“Dear me” letters

“What would you say to your 16- year- old self if you had the chance?” That’s what 75 celebrities were asked and they wrote a letter expressing their thoughts. Dear Me Letters is a book that collects those letters.As a kind of follow-up, its website extended the idea to the public and allows readers to submit their own letters.

The Guardian published an extract from the book in an interactive article in the online version of the paper.

It is very interesting to read about the insecurities and suffering of people who would become so successful in life. And It is a very good source for an activity with (very) advanced students.You need to have a very relaxed atmosphere in class as well, and be sure that talking about the past won’t upset anybody.

Step 1

Ask your students the same question: “What would you tell your old self if you had the chance? What would you have changed?”.

Tell them about the book. In groups, each student reads one or two letters from The Guardian (print them or let them read them on their phones/tablets). Then, they have to share information about all the advice given in their letters and ellaborate a list of traits all teenagers seem to have in common.

Step 2

Tell them they are going to listen to a radio programma about Dear Me, featuring the editor of the book, Joseph Galliano. You can play the whole recording or concentrate on the first 4 minutes, when Galliano reads his letter to his old 16 self.

The students take notes and compare what they heard with the list they have written from the other letters.

Step 3

As it might be too personal to ask students to write a letter of the same kind, ask them to write a letter to someone from the past or from the future.

To illustrate the idea, play this video, in which Stephen Fry talks about letters. He is asked three questions:

  1. What letter either sent or received had an impact in your life?
  2. To whom would you write a letter now including someone form the past or future?
  3. Why is it important to keep writing letters?

Before they watch it, students answer the questions themselves in groups.


(The interview was filmed at Letters Live at the Southbank on World Book Night, in aid of The Reading Agencywriting )

An alternative to writing a letter to someone from the past or the future can be writing a letter addresed to themselves in the future. They can write a real letter o an email to FutureMe.org. This website is based on the principle that “memories are less accurate than e-mails”, so they invite you to write an email reminding your future self of whatever you want to remember . And then they’ll do “some time travel magic and deliver the letter to you. FutureYou, that is.”

You can write it as a private email to your own self or make it public (but anonymous), which will be included in the “public letters” section.





Views on Education

With this post we would like to compile several resources that have been suggested in our Facebook group to talk about education (particularly by Laura Martin).

1. First of all, the classic talk by Ken Robinson, one of the most popular video in TED: Do schools kill creativity?’

Also by Ken Robinson, Changing Education Paradigms

Have a look at the fantastic lesson around this video in Film English, by Kieran Donaghy

2. The perspective of a motivated and motivating teacher in TED: “Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.”

3. Education and technology:

No computers in the classroom in Silicon Valley

4. Free schools:

5. Some notions on “unschooling”:

6. Hackschooling:

If you have any more ideas to add here, please let us know in a comment.

A Tribute to Madiba

The world is grieving for the loss of Nelson Mandela. Our role as ESL teachers is not only teaching language, but culture, so we think it is necessary to mention this event in our lessons.

Here we offer two different ideas.

First, we think we can talk about his figure and his words using this slideshow presentation we found on slideshare. We can use it in different ways, as prompts for speaking or writing, or as a reading comprenhension activity.


Secondly, one of the members of our group, Carmela Vaamonde, from Escuela Oficial de Idiomas A Coruña, shared with us this wonderful listening activity about Playing the Enemy, the book that was later used as a basis for the film Invictus.

You can find the audio for the activity here.

And you can dowload the pdf with the questions and the key here:  JohnCarlin_PlayingTheEnemy

Auge y caída de la clase al revés: ¿lecciones aprendidas?

El llamado Flip teaching (que podríamos traducir como la clase al revés) ha recibido una gran atención por parte de la comunidad docente y de investigadores de la acción educativa en los últimos cinco años.

Es un tipo de organización de la instrucción que, aprovechando las posibilidades de la tecnología actual, invierte la secuencia tradicional de aprendizaje: el alumno accede independientemente al contenido perteneciente al currículo y la clase se dedica a aplicar aquel conocimiento resolviendo problemas o haciendo trabajo de carácter práctico.

En el aula de idiomas, con una enseñanza basada en destrezas, supone que la primera exposición (ya sea gramática, vocabulario, etc.) no ocurre en la clase, sino fuera de ella; el tiempo de clase se invierte en la elaboración de tareas (fomento de cada una de las destrezas) que penden de esa exposición. Este método es particularmente congruente con otros enfoques docentes como el Aprendizaje de Idiomas por Tareas (o Task-Based Language Learning) o Aprendizaje por Proyectos (Project-Based Learning), donde el objetivo no es puramente lingüístico sino también procedimental, y a su vez con la forma en que muchos profesores de EEOOII han incorporado las nuevas tecnologías a sus clases presenciales y, sobre todo, extendido la docencia a ámbitos fuera del aula.

Abajo tienes una presentación sobre casos de aplicación real al aula de idiomas en dos grupos (Intermedio 1 y Avanzado 1) en dos EEOOII españolas distintas y otros centros de formación de adultos similares en otros países.

La diversidad y complejidad de nuestro alumnado en unos grupos masificados y cada vez más heterogéneos choca frontalmente con la reducción de las horas disponibles para el aprendizaje presencial o el aumento del número de grupos a cargo de los profesores. Esta conjunción de factores hace cada vez más difícil nuestra labor y pone en riesgo el éxito del servicio que hacemos a la sociedad, algo que hace imprescindibles cambios metodológicos y prácticos (adaptación de las nuevas tecnologías, maximización del tiempo de contacto presencial) en nuestras clases, a fin de poder paliar las cada vez más depauperadas condiciones en las que se deba dar el aprendizaje de una lengua extranjera.

  • ¿Aplicas o has pensado en aplicar esta manera “invertida” de dar clase? Comparte tu experiencia y opiniones comentando más abajo.

Presentado en el VIII Congreso Estatal de Escuelas Oficiales de Idiomas, Pamplona/Iruña

Post relacionado: A glimpse of the future? The flipped classroom

Un modelo flexible

A raíz de una comunicación realizada en el II Congreso Master de Secundaria (ver abajo) me gustaría que pudiésemos realizar aquí un debate constructivo acerca de nuestra doble posición como expertos en metodología y practicantes de la misma, de la necesidad de cambio en la forma de dar clase respecto a lo aprendido en la formación y lo que ocurre en el aula, y de la adecuación de modelos ideales a alumnos muy reales.

  • ¿Cómo incorporáis otras técnicas o tecnologías a la organización de vuestras clases y las actividades de los alumnos?
  • ¿Cuáles son vuestras motivaciones para hacerlo y qué ventajas o dificultades habéis observado?

Creo que sería de interés reflexionar acerca de estos y otros aspectos aquí, compartiendo impresiones y experiencias.

100 Top First World Problems

Our mate Luis Msánchez suggested we could use a video with the same title of this post on our facebook group and this is how I used it. It’s supposed to be a warmer.

I recommend you to watch the video before reading the activity, so that you understand.

Level: B1 and above.

Skills: speaking, listening, reading, writing.

Aim: oral fluency, motivation, fun.

Grouping: Groups of 3-4 students, whole class

Timing: 40 minutes

Materials: Youtube video, projection equipment, pc.


Write down this sentence on the whiteboard: “100 Top First World Problems” and ask them to form groups of 3-4 students. They have to discuss and write a list of problems.


Ask a member of each group to read their list. These are the problems they will mention: famine, economical crisis, unemployment, crime, obesity…


Now tell them you are going to show them the real list. They expect something similar to what they wrote, of course. When they see the video, they feel puzzled and just laugh.


Play the video again and ask them to write down the problems they share with the speaker. Try to give examples of your own problems.


Ask them to read the problems they feel identified with, give examples, try to find possible solutions, etc.


Brainstorm with them other problems they might have and which are similar to the ones presented on the video. With the results you can make your own list. You can read the list of our class under this link which leads you to the blog of our school.

The Artistifier

Cristina Monti has shared this useful tool with us in our facebook group:

The recent success of the film ‘The Artist‘ seems to have created a lot of interest in silent black and white movies again. These kinds of movies are great for using with students: now you can create your own B&W silent movies using The Artistifier and any clip that you can find on YouTube.

I’ve tried it myself and the results are spectacular. Here you can see a little example of what you can do.

In class I think you can use The Artistifier in many different ways. I’m thinking of showing the site to my students and tell them how it works and ask them to create their own video.

Our mate Iván Conte suggests we can work on body language with it, and thinks this tool can be useful with elementary students.

If you have any other suggestion, please leave your ideas in the comments section, we are eager to see what else we can do.