Four of Brazilian Writer Lima Barreto’s Main Works – As Modern and Relevant as Ever


Lima Barreto, the acclaimed journalist and author of the Brazilian Belle Époque, is more popular than ever these days. The author was honored at the FLIP (International Literary Party of Paraty) a couple of years ago and that made him even more well-known.  New editions of his work have been released since then. Along with these, there was also the publication of a very well-researched biography, Lima Barreto – Triste Visionário, by historian Lilia Moritz Schwarcz (Companhia da Letras), available at the main bookstores.

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Lima Barreto was born in 1881 in Rio de Janeiro and dedicated his life to writing and literature. His father was a typographer with connections with the powerful Empire Senator Viscount of Ouro Preto, who became Lima Barreto’s godfather. His mother, a freed slave, was a school teacher. She died when the writer was only six.

The key to understanding his artistic work is the overlap between the stories he created and his biography. Dark skinned (a mulato, as we say in Portuguese) and born in the lower echelons of society himself, he understood very well, and experienced first hand the issues discussed in his novels and short stories.

The main themes of his realistic pre-modernist fiction are the problems of the recently founded Brazilian Republic: class and race prejudices; the cynicism, incompetence, and arrogance of academics, journalists, politicians and the police force in general; the oppression women were subjected to. Not surprisingly, many of the problems Brazil had a hundred years ago are still current, making Lima Barreto’s works powerfully modern and still very relevant.

Lima Barreto had a productive but short life. He died at the young age of 41, plagued by alcoholism and related mental illnesses.

The books listed below have not been translated into English yet (except for The Sad End of Policarmo Quaresma), but, if you speak Portuguese, you can easily order them from Bookwitty.

  1. Recordações do Escrivão Isaias Caminha (Memories of the Clerk Isaías Caminha)

 

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Lima Barreto’s debut novel was received coldly by the critics and the literary community of the time. The resentment of the protagonist-narrator and the sarcastic (although disguised) way in which he describes powerful figures of the contemporary society irritated many people who possibly identified themselves with the characters depicted in the novel and felt ridiculed by it. In the novel, Isaías, a boy from the countryside, does exceptionally well in school and is predicted to have a bright future, due to his intelligence and hard work. As a young man, full of hopes and willing to expand his horizons, he leaves his family and hometown, coming to Rio de Janeiro with a letter of recommendation for a congressman. Isaias thought it would not be difficult to find a good job, given his previous scholarly success and this single connection with a powerful politician. It does not take long, though, for his dreams to be crushed. Rio turns out to be a concrete jungle, where the doors are tightly closed to dark-skinned men. The novel tells the story of the deterioration of the young man’s self-esteem and his progressive submission and passive acceptance of the brutal rules that govern Brazilian society.

  1. The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma

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This novel marks the transition from Realism/Naturalism to the Pre-Modernist literary movement in Brazil.

Policarpo Quaresma, the protagonist, is a methodical civil servant who lives with his spinsterish sister in the suburbs of Rio at the end of the 19th century. He is a naïve and rather optimistic nationalist, who believes that he himself can act as a force to preserve the traditions of Brazil in the face of the fast modernization and internationalization the country is going through.

To accomplish his nationalist objectives, first, he writes a letter to the Parliament proposing that the national language be replaced by Tupi, the indigenous language spoken by the local tribes who lived along the coast of the country before the arrival of the Portuguese. The idea is received with such mockery and disbelief that Quaresma suffers a nervous breakdown, being confined, for a while, to an asylum for the mentally ill.

Recovering from the illness, Quaresma decides to move with his sister to a farm on the outskirts of the city to live a more peaceful life in contact with nature. There, he tries to initiate, again practically single-handedly, an agricultural reform, aiming at setting an example to his countrymen, teaching them how to make the most efficient and rational use of the fertile soil of his beloved fatherland. This results in another failure, as he cannot count on any official help with his endeavour.

Finally, he sides with President Marshal Floriano Peixoto (a real historical figure), joining the military, to fight against the Second Naval Revolt, only to find out that the leader, contrary to Quaresma’s idealization, lacks the brains and military-strategic mind of a Napoleon, being nothing more than an authoritarian and unskilled dictator to a barbaric country in the periphery of civilization and capitalism.

  1. Clara dos Anjos

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Published after Lima Barreto’s death, the novel has a simple and direct plot. It’s the story of a dark-skinned girl from the suburbs (the impoverished neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city of Rio de Janeiro, rarely portrayed in our literature) who gets seduced and abused by the white guitar player Cassi Jones, a notorious crook from a slightly higher social social class. However, the focus of the book is not really the plot. Clara’s sad story is just a pretext for the author to explore important connected issues. The main theme of the novel is the suburbs and its inhabitants: the members of the poorer classes of Brazil. Lima Barreto, with his precise journalistic prose, describes their small and difficult lives, the destitute environment they are forced to live in – despite the high taxes they pay, which are hardly used for their own benefit; the excessive drinking habits of the men; their music and literature; and the repression suffered by their passive and conservative women.

  1. Contos Completos de Lima Barreto (Lima Barreto’s Complete Short Stories)

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Besides journalistic articles and novels, Lima Barreto also left us a great number of short stories. Again, in those works, his main themes are the description of daily life in the city of Rio de Janeiro and its suburbs during the years of the Brazilian Old Republic (the period comprised between the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century), written with irony and sharp criticism against the political system of the time, the ingrained racism of our society, the oppression of the lower classes in general and the limitations imposed on women in particular. He also rebuked the mediocrity of the cultural and literary elites of the country. His attempts to mock Brazilian society while denouncing its serious flaws have made a profound mark in our literature.

Would you like to share your opinion about Lima Barreto? Please write your comments below.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching English with Art: Winslow Homer


Teaching English with Art: Winslow Homer.  This eighth volume of our successful series of eBooks combining ENGLISH TEACHING AND ART is a wonderful supplement to any coursebook or extra materials your students may already be using in the English class. It contains 30 vocabulary,  speaking and writing activities for classroom use, based on some of the most striking works by the best American artist of the XIX century.

The objective of the eBook is to expose the students to art while teaching English, fulfilling therefore one of the tenets of effective language acquisition: providing a realistic context for the language to be learned and practiced as a means to an end. Your students will love to exercise their English discussing the works of Winslow Homer. This is a proven way to make language acquisition fun and effective by creating in the classroom an atmosphere of interest, motivation and emotion. Each activity is clearly correlated to the COMMON EUROPEAN FRAMEWORK OF REFERENCE (CEFR), and the level is stated next to it.

IMPORTANT NOTE. CUSTOMIZATION: if you wish to change the cover of any of the ebooks, add your school logo, negotiate a special price for a determined number of students, or make other suggestions of customization, do not hesitate to talk to us. We are VERY FLEXIBLE. Make your ebook UNIQUE!

Click on the image below to download the ebook:

Click on the image above to get your copy from the Kindle Store.

Click on the image above to get your copy from the Kindle Store.

Check out the video clip on the ebook TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: WINSLOW HOMER: https://vimeo.com/142028606

For other books of our series, click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Teaching English with Art

Teaching English with Art

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

Getting your students to speak in the language class


Despite  Steven Krashen’s famous methodology of language acquisition, in which he claims students must go through a silent period before they can speak, we know how anxious our students are to start producing the target language from day 1.  This silent period is the time learners need to be exposed to enough comprehensible input so they can absorb the language and be able to speak it. It emulates what happens when kids acquire their first language. Having said that, it’s a fact that motivation also plays a key part in language learning, and setting up speaking activities from the very beginning of the language course will not, in my opinion, have any negative effect on the students’ development: they will not be able to do much, though, but that is OK. Motivation will work wonders. The elementary level, which is usually known as A2 in the Common European Framework benchmark, would be the ideal moment to start with speaking activities, but don’t worry too much if you have to do it earlier to please your students.

Teachers usually complain about the same problems when they set up speaking activities: students might not know what to say, they are shy to speak in public, they don’t know enough about the topic, they are not that interested in the topic.

Students don't know what to say.

Your students don’t know what to say.

So, as a teacher and teacher trainer, with many years of experience, and with the help of a number of methodology books I have read throughout my career, I would humbly suggest a few tips to get your speaking activities going smoothly in the language class. See the main points below:

1. Decide whether the activity will be task or topic-based: a task-based activity typically  involves the use of language as a means to an end. The students, for example, are given a problem (e.g. give each pair of students a list of 10 objects and ask them to discuss and negotiate the following problem: you are stranded on a desert island, if you could pick 5 of these 10 objects to have with you on the island, which ones would you both pick?). To pick the objects, they will have to justify their choices.  On the other hand, a topic-based activity requires the students to discuss or talk about a specific subject (e.g. what’s your country’s situation concerning racism?) The more they are able to personalize the topic, contributing their own opinions and experiences, the more they will have to say about it. If you wish to read more on this, please refer to my previous post “Topic-Based versus Task-Based Speaking Activities”: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1nJ

2. Give them context (input):  Before setting up an activity, expose the students to some linguistic or visual context, so they can rely on some form of scaffold to help them structure their output. The stimulus can be established through a text, a picture, a video clip or a listening passage, for example. But it’s important that the teacher introduce the topic, or brainstorm some vocabulary and ideas about it before having the students talk about it.

3. Brainstorm: depending on the input the teacher chooses to use in the step above, the brainstorm will be more or less controlled. If the students have been given a written text, for example, the teacher should work on it and exploit some ideas and related vocabulary and grammar. If the teacher starts by showing a painting by a famous artist,  the brainstorming will have to be longer and less controlled. The students will probably have to learn some new vocabulary as well, get to know something about the artist and his times, or even his style and technique. Always elicit info from the students before spoon-feeding them with ready-made answers: you might be surprised about the vocabulary they already have or their knowledge about the topic.

4. Get them to work in pairs and/or small groups as often as possible: do not put the students in the awkward position of speaking in front of the whole class right at the beginning of the exercise. Give them time to prepare their answers. The best way to do that is, of course, to put them in pairs or little groups, so they can participate more and not feel intimidated by a big audience. Many times they won’t even have to speak to the whole class at the end, or you could ask only for volunteers to share their work. During the activity, however, make sure you go around not only monitoring the different groups but also lending them a hand.

5. Focus on fluency: the aim of the speaking activities we are discussing in this post is not to drill grammar points or practice vocabulary,  or even pronunciation, in a controlled way. As the students produce their utterances, make a mental note or write down discreetly some of the most common mistakes made, especially the ones that involve grammar or vocabulary already taught in previous lessons. Do not interrupt the students for correction, unless you don’t understand what is being said. Decide on what you are going to focus on for correction in each activity, then, at the end, or in a future lesson, list the mistakes on a handout and pass them to the learners, so they can correct the mistakes in pairs, without  necessarily naming the perpetrators.

6. Personalize the activity:  people like to talk about their own experiences. Design questions that allow them to talk about their own tastes, aspirations, experiences and life in general.

7. Make the questions as opened-ended as possible: to make this personalization possible, try to design questions that allow for open-ended answers, do not look for right/wrong answers, but for opinions and suggestions.

8. Make the activity as relevant as possible:  choose topics or direct the discussion towards a path that is relevant to the group of students you have. The same speaking activity can be slightly changed to reflect the reality and interests of a different group of students. The closer they feel to the topic being discussed or the task being proposed the more productive the result will be.

Some speaking activities will go better than others, as you know. Don’t give up on a well-prepared exercise if it does not work well with a particular group of students. Try it a number of times with other students: it might work better. The important thing to remember is the more the students are exposed to linguistic input, by either reading or listening, the more fluent and accurate their delivery will be eventually. So make sure you focus on receptive skills especially at the earlier levels of the course your are teaching before worrying too much about the success of the speaking activities.

If you need help with materials, we have an excellent series of eBooks with ready-made vocabulary, speaking and writing activities to make your life easier. It’s called TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, with 8 books so far. It features f works by famous artists, such as Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, Norman Rockwell, van Gogh and Winslow Homer which will function as a springboard  to contextualize topic and task-based activities, as well a process writing practice. For further info, please click here http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

Writing: focus on the process and not on the product


When you read a piece of good writing in The Economist, Folha de São Paulo or The New Yorker, you will probably wonder about the special powers of the writer. How is it possible to sit in front of a laptop and, in one go, come up with such a refined and polished text. The writer must have counted on a potent muse sitting by his side, you conclude. But, for anybody who has attempted the hard task of putting a piece of writing together, the recognition that the path is a little harder will soon dawn on him. Hemingway defined the process in the most dramatic way: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Of course, the Hemingway process would not be very popular in most of our schools and online courses today. As we are concerned mainly about writing in the language class in this post, we need to draw a line. After all, chances are teachers and coordinators would be charged with abuse and put in jail if they expected or encouraged the students to follow anything like the method proposed by the great author of THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.

Luckily, there is a third way: fire the muse and follow a step-by-step process to your writing activities. Writing is a skill students must master. We have never written so much as in today’s world. Most of our communication on the Internet occurs in the form of writing, one way or another.

Following the 5-step process we’ll be outlining below is probably the most effective way to come up with a good text. Of course, if you have the privilege of counting on good professional editors, the process becomes a lot easier, but not many people – least of all language students – can afford this luxury on a day-to-day basis, so we must rely on ourselves, and, if we are lucky, on some of our friends and classmates for aid.

Process Writing

Process Writing

 

Therefore, what we are advocating here is that writing should not be a solitary activity: pairs or groups of students should take part in it, although, ideally, each one should be working on his own individual piece. There are very clear steps to follow in what is generally know as process writing. This is, in our opinion, the best approach to teach and practice this productive skill in the language classroom. Let’s cover each of the phases in the sections below.

1. Brainstorming (generating ideas). When you are given a writing assignment, get together with a colleague and think of all the ideas the topic might generate. Don’t censor yourself at this stage, anything goes. If there’s no given topic, your freedom is even greater, and you will have fun imagining all possible topics, points-of-view, arguments or characters that may go into your piece. This is more fun when done with another person or in a small group. Then, each one can follow their own thread of thoughts, after this initial kicking off of ideas, and get down to writing their first draft.

2. Drafting. Now it’s time to prioritize all the wonderful ideas you generated in the step above. Consider the physical space you need for the text: is it a blog post, a story, an essay, an infographics design, a tweet? How many words are you supposed to use in your assignment? Don’t even consider using all your ideas. Pre-select, choose, discard, adjust, change. Cut, cut, cut. Establish what should go into each paragraph, which sentence you will pick as the topic one. Draft and redraft as many times as you feel you should. The more, the better. Change sentences to a different part of the text for stronger impact or more consistency. Decide what should be the beginning, the middle and the end of the piece. It’s always easier to start with the end. Remember the clever words of the Cheshire Cat to Alice, in Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll:

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

3Revising. Now, possibly with the help of a friend, you are going to begin refining and polishing your text. Your colleague will read the text, ask questions whose answers he would expect to find in it, but does not. He will probably make suggestions. There’s no need to take everything he says into consideration. Your are the writer after all, so the final decision is yours, but try and incorporate some of his feedback. Apply your own critical thinking skills to decide if the text is coherent, well thought out, convincing, logical.

4. Editing. This next step involves going deeper in the process started in the previous step. Time to check for grammar, vocabulary and syntax mistakes. Make sure collocations and register (formal and informal) are adequate. Have the spellcheck on your computer on. Consult a thesaurus, dictionaries, and grammar guides. Read aloud to make sure your text sounds good, to make sure it sounds English. Enter phrases and idioms you wish to use into Google to see if they appear in other texts and really mean what you wish to say. Again, get help from your friends.

5. Publishing. This is the last phase of your work. You will be deciding on the images to use, the layout, the kind of font you find appropriate. This part is a lot of fun, in general. Reread it one more time. Any more changes? If you are using a digital device, be brave and push the button PUBLISH. Next time you write something it will be even easier.

The Steps of Process Writing

The Steps of Process Writing

Sometimes these steps may occur in a different order. Writing is messy. Moreover, the number of drafts cannot be stipulated: the more the better. But we all know there are time constraints to be taken into account, and the final product needs to be presented at some point. So let’s use common sense, and work on your piece within a time frame that suits your teacher’s expectations. In a language lesson, of course, it is the drafting that counts: the more you focus on polishing and making your piece more impactful and error-free, by adding ideas, deciding on the best location of sentences, breaking paragraphs in more consistent ways, and finally asking your friends for help to identify grammar and vocabulary problems, the more you will be learning. That’s when learning is really taking place. The final product is only the logical consequence of the hardest possible work you put into the project.

And remember, the final product does not need to be a masterpiece. The secret to fine writing has been repeated countless times by the experts – although both students and teachers seem to resist it: good writing is rewriting. Besides, writing improves over time, and the more you practice, the better results you will get. Good luck.

NOTE: If you are interested in process writing, you may consider checking out our eBook series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART. Click here for further info on the series: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Check out this fun video clip on our CARAVAGGIO eBook:

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

Paintings in the Movies: Art within Art


I’m fascinated by the game of mirrors and metalinguistic reflections reverberating from the use of art inside art inside art inside art, and all the implications and possible interpretations that result from this spiraling labyrinth. More precisely, this post is about famous paintings that feature in movies either as a direct element of the plot, or, more subtly, as an aid to help compose the fabric of the subtext. I’ll cover 3 interesting instances of clever uses of famous works of art and artistic style in the movies, which always cause a jolt of pleasure in the viewer who recognizes them, and, as a consequence, is able to connect the dots and understand the references.

1. The Skin I live In, by Pedro Almodovar, 2011. Let’s start with this brilliant and fairly recently Almodovar, which was heavily criticized when it first came out for its alleged shift of style from what the director had been famous for. Well, if these critics meant the movie adds layers of complexity to Almodovar’s previous works, I couldn’t agree more. However, if they are implying the movie was not funny, I don’t think they got it. It’s hilarious, although in a somewhat dark way. In addition to the humor, one important aspect of the movie is the theme of the contrast between culture and nature, between what is innate and what is fabricated and handed down by civilization; how far can one go to change what is considered natural? Without going into too much detail about the plot of the movie, let’s just say it’s about a surgeon who thinks it’s OK to recreate the human skin in order to improve it. And he tests his theory on an unlikely guinea pig: the man who allegedly abused his daughter, and whom he has turned into a woman, through an unauthorized gender reassignment surgery! Too weird? Maybe. But the point here is to discuss the symbolic meaning of the painting that decorates the surgeon’s mansion in Toledo, and keeps popping up in the scenes where he goes up and down the elaborate staircase: The Venus of Urbino, by Titian, 1538. This painting summarizes the main theme of the movie: the idealization and beautification of the real world. In this case, a beautiful goddess, with flawless white skin, concocted by an artist, conveys the impossibility that she could be recreated outside of this imaginary world. She will not leap off the painting and exist in real life.

The Venus of Urbino, by Titian, 1538

The Venus of Urbino, by Titian, 1538

 

2. Skyfall, by Sam Mendes, 2012. By far my favorite 007 movie. Everything works perfectly to make this a classic: action-packed opening scene, dreamlike credit sequence showcasing Adele’s song, a lot of fighting and shooting throughout, stunning locations (London, Istanbul, Shanghai), sophisticated dialogue, superb acting. And, as the underlying theme, we are to led to confront the universal and always worrying issue of the inexorable passage of time and how human beings cope with it. The main theme is made explicit in an anthological scene (see video clip below) where an aging 007 meets his new and young quartermaster: Q. They are both at the National Gallery in London contemplating Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, 1838, which depicts an old ship being tugged somewhere to be destroyed. These are the best lines of the blistering dialogue that ensues:

Q:    Old age is no guarantee of efficiency.

007: And youth is no guarantee of innovation.

Do I need to explain anything else?

Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, 1838.

Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, 1838.

 

Q meets James Bond:

3. Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese, 1973. In this movie the symbolism does not come from showing a specific artwork. However, you can tell the cinematography and art direction are heavily influenced by the style of Caravaggio. You seem to be watching the application in movies of Caravaggio’s artistic principles: Scorsese, just like his baroque predecessor, depicts the contemporary world (1973 New York) of the Italian Mob, shown in beautifully staged scenes where the technique of chiaroscuro or tenebrism predominates. Every scene seems to have the lighting coming from a single or, sometimes, two naked light bulbs carefully placed to focus on the foreground, where the action is taking place. The background is dimmed or blackened in shadows. The characters seem to behave as modern versions of Caravaggio and his mates themselves, rambling through the dark streets of VII century Rome (1973 New York) after nightfall, going to taverns (bars, and pool joints) and whorehouses (stripclubs). They are constantly gambling, getting involved in brawls and fights, some of those – in the movie – nicely choreographed to the Rolling Stones or the Beatles songs. In addition to that, you hardly ever see a shot without an element of the Catholic iconography featuring prominently in the setting: images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, crucifixes, photos of the pope and the interior of churches themselves. What would we call this? Post-modern baroque?

Caravaggio's Cardsharps, 1596.

Caravaggio’s Cardsharps, 1596.

Let us know what you thought of this post: write your feedback on the comments section of the blog.

 

NOTE: If you are into art, you may consider checking out our eBook series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

 

 

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Linguagem: 1st Anniversary. Jan 2015: 100% Growth!


We broke all our records in Jan 2015 with a 100% growth.  Join us now: http://www.jorgesette.com

LINGUAGEM, MARKETING, SALES TRAINING, CULTURE, ART

100% GROWTH

100% GROWTH

 

Our main customers. Where do they come from?

Our main customers. Where do they come from?

 

 

Click on the link below to check out our latest stats in PDF format.

Blog LINGUAGEM- First Anniversary

 

Au revoir

 

Jorge Sette.

Topic-Based versus Task-Based Speaking Activities


Speaking is one of the most valued skills in learning a foreign language. When you want to find out about the general knowledge of a person in a foreign language you usually ask DO YOU SPEAK (language)? I can’t remember ever hearing from someone if I could listen to English, on the other hand.

Most learners therefore expect to speak the language fast when they join a course or hire a teacher. As teachers, however, we know that, being a productive skill, speaking will have to come after listening in the process of the students’ linguistic development. The same goes for writing: it needs to follow reading. Receptive skills (listening and reading) precede productive skills (speaking and writing). This is an absolute law that emulates the acquisition of the native language.

Ideally, students would have to spend sometime quietly listening to as much English as possible, at the right level, which, according to the linguist Stephen Krashen, would be roughly tuned to slightly above their current level in the language (i + 1), before they are asked to produce utterances. This quiet period of listening comprehension is called by the experts The Silent Period. This is when input is internalized (becoming intake).

In general, language schools and teachers cannot afford to apply this methodology exactly as it’s prescribed, as, for marketing reasons and to keep their businesses, they need to satisfy the strong expectation the students (clients) have about being able to speak the language quickly. Therefore teachers need to, at least, create a few speaking opportunities in the beginner’s class. Fair enough, this will not cause any serious disruption in the learners’ acquisition process.

Task-Based Speaking Activitie

Task-Based Speaking Activities

It would be important, however, to manage these expectations aptly, making it clear to the students that their ability to speak English will grow proportionally to the amount of linguistic input they get exposed to. The more they listen and read, the quicker and more fluently they will be able to speak the target language. Especially in dealing with adult students, I recommend teachers have a candid conversation with their students about what the methodology entails.

Having covered how to deal with the students’ frustration of not being able to produce English as fast as they would like to, let’s move on to how a teacher can create speaking opportunities for their students at any level.

There are basically two kinds of speaking activities: Topic-Based activities and Task-Based activities. The first refers to the kind of activities that usually involve giving the students a topic and expecting them to talk about it or discuss it. The latter involves a task: students use the language as a means to an end, trying to solve a problem or complete a task. Both kinds of activities are valid and enjoyed to a greater or lesser extent by different kinds of students. I would say that, as a general rule, task-based activities work better for lower levels while topic-based ones for intermediate to upper levels of linguistic proficiency. But this is not an absolute law.

An example of a task-based activity would be to have the students list the best places to go on vacation. Individually, each student would draw their own list (with, let’s say, 5 items, numbered in order from the best place) and, then, they would be paired off with the task of coming up with a common list. They would have to discuss the pros and cons of each place and prioritize their recommendations. Then each pair would present the negotiated list to the rest of the class.

An example of a topic-based activity, on the other hand, would be a debate: Gay Marriage: are you for or against? The students would express their own views on the issue. Teacher could guide the discussion by presenting typical and polite phrases to introduce disagreement, explain turn-taking rules, show them how to modalize one’s point of view, etc. Language and conversation skills would be taught together.

The exercises you find in our series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART include both topic and task-based speaking activities. The visual input is always a painting from a great master (Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio). Students look at the painting in their ebooks and do the speaking activity indicated for their level (we use the Common European Framework of Reference to set the level). However, most activities are very open-ended and personalized, so sometimes the teacher can use even more advanced activities with lower-level learners, as the students themselves will adapt the production to their own level of English. An alternative way of dealing with the activities would be to project the image of the painting from a laptop or tablet onto a white wall to make it more of a heads-up type of exercise.

More on speaking and writing activities in the upcoming blog posts. Watch this space. To download a book from the series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, please click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Teaching English with Art

Teaching English with Art

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

OUR BLOG “LINGUAGEM” HAS HAD A GREAT FIRST YEAR!


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.

Please find below some official stats sent by wordpress.com on the blog LINGUAGEM. We’ve had a great first year. Thanks for the support and we will back stronger than ever in 2015.

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

 

 

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Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

How to Train Adults Effectively


You may have heard the term ANDRAGOGY. No, it’s not something you need to treat and there’s no need to be scary if you find out your husband is into it. It’s simply the word we use for “pedagogy” when the learners are not children.

Although there are many overlaps between the processes of teaching adults and children – they both love learning through playing, for example – there are some differences too. And those differences must be taken into consideration, if you are designing a course or training session for your employees, or other adult participants.

Some of the differences, established by Malcolm Knowles, an American Adult Educator of the XX century, are, for example, adults need to know why they are learning; adults wish to take responsibility for their learning, so they should contribute and take active part in the process; they have already a wealth of experience to build on and the new items to be learned (knowledge, skills, or attitude) will add to their baggage; the purpose of learning must be objective and perceived as relevant, which is, to help them with their lives or give them pleasure; they are more willing to learn things that meet a specific need or desire; they are more likely to be moved by intrinsic motivation (self-steem, for example) than extrinsic (rise in salary, promotion, relocation, etc).

Having established these basic differences, we must also add that both kids and adults have, individually, different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), and some are more likely to use either the more analytical (left) or the more creative (right) side of the brain. These individual differences must also be taken into account when you design and develop a training course. I know, you must be thinking by now that, unless you are a teaching on a one-to-one basis, you can’t possibly cater for all these needs and idiosyncrasies. The good news is yes, you can. Let’s list here the basic steps you should take in putting together an effective training course for a group of adults. I will be using examples from a very successful course I created while I ran a consultancy service called Tutor in the mid-nineties, The course Pronunciation for Brazilian Teachers of English attracted hundreds of teachers every time it was offered at different venues and times all over the country. Sometimes these were open events, for which any teacher could sign up. Other times, these were tailor-made or adapted modules for specific schools as a service for their teachers.

Training adults effectively

Training adults effectively

Obviously, it’s not possible to cover all the details of a well-designed and implemented training course in the space of a blog post. This is not my intention. But I promise to come back to the topic periodically as you ask questions and comments on this overview of the mains steps I give you below:

1. Needs analysis: being a Brazilian teacher myself, I identified very early on that most teachers in the country had a huge gap in the knowledge and practice of pronunciation. They spoke English – some better than others – but very few had actually learned or knew explicitly about the different phonemes of the language or the mechanics of pronunciation. Many were not familiar with concepts such as stress and intonation either. Therefore, most of them, in their classes, tended to skip teaching the coursebook sections that dealt with these areas of the language. The famous English phonemic chart you can find on a number of websites, DVDs, or apps today was not so easy to access back then. So this was a big opportunity for me to start a business and help the teachers. On the other hand, when I gave tailor-made courses at specific schools, I had to unearth the real needs of the teachers and how much they already knew about the subject, so I could adapt the off-the-shelf course I’d already put together. In these cases, you do your research through oral interviews with prospective participants and supervisors, through written questionnaires, through focus groups or by watching some of the teachers at work.

2. Design: now that you know the participants’ needs, you must define how the course is going to be delivered: is it going to be presential, done via a webinar or blended? In addition to that, you need to determine and write down the learning objectives of the course. What is expected from the participants in terms of performance as they finish the training session? What is going to change?  Of course, the clearer you state these objectives, the more effectively you will create and apply the materials you are planning for the course. A typical objective would be, for example, by the time the teachers finish this first module of the course they should be able to recognize and reproduce (orally and in writing) all the individual symbols that represent the phonemes of the English language and use them in clear contexts (as in specific words). You will notice that the objective follows the popular formula S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).

3.  Development: this is the hands-on phase of the process, when you are going to create all the different materials that will compose the course and help you impart the content of the sessions (deductive approach: lectures), or lead the students to discover parts of it by themselves (inductive approach, discovery), and finally practice and discuss the learning points. Remember you are creating a course for a number of individuals with different types of learning styles, tastes and ways to use the brain. So variety is the key. Always start with a relevant icebreaker or energizer to create an atmosphere conducive to learning and give the participants a chance to get to know each other from the beginning. Believe me: these warm-ups will make your job a lot easier later on. Especially if they are thematically linked to the topic of the course. Keep the pace fast (that’s the rhythm most participants are used to in today’s hectic world and keep alternating and using diversified activities: short lectures with the help of visuals such as slides (note: even during these lectures, make the process learner-centered by getting them to participate actively, through questions, for example, or comments); games;  guided note-taking (students fill in the gaps of sentences previously written in the handouts;  physical activities (involving movement), pair work, group work, debates, etc. I know, it can sound a bit overwhelming. But it’s doable. Remember: the longer the course the more variety it requires and you will have more time to apply different activities to suit as many different learning styles as possible. If the course is short, or broken down into modules, you will have to prioritize.

4. Implementation: this is the great moment you and your trainees have been expecting. You are putting all your preparation in practice. if you have the chance to run a small pilot with a group of volunteers before that, fine, but most trainers cannot afford the time to do that. Try and include during the ice-breaker, or before that,  a moment when the participants will be able to express their expectations regarding the training. Of course if you did the needs analysis well, there will be no surprises here. But maybe you’ll have to make small adjustments to fit their unexpected hopes. Flexibility is an important characteristic of good trainers. Try to exercise it. As the session progresses and you get more comfortable with he group, allow for more participation,  become more of a facilitator to the process, call them by their names (name tags or desk tents with their names written on them are a must), and carry on making adjustments whenever needed, especially regarding the time each activity lasts. You may have to shorten an upcoming task if the current one drags for too long. Create a detailed schedule for yourself so you can keep track of how much time each activity should take. In long courses, things may get out of hand if you don’t stick to this timetable. Do not forget to have breaks throughout the course. Most people are fueled by caffeine these days or they need to stretch their legs  and walk around after long hours sitting down.

5.  Closing: at the end, allow time for feedback and final questions. You can devise interesting activities for that too. Ask questions about what they think should be done as a follow-up to the session. Or explain the follow-up plan you have already designed: job aids, individual couching, accompanied visits to clients, lesson-monitoring for feedback, etc.

You will not have to start from scratch every time you design a course. I used some of the materials and activities I created for my initial course for years, with small adaptations now and then, to suit different contexts or to update them. But it’s good to understand and go through the whole creation process a few times to make it fresh.

Training is a field that is growing and more professionals will be needed. If you are interested in it, start educating yourself: read as much as you can on the topic, follow blogs, enroll in training sessions as a learner, and participate in conferences. It’s a very hard and demanding job, yet very exciting and varied. Good luck.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

What are your questions about the future of education?


This is going to be an unusual post. We won’t be giving you any solutions, only problems and issues to consider. All of us who work in the field of education, either as teachers, school owners, publishers or booksellers are worried about the future of our business, or should I say, our mission. From the get-go, I would like to state my position regarding education, so it’s clear and can inform the vocabulary I might use throughout this post. I think of education as a business. Not just like any other business, but a very special and interesting one, as it is the source of human development and betterment. However, in a capitalist society, education is regulated by the same principles of supply and demand of all other businesses.

My objective in this post is simply to raise five of the questions I’m sure most of you share with me. I propose we start searching possible answers, reading up on the topics, and begin a debate on each of these issues. You are more than welcome to use this space (my blog LINGUAGEM) to share your views and ideas on the points listed below. My questions concern these following points:

The School of Athens (detail) by Raphael, 1509

The School of Athens (detail) by Raphael, 1509

1. Teachers. My first question is, of course, will we have a job in the future? As teachers, and other professionals of the education business – publishers, school owners and booksellers – I anticipate the answer will be yes (fortunately), but our jobs will change a lot. More and more the ball will be on our clients’ court (students and parents) and, as a consequence, we will have to adapt and try to reach them directly and on their own terms if we want to survive as professionals. They will have a strong say on everything regarding education: the kind of teacher they prefer, the methodology, the learning materials they will use, and how they wish to purchase them.

2. Methodology. What will be the most popular and preferred way of learning? We have always known learners have different leaning styles and are stronger and weaker at different forms of intelligence. One solution fits all will not do. Therefore, I suspect, we will see a lot of blended learning, with great variation on the percentage of online learning versus classroom lessons. Also, how much of this online learning will be self-learning or involve a tutor or teacher helping them out outside the classroom? In what situations will inductive/deductive approaches work best? The importance of learning pace is also another point to be considered: will these students require more individual lessons or profit more from a group learning environment? How much of the class will need to be flipped, when students deal with the theoretical points at home on their own and then come to class to solve practical problems, discuss doubts or simply apply what they learned in a more controlled environment.

 3. Learning Materials. I’m pretty sure print materials are on the way out, as ebooks can offer all the advantages of print ones, and a lot more. If we already prefer to read novels on the Kindle, what to say of the possibilities inbuilt in a multimedia biology or history educational kit, which will allow them to watch a living cell divide itself or a dramatized episode taken place during the Renaissance played out as a video clip at the click of a mouse. Gaming, in addition, will make learning a lot more active and interesting, stimulating parts of the brain a lecture could never achieve to do. However, there is plenty of room for variation within online learning. We need to consider, for example, the best length of video clips to make retention more effective; should each 5-min footage be stopped and followed by a short quiz? What works best: animations or reals actors? Could a simple replication online of an old-fashioned blackboard with a teacher writing on it and explaining the teaching point work? The latter is exactly what Khan Academy does: except that the teacher is exceptionally good and the classes work like magic! Have you ever had trouble with algebra or trig? Try the modules on Khan and you will enjoy the beauty and magic of concepts that seemed arid and boring when you were in high school.

4. Schools/Colleges. What kind of changes will brick-and-mortar schools have to go through to compete with online learning? Blending is the first thing that comes to mind. But if teachers won’t be lecturing and classes are really going to be flipped, what other kinds of special services could schools and colleges provide to attract and retain clients? It’s really exciting to think about this. The moment we understand better how our brains absorb and/or create knowledge, we may need to hire psychologists, speech therapists and neurologists as part of our regular staff to help our learners out and differentiate our schools from the competition.

5. Metrics. Adaptive learning. How are we going to measure and adapt our teaching to the specific needs of students? What international scales, tests and certifications can be created to align consistently the different approaches across different institutions and regions?

These are all very big questions and require a lot of studying and research before we can come up with the right answers. Besides, the process is really dynamic and won’t stop. It will continue evolving and throwing new lights on education and the learning process. These are really exciting times we live in if we are in the field of education.

My recommendation is start reading up and updating yourself as much as you can on what is going on in the field and start experimenting with new forms of teaching, writing, reading, producing and selling learning materials right now. We don’t want you to have to struggle to catch up.The future of education has already started.

I guess this is all for today. Don’t forget to share your views and make your comments about those topics as you leave this page. We’ll be delighted to read them.

Note: you might want to check out our new book TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: MATISSE   available  from AMAZON.COM as an ebook.  Click here for more info: 

http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1kP

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.