What my Blog’s Word Cloud Says About Me and My Writing



Words to reflect on...




Last Saturday I attended David Dodgson‘s (@davedodgson) presentation at the VRT11 conference. David’s presentation was “Not just a pretty cloud – Using Wordle in the language classroom”. It was a great session, where David explained what word clouds are, how to make them and gave many practical examples for using them in the language classroom. It was also a very interactive presentation – always a plus in my opinion. If you are interested you can check out Dave’s reflections (and the presentation slides) about it in one of his most recent blog posts.


At the end of his presentation Dave proposed a mini challenge. He showed us an image of a word cloud he had made using his blog’s URL and used it to reflect upon what he’s written about and the vocabulary he’s used (wordle has a nice feature where the more repetitions you have of a word, the bigger the word looks in the word cloud). Then he challenged us to do the same and share our reflections, our findings. He even gave a guideline in the post he wrote about the challenge: we should think about what it tells us about the content of our blog posts, the language we use and if anything had surprised us. Well, if you have read other posts in this blog you should know by now I have a hard time refusing a challenge ūüėČI have read some great posts, of teachers I admire and am lucky to have in my PLN, joining the challenge: Vladmira Michalkova, Sandy Millin and Tyson Seburn. I really enjoyed noticing how each one drew different conclusions from their word clouds.


My blog’s word cloud you can see above. And here’s what I believe it tells me:


Content? My cloud tells me I write a¬† lot about teachers and students, which is expected since my intention with this blog is to reflect and share my thoughts on teaching, as well as activities I have created/come up with in my daily practice. Those activities mostly deal with vocabulary – another of the biggest words in the cloud. But the rest of the words tell me I have written on a varied range of topics and that I have successfully focused on my profession, since most words can be directly related to English teaching. They also tell me I like having my students work in groups – I am going to start paying attention and check if that’s true, but I believe it is.


Language? I have to admit I was happy when I looked at my word cloud through that perspective. I like the words I see and I couldn’t notice much repetition. Besides, I think the words tell me I have a very positive outlook on my practice – good, better, hope are bigger than others. I was only puzzled that just like Sandy noticed on hers, the word “one” is a big one. It made me try to think on why it is so. I still haven’t come to any conclusions – if you have any guess on it, please tell me.


Surprises? Just one really. Breasts. ūüėÄ I know I mentioned it in one of my most recent posts where I share a vocabulary activity I used with my students for reviewing parts of the body, and had to teach my students the proper word for that specific part of a woman’s body. But did that single mention make it eligible for being in my word cloud? Or have I mentioned it in other posts and can’t remember?


What about you? Up to the challenge? Join in!

Rethinking Assessment – Goal 2 of the 30 Days Challenge

For goal 2 of the 30 Days Challenge Shelly Terrell invites us to take a step away from numbers and traditional assessment and re-evaluate value. I decided it would be a good opportunity for trying to do a video post. So here it is:



Reviewing Vocabulary


After a long hiatus – due mostly to problems with my internet connection at home – here I am again. I’ve been wanting to share these activities for some weeks now, ever since I did them in class, so what better time than now? There’s nothing much to them and probably many of you may have done them. But assuming other teachers are like me, and sometimes forget things and activities, the mind just goes blank once in a while (no matter how big our “pool” of ideas or experience may be), it doesn’t hurt putting these ideas out there and maybe helping someone who’s having a “teacher’s block” ;-).


As language teachers we all know that presenting words to a student is not enough to ensure he is going to learn that vocabulary. We have to help them see the context, use the vocabulary, show it again and again. These activities were used just for that – for bringing back vocabulary we’ve seen this semester and forcing students to fish them out of their brains.


Idea #1 – Reviewing parts of the body

My Teen 3 groups (made of 12 and 13-years olds) have seen parts of the body and we were going to have a lesson that they’d need that vocabulary again. Since I knew they had seen it before (more than once in previous semesters) I thought it’d be better to draw the vocabulary from them instead of proposing the vocabulary to be reviewed – this way I wouldn’t be limiting my students to the words I considered necessary revising. So I took blank slips of paper to class, split the students into groups of 3, gave each group a roll of masking tape, a marker and a handful of slips. Then I told them to pick one of the students to be the “model” and that they would have 5 minutes to write as many parts of the body as they could remember and stick them on the respective place on the model.



The models and their slips


They had a lot of fun during the activity – and we’re talking about students who have class at 8AM! It was the first activity of the class, to get them moving and out of their sleepiness. When time was up, the 4 models were lined in the front of the class and we checked the slips/parts of the body in each of them, checking if they were in the right place. With names that I know (or that I saw) the students had trouble with the spelling I would ask out loud how it was spelled and asked a student to write it on the board. The idea of letting them tell me the words they already knew worked out well. There were more parts of the body than I would have proposed, students learned words from their peers and there was an unexpected teaching opportunity. One of the groups had written “ass” and “boobs” (you never know what these kids are going to pick up from movies and songs these days!) on their slips – they had placed them correctly too ;-)! But I took that as an opportunity to say that yes, those were words used to describe those body parts but there were more appropriate ones. Surprisingly (??!!?) when elicited, nobody was able to tell me the appropriate way of calling those parts, so I taught them and wrote them on the board (bottom/butt and breasts – also eliciting the difference between breasts and chest).



Idea #2 – Parts of the Body part II


As a follow-up to the previous activity, the next class we had I started with another game. I took the words they had come up with on the first class, wrote them in bigger slips and stuck them on the board. I split the students into 3 groups, asked them to stand in 3 separate lines. I said out loud the use of a specific part of the body (i.e. We use this to taste, This is where thinking takes place, etc) and the first student in each line had to run and grab the slip that had the answer/correct body part written in it. Again, very energetic activity, good to wake them up for class and different from the usual “match-the-pictures-to-the-words”.



Idea #3 – Reviewing Vocabulary Seen in Texts


With my more advanced groups we use a lot of texts in class, all of them authentic texts (though after the Reading Challenge Course Marisa Constantinides gave I now know the activities in their great majority are not authentic!), and most times there’s a vocabulary activity. But we usually never see or work with those words again after the activity is done… So I started thinking what was the point? So I decided to review the vocabulary from the texts we had read after each unit is over. I have approached this in two different ways. For both activities I went back to the texts and made a list of the words. Then I wrote the words onto slips of paper and stuck them to the board (just like on the follow-up activity I described above).




Ready. Set. Go!


With one of the groups I gave them the definition of the word and they had to run and grab the correct slip. With the other I read a sentence using the words saying “bleeeep” where the word was – and then they had to run and grab the correct slip. In both cases I put a lot more words on the board than I asked for.



Students running for the words...



Idea #4 – Reviewing Vocabulary Seen in Texts part II


As a follow up to the previous activity, a couple of classes later I did another warm up with this vocabulary. I divided the class into 2 groups (there are not many students in these groups) and brought to class a powerpoint (you can see it here Warmer VOCAB HINT 2 March) where each group took turns in choosing a number from the first slide. Each number took them to a slide with a sentence using one of the words from the list/reviewed in the class I described above. This word was highlighted in the sentence. The group then had to propose a synonym, a word to substitute the highlighted word without changing the content/message of the sentence. After the group said the synonym the other group had to say whether it was adequate or not, and if not, which word would do the job. They really liked the activity and I think it was a good way to help them fix the vocabulary.



I plan on recalling vocabulary seen more often, more consistently from now on. And I hope you enjoyed these activities. If you think of any variation for them, please share! ūüôā

How I Try to be a Beam – Goal 1 of the 30 Goals Challenge

I have been following Shelly Terrell’s 30 Goals Challenge with great interest. In a few words, Shelly proposes a set of short-term goals related to education. The goals aim at having us¬†teachers reflect upon many aspects of our practice, of our lives in an attempt to help us develop and become even better teachers – and better people. You can read more about the 30 Goals Challenge (and maybe, who knows, join in?) on Shelly’s Teacher Boot Camp. As I said, I’ve been following it, but hadn’t gotten to actually joining in. I’ll probably not make it as timely as I should, but the way I see it (and with Shelly’s blessing, I hope!) better late than never.


So I’ll start posting about the goals, one by one, here. The first one is about being a beam – as in being part of a collective support system to¬†other teachers or students. It’s about, along with other people, being a beam to something that promotes education.


Image by Will Cyr - Creative Commons (source: Flickr)

I actually had to think a little to find an answer to this one. Right after I watched the video in which Shelly explained the first challenge I immediately started thinking of things I, individually, do to support others (be them other teachers or students). But I could not think of one single thing I did as part of a group effort – and that was a key point in the challenge, it had to be someone you did as part of a group. How could that be possible? I am always getting involved in collaborative projects, joining efforts… So why couldn’t I think of anything to talk about for the first goal? it took me a while but I was able to think of some things. I think they didn’t come to mind sooner because I didn’t think of them as an effort I made – but rather as the group’s effort. Does that make any sense? It’s as if any initiative I am in as part of a group I categorize as not mine. Weird rationale? It probably is… And it brought a (maybe even stranger) question to my mind: Does this mean I don’t see myself as an important part of the group? Does this mean I don’t see myself as part of the group at all. I say maybe to the first question, no to the second. After thinking about it I came to the conclusion that on that initial moment¬†I had only considered my individual efforts because they had been my ideas. And that if I just join a group effort I don’t really feel as it is mine to talk about. Did I make any more sense now? Is it just me or does anyone else feels like that? Does this mean I am an individualist? That¬†I work better alone?
From the things I was able to identify¬†I chose to talk about two things. One in my virtual life, and one in my physical one. The first is my being part of Blog4Edu, a project led by Shelly Terrell and Greta Sandler, both of whom I am proud to have in my PLN. The objective of the project is to provide all kinds of support to new educators who enter the blogging universe (as well as veterans). They have video tutorials, a support line a featured blog on the website¬†and a comment crew – volunteers who are encouraged to visit the blogs listed and leave comments, an essential motivator for anyone who has a blog ūüôā I am very proud to be on the comment crew, despite acknowledging I haven’t really done as good as a job recently as I would like to.
The second thing, the one in my “physical” life – and in which I still am not actively involved but hope to be soon – is related to a new project the school I work in – ABA – is involved in. It is a TTC (Teacher Training Course) for English teachers from the public sector in Recife (my hometown). See, I am not sure about the situation of ELT in public schools around the world, but in Brazil it’s pretty bad. Teachers commonly have to deal with no structure (sometimes no desks or boards), no resources, very small wages and many times uninterested/barely literate students. It’s a completely different reality from mine. There will be 2 groups of 15 student-teachers each, having classes every Saturday during this year. The teachers¬†in charge of these groups are two very committed, very qualified teachers – Johnny Presbitero and Scott Chiverton – who are eager to get started. Classes¬†will begin nest week. the objective of the project is to help these teachers with their professional development through classes in English (which will be an opportunity for them to improve their language skills) about ELT methodology and practices. Hopefully the course will provide these teachers with knowledge and tools to make their jobs easier despite the difficulties they face everyday. So far I have only taken part in the interviews to determine the applying teachers’ linguistic levels. But I have talked to both teachers about my¬†taking a more active role, including conducting a workshop on continuous online PD (PLNs, twitter, blogs, etc) which is accessible to everyone, and something I am very passionate about. I look forward to being part of this.
This is how I am trying to be a beam, to support education in my hometown and around the world. Pretentious? Maybe? But the internet has sure made geographic distances  irrelevant in some aspects. I hope I can do my best and be a solid beam in both projects.
(P.S. I know most people might find this silly, but I thought it was an interesting coincidence. After I had started this post I realized this is my 30th post – quite fit for my start in the 30 Goals Challenge I think ;-))

About Mountains, Challenges and Teaching – My guest post for Teaching Village


I was very humbled and deeply honored to be invited by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto (@Barbsaka) to write a guest post for her blog, Teaching Village. Not only I admire Barb as a teacher and educator, but her blog is one I really enjoy following and is a constant source of reflection and ideas for me. Besides her own posts Barb has had a list of great guest authors, most of whom I am lucky to have in my PLN. When I was thinking what I could write about, the first thing that came to mind was sharing about a very special student I have this semester, something that is very close to my heart right now. I wanted (still want) to see what other teachers thought of the way I’m handling the situation, see if anyone has any suggestions.


And that’s how About Mountains, Challenges and Teaching came to be. I’d love if you stopped by Teaching Village to read it and give me your view on my story. And while you’re there, I recommend you read one of the other great posts you can find there ūüôā



My guest post at Teaching Village