I’ve been teaching English and Portuguese to speakers of a foreigner language for almost ten years now. During this period I’ve gathered good and bad stories to tell… It was in 2008 that I moved to Buenos Aires and was offered my first Portuguese class. Since I wasn’t familiar with teaching, my coordinator invited me to a friendly chat to discuss methodologies and show me some materials. After seeing her amazing handouts, I asked her if I could use them; and to my surprise she said: “No. They’re mine. It’s not my job to provide you with materials. Get your own.” I’ve always thought that a language coordinator could be anything but selfish. It’s not a matter of being or not able to prepare the lesson, sometimes the only thing you need is direction. From that day on, I’ve prepared everything that I use in my classes myself.
That experience has accompanied me throughout the years and it’s emphasized by the way I’ve been working since that particular meeting: I don’t have a website, I don’t work for a language institute and I find most of my students via word-a-mouth – which is great, really! – But also makes me a loner. Or I thought, until yesterday.
I went to my first Braz-Tesol last Saturday. I was amazed to see that we’re such a huge community. As a loner, myself, I’ve been quite resistant to attend this sort of event, but I’m glad I finally did. I met motivated and generous people who were there to share: share their experiences, their doubts, their fears and their lessons. Because that’s what teachers do: SHARE, we are givers.
The second talk I attended was “Learning English: a Reflection through practical activities that contribute to memory retention” given by Andreia Fernandes. At first I thought if it wouldn’t be rather unfair only to mention this talk. However, since the reason I’m writing is to cherish those who share valid activities for students, I believe I’m doing the right thing here! Besides, there was something about the way she talked that made me feel welcome. I wonder what kind of atmosphere she creates in her classroom, a homely one (for sure!).
She started off by showing some pictures, that eventually would take us to the earliest of our childhood memories, and explaining how the brain works. Then, she moved onto the memory and how people retain information. Andreia also mentioned that our five senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste) play a major role in memory retention; therefore, if we want to make our lessons memorable, they should be present in our classes.
From the activities she presented, without a doubt, my favourite was the “Dice” – which I’m going to test as of Monday with my eight-year-olds. This is how it works:
- Write a word in a slip of paper
- Students take turns to roll the dice, and
- Students finally follow the instructions based on the number on the dice.
It’s perfect to review/recycle vocabulary taught in previous classes and it involves using at least 3 senses: visual – because students read the paper and the instructions. Touch – students touch the slip of paper and roll the dice. Hearing – students need to pay attention to their classmates. What’s more it’s fun!
Andreia’s main point was to provide activities for a memorable class and it was certainly for me. Her kindness and selflessness convinced me that I don’t need to be a loner anymore because there is a community ready and willing to help one another.