English ID 3, Unit 3: A Lesson Plan with Authentic Materials about traveling and cities

Hello, everyone!

Hope you’re having a great Monday so far. As I know nobody really likes Monday and some of you might be using Richmond’s English ID 3, here’s the link to a lesson I prepared for my teenage group. All the instructions are in the SPEAKER’S NOTES section below every slide.

Click here to access the slides.

Do you think we have some room to use authentic materials now and then or do you always stick to the book? Here’s the link to my blog post on the MAD principle – MAINTAIN – ALTER – DISCARD

The idea was to combine the instructions in the book with authentic materials. That’s why I chose to use “Where the Heck is Matt?” for this lesson.

Hope you can use it!

Here’s a video explanation of this lesson

You might also want to check out my planning for American English File 2nd Edition. Click here to check it out

PS: even if you’re not using English ID you can give it a try. I’ve included the vocabulary you’ll need to work with the students.

Looking for Better Retention? Spaced Repetition put to Practice with Color-Coded Tags

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-05 at 1.51.22 PM
Use colored tags


The new Mind, Brain, & Education (MBE) SIG will bring forward a series of texts to address this young science that brings together three areas: neuroscience, psychology, and education. In this post, let’s look at how to maximize memory retention.

It’s no secret to any of us that studying hours and hours every day can overload our memories leaving us with very little to recall after just a couple of minutes. It is almost like trying to water a vase of basil with 5 pints of water, one after the other. The poor plant has no chance in absorbing all that water, nor does it need to.

Our schools are filling our students’ heads with so much water that they’re practically having a water overdose. As if it were not enough, when it comes to their tests, they claim that they have forgotten most of what they learned. Is this how volatile our memories are? I’d like to argue here that it is not so much about forgetting what they should have learned as it is about actually learning and consolidating all that is passed to them. So here are three things to bear in mind when teaching our students:


 1) Their memories are limited (and so are ours and everybody’s). Some studies show that too much information can cause Cognitive overload and decrease retention. How much is too much? Anywhere between 4 and 9 items at a time (Cowan, 2001; Miller, 1956);
2) The best way to study is to space out revision (in this case active retrieval) over a long period rather than cramming. Small doses of study here and there can go a long way when it comes to retention (Kornell & Bjork, 2008);
3) Memory consolidation occurs in our sleep. If we want to check if students really learned something, we must quiz them over the course of weeks rather than just ask them at the end of the lesson. Understanding and remembering are not the same as learning;
How to help our students then? Here’s a practical tip you can start implementing today and perhaps get your students to score higher grades on their tests!

My color-coded tags technique

I always carry some colored stickers with me. I ask some of my students to buy some as well. The main purpose of using the tags is quite simple: We want to tag the parts of our material (mainly our books) that we have to refer to when studying. I use a color code to help them know how many times to revise (or rehearse) the item and when to do so. RED or PINK means THE NEXT DAY (preferably in the morning); YELLOW means THREE to FOUR DAYS after we had the lesson; GREEN means 1 WEEK after we had the lesson. To help them keep track of the dates, I ask them to write them on the colored tags. Here are some important rules, though:

1) They cannot fill in the gaps or answer anything in their books. They must do it on a separate sheet of paper (or a notebook, tablet, cell phone) and keep it away when they revise. They cannot look at any grammar box or explanations they have copied before. This way they’ll have to quiz themselves. According to the American Psychological Association, in a study checking effective study practices, it was found that rereading is not too effective. What works best is active retrieval or quizzing oneself, which means that seeing your previous answers will only give you a false sensation that you know the topic when, in reality, maybe you just remember answering the exercise. Quiz first, check later! Not the opposite (Kornell & Bjork, 2008).

2) If they can remember things fairly easily the next day, they can remove the RED/PINK tag and place it below the GREEN TAG. If they can’t remember things fairly easily, they must keep the RED/PINK tag at the top and try again the following day. When the YELLOW tag is up, they have to do the same with the RED/PINK tag. Remembered? Move the YELLOW tag down, below the GREEN and the RED/PINK ones. Couldn’t remember? Rescue the RED/PINK tag and replace the YELLOW tag with it. Same thing for the GREEN tag.

3) If they are having too much trouble remembering something, they must look for additional examples in their books or other materials (magazines, websites, other books, etc) and share with their classmates. If they can provide a short explanation about it (audio or video), that’s even better. Trying to explain something can help you form the right connections in your brain and spot where you have difficulties (Kornell & Bjork, 2008). We normally use WhatsApp and Edmodo to communicate;

4) These revisions need to be quick. Students shouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes per revision, otherwise, they’ll get frustrated when things overlap and it’ll accumulate to a degree that doesn’t work so effectively any longer. They have too much homework as it is already;


Suggested Timetable

spaced repetition

Now, even with these tips we need to bear in mind that our students have too much to study on any given day. However, all of this is based on what neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and education can share with us. If you want to get more interesting tips, keep tuned on our Mind, Brain, & Education SIG and our Facebook page. You won’t regret it!
If you water your basil correctly, I can guarantee it will thrive and help you make the best Margherita pizzas for a long time.


 Want more tips based on neuroscience? Check out these.


Cowan N. (2001) The magical number 4 in short-term memory: A reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 24:87–185
Karpicke, J, D. (2016). A powerful way to improve learning and memory. Psychological Science Agenda. Available at http://www.apa.org/science/about/ps…
Kornell, N., & Bjork, R. A. (2008). Learning concepts and categories: Is spacing the “enemy of induction”? Psychological Science, 19, 585–592.
Robert Bjork – The Benefits of Interleaving Practice
The Most Powerful Way to Remember What You Study
Are Teachers Giving You Too Much Homework?
A powerful way to improve learning and memory http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2016/06/learning-memory.aspx

The Origin of Mr. Trunk, my travel buddy – and a stuffed elephant


It was a hot afternoon – like 300 other in a typical Goiânia year – a little over a year ago and I had just finished a frustrating lesson with my CEFR-B2 group. Nothing had worked as intended that day. I wasn’t particularly motivated, my students were even less and misbehavior and distractions took over. I had to intervene many times and getting the almost 20 teenagers to listen to me simply failed.

“I need to teach them to be more responsible”. Those words echoed in my head as I left for home. The next day of class, a couple of hours before the lesson, I had to go to Lojas Americanas in the mall near my apartment. “I need to teach them to be more responsible” was still ringing in my mind as I walked toward the exit line. That was when I saw it. Fluffy, furry and gray. With its protruding trunk sticking out of an enormous basket. Alongside this fluffy finding of mine, there were tens of other fluffy friends. Giraffes, dogs, cats, a lion, owls, a dolphin and, as usual, bears. But my eyes were drawn to its trunk. I bought it for 12 reais and took it to my classroom.

In the classroom, I kept it a secret until the last ten minutes of the lesson. Then I started an improvised lecture about how responsibility is important and that normally parents give their kids pets when they want to teach them to be more responsible. Well, I wasn’t going to give them a puppy or a kitten, right? I had something slightly different. And finally the revelation: I pulled it out of my bag. A 25cm stuffed elephant. Can you imagine what my students thought when I did that? They were 15-17 years old and, that’s what I think anyway, not particularly fond of stuffed animals anymore. That was for kids, right? However, to my surprise, they immediately clicked with this fluffy and furry little thing.

Our new elephant had yet to be named. One student thought trump meant trunk because it sounds like the Portuguese word “tromba” and that’s the name we gave it: Mr. Trump. In my defense, it came from one of my students and we had no idea the word Trump would bring so many negative emotions then. Anyway, my first student to take Mr. Trump home was Bruna. I asked her to photograph Mr. Trump in pleasant situations and tell me what it had done in the following class. Soon enough everyone wanted to take Mr. Trump home and spend some time with it. Since then, more than 30 students have spent some quality time with this adventurous elephant.

Mr. Trump became popular among my students, colleagues, and friends. I took Mr. Trump on its very first international trip in July last year. Upon our arrival, a friend told me to change its name to avoid hard feelings. Wise advice. Mr. Trump became Mr. Trunk. It became a he. He gained life in my classes and became part of my students’ life. It is truly amazing what a stuffed animal can do when used right. My lessons became more affective. I felt more connected with my students because they took Mr. Trunk home and photographed him with their families, living their lives, having fun with them.

Today, one year later, I couldn’t be more proud of my travel buddy who, by the way, has been to five countries already! Yeah, that’s right. He’s been to the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, and Portugal. He’s also been to a lot of different states in Brazil and he wants to keep going further. He travels with me, my student’s, friends and even my wife. And he enjoys it very much. He told me his favorite place so far was Mexico.

Mr. Trunk is a fun guy who loves a challenge and is always with me, attending conferences, delivering lessons and lectures, training teachers, learning. Many people I meet want to take a picture with him. If you want to find out more about this fearless young elephant, use the hashtag #mrtrunktravels on social media. Thanks, buddy. You rock! To honor you, I’ve made this video:

I hope you like the story of my friend and I’d like to invite you to a challenge. I will ask a couple of questions below about how to use Mr. Trunk in the classroom and I promise I’ll record a video answering them as soon as possible. But before I do, why don’t you give them a shot here:

-how can you use Mr. Trunk with teens?

-how can you use Mr. Trunk with adults?

-how could you teach grammar and vocabulary using Mr. Trunk?

PS: I thought my idea of a traveling puppet was original. Boy/girl,  was I wrong! There are many projects with this concept and a great one to get involved with is iEARN’s The Teddy Bear Project. Also, check out Juan Uribe’s wonderful work with Buddy the Frog and affective learning.