Saturday, 29 December 2012

Transitions between Primary and Secondary Schools ...

Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Transitions between Primary and Secondary Schools

Is there a big gap between Primary and Secondary ESL curriculum? This so called "transition" is not easy for both students and teachers, and frequently depend on the goodwill of all.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Pretend Play in Teaching ESL to VYL

Pretend play (or symbolic play) is a vital experience of childhood that allows transform and create other worlds, other lives to live,play at being other, learn to think and to feel as others and, ultimately, know that there are ways of thinking and feeling different from their own.
"As children develop the ability to represent experience symbolically, pretend play becomes a prominent activity. In this complex type of play, children carry out action plans, take on roles, and transform objects as they express their ideas and feelings about the social world" (Garvey, 1984)

Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Pretend Play in Teaching ESL to VYL

Monday, 10 December 2012

Foldables and Notebooking

Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Foldables and Notebooking

I’ve been using foldables almost for everything in my English language classes. I work with them vocabulary, grammar, sentences, the four skills, fine motor skills... But the most important thing is that it brings lots of interaction to the class, that it is probably the core of the language skills in Primary ESL.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Writing Prompts

Learning English as a Second Language benefit greatly from interactive writing activities . Writing provides ESL students a way to combine their speaking, listening and reading experiences into a creative expression of learning English.

Read more about at Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Writing Prompts

Friday, 16 November 2012

The power of music when Teaching English to Very Young Learners.

How can ELT be made enjoyable and effective in Kindergarten?

Song, a combination of music and lyrics, possesses many intrinsic merits, such as a kaleidoscope of culture, expressiveness, recitability and therapeutic functions, which render it an invaluable source for language teaching.

Read more about at Cockroaches and Ladybugs blog.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


This is a list of playscripts. Very useful if you like practising theatre with your pupils. You've got the title of the play in blue, which is a link to the script. Then, in black, you will find information about about the number of characters, the author and if it works any moral value.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Oxfam's Cool Planet

Brought to the group by Antonio, this is the web site he proposed as a resource for designing projects in which children are involved not only in learning English but also in learning values.

Oxfam's Cool Planet is a website that teaches children about some of Oxfam's recipient countries, including food from around the world, children's stories from around the world, and the "Mapping Our World" teaching product.

It is designed to support educators everywhere in the world along with their students and make it as simple as possible for teachers to bring the global dimension into their classrooms.

Using the concept of "global citizenship", it aims to assist teachers in bringing the global dimension into their classrooms. The resources are designed to inform and empower young people to work for a more just, secure and sustainable world.

Many of the resources are organised by theme:
  • Recipies from around the world. Get cooking with some fabulous Fair Trade recipes.
  • Food. What do you think about when you go shopping? The look? A fair deal on the price? What about the people who produce the things you buy… should they get a fair deal too?
  • Mapping our World. This is Oxfam's free interactive whiteboard resource forteaching about maps, perspectives, and geography.
  • Milking. It is an interactive resource about small farmers and international trade designed to facilitate teaching 13- to 16-year-olds about fair trade.
  • Take action. Here are some ideas about how children can work with Oxfam to change the world. There are some really simple things they can do to help, or they can get together with their friends and plan something BIG! Whatever they want to do – it all helps to make the world a fairer and better place.
  • Around the world. Oxfam works in over 70 countries around the world. A guide about few of the countries it works in.
  • Children’s stories. Explore the lives of children from different countries around the world through our exciting photo stories!
  • What is Oxfam. Oxfam's aim, examples of Oxfam’s work, campaigns, and things we can do.
I think Cool Planet kidsweb is a very valuable resource, and we can get some very interesting ideas to develop projects in which Content, Communication, Cognition and Culture are all of them under the umbrella of Social Values.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

100 Formas de Animar Grupos: Juegos para Usar en Talleres, Reuniones y la Comunidad

This is a resource material that has been developed to encourage participation in practice.

It is a compilation of animation techniques, icebreakers and games that can be used by anyone who is working with a group of people, either in a workshop, in a training group, in a meeting or in the community.

Teachers must use games for several different reasons, including to help children to know each other, increasing energy levels and enthusiasm, encouraging the development of co-operation or children think about a particular problem.

The games that help children to know each other and help to relax are called icebreakers.

When they look sleepy or tired, animation techniques can be used to get them moving and to give them more enthusiasm (stirrers).

Other games can be used to help children think about problems and can help solve problems that people may face when they work together.

Games can also help children to think creatively and laterally.

Although this is a material developed for adult groups, most of the games can be easily adapted to primary or secondary levels.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Contribution of Multilingualism to Creativity

The Contribution of Multilingualism to Creativity: "Creativity and innovation have been a key focus of attention around the globe in recent years. This is partly due to the need to develop hu...

“The major future challenges in the educational field are how to reform our learning systems to prepare our young people for jobs that do not exist yet, using technologies that have not been invented yet, in order to solve problems that haven’t been identified yet.” (Jan Figel 2009).

Read more at Cockroaches and Ladybugs blog.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Re-Thinking Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning (PBL) is not a question of "on or off", do PBL or not do PBL... It can mean different things to different people. There are a lot of variations (like in any other educational methodology) and any teacher can construct their own version just by adding or changing some parametres.

Peter Skillen suggest to consider some parametres and to study many of the great resources that are available to you and then create your own working definition and effective PBL practice. (You can find some of these resources below.)

The following diagram, enhanced by the critical eye of Brenda Sherry, can help you figure out what’s important to you and your students, just by sliding from one side to the other the level of each parametre to be considered in your PBL practice.

You could likely add other dimensions to consider (for instance, time management)  as you build your own understandings and beliefs!

Who is in control? Who is initiating the project? Whose passion is being honoured with the project? Who is setting the goals, timelines, and motivation? Are you scaffolding the students’ success through templates, calendars, checklists, rubrics or are you unwittingly stealing their locus of control and micromanaging them. Been there. Done that! Thought I was helping them by giving them lots of assistance!

Who is asking the question to be investigated in the project? The student or the teacher? Is the question a ‘deep, driving question’? Is it a ‘fat’ question or a ‘skinny’ one?

If the projects are collaborative in nature, you may wish to consider the amount of interdependence that students have with one another. Are they merely gluing their parts together to make a whole or do their conversations and co-creations lead to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts?

Is the content a rich, deep problem space or is it a more narrowly focused content area? Are there natural links to other domains that provide a context or is the content deconstructed to remove seemingly distracting and disparate information?

Are the students involved in constructing new meanings and understandings or are they simply retelling in their own words information they have found during their research? Have you built in mechanisms (blogs, wiki, vokis, public journal writing, etc.) so that student thinking is made visible, transparent and discussable or is most student process hidden and unavailable to others?

How authentic is the problem under investigation? Are students ‘being’ scientists, historians or geographers and so on, or are they ‘studying’ science, history and geography? How much is the project based in the real world of the student? Is it purposeful for them?

Great Resources for Project Based Learning

Chart: Effective PBL Continua by Peter Skillen & Brenda Sherry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This post originally appeared on Jul 13, 2012 in Voices from the Learning Revolution, by Peter Skillen

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Waiting games for fast finishers, classroom password, breaking the ice, or... whatever you may find them useful for!

Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Waiting games for fast finishers, classroom passwo...:

I have found this list of  "20 (Almost) Effortless Waiting Games For Your Kids" in a curious web site called More Than Mommies. The idea to make this list came out when you are with your kids "stuck waiting and patience is growing thin".

Monday, 10 September 2012

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Ice breakers, knowing each other and five minutes Activities for Interaction

Back to work, back to reality! 
Ready to start back?

There is nothing most intimidating for teachers that coping with a large group of children who you don't know at the begining of school year. And this can be very scary for the children, too!

Getting students to feel at ease in a new classroom usually takes a bit of time and work. English language teachers are always looking for "good communicative ice breakers" that breaks this initial "ice", between us and the children.

We need ice breakers to reduce tension in a particular group, to help children to get to know know each other's names (and you to get to know them, too), to involve them into oral language production, to facilitate conversations between individuals, to allow interaction in the groupand to encourage friendships.

I have listed some good ice-breaker activities and games web sites, and other materials I use with my students.

Find them in Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Ice breakers, knowing each other and five minutes activities for Interaction

Explore by yourself!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A project about New Zealand

Cockroaches and Ladybugs: A project about New Zealand: This is a short project made with my pupils of Y4 about New Zealand (10 years old - primary esl). The final outcome consisted of a booklet w...

Differentiated Instruction and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Differentiated Instruction and Bloom’s Taxonomy: In our current curriculum, all students of ESL are expected to master a same level of proficiency in English language at the end of primary ...

Monday, 9 July 2012

Barcelona Linguistic Landscape

Cockroaches and Ladybugs: Barcelona Linguistic Landscape: Some days ago I read a post on Scott Thornbury's blog "An A-Z of ELT" about Linguistic Landscapes (which I really recommend you!). Thornbur...

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Listenings for primary ESL/EFL classes

Listenings for primary ESL/EFL classes: For very young children, the main reason listening comprehension is difficult is that there are simply too many new and unfamiliar words. Ev...

Monday, 2 July 2012

Saturday, 2 June 2012

How to facilitate speaking in the ESL classroom

Upper Primary Level. 

How difficult is to teach conversation in the ESL classroom! How difficult is to stir spontaneous speaking!

Repetition kills motivation!
If you are using a textbook you will realize that the material found in ESL textbooks are dry and lack the variety and authenticity of real-world conversations. Teachers need something that can stimulate students and get them motivated to speak English in the classroom.

A good way is using video clips as a conversational prompt. They provide students with authentic situations in which the English language is used and can help them speaking in the classroom. 

First problem:  To find one that is appropriate. Just ask you few questions:
Is the content suitable for the students?
Does the content appeal to the students?
Is the length of the clip too long?

Clips shorter than two minutes may not provide enough substance from which students can create a narrative. On the other hand, clips more than five minutes in length may be too challenging for upper primary students.

Second problem: Where to find suitable video clips? You can search popular video sites such as, or Google videos for the video clips.  In these sites, video clips are abundant and are easily accessible in the classroom (type "animated short films" or "animated commercials"... you will get some good stuff to use in the ESL class).

Personally, the ones I like the most are: the YouTube Pixar channel and Ringling College of Art Design channels in Vimeo. 

I recently used this video from the YouTube Pixar channel in Year 5, just after reading the Heinemann book "Castles. King Arthur Treasure"

Third problem: What to do with it? It is a good idea to create a worksheet that has sections in which students can write down ideas, single words, new vocabulary, actions (verbs), and things they don’t know or they do not understand, that will later be used in speech. At the bottom of the worksheet, just add a few lines so that students can write a short narrative, both in L1 or L2, depending on the level.

My students usually work in small groups. I distribute a specific worksheet and introduce briefly the video to them. Take care to not give away what is happening in the video, otherwise they will not have much to write and later narrate. Simply inform the students of what are they going to do, the name of the video and some clues to watch it.

The first time I play the video, I ask children to do nothing: just watch and listen. The second time I ask them to write down, on the worksheet, what they see in the clip.

This video is from the student gallery of Ringling College of Art and Design.

Carrot Crazy! from Ringling College of Art + Design on Vimeo.

Once the video clip has been played I ask some questions regarding the clip:

What did you see in the video clip (objects, places,)?
What was happening (actions, verbs…)?
What emotions, do you think, the actors felt (feelings, adjectives…)?
Why did the characters do this or that?

Now, here it comes the most amazing part of the activity: students are asked to write a small narrative that will accompany the actions in the video. 

Students can write the narrative in the third or the first person: just they are different ways of expressing what is happening in the video.

Play the video again without sound. Give ten minutes to groups to come up with a narrative for the video clip. While students are writing, walk around and assist as necessary. When the groups have completed their narratives, choose alternative groups to narrate the video clip while it is being played.

Make sure each student from the group has a chance to read a few lines of the narrative.

You can conclude the session by asking their opinion, comment or just giving an adjective for the video.

With a little extra work you can add the narrative to the video by using Overstream or another subtitle adding app.

Watch an example in vimeo

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Los Pistoleros de la Paz

Do you remember Den Haag, Netherlands, 2009?
Do you remember our visit to the International School of The Hague?
Do you remember as well our handsome "teacher guide" in there, and how many thinghs did we learn from him?

Berenguer Gaston has made a dramatic change in his life full of Rumba flavor. He left the school last year and started a new "life project" in which he is has been involved for many years. Now is time to listen to their outcomes.

Los Pistoleros de la Paz come to infect us with their sound full of different musical influences. A cultural mix that explodes with ritmo latino. The band formed early 2008 as an initiative to be part of the festival "Pieter van der Doesstraat" held in Amsterdam in order to unite the diverse cultures prevailing in the Netherlands. The idea caught the attention of several friends who joined the group to continue the goal of the festival, as a band. Catalan, Colombian, Venezuelan, Ecuadorian and Dutch, making the best of their worlds, reflected in their music. Los Pistoleros de la Paz, carrying the flag of hope in the air with as always their motto: Smile, and things will be better!

Find them in Facebook
Find them in My Space

Berenguer Gaston (saxophone) and Genis Navarro (trumpet), both exalumni. How proud!

Crossing the river

-Resources: A picture or flashcard to represent each vocabulary item or selected letter of the alphabet.
Time guide:10 minutes

Preparation: create some space across the middle of the classroom.

Activity: Use the cleared space in the classroom and place the flashcards in a line on the floor with the pictures facing up.
Divide the class into two teams, with one team standing at each end of the line pictures.
If necessary check that the children know how to play ‘Rock, paper, scissors’ by practising this with the whole class.
Each student stand opposite another child with their fists clenched. They both move their fists up and down as they count 1, 2 3 together and out loud. On the third count each child chooses between showing rock, paper or scissors with their hand.
One child wins , rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, and scissors beats paper. If the same gesture is chosen by both children, they simply repeat the game until one of them wins.

 The first child from each team walks along beside the line of pictures, each starting at opposite ends line. They have to take turns to say what each picture or letter is as they reach it. The rest of their team can join in by saying each item.

When the two players meet the play’ Rock, paper,scissors’. Whoever wins stays where they are, and the other player goes to the back of their team’s line.
The next player in the losing team now starts walking along the line of pictures saying what each picture is,and the winning player also continues. When they meet, they play ‘Rock,paper,scissors’.
This continues until one team member manages to cross the river, in other words, reaches the opposite end of the line of pictures. A point is scored for each child that crosses the river.

The game can end when all of one team reach the other side – but that could take a very long time! Or you can play for a set period of time, stopping when choose, and the winning team is the one with the most points or with the player furthest along the line.

Play with me!!!

Play with me is a Comenius Project which involves four countries from the European Union: United Kingdom, Italy, Greece and Spain. In Catalonia this project is been leadered by Melin Masdeu, one of our teacher members in our ICE group of work.

The main intention of this project is to know and share traditional games from their countries, while they are experiencing other languages and cultures.

They want to develop the children within the partnership schools as fit and healthy individuals who enjoy playing traditional games as much as plugging themselves into computers. Through a range of hands-on enjoyable activities they can experience other cultures and be given a European dimension to their learning. A Comenius Club is developed in each school where skills learnt can be used further.

Different types of traditional games are shared across the countries. They are evaluated and also support teacher professional development. It enables teachers and students across the network to network and create further learning opportunities.

Parents and the wider community are involved in collaborative work across the projects. Ultimately it will lead to the development of a learning platform where teachers and learners will be able to keep all members aware of the progress being made towards the final outcome.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Concentration. A five minutes warm up activity

"Concentration" is a 5 minutes warm up activity to foster concentration and to involve children into oral production. It is a very good way to start the class when you need to focus in one particular topic, working out abilities such as listening and social skills.

Depending of the level you can increase difficulty by demanding the right phonetics, working out grammar items (adverbs, prepositions...) or increasing speed.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Three minutes teacher

"Three minutes teacher" is a warm up activity that can be done in upper primary ESL class. It is an activity to promote speaking, oral autonomy and interaction.

Once a week a student presents the class for 3 minutes. Voluntarily, she or he prepares a warm up activity to get into English. For example, asking questions about the weekend, showing a picture, telling a story or any personal information, a song, a chant, a video…

Any possibility is fine. They have to tell the teacher in advance what they are going to do. We can record the presentation or take a picture of him/her being a teacher.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Hi everyone!!!

After a lovelyand sunny day...warm regards from Valldoreix

Just to start with...

I have a great job in the universe of occupations. 

What do I do? I'm a "star polisher."

It's a very important job. If you want to know how important, just go out at night and look at the stars twinkling and sparkling.

You see, I'm a teacher. The stars are the children in my class. My job is to take them--in whatever shape they come--and shine and buff them and then send them out to take their places as bright, twinkling beacons in the sky.

They come into my room in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they're bent, tarnished, dirty, crinkly, or broken. Some stars are cuddly and soft. Some are prickly and thorny.

As I buff and polish, I train and teach my little stars; I tell them that the world cannot do without them. I tell them they can do anything they set their minds to. I tell them they can be the brightest, shiniest stars in the sky and the world will be a better place because of them.

Each night as I look at the sky, I'm reminded of my very important job and awesome responsibility. Then I get my soft buffing cloth and my bottle of polish in preparation for tomorrow…for my class of little stars.

        --Leah Becks