THE POWER OF A BIG OLD LAUGH

Injecting some laughter into your classroom

I’m a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine. I cannot fathom one of my classes without at least one burst of laughter. It softens the seriousness and stress on the student’s part of having to speak in a language that isn’t their own, it increases rapport and it just makes a lesson more enjoyable. Not to mention memorable. The classes in which we have laughed the most seem to be those that student’s have less problems with down the line. Coincidence? Probably not! We can always remember a movie or book that made us laugh and can even recall specific moments incredibly well. Same thing happens when we cry, but this certainly isn’t something you should be trying with your students! So yes, laughing is GOOD. It’s good for the teacher, good for the students, good for remembering the lesson and great for establishing a learning environment students want to come back to. We all know that it’s that coming back to class and practicing that makes for great language learners.

For all of these reasons, when one of our readers emailed me the link I’m about to share with you today, I was over the moon. If there’s one link you need to bookmark to go with your games for the classroom or ESL techniques, it’s this little gem. Thank you so much Dirk Tiu for sending me this wonderful resource, “Comedy in the Classroom: 50 ways to bring laughter into any lesson”. I absolutely love the way this article is written and how easy some of the tips are to put into practice. There’s no need for props or hours of setting activities up, it’s all about how you can approach the different situations that come up in class and turn them into a laugh fest. Believe it or not, laughing when done with the teacher and as a whole group can actually improve behavior in a rowdy classroom. The simple practical tips like wearing crazy t-shirts and talking about their favorite tv show are wonderful! The idea that you can even turn your difficult days as a teacher into common ground was simply inspirational. This article is so well rounded out that I simply couldn’t wait to include it in Sunday Best, it definitely deserved its own post.

I remember a lot of laughing during my childhood, my mother (top photo – as a teen-) had this incredible laugh, as did my grandfather (photo below) who had the loudest, funniest and most contagious one out of everyone in the family. My mom’s friends were constantly putting on sketches that made us grab our stomachs and left us out of breath with all the giggles (photo below). Even in the really early years, I might not remember the moments per se, but I remember laughing. A LOT! It made my childhood so memorable.


laughter is the best medicinelaugh, play

Again, thank you Dirk for sending us this piece, I hope it brings a lot of readers your way and that many of the fellow teachers that read this blog begin to use some of these wonderful ideas. Speaking of laughter in the classroom, a very special act of funny sticker vandalism is coming soon. Stick around! I’ll also see you tomorrow for Sunday Best! I hope you liked my old family photos! It made my day to shift through some old pics and stroll down ‘funny memory lane’.

SUNDAY BEST

City parks in MadridIt’s that time of the week again! Today I’m sharing some great links and also some photos I took yesterday while I was strolling down one of Madrid’s most beautiful parks “Parque el Buen Retiro”. After non stop rain this past week it was a real treat to get some sun and spend some time outside. I hope you have a great start of the week tomorrow, I’m starting it off with the premier of my phrasal verb UNO game for my young students. I’m making a whole DIY post out of it this week so that you can try it out as well if you feel like it.

Ok, back to business…

If your looking for some great DIY ideas for your home, are re-decorating or want to spruce up a bit, there are some adorable (and some slightly over the top) ideas in Fabulous Home Blog. It has everything from tips for getting organised to ideas for framing photos, creating wall textures, and my favorite posts, inspiration for your studio or creative space. I know you’ll find something you love in here.

For foodies, So Good and Tasty has delicious vegetarian recipes, beautiful photos and scrumptious goodies to choose from. I can’t wait to make their root salad with tahini dressing. Can you say YUM?!

One thing I have never confessed to you is that I’m absolutely obsessed with lettering and calligraphy. I love detailing different fonts and testing them out on my student’s worksheets (and by testing I mean printing them out because I’m totally hopeless!). Lately, when I’ve needed a fix I’ve visited this little gem of a blog Sincerely, Serendipity, its banner alone is beyond beautiful and the posts and calligraphy samples keep me wonderfully entertained from time to time. Her cards are just lovely! Today I found out that the creator of this blog is a fellow Netflix documentary junky, so there you go. So many reasons to pop in and say hello!

For those of you who love owning unique little treasures you don’t want to miss Society 6, it’s a truly amazing online store that sells prints on everything from hoodies to t-shirts, to pillows and much more, not to mention the prints themselves. Some of my favorites are the giraffe pillow series and all their animal totes. So original!

As you probably know by now, I’m not affiliated with any of these sites, I’m simply a fan wishing to share the love! That’s all for today! Enjoy some more pics from my visit to the park yesterday and have a great Sunday!

El Retiro Park in Madrid SpainI absolutely loved the contrast between these two trees, the one in the back had leaves in the most beautiful shade of brown.
Parks in Madrid

 

Is it me or can you almost see the Queen of Hearts playing cricket?

 

Peacock at El Retiro

Oh yes, in the middle of the city, in a little open garden in the park, peacocks are busy showing off their feathers and twirling. You heard me… they’re complete flirts with the tourists and locals!

Parque el Retiro

Spring is making its appearance. Does anyone know what flower this is? Look at that color!

El Retiro

Little fields of daisies were everywhere, and of course I saved the best for last, my favorite character in the entire park, this beautiful duck with brown spotted feathers. He wasn’t scared of me at all and got closer and closer by the minute! They always remind me of my grandfather, who always seemed to walk like a duck… or Charlie Chaplin, it was hard to tell.

duck pond at El Retiro

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

first flowersHi everyone, I’m finally back after some days of not being able to post and some technical difficulties so thank you so much for your patience! The student access pages are up and running again and fully updated and now we can also continue sharing stories here. It’s no big secret that I was born in Venezuela and with everything that has been going on these past few weeks I felt compelled to write a little something, if only to work through everything that is coming in and out of my head every time I hear a piece of news or read an article. I am of course not an expert in politics, I am however a lover of books, of stories, of the wise words of so many writers that seemed to be especially crafty at putting down on paper what people were feeling and living through. That being said, today, in light of the tumultuous news and events (is it me or has the world gone kind of cuckoo on our watch?) I want to simply share with you a gem of a story written by the great Hans Christian Andersen. I am of course talking about his wonderfully allegoric short story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. You can read it here, and I urge you to read until the end (it’s not that long and it will be worth it!). In the end it takes just one little boy to shed light on the issue at hand, I hope we can all learn a little bit from this story and be the little voice in the back of the room that says STOP!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, children’s stories were meant to be read again as adults and this is certainly one that should be on the adult required summer reading list!

I leave you with the first signs of Spring, these beautiful little pink blossoms adorned our street as Nala and I walked around this morning. Aren’t they lovely? Please share your comments about the story below! You know how much I love to hear from you!

PENNY LANE – A LESSON PLAN

Using Beatles song in your lessosIt’s been a few weeks since I posted a lesson plan (remember I also share tons of resources for teaching in the Creative Teaching section of the blog). In today’s plan I incorporate music, grammar, listening, and reading comprehension into a really fun lesson  for kids. You can even make it an arts and crafts project at the end of the lesson and practice speaking skills while you’re creating a classroom poster.

The whole lesson usually takes me about 1 hour (an hour and a half to 2 hours if you’re doing the project at the end) but you can of course adapt it. So far the kids have loved this activity, especially making the project at the end of the lesson, it’s like the cherry on the cake! What song am I talking about? None other than the beautiful Penny Lane by The Beatles. I will outline the different activities you can do in class and in the order I usually do them, but feel free to cut, paste and change things if needed. I’m also adding a paragraph at the end with optional add ons in case you want to do some follow up activities or make this lesson a little bit longer.

Lesson name: Grammar from a song: Penny Lane

Use: Suitable for children of all ages and adaptable to different levels (Elementary + … ).

Language systems and skills practiced in this lesson: Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening, Speaking and Reading.

Timetable fit: This is a great practice lesson after you have taught the present simple tense and the present continuous tense and wish to practice when it is appropriate to use one over the other (present simple vs. continuous).

Part 1: Speaking/ Grammar/ Listening

1. I like to begin this lesson by talking about music and musical styles. Practice speaking with the students by having them talk to each other about their favorite bands and artists and then get everyone together and elicit some examples. If you’re teaching a private lesson simply do this with your student and have a conversation about their musical preferences. Another option is to elicit musical styles and write them on the board (e.g. rock, classical, jazz, opera, country, dance, folk… you’ll be surprised with all the musical styles they come up with!).

2. I’m a Beatles fan so I like to say that now I want to tell them about one of my favorite bands. I don’t tell them the name but I briefly play an excerpt of the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (which has such an iconic start to the song). If they can’t guess it, I then show them any of the hundreds of videos of the band playing the song that you can find on youtube. If they didn’t guess before they will imediately recognize the four figures in black and white tilting their heads sideways. Once they’ve guessed the name of the band I elicit from some of the students if they’ve heard their music before. They get very excited talking about how their parents love this music and even the very young ones will want to tell you the story of John Lennon’s death (this always shocks me!).

3. I then tell them that we are going to practice the grammar we’ve been seeing in class with one of the band’s most famous songs.

4. Give students the following handout of the lyrics of Penny Lane with a gapfill (download it by clicking here) (page 1). Tell them that they have to write the correct form of the verb in brackets in either the present simple tense or the present continuous tense and to be aware of the change of the verb in the third person singular. This will take them some time, it’s a song, so as we know the grammar isn’t always the way they’ve seen it in class, but they learn so much from this exercise that it’s completely worth the effort.

5. Walk around and help students that might be having problems with the exercise. Have students check the answers with a partner.

6. Feedback: The great thing about this exercise is that feedback or answer check is done by the student’s themselves through a listening practice. They get to listen to the song and correct their lyrics themselves! You will also have to play this several times especially for lower level students. Have them check with their partner again (if you’re working with a group). You can purchase the song on it’s own for practically nothing on iTunes and also find it on Spotify or your favorite music subscription app. Please don’t download illegally! It will cost you next to nothing and you’ll have it forever.

7. Give them the second page of the handout with the complete lyrics for them to check their final answers.

8. By this time, students will be begging to sing the song, and of course they deserve it after such hard work! I like to use this video Karaoke style but simply listening to the song with their complete lyrics is just fine and the quality of the music will be even better (the Karaoke version keeps their eyes up and engaged which is why I like to use this video sometimes). Sing the song two or three times with them. This will also help with connected speech and children love to sing it!

Part 2: Reading / Comprehension of the song/ Vocabulary

1. Now it’s time to help students understand what this song is about and go over new vocabulary in context.

Option 1 for lower level students: I use a beautiful illustration you can find in the following book: The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, edited by Alan Aldridge (sorry I can’t share the illustration for Copyright reasons, but the book is truly wonderful if you want to look for it). You can also do a Google image search by typing: illustration of the song Penny Lane. Divide the class into smaller groups and give each of them a copy of the illustration and have them identify the different verses of the song with the images you see in the picture. For example, have them point to the picture and say this is the barber showing photographs, this is the pretty nurse selling poppies from a tray. Get the class to come back together and elicit what each of the things are by pointing at the picture. Here you will practice vocabulary, speaking and reading comprehension.

Option 2 for higher level students: This requires a bit more prep time by the teacher. Find magazine cutouts of the vocabulary used in the song and have the students make a collage to show the meaning of the song. Google images or google clipart will help you as well.

Part 3: Project-Arts and Crafts/ Speaking

1. You will need scissors, a glue stick, poster board, markers, your illustration of the song (or collage if you did option 2) and the lyrics to the song (I like to use the version they did themselves). Get students into small groups and have them place their collage or illustration in the center. Have them cut up the lyrics and place each piece next to the appropriate pictures in the center. They can do crazy looking arrows to show you what each part of the song refers to. Have them write things they know about the Beatles, the name of the band members and the song (you can even have some pictures or cutouts of the band that students can choose from and add to their poster). Encourage creativity and freedom to add what they want to in this part of the lesson. Encourage speaking in English while they do the activity and help them with language used in arts and crafts and making a project as a team. In classes where it is appropriate, I like to play soft Beatles music in the background. They love this!

2. Display their artwork proudly! You can even make a little art show and invite other teachers or students to come see their work.

3. If you have an extra couple of minutes, sing the song again. I can’t tell you how much students love this final singing of Penny Lane and how loud and excited they will sing it after they used all their creativity to work on the song.

Possible follow up lessons or add ons:

– Find a picture of the actual Penny Lane street in Liverpool (through Google images) and give them a text with facts about this street and the inspiration behind the song with some comprehension or True and False questions. Have a brief speaking practice at the end asking them if this was the way they imagined this street to be. Ask them if anyone has ever been to the UK or seen it in person.

– Add additional readings or listenings about The Beatles, always accompanied with a task to guide them through the activity.

– Add this song to your class music repertoire and sing it from time to time. Students will learn it by heart very quickly and this will be incredibly motivating for them.

– There are many illustrations of the lyrics of this song, find the book I recommended above or have some fun browsing Google Images and choose your favorite (you can also make your own if you like to draw!). You can use it time and time again.

– Enjoy this fun and musical lesson!

Please ask me any questions you might have about this lesson and don’t forget to share if you’ve enjoyed this post! Let me know how the lesson went in the comments below, ask me any questions or add some suggestions or ideas. Have fun!

A RESOLUTION IN ACTION

Being presentA couple of weeks ago I told you all about my wish for the New Year: being present, enjoying the moment, slowing down (you can read that post here if you missed it). Something I think many of us set aside in the midst of our busy schedules and everyday stress. This week, a chance to put my resolution into action fell from the sky. I´m saying this literally! We got our first snow of the year, and it quickly became one of the most memorable days I´ve spent in Spain so far. Our dog, native to the tropics, who travelled all the way from Venezuela to Spain with us, loves.. and I mean LOVES snow. As soon as she realized that the snowflakes were falling she was glued to the window waiting for them to set. She was having what seemed like an exhiliaraiting freak out moment as soon as she saw the snowflakes getting exponentially bigger. My heart was melting!winter

As soon as there was enough snow on the ground, I bundled up (while still in my PJs I must admit!) and took an overly excited dog to the woods.

What happened when we got there was a wonderful little present. I had taken my camera and so I started taking photos of the snow covered branches, pine cones and of course of this crazy dog that seemed to have transformed into a bunny (or frog). Every year I forget how much she loves this.

the little things in life

winterI was laughing so hard while I was trying to get shots of her jumping up in the air. After I took the ones I´m sharing with you today, I put my camera down and ran around with her. Just looking at her loving every moment and doing these crazy tricks all around me. I was right there. The feeling that came during and after that moment was beyond wonderful. Another reminder that this little resolution (for me) and wish (for you) is ridiculously important. I will tell you this, once you start, you´ll be hooked! Suddenly, putting down the camera/phone/laptop/loop of none stop thinking (or whatever it is that keeps you off the ground you’re standing on) will be as easy as pie. You’ll get back more than you can count, that I can assure you…

new years resolutions

SUNDAY BEST

Driving, music and the winterI was driving into the city today listening to Blind Melon’s Soup and feeling absolute bliss. Driving around this winter has become one of my favorite things to do, the air is thick with fog, the air is crisp and wonderful and the days are just eerie. It has also become the perfect time to just relax and listen to music. I hope you’re all having a relaxing and fun Sunday today. It’s my hubby’s birthday tomorrow so this could also be one of the reasons for my excitement and excessive smiling. I hope you’ve enjoyed the weekend and that you especially got a chance to slow down and smell the flowers (or the coffee, winter air, or whatever floats your boat). Without further ado, here are my picks for this week’s Sunday Best!

For foodies and cooking aficionados, Verses from My Kitchen has some beautiful and delicious recipes, top notch photos and a “come hang out and stay as long as you like” vibe. I can’t wait to try their wintery corn chowder!

Drizzle and Dip is another favorite of mine this week, they have so many great ideas and scrumptious flavor combinations!

For teachers and parents I found an incredible “has it all” online store. If I’m not careful I could spend an entire day browsing the endless sections of School Supply Giant. Think of it as the online superstore for teaching resources. Parents can find tons of great things for their kids here too, so don’t think it’s all about white boards and star stickers.

I’m so excited to share this newly discovered (at least by me!) Etsy Shop. Paper Statement has incredible jewelry and beautiful patterns and objects made entirely out of paper. Their colors and gorgeous simplistic design made me an instant fan! I have my eye on an incredible turquoise necklace that goes from dark to light…just imagining what their creative process must be like makes me giddy!

Last but certainly not least, if you feel like having a serious laugh or two, are a packaging and design enthusiast and simply love to oohh and aaahh after little genius bursts of creativity, visit this link from Topito.com (it’s in French but reading is the last thing you’ll be doing). Please don’t miss it!

That’s all I have for you today and I hope you have some fun browsing around! I haven’t written this little disclaimer in a while but just in case you’re new to this series, I’m not affiliated to or sponsored by any of these sites, I’m simply a fan and wish to share the love!

Happy Sunday!

SUNDAY BEST

Pile of leaves

Happy Sunday everyone! I was missing the warm weather of the Caribbean this week but then I took my dog to the park and remembered why this is my favorite season! I sat down in the stone steps at the park while Nala played in a pile of leaves and watched the leaves falling quietly. Now I remember the beauty of living in a city that has four seasons. I do have to say though that falling back into a routine after days of sun and swimming in the ocean is not as easy as I thought it would be! The jet lag which I thought I had escaped this time around finally caught up with me.

Autumn in Spain

Anyway, it’s that time of the week again, here are my favorites:

A wonderful teaching site with great creative ideas The Classroom Collective has provided me with some very original ideas for lessons.

For photographers, travelling enthusiasts and lovers of beautiful images from around the world, Best Travel Photos is like a little feast for the eyes. It makes you want to go fishing for your passport and bags asap!

For foodies, cooks and wannabe chefs, I’m absolutely loving Eat Live Run. I can’t wait to try their hummus toasts with avocado and roasted tomatoes. They have wonderful veggie packed recipes and beautiful photography.

Last but not least, I found Carrots n’ Cake when I was looking for a recipe, and it turns out the creator of this blog has us covered with everything from food, travel, home decor, to fitness and well being. Take a stroll through her multiple pages and find what might be up your alley. I can’t wait to spend some time in her recipe section and especially to make her edamame guacamole!

That’s about it for this edition of Sunday Best, they’re showing Deathproof on tv so I’m about to curl up on the couch with hubby  and doggie and watch it yet again. Have a great Sunday everyone!

ON AN ISLAND IN THE SUN

Weezer said it best, “on an island in the sun we’ll be playing and having fun”. That’s precisely where and what I was doing during my days of absence in the blog. Yes, for a whole week I was in the beautiful Dominican Republic for a much needed vacation. However, this wasn’t the main reason for our trip. I was going to the wedding of two of my dearest and closest friends who made the awesome decision of getting married in a tropical island paradise and giving everyone an amazing week in the process.

I have the very strange habit of waking up really early when I’m on vacation. I try and I try but my internal alarm clock usually goes off before 6 am. This time however I made lemonade out of lemons and while everyone was asleep I went for a run on the beach and watched the sunrise. The top photo is of the first sunrise and my first glimpse of the beach during our holiday. I felt so free running next to the ocean while I listened to some music and felt the waves splashing on the shore. This was one of the highlights of my week, next to some precious time with my hubby and our friends and family, not to mention the incredible and emotional wedding. One of the most wonderful events I’ve ever been to. The photo below says it all right? It was a magical day, an incredible ceremony at sunset and an amazing party at the beach. It was so wonderful and emotional for me. Same goes for my hubby,  you can see him smiling in the background in the photo below after completing his best man duties.

Did I mention the fantastic food and how kind and wonderful the Dominican people are? Top this with warm weather all day long and a beautiful warm blue ocean… if you hadn’t noticed already, I was in heaven. Of course I brought some photos and stories to share with you so enjoy some today with lots more to come. Thanks to my dear students for giving me the week off to go running on the shore and spend an unbelievably special day with friends! And thanks to two very special friends who are starting their life together for giving us these incredible memories. It couldn’t have been better!

Enjoy the slideshow below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HALLOWEEN-IES

bat hanging bat costumeHappy Halloween everyone! This post was supposed to go up last night but I finished teaching at 11 pm (yes, you heard me), so here it is today, after the sugar rush has done its thing and the costumes are in the hamper. That’s me in the picture above when I was about 5 years old wearing my favorite Halloween costume which I wore for years and years. My mother made it for me in her little sewing machine and altered it for years so that it would continue to fit me. I would then proceed to hang upside down in every kind of bar or handle that would allow me to do so. Halloween was serious business in the Sujo house, we were what I always called a couple of “Halloween-ies”. My mother and I would decorate the entire house and she would throw her annual and extremely famous neighbourhood Halloween party for all the kids. We all went nutty, had these extremely creative Halloween themed food, bloody red Kool Aid (this was back in the day when Kool Aid was allowed), went trick or treating, had costume cat walks and had a visit from “The Witch”. Halfway through the party, my mother who would always wear her everyday clothes, would leave for a moment and then “The Witch” would arrive (my mother in disguise). Her costume was so incredible, that we were all completely convinced it was an actual witch. Not only that, but she would call all of the parents beforehand asking about what had been going on in their kids’ lives, and at the party she would give each of us a Tarot card reading telling us exactly what was going on with each of us. You can imagine all the teeny tiny jaw dropping that went on.

Every year I think of these magical parties and time with friends and I get extremely excited around Halloween. I especially remember hanging the giant cobwebs and spiders that would fall on people at different moments in the party. I missed it this year because I was teaching, but my hubby and I did go out for a midnight burger at a local diner last night and were served by bloody chefs, scary ghosts and crazy skeletons, and we had a giant cob web hanging right on top of our table. So I got my Halloween fix in the end. Hope you had a great one!

SUNDAY BEST

Sunday BestI started my day by driving through the rainy streets of Madrid listening to The Shins. Everything was screaming “Sunday”, especially when I walked into the bookstore I was going to, and started browsing through the bookshelves while watching the rain outside. Now I’m back home and after a run, a yummy lunch and giving my dog a much needed bath, I’m about to get cozy on the couch with a chai, some movies, hubby and doggie. Who ever said Sundays were awful?! I leave you with my picks for this week’s Sunday Best. Enjoy!

For teachers, some great ideas at Elementary ESL. I’m dying to try their french fry synonyms, compound word eggs, not to mention their story sticks which I’ve been hearing wonders of!

For parents looking for some easy craft projects to do with their kids, Mr. Printables has tons of beautiful ideas you can simply print out and assemble. A great source of party invitations as well. Thank you to our reader/fellow teacher and friend Estela for that one!

For the little wannabe chefs that live inside you (wait…is that just me?), check out Love and Lemons. It’s a great place to find all those healthy delicious recipes you’re always looking for. Their photography is so bright and colorful it will make you run to the kitchen to cook and eat some healthy treats.

For a wonderful ride through color, design, architecture, lifestyle and photography. A little feast for the eyes, especially when you need a little creative boost, here’s Fox on the Run.

I hope you enjoy mi picks for this week and your Sunday of course! I leave you with a little ‘blast from the past’ photo I took this week. Did anyone else have this very unique deck of cards as a child? I was so excited when I saw it in a window display! Sorry it’s so blurry, I had to take it without anyone seeing me.