BrELT CoLAB: Leandro Zuanazzi “I hate writing, but I love having written”

[ Read length: 6 minutes approximately ]

I hate writing, but I love having written.

These words have been attributed to Dorothy Parker. Whether she is the one who deserves credit for them, as I have recently learnt, is open to debate. Be that as it may, they never fail to strike a chord with me whenever I read them.

Many of us seem to avoid having the task of writing a text. Others, the brave ones, take the plunge and sit in front of the computer wracking their brains in search of the perfect opening sentence. I have played both parts.

While pulling my hair out and trying to think of how I can continue the text, I can’t help but wonder why we don’t discuss writing more often. I think we can agree that in order to help learners develop their speaking skills, we should be proficient speakers ourselves. When it comes to writing, however, why do so many of us shy away from the challenge of honing our own skills as writers?

Villas Boas (2017) argues that we don’t give due importance to writing because we simply don’t write much. As a consequence, we may believe our students will not have to write much either. Without being aware of it, we may be contributing to the creation of a vicious cycle in which students don’t enjoy writing because their teachers feel the same way. The way I see it, our ultimate goal is to help other people become better communicators. Leith (2018) reminds us that

“our working lives and our working relationships are shaped by how and what we write. To write clearly is an essential courtesy, and to write well is to give pleasure to your audience. You are not only making a case or imparting information; you are cultivating a relationship.” (p. 4)

If this is true, we would be falling short of our target by not encouraging them to improve their ability to put ideas down on paper.

It appears that what prevents us from taking more interest in writing is the pressure we feel to produce a text from scratch. One possible explanation for this keyboard anxiety is that we tend to look at writing from the back end. We imagine the finished text while staring at a blank page on the screen. We often look for inspiration in other people’s texts and admire their work and think of how accomplished they are.

Hart (2006) illustrates it well when he compares a great text to a beautiful building – both are built one step at a time. By breaking down the process into small, manageable steps, the overwhelming anxiety is likely to be reduced.

Suppose you want to share your experiences using technology in the classroom because you’ve had great results with your students, how would you go about the process?


Rather than simply choosing an interesting topic, try to dig a bit deeper and come up with a question. For example, you could ask: how can students benefit from using their smartphones in class? Your text will then be the answer to this question. By sharing what you’ve done and the results you’ve had, you’ll be highlighting the importance of using technology in the classroom. You won’t be just telling people it is important, you will be showing them it is.

Information Gathering

Once you have come up with an interesting idea – not just a topic to write about – then you will ask yourself what further arguments you need to support your view. These answers will guide you while you collect information. What books or articles can I read on the subject? Can I talk to other professionals who share my views? Or perhaps I could hear the other side of the argument.

This way of thinking supports the idea that when we write we enter a conversation. All too often, many of us seem to assume that expressing one’s opinion about an issue can be done by putting together a collection of smart ideas and send them out into the universe hoping for the best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

We must remember, however, that we put forward an argument based on what has already been said about it. As Graff and Birkenstein (2010) explain:

“if it weren’t for other people and our need to challenge, agree with, or otherwise respond to them, there would be no reason to argue at all.”

Therefore, if we want our text to make an impact an encourage others to think about the issue, we need more than coherent statements and smart ideas.

Focus and organization

Now you have your idea and you have collected plenty of information to support your views. It’s time to draw up a rough plan of your text. By selecting and structuring the information you want to include, you’ll have an outline which will help you write your first draft. Remember: it’s just the outline, not the text itself. It is like you’re gathering the bricks, the cement, and the tools you need by your side. Having them close at hand, will prompt you to start writing with more confidence.


You can then move on to writing per se. And I say: just do it. Write like nobody is watching. Allow yourself to write more loosely now that you have a plan. You might leave blanks where you don’t know exactly how to connect the ideas or where you want to double-check a specific piece of information. The goal here is to keep moving. As you finish your first draft, you’re likely to have feeling of accomplishment, and that should be enough to keep you motivated.


At this point you can find your inner grammar sergeant and do what you haven’t done yet: comb through your text and include the missing information and find ways to make it pleasant to your target reader. You’ll be paying attention to lexical and grammatical cohesion, linking devices, references, spelling, punctuation, etc.

Another helpful tip to follow at the polishing stage is to read your draft aloud. This may bring to the surface any overly complicated sentences, which you can rewrite. For instance, a separation between subject and verb will sound awkward and help you notice it. Reading your text aloud is also an effective way to attend to its rhythm. According to Provost (2019), you can do that by varying the sentence length and writing with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences.

This is a brief summary of my talk at the Southern Cone BRAZ-TESOL Conference 2019. My goal with this presentation was to encourage teachers to write more and share their experiences so we can all benefit from learning about different contexts and practices. I also believe that as you understand the process and follow the steps to produce your own texts, chances are you’ll feel more enthusiastic about writing. This enthusiasm will inevitably trickle down to your teaching of writing, and your students will certainly appreciate it.”

Leandro Zuanazzi  has been an English teacher since 2011. Currently, he is working as a freelance teacher. He holds the CPE, the CELTA, and the TKT (Modules 1, 2, and 3). Leandro is passionate about professional development and has a special interest in writing skills as well as language development for teachers. 


BrELT CoLAB: Cintia Costa “Language Learning Strategies”

The secrets I tell my students about learning English

Rocket, eraser, dog, cat, pen, pencil were the first words I learned when I started learning English at the age of six and I loved repeating them to show everybody I could “speak” English. Wait, SPEAK, really?

Well, after completing the English course and getting my certificate from a language school, I was sure I was ready to use English whenever and wherever I wanted, right? W-R-O-N-G. The first time I had the chance to talk to a woman from the USA I said: “When do you use the present perfect tense? It is so difficult to memorize all those irregular verbs!”. I don’t need to tell you she didn’t know what I was talking about. On a following occasion, I tried to remember the page of one of my textbooks with a dialogue that I wanted to use in that moment.

Frustration. That was the word that came to my mind. How come I could not speak English after completing an English course? I thought I was not intelligent. I went to so many classes! I repeated after the teacher, I read the textbooks, I completed the workbooks, I did my homework, I took tests…

Taking the course Applied Linguistics in my English as a Foreign Language program (Letras) in Brazil was a turning point in my learning process. I wa s assigned to read Rebecca Oxford’s book “Language Learning Strategies – What Every Teacher Should Know”. This book presented so many practical ideas to learn a language and I started using various of them right away to study. And I developed my language skills enormously!

Rebecca Oxford (1990): Language Learning Strategies.

I then decided to share all these strategies with my students and this topic served as a theoretical background for my Master’s. I think many teachers believe their students already know how to study. In my case, I can still remember reading my textbook right before a test because I was not aware that I could (and should) have done much more than that if I really wanted to manipulate the English language.

After several years teaching languages and now teaching ESL in Canada for almost 5 years, I have reasons to believe that talking about language learning strategies with the students in the beginning of my courses makes a positive difference in their learning process.

As many adult students here in Canada did not have the opportunity to go school in their home countries, learning English is rather hard for them. However, I believe that getting them to use strategies to learn how to learn makes the learning process less challenging.

How do I share the secrets with my students in my classes?

First, I show them a funny video and use some ideas from a lesson on the website Film-English. Using this video is great because they laugh and reflect about what we have to do to learn a language. After that, I have a dialogue with my students about how to practice each skill (listening, speaking, reading, writing). As they usually participate a lot and give various suggestions, I just manage the discussion and write their ideas on the board.

Following this discussion, I give them a table I created with some ideas (which I edit according to my students’ needs). I also remind students about the strategies on a regular basis. They can include other activities or translate some of them if they want to. You can read the table here.

Creating their English learning schedule is the next step. I give them a table with the days of the week and tell them to write an activity for every day and the time they plan to spend on the activity. I tell them that even 5 minutes is enough for an activity. The important thing is to do something every day. I also make sure they include more strategies about the skill they think they need the most. If they think their listening is “weak”, for example, they must include more strategies about this skill.

Besides that, I ask my students to reflect about their own learning. They write about the things they are doing to reach their objectives. If they want to have a job interview, for example, they have to think about what they are doing to have a successful job interview. Watching videos, taking notes, reading their resume and cover letter, and rehearsing for the interview are extremely important. This practice is great because they can think about their actions to learn the language.

As soon as they learn about the strategies and realize how important they are, they start using them consciously. They demonstrate autonomous behaviours to practice English by using apps, reading books, taking notes, highlighting new words, drawing, volunteering in various organizations, talking to classmates, and even writing letters to me!

One of my student’s notes.

One of my students reading a book on her own before our class started.
One of my student’s drawings.

All these strategies helped me and my students in our adventure of learning English and I hope they can be helpful to you and your students too.

Cintia Costa holds a Master in Linguistics and a Bachelor in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Universidade Federal do Pará, in Brazil. She has been a teacher trainer and ESL/EFL, Portuguese and Italian teacher since 1993. She was a professor for the Portuguese program at Duke University, in the United States, and for the TCP program at the University of Winnipeg. She currently works as an ESL Instructor at the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology in Winnipeg. In her free time, she loves yoga, meditation, and going to parks.

Tornando aprendizagem de inglês visível e palpável através de apresentações – ferramentas e atividades.

Young boy presenting a project to the team
Apresentações podem auxiliar seus alunos a tornar informação em conhecimento. Como vocês as usa?

“Creating a clear an engaging explanation of a complex subject is a great way to demonstrate mastery and to help others understand and fall in with love the subject as well. “

Sal Khan

“Do we define a successful learner as one who has successfully learned a lot of language or one who has successfully learned how to learn, how to continue learning?”

Wolff, 2009: 104

É difícil encontrar alguém que nunca titubeou, esqueceu palavras ou se perdeu no próprio fluxo de pensamento durante uma apresentação. Mas a verdade é que as apresentações orais acompanham muitas pessoas durante toda a vida: na escola nos apresentamos em grupos muitas vezes, na universidade fazemos seminários e discussões, em nossos empregos fazemos apresentações para defender uma ideia ou apresentar uma pesquisa.

A apresentação oral pode desenvolver uma série de competências e incrementar o conhecimento de nossos alunos. A exposição oral treina nossa capacidade retórica o que pode ajudar no desenvolvimento da concentração no pensamento enquanto se fala, da leitura do gestual de pessoas na audiência e o desenvolvimento de técnicas de improviso.

As pesquisadoras portuguesas Laura Ribeiro, Silvina Ferreira e Susana Pereira acreditam que:

“o desenvolvimento da competência da produção oral implica a integração de várias competências comunicativas e de aprendizagem, revestindo-se de um considerável grau de complexidade para o aprendente, mas consideramos igualmente que, apesar das resistências manifestadas pelos alunos a este tipo de actividade, pode conduzir a uma satisfação pessoal elevada, quer por implicar uma sensação de vitória sobre obstáculos previsíveis, quer pela sua proximidade de uma situação autêntica do uso de uma língua, pois destina-se a um público real.”

Clique aqui para ler o estudo na íntegra.

Algumas ideias para desenvolver a habilidade de se apresentar oralmente:

Uma ótima TED Talk sobre como nosso a nossa linguagem corporal influencia a forma como nos vemos a nós próprios é Your Body Language May Shape the Way We Are da psicóloga social Amy Cuddy que argumenta que ao assumirmos uma postura confiante, mesmo quando não nos sentimos tal, pode aumentar a autoconfiança e ter impacto nas nossas hipóteses de sucesso.

Todo mundo deveria assistir esse vídeo antes de se apresentar. Mostre para seus alunos:

Planos de Aula Gratuitos

Um outro recurso interessante são três planos de aula que encontramos que desenvolvem a capacidade de apresentação oral de alunos de 8° e 9° anos. Os planos estão no site Nova Escola (onde há muita coisa bacana para professores de inglês), estão alinhado à BNCC e seguem as etapas de preparação, apresentação e avaliação de uma apresentação oral. Veja mais clicando aqui.

Ferramentas e Web Tools para Apresentações

Motive seus alunos a criarem apresentações no estilo slideshow com modelos, transições e animações usando:

Pratique e desenvolva a habilidade oral com as seguintes ferramentas:

  • Voicethread (Aplicativo para iOs) – uma ótima ferramenta que permite que os alunos adicionem narração e videos aos slides.
  • Photopeach, esse site permite que os alunos criem uma apresentação em formato de slides que contém perguntas, imagens e até música.
  • Livebinders (site e aplicativo) essa ferramenta tem cara de fichário escolar e é ótima pois os alunos podem escolher diversos formatos de apresentação ao incluir videos, links, PDFs, imagens e áudio.
  • Prezi (Aplicativo para iOs), uma forma moderna e dinâmica de apresentação. Requer um certo tempo para adaptação e algumas pessoas reclamam de ficarem um pouco tontas. Vale a pena tentar. Quem sabe?
  • Easely, caso seus alunos já tenham sido apresentados ao gênero, porque não solicitar uma apresentação de dados em forma de infográficos? Infográficos, além de muito popular hoje em dia, podem ajudar os alunos a tomarem consciência de fatos, pesquisas, dados e estatísticas através de informação ilustrada que fazem conexão com os elementos presentes.
Que tipo de atividade você cria para seus alunos se apresentarem? Conta pra gente e compartilhe conhecimento com todos 🙂

Advice to teachers becoming writers by Jill Florent


Jill Florent, has kindly agreed to share with us her materials writing experience and she has written a practical and comprehensive list of suggestions for teachers who want to start (or are in the process of becoming) materials writers.

We believe, though, that such advice can be applied to a series of teaching related activities that even if you’re not thinking about becoming a writer yourself, you may find the reading intensely interesting and applicable.

Advice to teachers becoming writers

by Jill Florent.

Teaching and writing have a lot in common. Many of the same principles apply to planning a coursebook and planning a course for your students. There are a lot of similar factors to consider when writing a unit and teaching a lesson. Lessons needclear aims and objectives, a mix of presentation, practice, individual work, pair and group work. You want your lessons to have a consistent structure and a degree of predictability, but you don’t want them to be dull and boring. Lessons need balance and variety, changes of pace and an element of fun in order to motivate students. The same applies to coursebooks. Most of the writers I’ve worked with have also been teachers. At first, teachers tend to write material that is suitable for their own classes. The next step is to write material that is suitable for other people’s classes.That is not a lesson that they could deliver themselves, but a blueprint for a lesson that anyone could teach, a jumping-off point to inspire other teachers to create interesting and effective lessons. As an editor, my watchwords are: clarity, consistency, simplicity, balance, variety. Let’s unpack that a bit and see what it means in practice. 


Take a look at your favourite textbook. Why do you like it? For me, the layout is a very important factor. I find coursebooks that use double-page spreads clearerbecause the ‘lesson’ appears as a whole. A double-page spread with the right amount of material for a 45-50-minute lesson makes it easier for the teacher to plan their lesson from the coursebook. Texts and exercises that fit into the columns and pages look more organised that ones that break across the page in uncomfortable ways. It is helpful for illustrations and any text boxes of key language to be in the appropriate place. Something I would consider ‘uncomfortable’ is where a key language box is placed at the bottom of a column or page and the activity using that language is in the next column or over the page. You certainly don’t want a language box to be split, and if possible (and it usually is), exercises should not be split. If the rubric and items 1, 2, 3, 4 fall in one column but items 5 and 6 spill over into the next column I would make adjustments. Either the exercise could be reduced to 4 items or an illustration of some kind could be added to the first column and the whole exercise moved to the next column. It’s helpful to have a little ‘white space’ sometimes, so the page doesn’t look too crowded. 

The aims, objectives and outcomes should be clear, even if they aren’t overtly statedin the Students’ Book. It’s important to know what the unit is about and what students are expected to have learned by the end. Whichever way the syllabus is divided,each unit and each (double) page should have a clear focus and outcome. Headings and target language boxes can be helpful signposts, showing what type of language and activities to expect.


Consistency aids clarity, if you describe the same activity in different ways, teachers or students may look for non-existent differences. Don’t vary the rubric for the same type of exercise, choose one style. For example, each activity where students have a gapped text or sentence should have the same rubric. It could be Fill in the gaps orComplete the text/sentences or Put the correct word in each gap. But it’s important to use the same formula every time. If you think about this from the beginning, it will help enormously. You will be able to see right away how many of the same sort of exercises you have, and if you find you’ve got too many of one type, you can easily amend this, because you can search for the relevant rubric.

Headings should also be clear and consistent. If you decide to call a language box key words in one unit, don’t call the same thing useful language in the next. However, if there are differences, for example if you’re giving key words for a vocabulary activity, and supplying useful language for a speaking activity, then it’s a good idea to use different headings.


Keeping it simple makes the tasks easy for everyone to follow. Complicated rubrics or exercises cause confusion and slow the lesson down because students don’t understand what they are supposed to do. If you can’t write a simple rubric, it probably means that the exercise is too complicated. Try splitting it into two or three parts. If tasks are straightforward and instructions are clear, the teacher’s job is easier, and the lesson will flow.

In creating practice exercises it’s a good idea to start with binary choices and gradually include more options. There are a variety of ways of presenting the choices, but the principle is to start with very simple either/or choices and slowly make the activities more demanding. That way, students have more chance of getting the correct answers, which builds confidence. 

Keeping rubrics simple (as well as consistent) is also helpful. Think of rubrics as Teacher Talking Time and it’s natural to want them to be as short and direct as possible. So, 1 Listen and match 2 Now work with a partner and compare your answers is better than You are going to hear four people talking about their journey to work. While you listen, match each speaker with their method of transport, then compare with your partner. Have you got the same answers?

Balance and variety

This applies to each aspect of the book and to the book as a whole. As well as making sure that you have a balance of skills and a variety of exercise types, check that you have a variety of photographs and illustrations, that there are different voices and points of view, a balance of male and female, young and old, ethnicorigins, hair colour, etc. (and remember, men are not always taller and stronger than women); make sure that it isn’t always men or boys who speak first, check the gender stereotypes of attitudes and attributes (girls can be daring, boys can be caring), as well as jobs (women can do the same jobs and be senior to men). At the same time, be wary of overdoing it. If you put all the women in superior roles, and make all the men incompetent, you will end up giving an equally unrepresentative view of the real world.

Magic fairy dust

A course can be perfectly well organised and easy-to-follow with a clear layout and stated aims and objectives, and yet be stiflingly dull. The missing ingredient is what I call ‘magic fairy dust’. This is what gives a book ‘character’, what makes the courseinteresting and relevant to the target users. The magic is in the author’s choices: the new twists on old topics, the unusual or surprising texts, the people (real or created) chosen to exemplify the language, the opportunities provided for students to explore interesting ideas and use the language they learn. This is what the author uniquelybrings to a book – editors can look out for all the points mentioned above, but only the author brings the magic. It’s the key ingredient in a successful course, one that has staying power in the classroom.

For more specific and detailed advice, go to where you will find books about writing different types of activities and for different audiences, as well as other resources and training opportunities to help you develop as a writer.

BrELT CoLAB: We need to talk about Marielle Franco by Bruno Andrade



The symbolic execution of Brazilian city councillor and minority activist Marielle Franco has motivated Bruno Andrade to write a conversation lesson about violence, racism and prejudice.


Aim: Provide B2/C1 students opportunities to discuss issues like violence, the inherited prejudice against colored and LGBTQIA people and politics in Brazil.

Duration: approx. 45m

Click here to access the lesson plan. The rubrics are below each slide.


Bruno Andrade is the founding member of BrELT and a professor at the Federal

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University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Brazil. He is also a primary and secondary English teacher at two private schools in Rio. He is the Public Relations Coordinator for the Young Learners and Teens Special Interest Group at IATEFL (The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language). He holds an MA in Applied Linguistics from UFRJ and has experience in teacher training, course creation, materials editing, organizing events and educational consultancy.

You can contact Bruno at

BrELT coLAB: a lesson plan on informal letters by João Pereira



When it comes to writing, we tend to focus on emphasize formal language, but what about informality? This lesson will show you how.

If you have students getting ready to take the Cambridge First Certificate, you will find João’s lesson useful. Even if they aren’t, we are sure they can benefit from the lesson.

Bio: João Pereira, based in Pouso Alegre, has been an English teacher and coordinator for roughly fourteen years. In addition to teaching mostly for exams, he has also worked as a Cambridge English speaking examiner for nearly three years.


Firstly, I tell my students that in today’s lesson we will be learning how to write informal letters. In addition,  I tell them that there are various kinds of letters in English but our focus will be to learn how to write a to a friend and a letter of application only, tasks that might  be required in part 2 of Cambridge first writing test.


  • I begin by explaining to them that a successful letter or any other piece of writing should be prepared carefully, otherwise they might not get the score they need or expect to get. I remind them of the assessment criteria we have discussed in other lessons recently and elicit from them which criteria those are. I write the criteria on the board: content/ communicative achievement/ organization and language. I briefly talk about them and show the students slide one.
  • I explain to them that despite the fact that letters can be both formal and informal (depending on the target reader) the layout conventions are always the same. I explain the layout conventions to them and point out some differences between formal and informal letters, placing emphasis on “greetings and “endings”. I draw a table on the board like the one shown below and ask the students to work in pairs sort things from slide 1into the best categories.











While students conduct the task, I walk around to classroom to provide them with help if necessary. I make the necessary corrections and hand out to them a letter that Marcella wrote to her mom. I give them 5 minutes to read the letter and then in groups of three or four, they are supposed to talk to each other about whether Marcella uses appropriate layout conventions as showed in slide 1. I allow them roughly 10 minutes todiscussit and give them another 5 minutes to report their findings to the whole class.


  • Once the discussion is over, I show them slides 3 and 4 and talk about some other differences they can find in formal and informal letters. I write some example sentences on the board to help them understand better.
  • I explain to the students that it is extremely important to pay close attention to their readership so that they can use appropriate register. They need to have a positive effect on the readership by choosing the register accordingly. I write the sentence below on the board and tell them that this sentence was in a letter I have written to my mom, I ask them to spot the mistake and to give me suggestions for improvement.


Dear mom,


I am writing to inform you how everything is going here in Spain…


  • I refer back to Marcella’s letter and in groups of three students have to think of alternatives to make her letter more informal as far as the highlighted sentences are concerned. After they have done that, I ask them to help me complete the table shown in slide 5. I might be prepared to give them further explanation as more than one alternative is possible to replace the highlighted sentences. We check answers and clear possible doubts up.


  • I tell the students that they will plan an informal letter. However, before preparing the letter itself they will have to carry out a task that consists of the following:


I tell the students we will play a game. I open the word file entitled ‘functions (informal letters)  and choose five categories, i.e. beginnings, apologies, invitations, giving news and signing off. I provide the students with sentences written on small pieces of paper, which refer to these categories, and ask them to work in groups of four to sort the short sentences into the best categories. The first group to finish the activity is the winner.


  • I show them the last slide and tell them they will read the task rubrics in silence carefully. After reading, I ask them to work in pairs take notes relevant to the task on a piece of paper. They must consider the topics below, previously looked into:
  1. Content
  2. Communicative achievement
  3. Organization
  4. Language



I ask them to talk to the other groups and decide which ideas are more appropriate or interesting to write a letter at home. They write this letter and hand in for correction afterwards. I remind them that the letter should contain from 140 to 190 words.






Thank you for your last letter

I’m sorry haven’t written for such a long time

It’s ages since I’ve heard from you.

hope you and your family are well.


Giving news

You’ll never believe that…

Listen, did I tell you about…?

This is just to let you know that…



I’m writing to apologise for missing your party.

I’m really sorry that I forgot to send you a birthday card.

I’m so sorry for not going to your party yesterday.



I’m having a party on Friday and we hope you’ll be able to come.

I was wondering if you’d like to go to the theater with us.

Would you like to go to the theater with us?


Signing off

Love, + first name

Lots of love, +first name

All the best, + first name

Best wishes, + first name



Give my regards to…

Say hello to…

Hope to hear from you soon.

Write soon!

Once again, thank you for all your help.


Marcella’s letter:

Dear Mum,

I felt obliged to write to inform you how everything is going here in Spain since I started university. Accept my sincere apologies for not writing sooner but I’ve been so busy I really have not had a suitable opportunity.

I managed to find a very nice place to live. It’s a small apartment across the street from the university. I’m sharing the apartment with a girl called Marcella who seems to be a nice person and has been living here for a year.

I have become familiar with the neighborhood and have been practicing my Spanish, which is improving considerably every day.

I hope to return home for Christmas once I finish the examinations. It will be wonderful to see all of you again. I’m feeling homesick, as you may know.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Yours sincerely,



PowerPoint Presentation


BrELT coLAB: a lesson plan on fossilised errors by James Taylor


“What fossilised errors do your upper intermediate and advanced students make more often?” James Taylor asked, picking BrELTers’ collective brains for grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and even pragmatic mistakes. 52 comments later, he had confirmed his suspicions on some mistakes and added a few others to update and further Brazilianise his lesson on those errors that learners just don’t seem to shake off. And what a treasure this lesson is! If you are looking for something to raise the bar at your higher level classes, this is most certainly it. Yes, James was kind enough to share his precious lesson with all of us because, well, that’s just who he is. And we can never thank him enough!  

Bio: Ojames taylor.jpgriginally from Brighton, UK, James Taylor has taught English as a foreign language to adults and teenagers in Brazil, South Korea, Belgium and Costa Rica. He now works for Cultura Inglesa in Brasília, Brazil. He’s a former President and a co-founder of BELTA, the Belgian English Language Teachers Association, and is also a very active member of the online ELT community. You can find
 him producing the TEFL Commute podcast, writing, mentoring teachers for iTDi, blogging and presenting at conferences, online and offline.

So without further ado, here’s the powerpoint and the explanation:  Common-fossilised-errors-presentation

As someone who normally teaches upper intermediate and advanced B2 to C2 students, I have for many years noticed that, despite years of study in the language, many students make errors which I think they should have dealt with a long time before. It seems clear to me that a learner at this level shouldn’t have any problems with telling the time and correctly identifying the gender of the person sitting next to them, but these problems persist long after they should have been dealt with.

This brings up a couple of issues, the first of which is not the focus of this post but I will mention it nonetheless. It seems to me that teachers at lower levels are letting these things slide, or not being strict enough. As I describe in this blog post I wrote a few years ago, I understand that at lower levels you have to let some things go, but I think these ones are too important and that we have to be strict with the the students. And in my experience they really appreciate it.

The second point is what we do now. I think that we have to be very explicit in tackling this with the students. There’s absolutely no point in dancing around this issue, I think we have to be upfront and tell them that they are making these kinds of errors and from now on, I will correct you if I hear them. If this sounds a bit direct, you can make posters and stick them on the wall and just point to them so the student knows what they did wrong.

Below is an activity I have used with many groups in order to tackle this issue head on. It includes a powerpoint which contains 21 common mistakes that Brazilian students make, compiled with the help of the wonderful brelt community who helped me enormously on the Facebook page. Thanks to everyone who commented and proved that BrELT is one of the most vibrant and supportive English teaching communities online! Feel free to edit the powerpoint to remove slides that you don’t believe to be relevant to your classes or to fit the length of your lesson.

1. Show students pictures on slides 2 to 23. Tell them these are typical mistakes that upper intermediate and above students make. Ask them to try and identify the errors. You can go through them as a class or ask them to work together in pairs and make a list. The answers are on slide 25.

2. Show sts picture on slide 24. Tell them that they are going to read a story about this family. Can they predict what it will be about?

(The following activity is adapted from Mess it Up, an activity in 52 by Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings.)

3. Put students in groups of 5, give them the following text divided into 75 words chunks and ask them to read their section. They should not show it to the other members of their group. Link to text.

4. Ask them to share what they’ve learnt from their paragraph. Together they should be able to piece the story together. Make sure that they summarise the text and do not read from it, or show it to each other.

5. Check the story together as a class. By the way, I chose this story as it is an opportunity to teach the students some critical thinking and analytical skills, so try to embrace that.

6. Ask them to rewrite the text on piece of paper but ask them to add mistakes into it. Ask them to imagine the kind of mistakes they might have made themselves and include them. Get them to mix up verb forms, change some spellings, swap words around etc.

6. Ask students to swap texts around, and correct what they think is wrong.

7. They can then check with the student who made the changes to see if they were right and what they missed.

A final note: After doing this activity, it is vital that you continue to monitor the students and give them feedback when they commit these errors over the rest of the course. You have to be strict and vigilant, or else it wasn’t really worth the effort. The students will appreciate it!