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Topics - Jenny Villalba

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The attached file is a complete Mini-Workshop on Reading & Writing for Environmental Awareness.
I hope you find it useful!  ;)

Well, as a Twilight fan I just could not help it. A friend of mine told me she had found four defining workbooks to work along with each of the 4 books of the saga in the supermarket. The author seems to see the Twilight fever as a chance for students to train and learn strategies in preparation for the SAT (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test, a standardized examination for college admissions in the United States, mainly in the East or West coast) or the ACT (American College Testing for the Mid West). The link below provides an overview of what this is all about and there is even a sample chapter you can look at.

I could definitely use them; enjoy!!!  ;D   


Motivation / Reminiscing through the cartoons you watched in your childhood
« on: December 02, 2010, 03:44:28 PM »
This week I received an invitation from Ms. Carleen Coconut  to change my facebook profile picture to a cartoon from my childhood for an invasion of memories and to say   no to violence against children. So I was wondering why not to borrow the idea and use it for my English writing class. Students could bring pictures or just google them, then talk and  write about the memories they have on the cartoons they watched when they were kids. They could not only describe what the cartoon was about (a focus on the past tense form would be ideal here) but also about the time when they were in elementary school maybe. My own profile picture for this forum is one of my favorite cartoons: "Safiro, la princesa caballero' in Spanish, "Choppy and the princess" in English or "Ribbon No Kishi in Japanese". Personally, I have been so motivated by the invitation that I am looking for pictures right now!  ;D

Also, some of the cartoons we have watched as kids have been really naive (Mickey Mouse, Bambi, Pluto) but others seem to be really more aggressive (sort to speak about the Transformers or G.I. Joe, for example), so comparing and contrasting cartoons' evolution along time may be a really interesting topic to write about.
Thanks for the invitation, Carleen!

The following link takes you to Sabrina's weblog: She is an Argentinian English teacher and there are interesting lesson plans and reflections on ESL/EFL she shares there.
One of the things I found really cool was a lesson plan to teach strategies for learning new vocabulary by using the movie Avatar:

Enjoy it!

Reading/Writing Humor / Sitcoms in the Reading and Writing class
« on: November 16, 2010, 01:00:59 AM »
Sitcom” is a shortened form for “television situation comedy”.   The Longman pocket dictionary of American English defines it as a  “humorous television show typically having a number of standard characters who  appear in different stories each week” (p.398). According to Wikipedia, “today  sitcoms are found almost exclusively on television as one of its dominant  narrative forms”.
I think some sitcoms can be used for generating interesting  reading and writing activities.For example:“Friends”, which has always been one of my favorite sitcoms;the series has been so popular that information on its characters  could be read in some of the textbooks we used in our EFL classrooms.
The attached document is a draft of a lesson plan I put together  for my students at Universidad Central del Ecuador. The episode from friends I  used was titled “The one with the male nanny” (Season 9, episode 6).The sources  and credits for some of the reading and writing activities are cited there,  too. There are links to have a quick look at that hilarious episode.
I hope you enjoy it! ;)

I have enjoyed and used short  videos by Pixar with my high- school EFL students in Ecuador. I have found out that  they allow you to manage your teaching time better because they last between 4  and 5 minutes as most and class periods real time is between 35 to 40 minutes  (not 50 especially if Ss have to change rooms for their English class). Also, you  can usually relate their content to what you are teaching (whether it is a  specific subject or grammatical item).

Some of these short films have  dialogue and others just sound and images. With my first and second year Ss  (beginners) I have used the one titled “Tin Toy”, which is available at:  Tin Toy (Pixar Animation Studios)

For example, after teaching them  the lexical chunk “What is/ are……like?” and basic lexicon to describe people, things  and places (e.g. adjectives for mood, size, color, weight, hairstyle, personality  etc.), they watch the video and write down the answers to questions like: “What  is Tinny like?” (the metallic one-man band toy) or “What is Billy (the baby)  like?”   

I tell them in advance what to  look for in the video and they really enjoy doing it. I usually have them work  in pairs and use their dictionaries (so that they can learn new words).
Another example is “Jack Jack  attack”, which you can watch through the following link:

I have used this video with older  Ss (intermediate) for practicing summaries and I think it can also be used as  Professor Saddler suggested in one of our classes: half of the class can see  the video without audio and the other half hear it without the picture. Ss can  then pair up, talk about the situation and characters and then write it down.

For more teaching tips on how to  use videos in the classroom you can go to

Finally, for more background information on Pixar videos you can check the following link:

I hope you enjoy it!  ;D

Prereading Activities / Activating schema through comic strips
« on: October 28, 2010, 07:21:10 PM »
Comic strips often depict something funny or even political  in nature and I think they can easily serve the following 3 objectives in the  pre- reading phase of a lesson:
1. To introduce and stimulate interest in the topic
  2. To motivate students by providing a reason for reading
  3. To provide language preparation for the text 
Readers have to infer the meaning from what artists are trying to portray in their comics. Therefore, they not  only use the pictures but also the words and their schema to make  connections. I have found the following website that offers more than 90 free  comics with around 7 to 8 strips each one:

There is a short description of what the comics are about .The topics presented vary widely and strips can be chosen according to  their relevance, date, ranking, votes and even comments. Since Halloween's celebration is very close, this is one of the strips I got from the “Today’s comic”  section:

EFL/ESL students could recall information they may already know to relate it to what they are looking at to understand the strip. Later, Ts could provide some background information if  necessary. A follow- up activity for creative writing could be to have Ss read a  scary story and invite them write its ending. That could be a nice activity to  do in classes during these celebration days. There could also be a contest for  best story and winners would be given prices.  Enjoy the link, there are really funny strips!  ;D

Textbook, Website, etc. Reviews / Women's history (Reading and Writing)
« on: October 26, 2010, 01:30:48 AM »
As a grad student, I resorted to the following page on Women's history while I was working on my thesis assignment for university education and gender studies:

The first time I accessed it was in 2008 when I started to work on a proposal for inclusiveness in the EFL classrooms. I found it really fascinating and useful because it provides biographies of  hundreds of notable women (Pocahontas, women involved in Air and Space, women governors in the USA, etc.) which both students and teachers can learn about. Also, it provides resources to teach about women, their thoughts, struggles and contributions throughout time.

The curriculum resources can be used from elementary school to university.There are lesson plans, games, puzzles, videos and even links to e-books (in the section called Women's history basics).  I think this page provides really valuable insights and materials, especially for those professionals interested in teaching English and  language literacy from a gender perspective. Unquestionably it may also be used by all professionals involved in reading and writing.

One of the activities that I  would propose is a research project for high- intermediate and advanced EFL Learners. They could, for example, find out information about women in non- conventional/traditional roles and write down a biography after they are given and explained a format for doing it. The biographies in this page  may serve as a model too, and a follow up would be to present a poster on a notable woman in their own countries and in any field.  Besides developing reading and writing skills, it would be nice to know and share about women whose work has not been acknowledged so far and also to discover why. That may be part of a critical writing assignment as well.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I have done it. Thumbs up to gender studies!  ;)       


        One of the topics that I have  personally found really interesting, challenging and worthwhile reading and  writing about with my students in class is definitely environmental awareness.  Many EFL/ESL reading textbooks include information not only about environmental  disasters around the world, but also about types of pollution, and even suggestions  to become more environment friendly. Unquestionably, this is an effort to make  us more understanding of the need to protect our planet, its flora, fauna and natural  resources. The following link takes you to an interesting page belonging the U.S  Environmental Agency called the “Environmental Kids Club”. In its science room,  the page offers an enjoyable comic book with facts about the ozone layer. It  is called “On the Trail to the Ozone Layer”. 
I think this is an enjoyable detective  story that can be used for extensive reading with EFL/ESL students at an  intermediate level. It is really user-friendly; they can move along the story  through the forwards and backwards buttons. The illustrations and explanations  are really concise and clear, learners can get familiar with vocabulary used in  the area easily with the help of illustrations and hyperlinks that allow to get  definitions for unfamiliar words. One of the many activities we can do with our  Ss in teams is to ask them to draw their own comic strips with pieces of advice  offered in the reading and also their own suggestions to correct the problem of  its destruction.  There can be a contest  for the best comic strip and it can be put in the bulletin board of the school.  Since not everybody is good at drawing, assigning roles for each member of the  team sounds like a good idea. Someone can draw, someone can color the strip, another  can write the dialogue, etc. That would allow them to enjoy and collaborate  together.
Also, learners can be invited to  play the role of detectives to find out information about other environmental  concerns; that would allow them to write a short report about their findings. It  would include a brief description of the problem, its causes and actions taken  to solve it.   

Use it with your students, it will be fun! 

Dr. Seuss was not really a familiar name for me until I was first introduced to him in my classes at university two weeks ago. He is definitely an iconic figure in American children's literature and many of us (EFL/ESL teachers, learners and even parents) will find the page called "Seussville" to be an amazing website to work with this author's materials and learn a little more about the U.S culture.

Enjoy Dr. Seuss through the following link:

Hope you find it as cool as I have!  ;D   

Quotations / Quotable quotes in the EFL/ESL classroom
« on: September 27, 2010, 10:33:44 PM »
By paraphrasing what some dictionaries say, a quote is the repetition of statements said by people in speech or writing, especially when they are well- known or their content is creative. Quotes are often used to illustrate a point, to make a comparison or even to intrigue the reader. 
In my experience as an EFL teacher, I have realized quotes are a good elicitation source in a writing exercise or test. One can ask learners to explain what a quote means and it allows them to practice their paraphrasing skills, freely write what they think of it and even personalize their explanations (students often relate what someone has said to their own experiences). This kind of writing exercises can be specially practical and interesting with high- intermediate and advanced students.
The following link may be useful:

However, I noticed the quotes by author are mostly male and I decided to add a link in which women have a voice too:
Accidentally, I also stumbled upon this link You may find some of the quotes funny but there is also a chance to criticize them and even analyze gender stereotypes in them. Enjoy!  :D

Topic Sentences / Paragraphs and Topic sentences
« on: September 21, 2010, 09:47:48 AM »
I' ve just stumbled upon these two web sites that could be helpful for both ESL and EFL writers. The first one describes paragraphs and introduces topic sentences; the second elaborates on topic sentences and provides examples.

Creative Writing / Write poems in English easily!
« on: September 16, 2010, 03:57:00 PM »
My friend Nick Barreno, director of the Villa Flora Benedict School of Languages in Quito- Ecuador, once shared this quick and easy methodology for learners to write poems in English.

1.   You choose a noun
2.   You pick up two adjectives that describe it
3.   You write down three verbs that you can use with the noun.
4.   You write a sentence about it
5.   You repeat the noun or connect what was said to another noun.

To avoid the use of grammar terms, we can give our Ss instructions like ?think about a person, thing, animal or place you would like to describe; next think about two words that best qualify what/who you have chosen and so on?. The poem lines can be arranged diamond- like.
For example:         
1.                       Subway
2.                    Fast, noisy
3.             Rumbles, roars, hisses
4.              Light always flickers
5.                       Subway

Many of the poems our EFL learners came up with were really beautiful and mainly original. There was even a contest between Ss with different levels of proficiency.

Use it in your ESL classes and let me know how it worked. Since Nick was not able to remember where he got the information from, the credits and acknowledgments go to him. Thanks, Nick!  :D

Reading/Writing Humor / Twilight motivational posters
« on: September 16, 2010, 02:41:26 AM »
One of my friends in grad school made an interesting posting on motivational posters for reading. I decided to surf the net to find out more information. I did not expect to bump into this though... I am glad I don't have a husband who cares so much about my reading habits...yet.  I wonder what would happen if we made an analysis of these posters from the gender perspective, ha ha!
Brief warning: these posters may not be suitable for all ages to read. Now take a look at this!

P.S: By the way, I am a Twilight fan, too!  :D

« on: September 16, 2010, 02:20:45 AM »
My friend Dustin Kelly, a MATESL graduate professional has just started a new club at UIUC called the ALTESL (Alliance of learners and teachers of English as a second language). He modeled a lesson plan for the core and new members and shared some interesting information in one of our meetings last week.

The information Dustin shared is about a pop band called TMBG (They must be giants), whose CD titled ?Here comes science? has been really successful here in the U.S and about which I did not know anything before. You can find out more about them on the link below:

I think part of what Dustin shared with us could work really well as a schema-theory ?based pre-reading activity for a science class and I have come up with a follow- up activity.

In general, the literature says that from the view of process ? oriented approaches to reading, meaning is acquired when there is a successful interaction between the reader and the text; the notion of schema activation (background knowledge) is basic in comprehension (interaction of new info with old knowledge). Therefore, if the topic learners are reading about is more familiar for them, they can make inferences more easily. (Anderson and Pearson: schema- theoretic view).

Dustin presented a group of chemical elements on a sheet of paper and gave us specific instructions to think about people, items or places that came up to our minds as soon as we read their names. Some of the elements listed were: nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon and oxygen.

We discussed it in groups and then Dustin played a music video called ?The Elements? by TMBG. It is also available on the web under this link:
They Might Be Giants: "Meet the Elements" (BB Video)

There were some other activities and we enjoyed the video very much. At the end, he provided a copy of the song lyrics.

I think the lyrics of the song could also be successfully used for vocabulary comprehension through a CLOZE exercise. We could delete some vocabulary items (the ones referring to chemical elements, for example) and ask Ss to complete it  with options given (this could be done whether before or after watching the video). When done before, the focus would be reading comprehension and when after, some memory would be involved but it may be pretty productive, too.

The happy news is that there are other songs we can also use. In fact you can find the lyrics of all TMBG?s Here comes Science album on this link:

I think another really nice and useful song in this album is ?The Bloodmobile?. You have both the video and lyrics here:

In my experience, Ss enjoy songs very much and they are really good for modeling pronunciation, too.  I want to thank Dustin for allowing me to share part of his lesson with you and hope these links and ideas can help for reading in your English for specific purpose lessons!  ;D




Harry Potter Lessons! / Harry Potter in Intensive Reading
« on: September 16, 2010, 12:05:52 AM »
In a preparation course I attended for taking the TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) from Cambridge University, I learned that the literature available in language classrooms can be used to examine language. An English Teacher can, for example, plan on activities that allow learners to work out how language is used and this is sometimes called intensive reading.  Since one can ask Ss to work on specific lexicon or grammar, ?these activities are not a reading skill but a language learning activity? (The TKT course textbook, by Sprat et. al, p.22).

With advanced EFL learners in my home country, I remember one of the topics we used to cover in class was the Modification of Nouns. I think ?Harry Potter and the Sorcerer?s Stone? is a great source of examples for modifiers of nouns and their order.

An idea I have come up with is to cite examples from the  first chapter titled "The Boy who Lived"  and have learners? ?notice? certain patterns (inductive grammar).  We could ask Ss to bring their books or provide copies (to the extent it is permitted) and work in pairs. A first task may consist in having them underline sentences like the ones listed below within the text:

?   He sat in the usual morning traffic jam.  (For Mr. Dursley on p.3)

?   He made several important telephone calls. (For Mr. Dursley p.4)

?   Was this normal cat behavior? (For the cat p.5)

?   It seemed to be a silver cigarette lighter. (For Dumbledore looking for something in his pocket p.9)

?   Dumbledore stepped over the low garden wall (For Dumbledore p. 16)

(Ts could write or display them on the board and can also ask learners about the people or things they are describing for checking comprehension and giving some context)

Next, in a second task Ts could draw Ss attention to the last words in each sentence (highlighted on the board or display), ask them to identify what kind of words they are (all nouns) and also look at the underlined words accompanying them.

Then Ts could point out that the underlined words are all modifiers because they change the noun a little ( when Ss for example hear ?wall? they can picture it in their minds but the word garden specifies more on that wall and therefore changes the wall the Ss had pictured initially)

 With Ts' help Ss could then infer and distinguish things like:
?   The use of adjectives and nouns to modify the main nouns.
?   That adjective and noun modifiers are different from each other (if Ss were not able to do it, Ts could point out that nouns don?t have comparative and superlative forms whereas most adjectives do).
?   That noun modifiers come directly before head nouns and after adjectival and other modifiers.
?   That modifiers happen in an apparent order.

Regarding the last point, Ts can then point out that the order in which the modifiers occur can be prescribed but only to a considerable degree and therefore Ss would have to find out information on the issue ( that would be a third task)

Ts could then provide the following links to help students (they are simple and the information is enough for Ss:

For a more complete list of the order of modifiers, Ts can resort to one adapted from Thomas Lee Crowell, Jr., Index to Modern English (Mc Graw- Hill, 1964) and available in the Focus on Grammar Series ( Teacher?s Manual).
As a fourth task and after finding out the information on order of modifiers, learners could look for more examples within the chapter of Harry Potter they have read for each of the categories mentioned in the webpages. Finally, they would report their discoveries back to the class.

As a follow- up, Ss could create a number of sentences with ?scrambled? noun modifiers in groups which members of other groups should unscramble. They would refer to characters or things described in the first chapter of Harry Potter, too.

Students may feel really enthusiastic about reading Harry Potter either at home or in the school library and we can take advantage of it for an enjoyable class.  :D

NOTE: Other issues regarding the word order of noun modifiers that can be explored in Harry Potter are coordinate adjectives (e.g: He was a big, beefy man) and compound modifiers (e.g: ?there were a lot of funny- looking people).
Hope you find it useful!  ;)

Cinderella is said not to have claim of a sole author. In fact, websites like Ask Yahoo! ( mention up to more than 3,000 versions of the same story around the world and they also mention a few notable interpreters like Charles Perrault (1697) and the Grimm Brothers (1812). Fairy tales like this one may be useful material for an extensive reading program and there are websites that offer interesting guidelines for teachers to help learners develop fluent reading.

I have found the following one (EDSITEment) particularly helpful because it not only provides a complete sample class plan to describe the commonalities and differences in plot and setting of different versions of Cinderella but also a variety of links to other websites and reference to resources that users may consult at their convenience: 
As ESL/EFL teachers, I think we can make variations of the lesson plan presented in the site by using three sources: two available in this site and another in Wikipedia (which I found to be more complete).

1.   The illustrated German version of Cinderella (known as Ascheputtel by the Grimms) 
2.   The non- illustrate version by Perrault?s  and available on this link
3.   The summary plot of ? Ever after?, a contemporary movie adaptation available at

The original class plan allows students to provide examples of variations in plot and setting among Cinderella tales. A variation of it may focus on something specific within the plot: Gender Roles.

Extensive reading is characterized much more by quantity than by criticism and therefore, this variation of the plan would not necessarily (although it may, depending on the Ss proficiency level and direction Ts want their lesson to take) make an analysis of stereotypes. It would rather provide examples of variations in the gender roles (if any) that women and men have performed along time and depicted in each one of the three versions. A final outcome and likely assignment (which could be used for assessment) may also be a Cinderella Ss create on their own (as in the original plan) but this one would be ?gender specific? and both illustrations and likely performances would be encouraged as well.

Another interesting lesson plan that focuses on the variations in character in Cinderella, which is also as complete as the one cited above, is available on the same site. Hope you find it as interesting and useful as I have!  ;D


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