Thanksgiving at Sabbath School

Eduardo telling the missionary report from Belize

Yesterday we had our Thanksgiving Celebration at our English Sabbath School. The Sabbath School Class did not have any “stars” playing or singing but we had a fantastic program with members doing their best to give thanks to the Lord for the blessings this year. Even Eduardo who speaks at a pre-intermediate level managed to tell the missionary story from Belize and used the multimedia to complement his words. He checked out word pronunciation and meanings. He stuttered a little when pronouncing long words such as “baptism” or “baptized” but did a great job and by speaking he is building up confidence.

Mo teaching the Sabbath School Lesson for this week: The Lawgiver and Judge.
At the Gratitude Tree
Music is the universal language of the heart.



Today is “Black Fast”!

After spending two weeks in Ireland we’re back to the warm temperatures of São Paulo and to the commercial fever of Black Friday. Interestingly enough, the Atlantic Magazine reported that Black Friday is losing its appeal with more and more shoppers adhering to CyberMonday or any other day of the week going online.

For years, the Black Friday phenomenon had been known in Brazil. But it was something that happened there, in the States, up  North: A 75-inch TV for $100, an iPhone 6 for $ 85, a Lacoste polo shirt for $ 6, etc. But in recent years, shop-owners around the country have adhered to the “Big Sale”, “50% Off” event.

What calls my attention is the adoption of the English term, Black Friday – most Brazilians, Portuguese speakers are unaware of the meaning of the words just maybe daring to guess their meaning. So, as I walked this afternoon into the corner cake shop to buy a delicious and indulgent pudding cake which costs R$ 25, today the attendant cheerfully announced their “Black Fast” promotion: pudding cake for R$ 15. I couldn’t help but smile and the attendant said: well, at the slum where I live we call it “liquidação” so I really don’t know the right way to say it in English.

Yesterday, Americans around the world celebrated Thanksgiving  immersed in myths, traditions, good and bad memories, with mostly families in the center.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we will be celebrating our Thanksgiving at our English Sabbath School Class. We’ll have real turkey, fake turkey (Gluterkey (c), stuffing, gravy, corn on the cob, yes, Virginia, our Thanksgiving has corn on the cob, and of course, Apple Pie and ice cream.Turkey IMG_0555 IMG_0556 extrablackfriday

But most importantly, I’m so grateful to the Lord for the many opportunities and experiences he’s given me and pray that I may be useful to Him.



Tests are Opportunities not Punishment

End-of-Course Test – New English File Advanced

Usually students dread tests. They whimper, they cry, they threaten, they pass out, anything goes in order to escape from a test. For no small reason.

Early on they’re conditioned to fear tests, either they pass with high marks or else. Failure is not an option.

In my whole teaching career I would say that probably only 5% of students know how to deal with a test, which aims to show them what they know and point out areas in grammar, vocabulary speaking, listening, reading, writing, they need to improve.

My Student C is in the 5% crowd. Actually I’d say she is unique among my students, because not only she enjoyed taking the test, but rather, asked for more tests.

She did quite well in the End-of-Course Test obtaining a 90% success rate. Her grammar was excellent and reading skills as well despite the fact she does not enjoy reading books.

However, she daily reads the newspaper which I must use to her benefit thus encouraging her to read more news stories in English.

One point I believe greatly helped Student C  is that every class she takes notes of vocabulary or new grammar, reviewing those points during the week and as first activity of each class.

She has taken control of her learning thus seeing a test as an opportunity to see how much she knows and identify where she should focus next.



Kid’s play

My cousin, Fabiana, has called me if I could teach her 6-year old son, Diego. He is dying to learn English and at his school they won’t teach English before he is 7 because he has not learned to read and write in Portuguese, yet.

I told her Diego should have started learning English when he left the maternity if not sooner. As a baby he could have listened to stories on cd or mp3 in English – 30 minutes a day. Can you imagine how many hours of listening he would have already acquired?

Since English spelling and pronunciation live on different sides of the chasm, both children and adults would do well to develop their listening and speaking skills before reading and writing.

Games, realia, radio, and Tv are loaded with opportunities today for them to practice their listening. Once they have become used to the sounds of English then they will be able to more easily grasp the phonetics and spelling processes.

Until my early 30s the only opportunities to listen to authentic English on the radio was using a shortwave receiver which usually had a bearable reception only at night. Sometimes I had to attached a Brillo pad on the antenna for improved reception. I kid you not. Audiobooks were already available on cassette or cd but they were imported and expensive. Cable TV was in its infancy in Brazil, so forget about programming in the original sound. When they introduced the SAP (Second Audio Program) button on some tv programs I jumped for joy. With the click of a button I could choose between original or dubbed sound.

So today parents can encourage their children to watch, sing, dance, play in English. Learning has never been more fun. playing.jpg

Mondays don’t make me cry

I’m pretty sure that I have a healthy relationship with Mondays nowadays. They don’t make me cry. I don’t dread their coming on Sunday evenings. Actually, I look forward to getting up early ready for work. Of course, I can’t say the same about my Monday students who usually didn’t use their L2 skills during the weekend and start class only thinking of a good hangover cure magic pill.

Student MV is a good example of what I have just said: He is at a beginner level  lacking basic grammar and vocabulary skills. He’s keen on learning. Positive point. Doesn’t do anything outside the 60-minute class in order to learn. NEGATIVE POINT.

Learning will take place if a student is willing to commit his time, money and effort. The proportion could be 15%-5%-80%. The first 2 can vary but if there’s not a strong commitment to work, and work hard, learning will grow slowly, weak and sooner or later will die. Student MV is only with his 5% of the learning process ok, i.e. he punctually pays for his classes, but his knowledge tree will have a stunted growth and most decidedly will not have any leaves, and heaven forbid, any fruit.

He knows some English which, by the way, Starbucks is not helping. He’s seen several times “tall” ref. to a small cup at Starbucks. That’s the mental association he has made: Tall = Small. So if I ask “Is a basketball player usually tall?” He vehemently answers: “No he is not”. Another interesting confusion we came across today was describing some occupations. MV had to see a picture and answer: What does he/she do? When he saw the picture of a singer the only answer that came to his mind: SHOWER. LOL.

Most definitely Mondays don’t make me cry, only if I’m crying and laughing.

Mo Confused words

Time and Language meet on the Sabbath

I was born and raised in Brazil, a predominantly Catholic country, but because my family was Seventh-Day Adventist, my upbringing was Protestant with very clear Anglo-Saxon values. My church’s denomination is fruit of the American religious revival movement, and growing up we would sing the Portuguese versions of well-know 19th Century American hymns: What a Friend we Have in Jesus; I have a Friend so Precious; There shall be showers of blessing; It is well with my soul; Blessed Assurance, and many more. In Bible class, which we called Sabbath School, as little children we would learn about American missionaries risking their lives to bring light to the world, hear about values such as hard work, cleanliness, honesty, self-reliance, distrust of Big Government, etc, reflecting America’s patriotic, civic and religious values that got mixed and blended in the mists of the revolution and development of that nation. We’ve been leading a Sabbath School class in Brazil in English every week for the past 19 years. Although I believe that the seventh day is a day of rest and to cease from work, thus acknowledging God’s provisions for our life, English doesn’t take the day off. Today in Sabbath School we sang “In Christ alone; He is exalted; We are an offering – well-known contemporary songs in today’s English language hymnbooks. We sing, pray study the bible in this language, making students and teachers aware that language is not just a subject to be taught in school but something alive and transformative.IMG_3121 IMG_3130 IMG_3127ative. Mo

Fridays are always a Question Mark

Being self-employed I always try not to work Friday afternoons, my last class of the day is scheduled to end at 2pm. I have the rest of the afternoon free and many times I just go home and do whatever I feel like doing or not doing. It’s so liberating this feeling of not having to worry. Of course, my 12.30 pm student quite often cancels her class in the last minute. Can’t blame her. Poor thing. Way too busy juggling 231 hats. So many times while driving to class or waiting for her in reception, I am informed to do an about-face and get out of the way.

Usually my 8.30am Student is late, sometimes VERY late, so I always take books, ipad, newspaper, podcasts, and whatever I can think of to class to keep myself busy. Let’s call her Student A: she is a very pleasant person, however, talks WAY too much about anything, everything, except what she should be talking about in class. It’s complicated to have an introduction, development and conclusion of class when your student is shooting rubber question marks at 360 degrees. Because her tongue is advanced but her vocabulary is intermediate, every sentence in her speech is full of question marks in her intonation checking for confirmation of the word she’s using. For example, when describing a situation she begins saying: “she went under? Oh yes, downstairs. To the garage? oh yes, to the parking lot. She saw a police? Oh yes, a policeman, and she questioned? Oh yes, she asked her? Policeman? him?… and there she goes for a whole hour. ” question

Laughter is, most of the times, the best medicine

Coincidentally today two of my classes worked with humor. One lesson was part of the last chapter of the textbook dealing with humor as a science and why we laugh. The other class it was the student with a real upbeat spirit making the class light and the activities move smoothly. Learning to laugh at themselves is a task that both teacher and students must learn.
This afternoon the student walks into the room and says “I took some alcohol before the class”. I thought ok, now I have an alcoholic student. She meant to say she was regularly using the hand sanitizer gel. Go figure. 😜
Another funny situation when she said vacuum and she meant vaccine. She was confusing the English word with the Spanish “vacuna”. She also said CIDA instead of AIDS. The funny confusions of learning a 3rd language.
Sometimes we come across a student who no matter how hard she tries she seems not to make any progress. She does almost all her assigned homework, has reached an upper intermediate level after years and years of classes but still fumbles the ball when having to produce the simplest sentences. As her teacher I can choose between snapping at her saying: how can you be so thick/ dimwit or any other less than flattering adjective. Or I can laugh it off and start again. I choose the latter. Mo