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Archive for February, 2011

Pecha Kucha… Come again?

Have you heard of Pecha Kucha ? No, it’s not another Japanese delicacy or a new fashion trend. In Brazil, due to the success of hair-straightening techniques, one might even think it’s the latest concotion for slick hair. Sorry, none of the above is right.


Pecha Kucha (chit chat in Japanese) is a presentation methodology in which presenters explain their ideas supported by 20 PowerPoint slides, each shown for 20 seconds. In total, each daring speaker has 6 minutes 40 seconds to send his message to the public. Topics may range from personal collections or a professional project to the latest tendencies in design, someone’s travels or whatever pleases the speaker – the fun in the event is that there’s a wide variety of topics (usually from 8 to 14 a night) and presenters substitute one another on stage at a very fast pace. The audience can be seen holding their breath at times, such is the light-hearted tension in the air.

Although it was originally devised in Tokyo in 2003 as a way to let designers talk about their work, the idea spread like wildfire and nowadays Pecha Kucha Nights can be found in diverse cities all over the world. In our teaching/learning field, it’s becoming a regular feature of Seminars and EFL encounters.

My introduction to this peculiar presentation format was in ABCI Rio 2010, where I marvelled at the courage of those wonderful teachers who, before an audience of over 300 colleagues, put themselves to the test of being awarded a round of enthusiastic applause – or not. Watching a live performance has no comparison to the recorded videos we can find on the Internet. When you watch the speaker take the stage you can almost feel their hearbeat, you see them open their eyes wide in surprise as each new slide pops on the screen unexpectedly – “Oops, I still had something to say, but forget it, let’s move on”. They then rush through the next one and find out they had 3, 4, 5 seconds to spare at the end– seconds they’d never imagined could feel like hours when you have one hundred or so pairs of eyes glued on your face. And once again the audience holds their breath – what will the next slide be like?

Sunday, 17th April – Pecha Kucha Night at IATEFL 2011 – I won’t miss it for the world!

Find out more about Pecha Kucha at http://www.pecha-kucha.org


We teach. They learn. We all have fun.


Fun. Define ‘fun’.

In three days’ time a group of kids with ages ranging from 5 to 11 whose only purpose is to have fun will take over our Cultura Inglesa branch. As they climb the stairs to the lobby they prick their ears and search the perimeter with eagle eyes avid for their prey: fun. We, the teachers, fiddle with keys, paper, realia or whatever we can in anticipation – will we be able to fulfill their demand? Will the activities we have so carefully prepared be what they are expecting? Bottomline: “Is it possible to entertain this bunch of little people and at the same time do some teaching? Simple answer: YES, as long as those in charge of the teaching are also having fun.

I’ve always believed ‘fun’ is a two-way street when it comes to teaching. It is absolutely possible to entertain your students if – and only if – you also enjoy the activities you have prepared. Learning another language at a young age is an adventure. Teaching young learners is a roller coaster ride. So, why don’t you climb aboard in the right gear?

When preparing your lessons for young learners, always have in mind they see you as some sort of magician – you make stuff happen! You conduct games, you dictate the rules, you play goofy and make them laugh. You’re the boss. So you might as well see yourself as an entertainer that teaches rather than a teacher that entertains. If students like you and have fun in your classes, you’ll be able to wrap them around your little finger, I mean, your teaching will be way easier than if you just impose rules and ‘make’ them learn. Natural learning just ‘happens’. So, mull over the following:

  •  Before planning your lessons, observe. If you don’t have children in the family, go to a park or square and observe the way a child relates to others, how she plays and for how long she dedicates her attention to one activity. Bear that in mind when you decide to implement something in the classroom.
  • While planning your lessons, change places. Imagine you are the child, and try and play the game/do the activity yourself, and be critical. Would you enjoy it? For how long? Would you want to do it again?
  • After teaching your lessons, look back. Was the lesson successful? Did you reach your aims? Did the kids have fun? Did YOU have fun?

Above all, never forget that simple, uncomplicated activities are most often the best ones. How many times has a child discarded the expensive present and preferred to play with the colourful wrapping paper instead? Considering all that, we’re planning simple but effective activities for the visiting kids this Friday. They’ll have to think, run, jump, dance, repeat, throw balls, sing, reason, play as a team. And all of us will most definitely have a good time and go home with a smile in our lips. We teach. They learn. We all have fun.


Minutes ago, I was checking who the plenary speakers at IATEFL 2011 will be and came across Brian Patten and his poetry. My very first experience of his work was a totally randomic choice, and it seems it was a bull’s eye hit: I heard him read How long is a man’s life? and was struck by the truth in his words. A man may indeed live forever, as long as his ideas are remembered, as long as his name is mentioned, or the people who shared time with him think of him. It’s all a matter of lengths of time…

‘NO’ was NOT the answer!

How many times have you pondered whether to do or not to do something? For minutes, days, even weeks… Your life is kept in limbo because you cannot make up your mind… I was at this crossroads last December, with my index finger hovering over the ‘enter’ key of my laptop. Send it or not to send it? Well, since the omnipresent ‘NO’ was a guaranteed answer, I gathered courage and let it go – SEND! And a new story began, because ‘NO’ was NOT the answer this time.

Entering an online competition is an adrenalin rush in itself. It is more daring and nerve racking than actually winning it, since you have no idea who the contestants are or the odds against or for you. The anticipation while waiting for the result could be compared to that  moment when you close your eyes before a first kiss – you know something will happen, but will it be any good?

I first heard of the British Council Roving Reporter competition through Valeria França, the Head of Teacher Training at the Cultura Inglesa Rio. It challenged EFL teachers to write an article describing their experience in an EFL event promising to award the best 4 with a tempting trip to attend IATEFL in Brighton in 2011. All expenses paid for. Hmmmm…I’d been to a few conferences before, none as big as the IATEFL though, being the ABCI 2010 the cherry on the cake. I left the Windsor Hotel in Rio so worked up that I wanted to go, go, go, the more conferences the better. The teacher in me was crying for help, after almost 5 years of classroom deprivation. I succumbed. I wrote. I sent it…And  I won!

Now, a new story, because the ‘NO’ bit the dust and the ‘YES’ came in all its glory, bringing with it a thousand questions that will hang in the air until April. An interminable queue of question words fills my mind and interrogation marks are high in the market today. What will I do? Where will I stay?Who will I meet? I guess the answers are indeed everything, everywhere, everyone. An international event like the IATEFL is bound to beat all your expectations and score big in terms of speakers, tendencies, public, technology and culture. Well, this is what I look forward to: the minds at such events work so frantically you can almost hear them speaking for themselves, it’s as if people actually connect with each other, weaving a network of ideas that keeps them beating in unison. The atmosphere is contagious, and learning fills the air, which in turn becomes teaching when people go home. It is then that all the teaching is transformed into magic in the classrooms around the world.

And I’ll be there, helping these fortunate teachers spread their magic around the world being a Roving Reporter, because this time ‘NO’ was NOT the answer.

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