English Spelling x Pronunciation

April 25, 2008

Those of us who are not native speakers of English know well enough how English pronunciation can be unspeakably tricky. George Bernard Shaw’s spelling for ‘fish’ (ghoti = enough + women + nation: /ˈfɪʃ/) has become the quintessential example of such irregularity. Nevertheless, we non-native ESL teachers have bravely conquered the bugaboo and mastered even the finer nuances of the system… or have we? Well, first read the poem below and then watch the video to gauge your performance.

PS.: I’ve known this poem for years but still stumble here and there every time I try to read it quickly.

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough and through.
Well done! And now you wish perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead, it’s said like bed, not bead
for goodness’ sake don’t call it ‘deed‘!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth, or brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s doze and rose and lose
Just look them up- and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart
Come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’d learned to speak it when I was five!
And yet to write it, the more I sigh,
I’ll not learn how ’til the day I die.


Use online surveys for students!

April 23, 2008

Hi everyone,

Thanks to those who took the time to read my ridiculous article about changing the English language. I just had a brainwave this morning which I think will really help any of us who are trying to do more of our English teaching online. If you like those nice interactive online activities that some English websites have (for example the English File grammar pages) now you can make your own!

Basically, a friend of mine from the UK sent me an online survey to do research into his business. The site he used is called surveymonkey.com and allows you for FREE to create your own online surveys. I then signed up to the website myself and made a trial survey about how people use blogs. (Please take my survey if you have 5 minutes. Click here to take it. It will give you an idea of what the site can do).

Basically, I really think this could be a revolutionary way to do some ELT activities. Some ideas (and thanks to Dyego for some thoughts to) are here: You could create questionnaires that specifically help students revise for their tests, you could give the questions as homework, you could give students a link to a video from YouTube and then ask them to do questions on it with the survey, you could give written homework on it, you could use them as a warmer in class (if you had the datashow with internet working). The negatives are – its another online application that you have to learn to use, it might be time consuming to make them at first (it took me half an hour to make the one above). But the positives are many!

As Dyego just said “this is the new rock’n’roll”.

A new, easier, better version of English is here!

April 22, 2008

I had some fun over the last few weeks writing this up. Enjoy! You could use it in Advanced level groups too…

Are you fed up with the complicated and irregular English language? Are you fed up of phrasal verbs like “fed up”? Don’t you wish Cambridge would stop taking grammar so seriously and relax a little? If, like me, you’ve taught classes of English and thought “this would be so much easier if…” then please read on. I have come up with 10 simple proposals for streamlining and upgrading the English language to make it easier for all of us. Please click this link and read the post on my other blog.



April 20, 2008

Dear colleagues,

I think it’s time for us to start preparing for these events. Those of you who are thinking of going to BrazTesol and Acine have lots of plans to do and decisions to make unless you have an extra amount of money (if it’s the case, please tell me how you do that!). Bus tickets, hotel fees, convetion fees, meals etc. I believe that if we plan together we can find the best options to everybody. For example, the bus tickets are not so cheap, if we could go by car (like four people/car) could be cheaper. Here follows the table with the options of time and prices from Viação Nordeste.


I hope we can find a way of everybody going to Fortaleza in July.

Enjoy your holiday!!!!

God bless you all, Ercília


April 17, 2008

Hey guys, I’ve used some pronunciation activities recently and I would like to share them with you. The activities do not involve practice alone, but they also arouse sts’ interest in the importance of having good pronunciation skills when you’re communicating.

1) Tell me what you saw: divide the class in two groups (A and B). A stays in class to watch video-A, while B goes outside. When the video is finished, B enters the class and listens to A’s story. Now do the opposite (B stays inside to watch video-B while A stays outside). Now with both A and B in class, play the videos and ask: Why is pronunciation important in English? Finally, play video-C to see if they understand what happaned and what caused the misunderstanding.

Obs.: While students are waiting outside, you can ask them to think of a word in English that is very difficult to pronounce.

Video – A Pink Panther: I would like to buy a hamburguer

Video – B Soup or Salad?

Video – C German Coast Guard

2) Let’s sing! Tell your students there’s a very effective and pleasant way to practice pronunciation: singing! One of the most difficult kinds of music to sing is RAP, and that’s because rappers sing really fast and use a lot of slang vocabulary. Tell your students you’re going to try to sing the chorus of an Eminem song. Write the lyrics on the board. Now slowly read the lyrics with your students giving some rhythm by snaping your fingers. Raise the speed until you reach the original rhythm. You can also divide the class in groups to make some kind of competition. Students just love this!


The real Slim Shady – Eminem

“I’m Slim Shady
Yes I’m the real Shady
All you other Slim Shady’s
Are Just Imitating
So won’t the real Slim Shady
Please Stand Up
Please Stand Up
Please Stand Up”

I have the chorus in mp3, but I didn’t manage to upload it here. So I’ll leave it in the teacher’s room laptop (on the desktop) in case you want to use it.


April 11, 2008

Hello, everyone.

Here are some photos taken on Project Day at Cultura Mirassol.

Hope you like them!


Fernando Guarany Jr

Ercilia leading an edifying conversation

Just another day in the teachers\' room

Hard-working, Hard-playing

Technology: a lesson for higher intermediate groups

April 10, 2008

Hi again,

I´ve just decided to adapt an FCE Gold lesson with something juicier than what was on the coursebook. I thought I could find something that was more related to what the teenagers understand to be “cool new technology”. FCE Gold thinks that PDAs and IPODS are the thing, but that was true 2 years ago (ancient times for today´s generation).

I´ve decided to play safe: get these techno-savvy learners to quiz each other to find who´s the nerdiest one of them all. You will probably find the attached activities self-explanatory, but here´s a brief explanation on how I used this material:

– Warm-up: Questionnaires (A+B). Students read their statements and transform them into questions to quiz their partner (adapted from a spam message I received)

– The ´nerdity´test: students rank how difficult each ´trio´ of computer jargon is (sheet is cut in strips). They compare with their partners and try to get a class consensus. Ask them: how would your older brother/mother/grandmother rate in this test? Class elects the winner of the ´nerd cup´.

– Writing: begin by provoking them to ask for the ´message´ of the cartoon.

I adapted this from a useful IELTS coursebook unit on how to write in an argumentative way. It asks you to state which chunk of text you would prefer as an introduction and a conclusion. Why is one better than the other? (great idea for raising awareness of writing techniques).

This is ideally done on a transparency. Students are also asked to write part of a ´middle paragraph´ on an OHT and show each other their piece of writing. It produces a great chance for a ´process writing´approach and what is traditionally a solo activity becomes a group one.

Finally, set them homework on another topic related to the area of technology.

I hope this works in your lessons if you decide to use it. It produced some lively discussions in the classes where I used it!

The worksheets with all the above ideas can be downloaded from: