTA, I was quite lucky to have a lot of this with the other trainees. This is why I know the value of it and have missed it since then.


” Look at you, all excited! I envy you.” said one of my colleagues a couple of months ago after I raved about social media, blogs and professional development during a break duty.

I immediately answered ” You could do it as well. I could help you”.

It was quite flattering to think that I would be passing on what I had very recently learnt and helping someone else feel enthusiastic about their work.

I wouldn’t call myself a mentor (sounds to big of a word to me) but I’ve tried my best and so far she has started a blog and began to use Twitter for professional purposes.

As for myself, next September I’m heading off to Barcelona to take the Developing Teacher Course at Oxford Tefl. Who knows… I might find my very own mentor there 🙂


Yes… it is kind of intimidating but once again, I have to agree with Vicky on this one, it should be seen as a learning opportunity. This is something else I had a small taste of during CELTA and I can’t even describe how much I felt I improved by getting direct feedback from the tutors and peers.

Before CELTA, the only chance to observe and be observed  had been the 3 months training period established at the end of the B.Ed. A very dull experience, as I was assigned a tutor who wouldn’t even bother saying good morning to me. I learnt a lot about what I would avoid doing as a teacher myself, which in fact is quite useful.  I can say I got one great piece of advice that really made a difference in my teaching: move more around the room, use all the space available. My teachers had always stood at the front of the classroom almost 100% and that unconsciously sneaked into my own teaching.


I subscribed to the ETProfessional magazine recently as well. It issues every two months, with great practical ideas and interesting articles. It has got me checking my post box with a smile.

Vicky shares a great link for a list of ELT journals, newsletters and magazines by Victor Hugo Rojas :


Once again ….yes! yes! yes! to all Vicky has to say about the marvellous outreach possibilities of Twitter. I never even imagined someone would follow me. I started using it to follow some of the speakers I had seen at the TESOL conference and it’s a daily stop for me now.

There is so much to learn, I have to say thank God for bookmarking 🙂 .

It is certainly the best option to connect with other motivated professionals. I have recommended it to every single teacher I know.


Another incredible discovery. 🙂

In these recent months I have joined a few #eltchat and #eltchinwag. Sorry to repeat myself but… WOW!

At first I thought it couldn’t be real. Teachers from all over the world meeting to chat about a topic they had previously set to vote !!!

But it is real, and here is where I have also had the chance to connect with great teachers, who are so passionate about what they do and who are willing to share and learn.

My heart skipped a beat every time one of my tweets was favourited or retweeted. I felt I had a voice and an opinion worth sharing. 🙂

I kept asking myself Where had this magical world been all this time? 



Like most people, I had a personal facebook profile and I did follow the Teaching English British Council page but that was about it.

Two months ago I created a different profile and have used it exclusively to stay updated and connect with the ELT community.

Through Facebook I have joined various groups like:


Webinars for English Teachers

30 Goals Challenge

ELT Chat

Technology for EFL/ESL teachers

Innovative Teachers of English

Blog Posts of Teachers of English

This is definitely another priceless medium that is available to everyone.


After actively reading other teacher’s blogs for a couple of months, I couldn’t wait anymore 🙂 I really loved the idea of having my own blog and so on the 1st of April elt-fun@ics was born.

It isn’t my first blog actually. Two years ago, over a summer, I created a class blog for my 6th graders. I was quite proud of it because I had managed to do so from scratch with the help of tutorials and by studying other teachers’ class blogs. I knew my students and used my knowledge about them as individuals and learners to design a blog full of links and resources that I was quite sure would appeal to them.

When September arrived, I presented it to the Headmaster at the school and she didn’t give her approval because they had just signed a very expensive contract with a publishing company which included access to a kind of moodle that all teachers would have to use from then on. It was quite discouraging. My students never even got to see it. I was kindly asked not to mention it to other teachers either because they “already had a lot on their plates and it might cause confusion with this new project”.


As Vicky Loras said  “There might be someone waiting for you!”  🙂 

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 9.39.50 PM


This is still hard to believe

When I started this webinar watching challenge, I thought I would be learning loads of new things and it certainly has been that way. But today, it felt quite nice to keep saying Yes… Yes… Yes... as I watched Vicky suggesting all these ways to develop professionally and be familiar with the incredible and positive outcomes of it. Specially when you start mixing and matching all of them 🙂


I splashed in and now I’m soaked with motivation and joy! 


Drill me to tears

An idea for finding out more about your students’ history as language learners.

When you get a new group of students, the first class (actually the first few) is really aimed at getting to know them and analysing their needs as language learners.

Of course, a needs analysis is quite a serious matter as you will be basing on it your choices on material, class dynamics, topics, methodology and even the arrangement of the furniture in the classroom. Nevertheless, I like to think that the first day is also by far the best opportunity to set the tone for the learning experience you will be sharing together and allowing your students to take charge and have a saying on how its going to develop. They’ll appreciate your interest in getting to know them as individual learners within a group, their past and their expectations.

Students are usually quite nervous and stressed on the first day and that’s why some good humour is the best ice breaker you would ever find. Trust me, they are not expecting this one 😉


1) Ss watch part of a video. (Stop it at 22 seconds).

Discuss what is going on:  Who is the woman? Who is the man? Where are they? 

2) Watch some more and stop at 1.21.

Discuss: What is the teacher doing? Is it working? 

3) Watch the rest of it. ( give some time for the laughter to invade the room 🙂  )

Discuss: What happened in the end? How did each of them feel?

4) Ss work in pairs and answer the following questions:

Have you ever been in  a similar situation as a learner? How did / would you feel? 

How important is motivation when learning a language?

What do you find most challenging about learning English? 

Discuss the answers as an open class.


After this, I would provide each Ss with a questionnaire to find out some more about them. Have them interview each other in pairs so they can practice their speaking skills 🙂

The type of questionnaire would depend on the age and level of the students but I would suggest to add some questions that can provide you with information on their preferences regarding topics, materials, sources, tasks, etc.

The more you know about their history as language learners the higher the chances of succeeding in helping them to keep on progressing. 🙂



A classic vocabulary game that suits any day 🙂


Photo from Flickr by Daniel Kulinski under CC BY NC-SA 2.O

Today I had to substitute in a 2nd grade primary class, last hour on Friday … you can imagine 😉

As I entered the class, I knew exactly what we were going to do. I asked, “Have you ever played STOP??” 🙂

I remember playing this game when I was younger myself, not in the classroom though but on a rainy day, during long flights or on Christmas Eve with the whole family.

  1. Draw the table on the board so that students can copy it on a sheet of paper.
  2. Decide the categories for each column. ( I use 2 different sets like the ones below depending on my aims).
  3. When everyone is ready, choose a letter and at the count of 1… 2 … 3… write it on the board.
  4. Students have to fill in the table with words that start by that letter. (like the example below)
  5. As soon as someone completes ALL the categories they must shout STOP! and everyone must put their pens down.
  6. Ask students randomly for their answers. They must listen to everyone else’s answers to keep track of their points.
  7. Points for each answer :

1 = if two or more Ss have the same word

2 = if no one else has the same word

3 = if he/she is the only one to have filled that column




I specially enjoy the fantastic answers given for books and films as students tend to translate the names literally when they can’t come up with one that fits for sure 🙂 🙂 🙂




As a teacher, I have used this activity with all my students, regardless the age and the language level. It always works out to be a great revision game and an exciting brain teaser. 🙂



Where’s my popcorn? – A webinar marathon challenge


Image from Flickr by Barbara Müller – Walter under CC BY ND-2.O

Once in a blue moon Chronos decides to cut me some slack and provides me with the gift of time to attend live webinars and online conferences. But, like I said this isn’t how it usually works 🙂

Soooooooo… given that there are tons of past webinars, conference sessions recording and training videos I have been bookmarking for the past month, I have set myself a challenge:


Would you like to join me??? Leave a comment below and let’s start sharing 🙂

What I will do before I start:
  1. Decide the extension of the challenge = A total of 6 consecutive weeks.
  2. Decide the duration for the sessions = 3 hours straight
  3. Choose a day to make the best out of it = Saturday mornings sounds perfect to get into my very own CPD bubble.
  4. Bookmark a couple of days in advance the webinars/videos chosen for the following session.
What I will do during the sessions:
  1. Take notes on:
  •  ideas and tools I’d like to try out in my classes 
  •  topics/areas for further study
What I will do after the sessions:
  1. Tweet the links to the webinars/videos I have seen using the hashtag #wbnrchallenge
  2. Send a tweet to the teacher/presenter to let him/her know you have recently viewed the webinar.
  3. Tweet an idea you’d like to share and stand out from each webinar.


How did this all come up??? 

This year I attended my first conference. Spain’s TESOL 37th Annual Conference in Madrid took place at the Faculty of Education, in the very same building where I studied for my B.Ed in Primary Education-EFL. DESTINY OR WHAT??? 🙂 🙂

During the weekend I had tons of flashbacks, going up and down the corridors and entering some the classrooms I spent several years in. It couldn’t have been more magical. It was great. 🙂

I had that adrenaline rush that keeps you up at night even long after going back home every evening. I knew it came from the excitement of being a learner again with a handful of notes on class ideas and must read lists.

From then on, I’ve had the feeling of having missed out on so much.

There is so much to learn and it’s FREE 🙂 

Here is the list of the sources I will be using.

These are probably quite obvious to those who have been in ELT for a while 🙂 

British Council Seminars Series on Eventbrite : register to attend live online.

Seminars English Agenda British Council : watch previous seminars

Cambridge English Teacher : sign up and view some. For most of them you must be a member.

Jo Gakongas She has got the sweetest voice 🙂 View past webinars and sign up to receive email alerts for monthly new videos.

Shelly Sanchez Terrell’s – American TESOL Webinars: Hundreds of 30 mins webinars on almost anything and everything related to teaching. (I’m kind of addicted to these I must confess:) )

Oxford University Press Webinars and MacmillanEnglish ELT Webinars: Register for upcoming live webinars or view the archive for previous ones. : as a non-member you can watch older recordings.

Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos: free online tutorials for learning to use technology and ICT in education.

IH Teachers Online Conference 2014: 25 video presentations, 10 mins each.

IATEFL.ORG webinars live : only if you can make it to the live session. Past webinars for members only online courses, watch the sessions live or past presentations with corresponding chats and power points.


To stay updated about upcoming webinars, seminars, conferences, etc:

  • 4C in ELT Event Calendar
  • Facebook group : Webinars for English Teachers (this one I found out very recently thanks to Lizzie Pinard:) )



Are you up for it ????  Ready…. Steady…. WAIT!!!!!  


Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 2.07.20 PM

Photo from Flickr by J Mark Dodds under CC BY NC-ND 2.0

Use your senses…write a poem!



This is an idea for a writing task many students tend to fear….WRITING A POEM 🙂

I can’t even speak English properly… I could never write a poem

I’ve heard this at least a few times. In my experience, writing is one of the language skills students feel quite insecure about and find it even tedious. Specially when students are studying for official exams, they relate writing to drafts and drafts on reports, letters of complaint, reviews, etc.

So as a follow up to my last post “How great do you need to be?” advocating the creativity in all of us, this time I want to share a poem I wrote for a literature class back in college which turned into a lesson plan idea on writing a poem using the senses.

I used it in class with 6th graders who were around an A2 level, which means it can fit almost any level. The more advanced the learners, the more sophisticated the outcome in terms of vocabulary but the joy and feeling of accomplishment for having written a poem knows no age or language level. 🙂

Tell them at the beginning of the lesson they will be writing a poem, you’ll love the surprised look on their faces 😉

On a personal level, I just feel it so cool to have all these great tools on the web. I’ve enjoyed using Pinwords, Wordle and Flickr for the images included in the plan.



1. Show the photo of a clock.

Ask Ss to discuss what comes to mind.

I’ve chosen this one from Flickr by Brett Tatman because it fits like a glove the idea of time slowly passing by as the numbers have been inversely positioned.Image

Image from Flickr used under CC Attribution Non Comercial- Share Alike License  CC BY NC-SA 2.0


2. Show the Wordle. 

Now Ss have to think of a place where all these words could come together without forgetting the element of the time.


3. Fill in the gaps 

Give a copy of the poem without the title and gaps for the words to be filled in using the Wordle. Work in small groups. Let them know that the bigger the word on the image the higher the frequency of appearance on the poem.

4. Check and discuss

Go over the answers and ask Ss what they think the title could be. Provide the title and then discuss the poem’s form and theme. Draw their attention to the variety of senses used to describe a very common place.

5. Following the model, Ss write their own poem. 

Work in different groups now to create their very own poem. Provide them with an A3 cardboard for the final draft. Display them around the classroom and give students time to walk around the class to read the other groups’ poems.

6. Final discussion

Plenary session on their final productions and some feedback on the task itself.

(See a difference in their face expression now? 😉 )



How great do you need to be?


At the moment I am gleefully reading Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element, a profoundly inspiring read I strongly recommend.

His views on intelligence, imagination and creativity have led me to create a new page on my blog:

8+1 Photo-Talking

(click on link or menu to have a look at my first few 🙂 Please feel free to use them in class )

Here I combine my long-ago interest in the power of images, more recently on photography specifically, with my love for creating teaching materials.

How great do you need to be at something to feel confident enough to share it with others and be motivated to dig deeper into your potential????

I’ve never taken a photography course. I don’t even have a great camera.

Taking this into account, I find that using my own photos as class material is a good way to promote the idea that you do not need to be professionally skilled to make a creative use of something that has a bit of yourself. 🙂

And of course, it’s going to be a great experience to see language emerge from sharing my very own photos.

This is why I have chosen this new section of my blog to fulfill my second goal FEED YOURSELF INSPIRATION, for the 30 Goals Challenge founded by Shelly Terrell.

These photographs are snippets of moments I have lived and beautiful things I have seen which I felt the need to capture. They are inspiring to me because they are a reminder of my creative potential regardless my expertise. I will admit I find them beautiful and feel proud to share them.

As a teacher, I believe this is something we should promote in our students: explore, create, enjoy and value your own potential.


                   image from Flickr by Aaron Lanrdy 
                 used under CC Attribution Non-Comercial license 


I’m quite sure most of you are familiar with this wonderful game. Just in case, I will briefly describe how it is played under its usual rules and later, how I have upgraded it to get the most out of it.

Taboo is a classic board game which I love to use with my students to revise vocabulary. From the very start of each school year, I start creating a new set of taboo cards with the vocabulary that derives from the syllabus and many of those other words that naturally come up during a class.

You can find printable sets online, but I prefer creating them myself to make sure it does cover the vocabulary we have worked on as a class.


This game can be played with the whole class and whoever guesses the word is up next, or even more exciting, create teams so they can compete against each other.

Teams of 2 or 3 students each is ideal, this way different members of the opposing team can watch over to make sure the rules aren’t broken and keep track of the time limit.


  • Explain to your team the word at the top of the card, without mentioning any of the taboo words below, within a certain time.
  • No miming or making gestures/sounds related to the word.


Keeping to the game element  and excitng energy of competing against fellow classmates, one thing about this version is that the pace is slowed down a bit, which gives students the time to reflect more on each of the words that come up.

This is because more information about each word will be demanded from students.

Points are awarded for:

  1. Guessing the word
  2. Marking the stress in the word
  3. Guessing the/some taboo words ( they can be asked to say a maximum of 2 or 3 related words that come to mind)
  4. Use it in a sentence.

They won’t need any help for the first three since all the information will be on the card. I usually mark the stress placing a little green box below the syllable or typing it in bold. (Whatever you normally use to mark the stress when you write words on the board).

As for the sentences, they must write them down and wait for feedback once they have finished playing. Go over them with the whole class. Give the students the opportunity to correct each other. Only once it has been corrected will they be able to assign a point for it. This keeps the possible winners in suspense until the end of the lesson. 🙂

A record sheet is given to each team so they can keep track of all this.

Answer Where is the stress? Taboo words Example sentence

Have fun!