LOOKING BACK

This week, a friend of mine, who happens to be a psychologist, asked us if we were that sort of people who made resolutions for the new year. Naturally she said that was fine but the best would be to review the past year and be grateful for all things done or left undone. The new year will bring its own challenges and rewards.

Following her advice let me share with you a little of what my year was like: Of course the sensation is that 2020 hasn’t ended and it will continue with its miseries well into 2022 – but even in the midst of a global pandemic we were able to move house – from a noisy and polluted apartment in the very heart of a metropolis to the clean air of the country – just 130 km away from the city of São Paulo but it feels like its 1,300km away.

The adaptation has been smooth and wonderful… from the very first day we got used to the country – of course, Luther, the cat, took two days to adapt but now he loves his expanded territory. Some drawbacks with a mouse showing up in the laundry area, a snake in the patio and a few frogs in the garden … but all part of nature, right?

Black cat plays with live mouse (short) - YouTube
Apartment cat turns into barn cat in 3 months

The pandemic allowed us to move since I’m working online but it also brought the challenges of companies cutting down expenses and “streamlining” their language teaching benefits offered to their staff. I lost important corporate clients to Covid (they’re still alive, thank goodness – it was economics not viral) but they decided to cut costs and adopt online platforms for employees to self-study instead of using flesh and blood teachers like moi (the future will tell their mistake).

Man Holding A Card With A Text Students Wanted Stock Photo, Picture And  Royalty Free Image. Image 70503076.

My income drop was significant – around 40% of my monthly income suddenly disappeared – while expenses increased because of the new home and maintenance costs of the old apartment. We thought we’d be able to sell it within 6 months but that didn’t happen. Now in 2022 we will try to rent it… great location and size – 3 bedrooms near the financial district of São Paulo – hopefully we will be able to rent it to nice people.

Slowly in June and July I started to get new students to fill the gaps left by the corporate ones … still a long ways to go… but hopefully we will get there.

I still value life quality, more than ever, so I don’t want to be teaching back-to-back classes for 6-8 hours a day. Unhealthy at so many levels.

On the academic level I tried to cut my class times from 60 to 45 minutes – thought they would be more productive – however, at the end of the day, students are paying for 45 minutes of lesson but enjoying 15 minutes more of free English time. Back to the drawing board.

Drawing board - Wikipedia
Back to the drawing board: trial and error

I loved to see my students who stayed on developing and blooming in their confidence when using English – their listening, reading, speaking have improved significantly. Mind you, their writing is not what it should be – partly my fault, because I didn’t push them hard enough to write essays and other sorts of texts. But even so, one of them writes beautiful academic articles (can I call them beautiful?). Writing is also the least favorite activity among my learners. My chest was stuffed with pride when my student got band 7 on IELTS having studied less than 3 weeks for the exam.

Will 2014 be the year you pass your IELTS? |

On another professional level, as a remote interpreter – I attended a very good course this year at Associação Alumni to learn more about the new world of remote interpreting, the resources, techniques and gadgets – while also networking with the teachers and classmates – remotely, of course. I am a pretty reserved person so networking is a challenge for me – but one must try. Looking forward to developing a more relevant profile as a remote English, Spanish and Portuguese interpreter in 2022.

ODP-Video Remote Interpreting Tips

Yes, 2021 was a tough cookie to chew (almost as hard as the Christmas cookies my flower baked, please don’t tell her), but it had its many surprises, even with me in December becoming a choir conductor – bear in mind I had never done that before and my musical education is limited to say the least. But that’s life… full of surprises – some pleasant , others not, but always contributing to growth.

My debut as a choir conductor

Happy New Year and looking forward to seeing you on the other side.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mo-sena-teacher-interpreter-edited.jpg

Cheers

Mo

Motivation: Mission Impossible?

As teachers we have to daily fight for our own motivation, not only financial but professional and intellectual as well. What is it that makes you get out of bed and teach for a few or many hours a day? In person or online? Unpaid hours spent preparing for lessons, searching for ideas, developing PowerPoint presentations… and all that for what?

Motivation Illustrations and Clipart. 217,217 Motivation royalty free  illustrations, drawings and graphics available to search from thousands of  vector EPS clip art providers.

Even highly motivated students at the beginning of the program see their motivation wane as the weeks pass. The excitement of the new, the hope for quicky proficiency, etc, all take their toll on every student.

A few learners keep their torch burning, do their homework, study on their own, use their language tools in different situations, etc… but most of them still wait for the teacher to revolutionize their language skills.

The Longman Learners’ Dictionary defines motivation as eagerness and willingness to do something without needing to be told or forced to do it

How can I as a teacher get my students to take charge of their own learning process?

First, let us think how fast we can motivate or demotivate someone:

While motivation requires a connection that can take minutes, hours or days to build and consolidate, you can destroy a learner’s motivation in a fraction of a second with just one word. Yes, you read it right, the most demotivating speech can be just one word.

How then can I motivate them?

  1. Promote communication. Learning is a process. Input and output.
  2. Allow space for creativity and connection which will enable engagement.
  3. Build a healthy relationship with the students. As a teacher you don’t need to be their pal but empathy can go a long way in getting them started.

Don’t get me wrong. There will be good days and bad days … hopefully the good ones will far outnumber the bad ones. How? As we develop a culture of learning, provide tools for their growth and continue to encourage them in their progress.

Cheers and carry on.

Mo

FREELANCER’S LIFE

I have been freelancing as a teacher, a translator and an interpreter for nearly 30 years, so I can tell you a thing or two about my career choice. In this post we will focus on freelance teaching.

CAN I BE A FREELANCE TEACHER? - The TEFL Academy Blog

If you want Security it will be found , relatively speaking, while working for a company where they are supposed to provide you with training, the tools for your trade and “super benefits” such as paid holidays and weekends.

No, Virginia, as a freelancer you get paid for the hours you have worked, period. Or when a translator for the number of words you have translated.

What advantages do we have as freelancing teachers?

Benefits for Tutors | how does tutoring help the tutors | is tutoring  beneficial

Most people will say: “You’re soooo lucky… you have no boss. You can choose the times and days you’re gonna work; how much you charge for your work; and you can pick and choose the students you’re going to be working with.” Truth? Myth? Maybe?

  1. The answer is … that depends. Let me explain: you’re free to choose the times and days you want to work in, yes, but you still depend on having students willing to be filling those hours. For example, during the pandemic most of my morning students, correction, ALL of my morning students decided to have classes in the evening. Since they were working from home they could stay in bed until 5 minutes before work started… lol … I don’t know… but since I’m a son of the dawn (I feel most productive in the morning), need I say more? So now I have only 3 students in the morning, the rest of them are in the afternoon and evening.
  2. Can I set my prices /fees? Yes, to some extent – some prospective students will try to bargain, others will just say it’s way out of their budget (that’s understandable – even though some would try to bargain even if offered free classes). When setting a price I have to take into consideration:

My professional skills AND experience

Market rate averages compatible to what I will be providing to my clients

Something they don’t teach you in teachers’ school is that when setting your fees you must remember you won’t have any paid time off, any expenses such as computer, internet services, etc. will have to come out of your own pocket.

A real advantage when freelancing? Schools will pay you 30% or less of what they charge their students. When freelancing you keep 100% to yourself (before taxes, of course).

3. Now… regarding choosing students – actually THE STUDENTS will be choosing YOU. Of course, your market niche will define certain professional profiles, age groups (no kids, please) and even a certain economic and social status. As a rule of thumb, people in the lower brackets of society can’t afford private dental care, let alone, private tutoring. Yes, Virginia, we can talk about 50% or 100% scholarships, but that would be an issue for another post.

Yes, as a freelancer I can choose the materials I’ll be using, but students will have priority on what to cover in their classes, e.g., preparing for a meeting, revising a PPT presentation, reviewing and revising the professional portfolio, practicing for interviews, etc.

Online teaching courses and resources | British Council

At the end of the day, the freelance teacher will be free as long as he or she provides the service the client wants to receive.

Cheers,

Mo

Teaching Online, Revisited

After 18 months teaching exclusively online what pieces of advice, if any, would I have to share with my fellow language teachers? Here are some of the things I already knew and needed to put into practice and others I had to learn the hard way:

  1. Equipment is key – a decent notebook or computer with a good camera and microphone. My older computer had a lousy camera – six months into the pandemic with a grainy image I had to upgrade it. Add to the equipment the necessary microphone and headset (preferably with a cord to avoid interference and power surges). Also a ring light helps your professional image. Initially I thought it was just one extra unnecessary fluffy item, … but after my sweetheart gave me one, I can’t imagine going online without proper lighting. A second screen also helps a lot. Bear in mind, I didn’t say top of the line equipment – decent quality is good enough. No need to break the bank for the top brands.
  2. Camera positioning – try to show yourself from the shoulders up, prop up the notebook with one or two dictionaries (they’re the perfect size), a box, or a proper laptop stand but the right height will make the difference on how you will be seen. Since we’re talking about cameras – remember to look into the camera – don’t focus on the screen – the camera will give you eye contact with your audience.
  3. Dress properly – no top hat and tuxedo are necessary but sleeveless shirts are a ‘no-no’ for men (and women in some cultures). No need to hide your tattoos, if any, but keep a clean look … very few people can get away with a disheveled appearance and you probably are not one of them. Heard many times of people connecting wearing their pajama bottoms or none (chuckles) but my advice is: put on some pants, please. Getting dressed will help you feel like you’re doing something other than eating cereal for dinner in bed.
  4. Check your internet connection – Wifi is ok if the only option available (but preferably connect through your cable – more stable connection). Check your camera, microphone and headset before the session begins. I use Zoom for 95% of my sessions and occasionally it automatically changes my default settings for microphone and headset. Lovely, huh? More than once I’ve found myself without voice or hearing. So… once again… check it BEFORE the session starts.
  5. Prepare and Improvise – have your lesson and presentation ready, but be aware that things may change, remember that “student-centered lessons” are not just a cliché.
  6. Be careful when you share your screen – close all tabs and apps you don’t think your students would like to see or know about. TMI is still applicable online. That will make you look and sound more professional. Hey, I’m human, too. Sometimes I forget to close my tabs on the browser and there’s Twitter, and Facebook, and YouTube open – nothing wrong with that – but none of my students’ business. Do I need to say anything about porn tabs?
Teaching online can be a rewarding experience or a nightmare depending much on how you prepare for it.

Teaching online can be a rewarding experience or a nightmare depending much on how you prepare for it.

Happy teaching.

Cheers,

Mo

SAYING GOODBYE

Letting Go | Hoffman Institute
Letting go is bittersweet

The act of saying goodbye has bittersweet notes. There’s always the excitement, the glad anticipation of a new student starting and that strange feeling when it’s time for you to say goodbye to a student.

Teachers and students traditionally say goodbye at the end of the term. That’s expected and part of the program. In the case of the relationship between private teacher and student the situation is rather different. The duration of a language coaching program has no pre-fixed termination date and it quite often flourishes and goes on for years. It’s like a therapy process (it sure feels that way). It’s an amazing feeling to observe how students grow in the process. But all good things must come to an end.

Saying Goodbye to a Client. – Florida CAM Courses
A bittersweet feeling

This week I’m saying goodbye to two long-time students. Student A is leaving because the bank he works for has acquired an “automated platform” for English learning where staff may do exercises and in case of questions consult with an online “teacher”. NO NEED FOR REGULAR CLASSES WITH ANOTHER HUMAN. Student A had been having classes for over 3 years and was successfully developing his listening skills. But it was slower than he would have expected or wanted – it took him all this time to go through level A2 – next semester he would be starting his B1 level. His progress would have been faster had he been fully committed to the program – but at times, no homework, no practice and having classes only 1 hour a week – will take its toll. Very optimistically after 140 hours he finished his pre-intermediate level. Not bad. Of course, he still has a long way ahead, he still mispronounces “son” and soon” , for example and thinks when I ask him “Who won the game?” He replies that Juan was not there. LOL.

The second student to leave is Student R. Initially she hated English, she was B1 and was terrified about the prospect of speaking in English and considered herself unable to understand anything. Having 1-hour classes only once a week -but as they like to say, better one hour than nothing – slowly I started to introduce audio files with English conversations, reading aloud helped her overcome the speaking barrier, role playing also had a positive impact. Student R started to attend meetings without suffering from anxious stomach pains and could increasingly state her points and understand what her colleagues and clients would be saying. With some information gaps, of course. We persistently worked her listening skills with lots of fill-in-the-gap activities, which really helped her immensely. In her case, she is leaving because she has been let go by her firm and now she needs to cut expenses.

In July two new students will be starting their programs with me but the feeling of ” it’s out of my hands circumstances” still bugs me. I always require a 30-day minimum notice for the suspension of classes which protects both me and the student from unpleasant situations and that allows me to wrap up that student’s program, provide some feedback and advice.

Do You Know the Chautauqua Salute? – Isabella Alden
Waving them goodbye with a white handkerchief

I wish them all the luck and all the best in their pursuits. Despite that nagging feeling of “I wish I could have helped them more” I also know that I am growing in my resolution to learn from their experiences and incorporate them into my own teaching career.

Cheers,

Mo

REMOTE LEARNING IS EASIER?

This year ( 15 months, 7 days, 9 hours and 46 minutes into the covid-19 pandemic – yes, I refuse to capitalize you) I went back to the classroom (remotely, how else?). I needed to brush up my conference interpreting skills in this brave new world (no pun intended) of remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI – as it is professionally abbreviated by those in the know).

I knew that Zoom and other video conferencing services had an add-on feature that would/might allow for simultaneous interpreting, but now I’ve discovered that there are whole sets of platforms operating along with them. In other words, the challenge to the interpreter has risen from just knowing the vocab and terminology and having mind agility to listening in one language and blurting out in a second or third language to becoming an IT and Sound engineer – more than doubling our checklist before even uttering the first sound.

Today’s Simultaneous Interpreter is expected to know way more than 2 languages

I’ll write later about interpreting – now the focus is on remote learning.

Again the very respected interpreting and translation institution, Alumni, like make other educational structures, just transferred the onsite sessions to the online environment – same teachers, same methods, same length of sessions, same coffee breaks. Any changes necessary?

The flipped classroom format is ubiquitous – the school will send you an email with your assignments and agenda for the forthcoming class and woe is you if you don’t go over them carefully. Fine.

But they take some things for granted. In yesterday’s session, our very good trainer said – “Ok – during the interpreting practice remember to record your voices”.

Ok. Questions in my mind: “Did he tell us which app to use? how should we proceed?” It’s not intuitive.

I asked a boothmate and she told me she was using the Windows recorder. Ah ok.

Instructor: “After today’s session send me your recorded audio”.

My brain: “how? email? WhatsApp? a web platform? I don’t have his number or email address. Did I miss his instructions again?”

These are just simple examples for us teachers. We can’t just assume our students know what to do on their own (you know the old saying, right? “When you assume you make an ass of you and me”). Whatever happened to show and tell? Show me how you do it and then tell me to do it.

Pin on LOLZ
Assumptions must be kept in check

TAKEAWAY: If simple and clear instructions and directions were essential in the in-person environment they are crucial now in the remote classroom.

VIRTUAL TEACHING TIPS

Most of us have been teaching exclusively online for over a year by now and it’s always good to review and refresh our personal approach when teaching on a virtual platform:

Positioning: Try to position yourself in the center of the screen, unless you’re showing a “whiteboard” or some other image. Keep the camera at your eye level so that students won’t be looking up your nostrils or down your balding spots 😉 . Remember to maintain eye contact – don’t be looking at your own image or your students’, rather, look into the camera (usually that little dot on top of your screen).

Look into the camera when speaking not at the screen
  • Appearance: make sure you’re dressed professionally – I’m not telling you to wear a tuxedo or a dress fit for a night at the opera. Just keep it neat and as wrinkle free as possible. Remember students can’t smell you but they do expect to see you. Pants are optional as long as you’re not planning to stand up. Should I wear a shirt or t-shirt? In my in-person classes I mostly wore shirts (and a jacket in colder weather) and on casual Fridays a polo shirt. Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve gone down a notch by mostly wearing T-shirts , but trying to avoid brand logos and indiscreet messages on them. I know I’m going on a limb, but count on your common sense and anything with F*** would be deemed inappropriate. Of course check your teeth – nobody likes the embarrassment of seeing “a deer in the garden” or something else stuck in one’s teeth.
When You Have Food In Your Teeth But No One Says Anything - YouTube
When You Have Food In Your Teeth But No One Says Anything
dishevelled hair - Brandingby Pixels
You’re not expected to look like Brad Pitt post-Covid19 but check your hair before and overall appearance before switching on your camera.
  • Background: Choose something neutral – a white wall or whiteboard would be perfect. A bookcase is fine but the simpler the better – a tv monitor switched on behind you could be very distracting, for example, as well as your pet(s) and toddlers. they’re lovely once or twice but they’re not included in your agreement pack with your students. Keep them away whenever possible.
Self-Adhesive Magnetic Permanent Whiteboard Wall – Myndflo.com
Keep your background neutral as much as possible
  • Timing and Pacing: Some studies have showed that group response rates can be up to 20% lower online than in person, especially in a group setting. Remember that your voice is important but students’ talk time must be higher than yours. Don’t go lecturing when your students could be using that time to practice THEIR communication skills. Keep track of your class activities and always have one or two activities up your sleeve in case you go over all tasks and there are still 10 mins left. But that’s quite unusual. Usually it’s too much for such a little time. I have a student who has two 45-minute classes per week – and I always go overtime with her… that’s not good business sense or academically and I have to cut back on the activities and focus on key points. Remember that sometimes students (or yourself) might be having connection issues. Don’t lose your temper and be accommodating to the situation as it presents itself.

Reflect on your courses from the first session on a regular basis, make sure you’re delivering content that is useful and attractive to your students while keeping them satisfied. After all they’re your customers.

Cheers,

Mo

Teaching online is easy but requires preparation and equipment

Questions You Should Ask Yourself as an ELT Solopreneur

You must have already heard it many times: “There are no stupid questions” – and I always add: “Only stupid people”. Joking apart, the idea is that questions can help you come up with answers that you’ve never considered before, and those never before considered answers have the potential to transform you and your business.

Buzzwords: Solopreneur | Comstock's magazine
The Solopreneur

The focus of today’s post is found in Aaron Nelson’s podcast series (unfortunately now ended)- The Freelance ESL Teacher Podcast – Episode 15 (2018) (https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/the-freelance-esl/episode-15-questions-youve-0OebVTgHC4U/) some powerful questions to ask yourself as you get your freelance teaching business started or developed – or to help you grow it well in 2021 and beyond! My gratitude to Aaron who provided these great questions to help me be more mindful of my business growth:

Sometimes the best questions are ones you never knew you should be asking!
Aaron came up with 4 questions that have really helped him which were found in a fantastic book that he had just finished reading called: 
Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition by David Newman (Here’s a link to the book: https://tinyurl.com/4chkr57k )

Question 1: What’s Your Model of Business – or How do you want your business to look in the future?

I am keeping it a a ‘solopreneur’ .- That’s been my idea over the past 25 years. Before that I wanted a language school but I hated the administrative side of the business. I’m only interested in building my business to the point of keeping my schedule alone full and guarantee a reasonable income.

Question 2: How will I make money?
Active Income: Selling services, classes, expertise: short (1 month); medium(1-3 months); long term (3 months – a year or more.); projects.
Passive Income: e-books, course materials that you create, development of an language learning app? How will I sell my services?

Question 3: How will I deliver my services?
Face to face classes?
Online classes?
Both?
Workshops?
In my own location? Location of my client?
Will I focus on a country, city, neighborhood? Well, I guess that the Pandemic has answered this question. All classes are online – how long? God only knows.

Teaching online is the answer for now

Question 4: Who is my ideal student?
Vital – It’s so important to know who you do your best work with.
The wrong students in your business, and not because they are bad people, but because you don’t remain in your strengths’ zone when you serve them – it will make your work seem harder, will drain you, and can run the risk of retarding your business’ growth!
Fill your business with your IDEAL students. Do you know who they are?

Providing tips for both learners and fellow teachers

My ideal students are adults, professional, business oriented people, who won’t be a drain on my energy. Let me tell you, I’ve already had some students that were toxic to my professional persona and I had to terminate their contract to save my sanity. Of course, ideal is what is desirable not always attainable. Quite honestly, i am taking any paying students willing to learn.

Cheers,

Mo

Teaching in Brazil in Times of Covid-19 – Year 2

A fellow teacher, Ms. Teresa Thompson, based in Lincoln, Nebraska sent me this email last week:

The Teacher's Notes | OUTLOOK magazine
Teresa Thompson

Just got through hearing about Brazil again on National Public Radio (hope it’s not too large a file–can send the link instead, if you want -https://www.npr.org/2021/03/18/978832056/brazil-covid-19-cases-climb-as-deaths-overwhelm-hospitals-and-funeral-services ). Here’s what we are saying about your country...you guys are a global threat! It’s your turn to lead the world in this pandemic. Not exactly an honor though, I’m afraid. Please take precautions seriously and by all means, don’t turn down any vaccines!

Here’s my reply to Teresa Thompson’s email:

States in red have a fast advance of Covid infections, yellow stable and green declining (March 10, 2021)

Thank you Teresa for your concern. Yes, the situation down here is cause for concern especially around the poor areas of the large urban centers.” 

“Many pastors in our union and local conferences have already died or are in the ICU  – the grim reaper is taking also younger people – contrary to last year – now the number of deaths of the elderly is down by 25% while the numbers of deaths of people between 20 and 50 has increased by 65% .”

“All we can do is stay home as much as possible, keep clean hands and wear a mask when outdoors. “

“I still notice a strong international bias against Brazil because of our moronic president – and I mean it – he still insists that COVID is just the flu, people who die is because they were already sick and would die anyway, he preaches that masks are filthy, useless and make people sick from wearing them. No wonder many Brazilians now blame him for the nearly 300k deaths and call him a genocider.” 

Bolsonaro, um presidente provocador e sem máscara - ISTOÉ DINHEIRO
While Covid spreads like bushfire, our President refuses to wear a mask saying that the mask will make him sick

“And also the nation is divided – at least 30% of the population blindly believes what president Bolsonaro says (I’m calling him now Bolsominion 😜) – and so many people keep on walking around without masks and saying that a lockdown would be devastating to the Brazilian economy – a few deaths wouldn’t be as bad. 🤦🏻‍♂️ And going to group protests on streets to defend the president. “

“To add salt to the wound, state and municipal governments opposing the president started bickering among themselves and not following a coordinated movement to raise awareness of the population … approving mini lockdowns and labeling some COVID treatment hospitals as “catastrophe hospitals” and changing directives about what should companies and citizens do during this time. 

Let me give you an example: One day the state orders: No food takeaway. Only through delivery or drive-thru. The next day: Takeaways are allowed. The next day: No takeaways. Are we entitled to feel a little lost and confused?! “

Bares e restaurantes de SP enviam ofício a Doria pedindo liberação de  retirada dos pedidos no local | Jovem Pan
No takeaways in SP. Only delivery or drive-thru

“The picture ain’t pretty in our sad tropics but hope still shines. “

Profissional de saúde trata paciente com Covid em UTI do Hospital São Paulo, em São Paulo, no dia 17 de março. — Foto: Amanda Perobelli/Reuters

“Stay well. Stay safe and Happy Sabbath. “

Teresa replied with the following:

“Thanks for the first hand reporting there. Sounds like you not only had mixed messaging about the virus, like we had with ex-President Trump. Sounds like all your messaging has been bad!”

Wonder if that variant is responsible for the increased deaths in younger people. Now that’s something I bet they are concerned about–or should be!

“I’m actually concerned that now that I’m vaccinated, my daughter’s family won’t be quite as cautious. I’ve worried all along about them getting sick too. There’s just no rhyme or reason involved in this covid (sic).”

“But it’s sad that something that should be uniting the world, is actually dividing it so much. I keep praying that God will have mercy on all of us….no matter how we mess up and disappoint Him.”

Hope this message gives you, dear reader, a glimpse of the situation in Brazil.

creative title* - Imgflip
Yes, Virginia. Laughter IS the best medicine.

Staying safe and hopeful.

Cheers,

Mo

Visual media as more than just entertainment

I remember when I was a wee kid in a state school in a corner of this giant metropolis called São Paulo, I would be daydreaming in class about the time the bell would ring and I would rush back home so I could watch some of my favorite TV shows. I don’t recall a time a teacher used some visual resources in class other than the illustration in a book (sometimes, which would totally grab my attention).

Stanford 'tips-by-text' program helps boost literacy in preschoolers, study  finds
Images boost literacy in children and adults

At church they were more “sophisticated”. From an early age, our Sabbath School teachers would use flannel board bible stories that would transport us to bible times and I had a red-letter day every time I was allowed to touch the figures and place them on the board. How many stories did I learn and understand thanks to those illustrations.

Staying Christian: Why I Don't Just Pick Up and Leave the Church for Good |  Resurrection & Recovery
Flannel Board Bible Stories were awesome visual resources

Today I know that Visual Literacy helps learners to follow a story and predict what’s going to happen, activates their memory and their vocabulary, as well. Many times, visual resources were used simply as entertainment or a distraction to keep us children quiet.

The influence of images on learners

Church also introduced me to the first slide projector – with colorful pictures illustrating prophecy or projecting the words to a new hymn, at a time when television was still black and white (we got our first color tv in 1978 – that was so memorable that I remember the year).

Magic lantern - The latest novelty in Church music. Substitution of... News  Photo - Getty Images

Only in college after 1983 was I introduced to the amazing overhead projector and the ability to write and highlight texts on the screen.

Mary Loftus on Twitter: "Jerome Sheahan going old-school with with the  OverHead Projector - and the lecture style - getting some laughs 🤣  @NUIG_UL_RDay… https://t.co/KMRNbDxWeC"
Overhead projectors allowed teachers to highlight points on the board

In the 1980s VCRs became more popular and pretty soon we started using some video lessons in the language classroom – those videos were especially prepared for the class as companions to their coursebooks (nothing much has changed today – maybe some time in the future I’ll talk about the video courses available for the ESL/EFL market).

If you knew somebody living in an English-speaking country maybe you could ask them to mail you one or two VHS tapes with the recordings of some tv shows and commercials and explore them to your heart’s content. (In my case, only in the early 90s did I come across some VHS tapes that somebody from the school where I was teaching had recorded when traveling to the US).

But videos were still seen as just a “break” from the lesson. When the teacher wheeled in a TV set and VCR the students knew they would have some “down time”. At best, the video was seen as a glorified listening activity or simply as a decorative resource giving a break to both teacher and students.

Today, however, we know we can use videos and images in a much more purposeful way. Here’s an example of a talk at the Global Teacher’s Festival on Visual Literacy and the many different approaches we can have:

Visual Literacy uses

Most teachers will agree that video use in the ESL/EFL classroom brings many benefits:

  1. it exposes students to authentic materials
  2. it provides more motivation and interest
  3. it gives learners the opportunity to read as well as listen to messages simultaneously

But there are also disadvantages in using videos in the classroom:

  1. video technology might be scarce or you might have connection problems
  2. it may be boring if overused
  3. it may encourage passivity on both teachers and learners (“the other day an adult learner said: why don’t you give me songs to listen to and fill in the gaps?” My answer – “do you need ME to give you a song to listen and get the words? Have you ever heard of MTV? Can’t you google it up on your own?”)

The appeal of visual media continues to make videos and pictures an amazing educational tool with a high potential impact when properly used. They are now more accessible and less cumbersome to use. Let us take advantage of them in our lessons.

Cheers,

Mo