As you know I’ve been teaching private students, mostly one on one for over 25 years so I can’t say I’ve been in touch with what goes on in classrooms all over Brazil. Last time I taught English as a regular subject at school was back in 1986, so do your math, because I can’t. I’m an English teacher after all.
So I decided to talk (via Twitter) to a dear friend and fellow teacher, Iara Will, who teaches at state public schools in São Paulo. Here’s what she had to say:
Do you use technology in your classes?
“Well…at my school in Sorocaba (Humberto de Campos) we have an IT room with 12 computers working.
But my classes have around 30 students… a tight room with broken air conditioning…, so I use computers in class only when a few students show up. The São Paulo state government has an online English Course program open to public school students who even receive a conclusion certificate. The online course presents everyday situations, videos and exercises even allowing for some interactivity. The course goes up to the Intermediate Level.
In class I allow them to use their cellphones, although it’s forbidden by law.
Reason: we have no dictionaries at the school’s library. So.. they look up words online.
I try to give them activities that don’t have an easily found answer online, I encourage memorization and I make up many activities.
From the textbooks I only use some texts for reading comprehension.
I also use songs some old and some brand new ones.
I’ve learned that English is more of a decorative subject than really Language Arts. It’s just a complement not a real subject.
I cannot hold back any student. Don’t tell it to my dear students (it’s state secret. LOL)
By the way no one fails any subject nowadays at our schools. But even so, I make my opinion heard at school board and council, especially in disciplinary matters, because I’m one of the few who listens to the students.
My workload is low so I have some free time. Most teachers survive teaching at least 32 classes a week. It would be writing 18 class reports for English alone. Many teachers teach 54 classes a week. I don’t know how???!!!!
What sort of activities do you use with students?
Reading Activities with current issues from texts I find online or from the textbook.
I use songs and films subtitled in English when I know they’ve seen it 20 times, like Finding Nemo. I give them a handout to fill in the blanks and other activities varying according to their grade.
They love it, if I may say so.
I take my own tv, speakers, I have to make my own copies.
The school says they have everything I need, until I really need something.
Some students ask if they may go to the restroom in English, even during other classes, just to be funny, or to be the first to go.
We have more writing activities than conversation. It’s only 2 classes a week, I try hard to follow a program.
2 classes of 45 minutes each?
Wow! Such a short time. How do you divide the time in class? Roll call? Homework? Do you have any warm up activities?
They answer Roll Call in English – Hi, hello, present, I’m here or here. I use up to 10 minutes just for roll call.
When they return from the restroom they have to say “excuse me”
For warm-up I can use an object, a quiz or a previous activity.
They don’t have homework 😦
Sometimes we talk about special holidays, such as Thanksgiving – we have a little party – they bring some foodstuff, name it in English.
Occasionally we even pray in English taking advantage of some special celebrations.
There are cameras in the classrooms. I cannot induce them to anything.
And do the cameras work?
Yes, vice-principals, mediators and school inspectors constantly monitor them
What do your students think of studying English?
It’s hard, cool, boring, Now that I can understand it I like it… things I’ve heard this year.
What’s their social-economic status?
Many of them live in slums. I earn a little more because the school is located in areas of risk.
Thank you so much, Iara for sharing with us this wonderful experience as a caring teacher.