Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas Stories - a Connoisseur Selection for the occasional Christmas storyteller

8:14 AM
Every time I find myself randomly suggesting to people that they read more Christmas stories/storybooks to their kids or if they've ever read <insert one of the 1001 Christmas stories/storybooks I know>, I get blank stares. Now that might be because I am a Christmas Freak with a Family Feud winner sized Christmas knowledge. Or simply because with Christmas being as short as it is (yes I know nowadays the whole world dives into Christmas frenzy as soon as Halloween is over, but that's mainly for shopping), most Christmas stories and storybooks don't get told or bought because we have classics that usually take front stage.

Cue The Sound Eater. I'm here to the rescue! I've put together a careful selection of slightly more obscure Christmas books that will spice up your teaching this festive season.
Here is a full list of Christmas storybooks to explore with your kids and adults. Just in time for the last week of school!

1. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Raymond Briggs created the perfect Christmas story without even writing a word. It's winter, there's lost of snow and snowman  comes to life and an unforgettable adventure begins. It is narrated entirely through pictures and allows the storyteller to adapt the text, involve the listener and create some Christmas magic.

2. How to Catch and Elf by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton

With delightful rhymes and a self-explanatory title, How to Catch an Elf is a rhyming pleasure to use. It's full of jokes and has great illustrations. Great to use with kids and adults alike, this book will allow you bring some particular holiday cheer to class.

3. Dream Snow by Eric Carle

We all know Eric Carle is the undefeated champion of any Kids Books/Simple yet Incredible Kids Materials Competition.
It's December 24th, and the old farmer settles down for a winter's nap, wondering how Christmas can come when there is no snow! In his dream he imagines a snowstorm covering him and his animals—named One, Two, Three, Four and Five—in a snowy blanket. But when the farmer wakes up, he finds that it has really snowed outside, and now he remembers something! Putting on his red suit, he goes outside and places gifts under the tree for his animals, bringing holiday cheer to all.
I mean, can it get more Eric Carle than this?
Yes, because the book has flaps that have hidden pictures. EEK!

4. Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh (illustrations J.otto Seibold)

Olive will make your heart melt because she doesn't just realise she is a Reindeer (yes, out of the blue), but she also travels to the North Pole via the polar express and manages to convince Santa and the other reindeer (who are a bit surprised in the beginning) that a dog should definitely join their team. In the end Olive and her unusual reindeer skills are just what Santa and his veteran reindeer team need. Adorable Olive and her hilarious adventures are sure to make anyone's Christmas merry, kids and adults alike.

5. The Christmas Eve Tree by Delia Huddy (illustrations Emily Sutton)

Probably the best illustrated Christmas story I've ever seen, this storybook is definitely going to impress your older kids and adults. The story is simple,  an ugly little fir tree is taken to the city, no one wants to buy him; they prefer the big tall trees. But a homeless boy asks the shopkeeper if he can take the tree, and down by the river in a cardboard box, decorated with a few candles, the tree finds itself at the centre of a magical Christmas Eve it will never forget. A Christmas tale with a classic feel but a modern theme at its heart. You need go to amazon and order it asap. And try not to cry the first time you read it.

6. Paddington and the Christmas surprise by Michael Bond (illustrations R. W. Alley)

Do you know Paddington? If you don't and you teach, you need to google him asap and get schooled on the great bear that is Paddington (he hails from Peru mind you) and his marvellous adventures.
This story is funny and festive, with the Browns taking Paddington to the Christmas grotto at the local department store, where their journey through the Winter Wonderland is full of unexpected surprises. But the best surprise is a present from Santa. After all, who else would find the perfect present for a bear like Paddington?
Great for little kids and for avid storyteller who want to start a tradition. Paddington is a series of books that you can use for the whole year.

7. Winnie-the-Pooh: Pooh's Christmas Adventure (illustrations Andrew Grey)


It's not a Storybook selection without my favourite little English bear. It’s a very snowy day in the Hundred Acre Wood, and Pooh Bear realises that some of the other animals might be snowed in to their houses. With the help of Piglet, he determines to help all of the other animals clear the snow away – and then it’s time for a Little Something! After all that, there’s just enough time for Christopher Robin to show them all how to make a snowman.

8. Tales from Christmas Wood by Suzy Senior (illustrations James Newman Gray)  

I discovered this book in a quiet bilingual library on a quiet scenic street in midtown Bucharest a few years back and I've secretly loved it ever since.
Christmas wood is full of animals: Badger, Fidgety Fox, Owl (not Wise Old Owl, just Owl), the Rabbit family, Tiny Mouse, and Robin. It's nearly Christmas and all the animals are getting ready to celebrate - Badger is looking for new friends, Tiny is making (or is that eating) gingerbread, and Rosie Rabbit just can't get ANY peace and quiet!
Tales from Christmas Wood is a lovely collection of five short stories, recounting the adventures of Badger, Owl, Fidgety Fox, Tiny Mouse, Robin and the Rabbit Family.
This is a lovely collection to read to children before Christmas as the stories deal with values such as friendship, honesty, kindness, self-control, self-worth, co-operation, taking responsibility and togetherness, as well as talking about the original Christmas story with a traditional Nativity scene. My children love these tales and particularly love looking at the beautiful illustrations, pointing out what they can see in each scene. I think this one will become a firm family favourite, perfect for sharing together on cold, winter nights!

9. The Christmas Bear by Ian Whybrow (illustrations Axel Scheffler)

Here's forgetful Father Christmas on his way to deliver the presents, when poor Bear realises he's left behind. Christmas adventure full of smart rhymes and silliness a-plenty, illustrations by none other than Axel Scheffler (remember the  The Gruffalo?) and lots of flaps to lift on every page, so children can join in the fun!

10. A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas by Philip Yates (illustrations Sebastia Sera)

What can I say, I'm a sucker for pirates. And nothing makes me happy than to combine two things I like such as Christmas and pirates and get it in a book. Your kids will enjoy this Christmas story with a with a sly buccaneer twist and it will keep them guessing about the gifts from day one, when low and behold, you get a parrot in a palm tree. Styled on the eponymous song, A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas can be sung or told as story, used from pron or as a starting point for the creation of your own Twelve Days of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Storytelling tips for the occasional Christmas storyteller

1:28 AM

There are few times in a year when breaking out the books and doing some storytelling with your students feels like the most appropriate thing to do. But Christmas is definitely one of them. I was one of those lucky kids who got to be told countless stories using countless voices and some pretty nifty face mimics by various family member starting with my mom.

I need to clarify that my native Romania might well be the place that storytelling got invented or was born. If you've ever met a Romanian, you'll know what I mean since he or she has told you at least one fantabulous story complete with mimics, body movement, several voices and at least 3 jokes. That's what I love about my genetic pool.

I'm a storyteller. It must have rubbed off my family. I enjoy telling and listening to stories and I've brought that into my classes more times than I remember. I do the voices, I do the face mimics, I run around the class, I go on chairs and I have cool sound effect, literally at my fingertips (thank you Keynote).

Here are some tips and tricks of the trade. The storytelling trade that is.

1. Start small. Plan for a short session where you will introduce the students to the story. This will give the opportunity to create a bit of anticipation, give students a chance to practice their predicting skills and introduce any illustrations.

2. Depending on where you're storytelling and who your audience is, have them sit around you. On the floor is better cause it puts you above them and hence it's easier to hold their attention. Of course, if you're doing it with adults (and I have), mind the knees. Us, adults, have crazy knees that tend to ache.

3. Make sure everyone can see you and the illustrations and can hear you clearly. Cue Keynote. Or PPT. Or any other presenting app, device or program. Just make sure everyone can see.

4. Read slowly and clearly. Not too slow to bore them but slow enough to allow the students to see the illustrations, see the connection between them and the text, get the emphasis in your tone. This will also allow your students (especially the tiny people) to think, ask questions, make comments.

5. If no one does, make comments about the illustrations and point to them to focus your students attention on them. Also encourage your students to dive in the storytelling through those comments.

6. Assigns students chunks from the story that they can repeat while you tell the story. If that's too difficult, give them an emotion. An "Aww!" or and "Ooh". It will make them part of the story. I remember I used to be in charge of providing the Oohs and Awws when I was a kid and I loved it!

7. Do I need to say this? Use gestures, mime and facial expressions to help convey the meaning of feelings and actions. Run, jump, duck, yell, stretch, fly and all other actions one might find necessary to show your students what's happening in the book. So yes, take your self-confessed dignity and throw it out the window if you will be doing storytelling. You can get it back later.

Pause for dramatic effect. Pause in order to allow what you have just said to sink in.

9. Do voices as much as possible. I know it's not easy and you feel silly but it will give your story a whole new feeling.

10. The same goes for sound effects. If sound effect are not your thing. Go to or (great background noises that are meant to improve productivity and help you relax) or finally go to (if you're feeling splurgy since everything needs to be paid for, but hey, you could recycle the story over and over and cut your costs and the quality of their audio is ah-mazing).

11. My last tip is quite simple. Choose a book you like. You need to feel involved and enjoy yourself or else it will show and nobody likes to feel like having fun should be a job.

Come back on Thursday for my top 5 Christmas books to use in the classroom!

The Sound Eater

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tis' the season for Top Ten Christmas songs

1:04 AM
Sitting here at my computer, typing away for a Christmas workshop I'm going to do later today, I found myself diving head first in my Christmas song list. I don't know what kind of person you are, but I'm the kind that has a serious, unchanging Christmas song list that basically plays on repeat for the whole of December.

Being the Christmas freak I am, I love everything about it, the tree, the baking, the gift giving, and I used to be a caroller in the strictest of senses. So now, being a teacher, I get to project all my excitement on my poor, unsuspecting students (both young and old) and try to make them as excited about Christmas as I am.

Cue Michael Buble, cinnamon cookies, endless Christmas lessons and the teaching of the futures with the only purpose of allowing me to inspect my students' plan for the holidays. Don't forget the endless vocabulary lists useless throughout the year but fundamental for the month of December in all English-speaking countries (this is obviously not true, but hey, I'm the teacher, I decide what gets taught, right?)

And the songs. Ah, the songs. Christmas carols and songs are to be played, included in lessons, potentially pushed upon students in order to make them carol, analysed and then neatly shelved for another year.

So here is a list of said songs that you can use with your tiny and not so tiny students to your heart's content!

1. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

This classic Christmas carol is loved by everyone, young and old. It talks about Santa’s special reindeer, Rudolph, who made a name for himself by using his glowing red nose to lead Santa’s sleigh through a dark, foggy night.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say,
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!"

2. Jingle Bells
This particular song has a catchy tune and the chorus is easy to learn. This is one of the first songs taught to children at a very early age.

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And we, we got upsot

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh yeah

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

This song gets children thinking about being good and obeying their parents. Most little ones tend to consciously think about their behavior more around Christmas so Santa will bring them gifts instead of a lump of coal.

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list
And checking it twice;
He's gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Oh! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

4. Frosty the Snowman

The song tells the story of a snowman who comes to life and plays with the children who built him, all because of a magic top hat. Sadly, their fun comes to an end as the day begins to get warmer and the sun melts the snow.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
and two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children
know how he came to life one day.
There must have been some magic in that
old silk hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
he began to dance around.
O, Frosty the snowman
was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh
and play just the same as you and me.
Thumpetty thump thump,
thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

Frosty the snowman knew
the sun was hot that day,
So he said, "Let's run and
we'll have some fun
now before I melt away."
Down to the village,
with a broomstick in his hand,
Running here and there all
around the square saying,
Catch me if you can.
He led them down the streets of town
right to the traffic cop.
And he only paused a moment when
he heard him holler "Stop!"
For Frosty the snow man
had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
"Don't you cry,
I'll be back again some day."
Thumpetty thump thump,
thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

5. Silent Night

This is a classic Christmas carol. It depicts the more spiritual side of Christmas and refers to the birth of Jesus Christ, the reason Christians celebrate the Christmas holiday.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the savior is born
Christ the savior is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord, at thy birth
Jesus Lord, at thy birth

6. The 12-day of Christmas

This fun little song describes 12 gifts given on the 12 days leading up to Christmas. It is a fun song for children to sing, and might even help younger children with their counting skills.

On the first day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree

On the second day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

On the third day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Four calling birds, etc.
And a partridge in a pear tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Five golden rings!
Four calling birds
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

On the [sixth - twelfth] day of Christmas
My true love sent to me

Six geese a laying

Seven swans a-swimming

Eight maids a-milking

Nine ladies dancing

10 lords a-leaping

11 pipers piping

12 drummers drumming

Five golden rings!
Four calling birds
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

7. Deck the Hall

This perennial favorite dates all the way back to the 16th century, with some help from Mozart in the 18th century.

Deck the hall with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
'Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Troll the ancient yuletide carol
Fa la la la la, la la la la

See the blazing yule before us
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Strike the harp and join the chorus
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Follow me in merry measure
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
While I tell of yuletide treasure
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Fast away the old year passes
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Sing we joyous, all together
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Heedless of the wind and weather
Fa la la la la, la la la la

8. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

To get kids in the holiday spirit, there's nothing like wishing everyone a Merry Christmas with this easy to learn tune and lyrics.We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
Good tidings for Christmas
And a happy new year

Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
And a cup of good cheer


We won't go until we get some
We won't go until we get some
We won't go until we get some
So bring some out here


9. Winter Wonderland

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland

Gone away is the bluebird
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song, as we go along
Walking in a winter wonderland
In the meadow we can build a snowman
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say, "Are you married?"
We'll say, "No man"
But you can do the job, when you're in town

Later on, we'll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid, the plans that we've made
Walking in a winter wonderland

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland

Gone away is the bluebird
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song, as we go along
Walking in a winter wonderland

In the meadow we can build a snowman
And pretend that he's a circus clown
We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman
Yes, until the all the kids knock him down
And later on, we'll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid, the plans that we've made
Walking in a winter wonderland
Walking in a winter wonderland

10. I'll be home for Christmas

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

The Sound Eater

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Sound Eater does video

2:02 PM

Despite going through a very difficult November, I managed to put this together for all of you. And for myself. Definitely for myself as well. Going into video has been something that I've meant to do for the longest of time. While I'm not new to blogging in general, I am new to blogging about ELT and it all feels like a constant struggle to better my content and create meaningful material to share with you guys. 
That's why I think going into short videos will be a welcome change and maybe the future. A series of videos will focus on talking about aspects of sound production, trying to explain it as clearly as I can. Or even better yet, as clearly as I wished I had had someone explain to me when I was doing my Delta and started to get really interested in sounds.

Here is the second video that focuses on sounds. I'll be looking at voicing, something that will be explored further in Part 2.

Please hit that LIKE button if you enjoyed it and don't forget to SUBSCRIBE!

The Sound Eater

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Teaching and networking - why should we?

12:58 AM

As teachers, we know our job is mostly a solo gig and I think most of us chose it for that reason. It's nice to be in charge of what you do and how you do it. That being said, for all my teaching career, there have been all sorts of events, workshops, seminars, conferences, team building events; all meant to foster comradeship and present ample opportunities to network. Ah, that word, network, networking, networked. Why should we?

A quick search on Google will get you several million hits on the use of networking. Not all of them are about teaching, but the principle of bettering oneself though connecting with others is a valid point for all professions. Maybe not if you're an international, Bond-like spy. But for the rest of us, it's safe to say networking is not a bad idea.

So why should we? Here's my list of reasons:

1. Support
You will rarely feel as much part of a professional category or tribe as you do during an event, conference, workshop. There is something intrinsically good about getting like-minded people together so they can meet each other, be impressed with each other, like each other, and ultimately provide support to each other. That is if they are not hell bent on world domination. In that case, bad, very bad.
That feeling of belonging might get you through a bad day, might make you reach out for help, might make you help someone, might  mean a new friend and in a job where you’ll be flying solo most times, I sure do appreciate moments when I can cheer on fellow teachers and get cheered on.

2. Growth
This connects to support. When I started teaching, most of my growth came from teachers I worked with that graciously passed on their knowledge and patiently held my hand. But as your career grows, so do your needs for personal growth and if are a senior teacher, the chances you’ll be on the receiving end are slimmer. 
That doesn’t mean you don’t grow. You will learn about new technology, about new topics and trends, you’ll get a rush of energy from the new people. But you might want more.
Great. Go to a conference, event, workshop. Connect to people you don’t see everyday and you are bound to learn a trick or two. I credit my Delta classmates and the conferences I’ve gone to in the past two years with helping me grow as a teacher and as a person.

3. Change
Unless you live in a big city (or even if you do), you probably have a chartered course that you run though in a week. I’m a work, farmers market, dinner in a couple of places, shopping, walk the dog kind of person. My favourite thing about networking is that it’s usually somewhere I’ve never been. I get to change my course for a few days, see a new city, be around different people, try my hand at the local language (should I say try my tongue?) and enjoy the temporary change.

4. Fun
Most events have dinners, snacks, drinks preplanned. It’s in the schedule. It’s the epitome of networking. So have fun with it. Drink and eat, both until you can still entertain an adult, mumble-free conversation while managing to stay upright. Don't hog people, but rather mingle. If don't know anyone, chances are there are at least 5 other people with the same problem so now, go out there and find them. Most importantly, don't forget your business cards at home. 

So at the end of it all, should we network? Should we go that extra mile?
The answer is absolutely yes.

The Sound Eater

Friday, July 28, 2017

Why do we hear with our eyes?

2:41 AM

Do we really separate our senses? Do we really hear with our ears solely? I don't think that is true and this is why.

"Speech is multimodal and is produced with the mouth, the vocal tract, the hands and the entire body and perceived not only with our ears but also with our eyes"
Marion Dohen
Speech through the Ear, the Eye, the Mouth and the Hand
(Multimodal Signals: Cognitive and Algorithmic Issues, Springer, pp 24-39)

The auditory-visual (AV) speech integration has been steadily growing in importance and has most certainly benefited from recent advances in neurosciences and multisensory research. AV speech integration has started to raise questions regarding the computational rules we need in order to put together  information though one sense or across all senses. It has also made scientist wonder about the shape in which speech information is encoded in the brain (auditory vs. articulatory), or how AV speech interacts with the linguistic system as a whole.
After correcting the umpteenth student pronouncing words wrong because he was reading the word, Ihad a sort of a revelation. After spending a few months reading about AV speech integration and becoming fascinated with it I feel confident enough to say: we hear with our eyes, we listen with our eyes, we make our mouth produce sounds based on what our eyes see. Or at least on the quota our eyes share with our ears in AV speech integration. 

Think about it. Basically every single error correction I have provided regarding pronunciation in the last couple of years was, with very few exceptions, an error resulting from focusing on the visual cues. Learners were basing their expectations and performances of sound on the visual representation of the word. Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to use your eyes and prior knowledge to anticipate pronunciation, this is actually something you should be doing according to how our brains already function. But what did happen was not integration but rather superseding. What did happen was that the eyes and the expectations coupled with L1 interference and filtered through my learners mother tongue trained sound producing apparatus into English.

Any correction given to learners while they are still visually stimulated usually resulted in short-lived results, and sometimes not even those. 
Why? Because neurolinguistic research has shown that the brain learns to process different linguistic stimuli at different levels, depending on what your L1 is, how your senses developed as child, is you had any brain injury or not, etc. So what that means for learners is that something has to give sometimes. Their ears give out to their eyes and they listen with their eyes. This is why learners are so comfortable with listening with the transcript. Our job is to break that pattern and help them develop an (hopefully somewhat) equal AV speech integration that can help their brains decode and encode correctly the English language.

So what can we do about it? I've started experimenting with taking away the visual stimulation or introducing a positive visual stimulation. 
I alternate having learners say the words with their eyes closed, counting sounds and syllables, deciding stress, thinking about and focusing on sound production inside their mouths.

We record words with their IPA transcription, I teach them how to read a dictionary entry, we analyze graphic differences between letter and sound transcriptions, we look at how letters combine to create predictable patterns of sounds.
All small steps that could go a very long way.

What suggestions do you have about improving your students AV speech integration capacity?

The Sound Eater

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Mia Sound Pronunciation Boardgame

12:00 AM

Do you ever feel you could so much more with pronunciation in class but you're missing the right tools? Ever thought of a game to teach some basic aspects regarding pronunciation? You haven't?

Well, I have. Here is a simple boardgame to help your students become more aware of pronunciation. Of course Mia couldn't have missed this and so you'll probably want to download this set of flashcards first.

Th rules are simple. You need some coins. Heads is 1 space, tails is 2 spaces. If the students can answer the question, yay! If he or she can't, they can pass it to someone else. If that person can't answer either, the original player misses the next turn. 

The aim of the game is to get the students thinking about several tricky aspects of pronunciation such as stress patterns and syllable count, silent consonants, cognates and how their pronunciation might differ, sound production mechanics. I did design the board thinking of my own Italian students, but tried to make it as internationally relevant as possible. Undeniably, it will work better with Latin-based languages.

You can download the Mia Sound Pronunciation Boardgames HERE.

If you have any suggestions or special requests feel free to drop me a tweet, insta message (@thesoundeater) or a message/comment on my Facebook page The Sound Eater (while you're there, don't forget to hit that like button)
Hope you enjoy it!

Let me know how it goes!

The Sound Eater

Monday, May 29, 2017

How to rock you next pronunciation lesson Part 2

1:10 AM

Here I am with round two of Miss Mia Sound printables. Simple, easy to print and use worksheets that use simple visuals to explore sound production, educate your learners and raise their awareness of the importance of sound when learning a new language.

This time we'll be focusing on the two types of u sounds and two types of o sounds.
You get three flashcards, one presentation handout and one worksheet.
The presentation handout can be used as a visual (pinned to a whiteboard with a magnetic pin) and all  of the work can be finished with a game of Sounds Bingo (click on the link too visit the page where you can download it).

You can get them here.
For any suggestions, leave a comment!

Hope you enjoy it

The Sound Eater

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Why teaching feels like Instagram yoga sometimes

1:29 AM


Scrolling through my Instagram feed and watching all of my fav yoga idols effortlessly pull off insane standing poses, midair splits and perfect crows, my (not as flat or tight) stomach twisted. I'll be practicing yoga well into my 50s before I ever get into an aero-twist. 

But teaching isn't really all that different from Instagram yoga nowadays. 

Everywhere I go and everyone I meet has a new kickass method/approach/idea/activity/prop that they use in class that makes my classes feel like a yoga newbie trying up-dog for the first time all over again. We, teachers, talk about what we do and how we do it with ease because, hey, teaching is a personal thing.

So what happens when we make it look darn easy? Easy as standing on your arms and doing a split looks on Instagram or going into a class and rocking it Dogme style, with class selfies to show.
But when you (and me) try it you fall flat on your face 4 times, your face turns purple midway, and probably by the end of it you'd have pulled a muscle. And I'm not talking about yoga.
This is where the fun part comes in. While for yoga we accept that it's going to take practice, consistency and a whole lot of ouch, when it comes to teaching, I feel we tend to give up way too soon. We want to rock it on our first go and most often than not, we can't. For a whole lot of reasons that probably have nothing to do with our teaching capacity as of today, but rather with our teaching flexibility that needs to be gently stretched and transformed into something awesome tomorrow. 

But what do we do with peer-pressure? Watching pics on Instagram with star yogis effortlessly posing in painfully difficult poses is both inspiring and deeply intimidating. We know all about peer-pressure as teachers and we use it day in day out to talk about our students. 
I say we stop for a second and use that word to talk about ourselves. I've been in situations where peer-pressure has made me do things that felt deeply unnatural to me. It was as if I was trying Tuladandasana (standing stick pose - great for balance) wearing high-heels and a cocktail dress. It just won't work. What I need to do was either change into something more comfortable    (i.e. take the time to find out about it, try it out, adjust myself to it, put on a little knowledge, get to where I want one step at a time) or find a pose that suited the way I was dressed (i.e. see what I can do here and now, choose the best that I can for myself and my students, work on bettering myself starting from where I am, invent something new to fit me and possibly others like me). A pose like Utkatasana (awkward pose) would do the trick in high heels and a cocktail dress if you were wondering. 

It would do the trick with teaching as well. We should start being a bit more awkward, less intimidated. And we might just find a way to post a great Instagram standing yoga pic after all.

The Sound Eater

Friday, May 19, 2017

How to rock your next pronunciation lesson Part 1

8:06 AM

Hey guys!

Here is my first bundle for teaching pronunciation with Miss Mia Sound. We will be dealing with the /ɪ/ /iː/ /e/ /æ/  and it contains one presentation handout, one worksheet, three flashcards.


You can download everything here!

The Sound Eater

Monday, May 15, 2017

Three ways to hand over pronunciation to your learners - Innovate ELT 2017 Conference

6:43 AM

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mia Sound - Mix'n'Match Pronunciation Game (visuals galore)

1:41 AM

It's finally HERE!!!! I am too excited.

I love using visuals in class but have had the hardest time finding visuals to teach pronunciation with. So what could I do?? Take a page out of Beyonce's book and do my own thing. 
Sorry for the pop culture reference but it just made sense cause the girl #slays.

So here is Mia Sound. The ultimate tribute to my tiny little grandma Mia who has the strongest possible voice. This little black and white character is my own personal version of my grandma teaching pronunciation. I've been working on this project for a little over 6 months and this is just the first download of many, many to come. So stay tuned for more.
I just introduced Mia to the world at the Barcelona #iELT17 conference and had some great feedback which I plan to incorporate in the project in the future.

Every bundle comes with printable worksheets, some instructions and ideas and a whole lot of love!
You can download the Mix'n'Match game HERE
If you have any suggestions or special requests feel free to drop me a tweet, insta message (@thesoundeater) or a message/comment on my Facebook page The Sound Eater (while you're there, don't forget to hit that like button)
Hope you enjoy it!

What do you normally use when you teach pronunciation?

The Sound Eater

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Top 3 reasons for going to #ELT conferences

7:57 AM

I'm writing this on a very early flight from Barcelona to Rome, my eyes still slightly glazed and trying desperately to adjust to the way-to-bright light of airplane interiors. I've just had a wonderful time at a wonderfully organized conference that makes the inconveniences of economy, early, connection-necessary flying seem well worth it.

If you haven't heard of it yet, InnovateELT hosted by Oxford House Barcelona is a definite treat. You can check out their website or twitter hashtag #iELT17

With the experience fresh in mind, here are my top three reasons for going to #ELT conferences: (insert drumroll)

  1. You get out of your comfort zone.
Teaching for the same school for a number of years, dealing with monolingual classes, using the same coursebook or teaching the same classes; all of these put us in a proximal comfort zone. Realistically we might expand that comfort zone, more to the right or more to the left. That being said, unless you have the opportunity to drastically change all of the above mentioned situations every year or a couple of years, you're probably under stimulated. Conferences are wonderful opportunities for you to connect to your community, learn about new ideas, methods, approaches and tricks. It literally puts you in positive variation of the "fight or flight" mode.

  1. You get to meet inspiring people.
And those people are not just good because they're saying something enlightened that they've figured out, but rather they fuel your own enlightenment and help you see things from a different (and might I say, positive and usually completely mind-blowing) perspective. You might have great co-workers but I've rarely felt as supported as when I'm presenting at a conference and people tell me "I'll be there, you can count on me."

  1. It allows you to grow.
As teachers we tend to become stuck in our beliefs about what teaching is all about. Being in a conference can give you the opportunity to reflect on your own teaching assumptions and embrace change. The ever skeptical will say that conferences also present us with a myriad of talks and workshops that feel either like one big publicity stunt or immensely undoable, but most often than not, there is a silver teaching lining in all of them. You get to learn how to identify what you're not comfortable spending 30 or 60 minutes on, get up and leave. I hated being wrong in choosing the talks I would attend because I would feel stuck. Realistically you should never feel like that. If, for whatever reason, you're not enjoying yourself or it's not what you were expecting, get up and leave. The speaker will carry no lingering grudge and you would have made a significant step in self growth and particularly being assertive.

What would your advice be to conference-going people based on your experience?

The Sound Eater

Sunday, April 9, 2017

5 Easter Pins for your YL Students

1:53 AM

With Easter a week away, this next week will be filled with spring lexis and all sorts of crafts. I have an adorable group os pre-starters that have just learned animals, one of them being rabbit. Perfect timing to bring out some crafts and work on following instructions, developing cognitive skills, improving hand-eye coordination and just having some darn fun.
I've been going crazy on Pinterest, looking at adorable felt or yarn bunnies, paper-plate chicks, paper hyacinths and crazy Easter egg hunts.
I've picked 5 super-doable activities for you guys to try out this week. Or this spring for that matter, since, hey, who doesn't like a nice bunny party hat??

1. The Bunny Party Hat
The image is self-explanatory but I might add that you could use this activity with any age YL, given that you help the little ones with the cutting (prepare it beforehand) and ask the older ones to give their hat a name, invent a story, draw details, etc.

2. The Plastic Spoon Bunnies
This is by far the simplest activity with Easter bunnies I could find. It still involves some manual skills but overall it should be less than 20 minutes. So if you're short on time but still want to do something bunny-ish, give it a go. By the way, I saw another Pin where the bunny was inside a double sided paper egg that had been dutifully decorated, with the front side half the size of the back side, and the spoon's handle serving as a hold. Adorable!

3. Button Extravaganza
Now when I saw this, I instantly knew this was what I was going to do with my students this week. Here they've made birds, but can you already see it? Button bunnies!!! Again, a super simple activity where little preparation is necessary, perfect motor skills are irrelevant, creativity can run free, and the back of you wonderfully original card can be filled with English!

4. Fingerprint Art
Great little activity for YL where they get to get their hand dirty and maybe help each other create different characters (hey, we all have different fingers). Again wonderful little activity for following instructions (since most YL will need help with drawing faces) but I guess you would need to do this activity in 2 phases. Phase one, you make the cards with the fingerprints and put it somewhere safe to dry. Phase two, you draw the faces, extra detail and messages. If you have a long 2 hour lesson, you might be able to do both, but I doubt you will be able in 1 hour.

5. Eggstremely Surprising Card
A short little activity with minimal preparation and minimal drain on classroom time. I would use this with slightly older YL (from 9-10 onwards) that are a little bit more confident and able to draw. Why? Because my experience with little people has taught me that some are naturally better at drawing while others not. But all are acutely capable to discern between a great drawing and a not so great (albeit I think they are all absolutely adorable) drawing. So they mope or bicker or ask for my help more than I would like them to (hey, it's supposed to be their drawing, their moment). So if you plan on doing it with tiny people, show them a "how to" video about how to draw a chick, there are plenty on youtube and it can save you a lot of grief after. When they've mastered (this is highly relative as we all know) the chick drawing, then we go to the do a card on your own part. Mind you, you might need to ask them to draw it multiple time (hence you might need to prepare this project several lessons before). For everyone else, go ahead and do this 15-20 minutes craft.

The Sound Easter

Friday, April 7, 2017

To CLIL or not to CLIL?

12:00 AM

I've just finished my first teacher training course. I was extremely happy to get this opportunity since it is something I would like to do in the future. My school organised a TKT CLIL exam prep and my group consisted of 11 Italian state school teachers.

When I said yes to doing this class, I had to brush up on exactly what this TKT CLIL exam and CLIL itself was all about. As a bilingual child, I've basically gone through CLIL myself and can't speak highly enough of it but in reality, it all bubbles down to the teacher's own agenda, willingness and knowledge. Having had a very positive experience, I felt it was imperative to communicate my enthusiasm for this way of teaching to my "students".

Now, what is the TKT CLIL exam?
The TKT CLIL exam is a Cambridge provided exam, part of the TKT scheme which Cambridge describe as

"TKT is a flexible series of modular teaching qualifications, which test your knowledge in specific areas of English language teaching. You can take as many modules as you want, over any time period. You receive a Cambridge English certificate for each module you complete."

TKT CLIL is one of the offered specialist modules which should be taken after the original TKT Module 1,2 and 3, but can be taken on it's own as well. It all depends on the teacher's willingness and prior knowledge. It obviously contains a mountain of methodology terms and challenging practices that need to be assimilated and reasoned on.

The test in itself is not overly complicated, a multiple choice paper-based test with 80 questions that are worth 80 points and you have 80 minutes to do it. Your results place you within 4 bands(1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest), with an average of 45-50 points placing you in the 3rd band.

But, why take the TKT CLIL exam?
That was the first question I considered when I said yes to dong this course. Why are my students coming in for a 2 hour class packed with tongue-twisting methodology terms, laborious teaching practices and anglo-saxon new-age logic?
My answer was: to better oneself and hence to better prepare ones students. 
Highly idealistic you would say...but throughout the course I noticed my initial assumption was right. My students were there to learn new tricks, experiment new things, challenge themselves and ultimately get a certificate that proves this new acquired knowledge.
So why do it? Because it will make teaching fun and new and rewarding. It's a bit like experienced Celta without the assignments, deadlines, sleepless nights and overload of info.

Last but not least, why CLIL?
CLIL is a world. A magical, difficult, challenging, gratifying world. It means offering our highly globalized kids a real chance, a higher competence, more realistic expectations when deciding to study abroad, a wider cultural spectrum, a classroom that most times levels the playing field and yields surprising results. CLIL is all about giving non-native kids the chance to feel and employ the language, whatever language that is, while at the same time developing their cognitive, learning and coping skills through learning subjects. The focus is on the subject, not on the language. Great mathematicians will need help from great language speakers, and viceversa. You might be the best in History, but will it be the same once you have to use French or English to learn it? You might be a great player, but can you be a great team player? You might have an excellent memory, but can you analyse the information you are given and give your opinion on it? This is what CLIL aims to do.

At the end of my class, we all felt empowered, proud, positive. I was proud of my students for all they had achieved and they were proud of themselves. I felt like I had laid the cornerstone to something great for my future as an ELT teacher, and they felt more confident about their teaching. 
I can honestly say I can't wait for the next class.
In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for my students taking their exam mid April!

The Sound Eater

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I'm a speaker! iELT2017

11:13 PM
Yay! I'm speaking at Innovate ELT 2017 Conference.
I am so excited as this was one of the places I was really dying to get to.
I bought my ticket, booked my Airbnb, drafted my conference presentation and overall finished counting my lucky stars.
Look at this presentation:
Click on the image if you want to go see their website which is awesome!

I am so very excited and take this opportunity to thank them and invite everybody who can come to this wonderful experience!

The Sound Eater

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Sound Logic

1:16 PM

What comes to mind when you think about the word "sound"?
Do you think about your favourite singer? Or maybe your favourite song? Maybe a musical genre or an instrument? Do you imagine an orchestra, a music video? Two cowboys facing each other on the main road at sunset with a whistled song floating in the air? Or maybe a moustached phenomenon in sneakers and a white tank top strutting his stuff up and down the stage of a sold out concert? Maybe you think about how the word "sound" sounds like.
Or maybe, like me, you think about your mouth.
Yes, not exactly our favourite bunch of bone and muscles on the planet.
Most people think of their mouths in terms of eating, drinking, breathing, talking, kissing, screaming, etc.

I want you to imagine a concert hall.
Maybe you've never been in one, so I want you to imagine a theatre.
Maybe you don't like theatres, so I want you to imagine a cinema.
And if you still can't see that, try and remember a concert you saw on TV.
That's what I see in our mouths.
The most unbelievable, incredible, magical concert hall in the known universe.

If our brains are the supercomputers that no computers will ever match, then our mouths are the most perfect concert halls that have ever been created. Sorry Carnegie Hall, it's not personal.
When I say mouth, I refer to all the different parts involved in the production of sound: the lips, teeth, the alveolar ridge, our lungs, the velum aka the soft palace, the hard palate, the uvula, the glottis, the tongue. I must have forgotten something, just like you forget to wish a distant aunt Happy Birthday for her birthday, but you love her dearly for existing.
Every single time I hear a sound I've never heard and therefore maybe never created, the thought of sound creation is electrifying (You're the sound that I want, Sound that I want, Uh Uh Uh). The complicity and multiplicity of biological phenomenons that allow sound to be formed is nothing sheer of magical.

"Speech sound production is one of the most complex human activities: it is also one of the least well understood. This is perhaps not altogether surprising as many of the couples neurological and physiological processes involved in the generation and execution of speech utterance remain relatively inaccessible to direct investigation, and must be inferred from careful scrutiny of the output of the system - from details of the movements of the speech organs themselves and the acoustic consequences of such movements."

Speech Production and Speech Modelling
edited by W.J. Hardcastle, Alain Marchal

Just some food for thought.

The Sound Eater

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Family Tree Fun

10:56 PM

I'm a big fan of creating family trees with my students, but I can never find a really good one that I can use with multiple types of students, so I always end up with at least 10 different photocopies of 10 different family trees. So I made my own.
It looks good enough for kids, but I've used it with teens and even adults and the graphic didn't feel cartoonish.
You can find it here - Family Tree

I'll also share with you 5 things you can do with it.

1. With really small kids (pre-starters, starters, movers) you can ask them to start from YOU and then write the name of mom, dad, sisters, brothers, grandparents. I would suggest to have a spare copy you, the teacher, work on. You illustrate and monitor they are writing the right names. Be careful, if they can't remember or they need extra boxes because their parents are divorced and remarried, be super flexible. Remember you're not doing a census for the government.

2. Again with small kids, you can ask them to start from YOU and then draw mom, dad, sisters, brothers, grandparents. If they can't ask them to draw a symbol of the person. I had a really sweet little girl who had never met her grandma who passed away before she was born. She drew a bunch of flowers because her grandma had had a garden full of flowers that her grandpa still kept. Useless to say I almost started crying.
This drawing activity can also be a continuation of the activity above if you make sure they write on the dotted line and still have space for drawing.

3. With older children, teens and such, I've asked them to write the names of close relatives, like above, followed by a short list (4-5) of personality adjectives that characterise those individuals. Then they had to explain in pairs why they had chosen those adjectives by giving examples, explaining and telling anecdotes. Pairs could be changed several times. This works for adults as well.

4. A variation of the exercise above is to ask them to write the opposite of the adjectives (written in red) they want to use and then have them in pairs work to figure out the correct adjectives. Then they would proceed to have the discussion described above. I usually use this variation after I have done the activity from point 3 a couple of times and I want to recycle and make the activity a little bit more challenging. This works for adults as well.

5. Older teens (like legal age teens) and adults. Set it as homework. They must fill in the family tree with names and adjectives. They must also find a photo or some photos that show all the people in the family tree. In pairs, they exchange photos, describe each individual using both physical description and the personality adjectives they have already written. The partner has to guess who is who.
This can be modified by giving each student a list of 3 or 6 names/personality adjectives/physical description adjectives they need to tick off of a list. That way, they will have a added purpose for listening.

Hope you have fun with it.

The Sound Eater

A Martin Luther King Jr. Day lesson plan (materials included)

12:13 AM

So today will be a double post day, but I'll start with this.
I recently taught a lesson centred on the theme of heroes so I went with one of my personal heroes, the great orator Martin Luther King Jr.

I've got a KEY/PPT slide for you to guide you through the lesson and some extra materials you will need.
Heroes - MLK

During the GROUP READING you should have already set up three separate reading areas with a blown up version of the following text cut up in three piece (Group 1, 2 and 3). This is a very basic jigsaw reading activity.
Group Reading Text
Each student (1, 2 or 3) receives a set of questions to which he doesn't have the answers. Eg: a student 2 will have questions pertaining to students 3 text and thus they will need to share to be able to complete them.
The students are then rearranged and groups of 1-2-3 students are created to share their own info and complete the questions.

I found a really nice True/False activity on as part of a lesson plan and did that as my second activity. It is connected to this Vimeo video. You can do quite a lot with the video.

History: Bet You Didn't Know - March on Washington from on Vimeo.

During the lesson, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation was worked on, recorded and recycled.

I then finished the lesson by asking students to produce a paragraph-speech starting with "I have a dream..." for their next lesson.

I had a lot of fun with this lesson since all the students were genuinely interested and participated a lot in all the different stages.

The Sound Eater

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why I'm not afraid of Babbel

6:32 AM
I'll start my post by asking three simple questions.
1. Do you practice sport?
2. Do you do it alone, at home, or in a gym/sports centre?
3. How do you feel when you do it?

You're probably asking yourselves what does practicing a sport have to do with teaching English or, better yet, with the intelligently well-marketed Babble app.
Well...I've done and am still doing a great variety of sports. Team sports like basketball or handball, Pilates, yoga, running, trekking, walking, tae-kwon-do, gymnastics. You name it, I've tried it.
In the last few years a great number of apps, all specially designed to facilitate my practicing of said sports in the comfiness of my own house, have invaded my iPhone and depleted my App Store credit. I've spent more money on those apps than I am comfortable or even willing to admit.
The latest Instagram fitness guru launches a FREE app with a 19€/month "supercalifragilisticly exclusive" subscription package? I'll try it, thank you very much.
There's a new app that promotes flexibility AND mindfulness? In the same app? At less than a 5€ per month? Yes, please!

I think you get the point. Now, with my new found obsession with fitness apps, I discovered I secretly enjoyed instructing my unexperienced, sport-wise neophyte friends on how they had their lives all wrong. They were oblivious to the "life-changing power of <insert current app obsession>". And yes, I've actually said that to people.
What happened was that some took me up on my pseudo-creepy invitations to be app buddies and see who could do better. Ah, the competition factor. I'll get back to that one. So some of my friends went ahead and downloaded/bought some of the apps I'd tried myself. Some never gave in. Some stuck to the program for a couple of weeks, some for a couple of months, some still use it. I've started using and abandoned more than half a dozen apps. The novelty factor is like getting high for the first time. (Not that I've ever gotten high mom, if you're reading this. It was just for emphasis.) I love the app for two weeks or even six months, it's on my phone, I can do it more or less anywhere (except for burpees and such) and at any hour (ahem, yes 11 pm is an acceptable practice time if you're an English teacher - shoutout to all late-night working teachers).

But, ultimately I gave up. I found something new. I stopped caring that the app stared back at me from my phone. I still have a daily reminder on my iWatch from one of these apps that I use as a sort of time compass. If the reminder rings, I know I still have about 30 minutes before having to leave my house for a set of classes I teach at lunch. The competition factor that led me to become a harassing fit-crazed friend wore off each and ever time like a high (again, mom, it's just for emphasis).

Babbel is an awesome little app. It's well built and very intelligent. It's useful. It's definitely inexpensive.
But, if you're human, it won't last. You'll start to dread it. Or you'll start to get bored. Or you'll find a new Babbel. Or you'll meet someone and be busy. Or <insert here 1,2 million human excuses for quitting stuff>.

Because coming to an English class with an actual teacher and actual classmates and actual human contact is much more rewarding. It's much more complex, unpredictable, educational, memorable, interesting, emotional...human.
You don't just get an educational experience, you're not just learning a language, you're meeting new people, a new culture (sometimes more than one), you're stepping out of your comfort zone (aka your living room), you're going the extra mile. You can smile and frown and cross your arms and slump. And your teacher will see all of these things and react accordingly.

When I last yelled at my least favourite app, calling it an instrument of torture, it calmly said back: "Well done, Oana, 5 to go!"

I deleted it immediately. So I'm good with Babbel. I'll just wait it out.

The Sound Eater