Rose Bard’s Blog: Teaching Journal

Rose Bard:

I’m speechless and grateful that people I respect and admire can see me for who I am. And couldn’t be more honoured to have someone as eloquent as Geoff Jordan to describe me so well. He talks like he knows me for years.

Thank you Geoff for the gift.

Originally posted on aplinglink:


Rose Bard’s blog “Rose Bard: Teaching Journal” comments on English language teaching from the point of view of a dedicated, humanistic, and radical teacher. I say “radical” because, although there are no strident political statements in her posts, nor even any overt criticisms of the status quo in the ELT industry, her posts are, nevertheless, always informed by a political view of the context in which she works. Her blog heading includes Paul Freire’s famous evocation:

The more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled.

There it is: to be radical is to attempt to understand reality, not in order to contemplate it, but to transform it. To understand reality, as Friere suggests, one must unveil it, and the…

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Tapping to Learners’ interests: PoP(ular) Songs

Lyrics Training has become a popular website among my students. Most of them love music and find it a great way to be in contact with English. In fact, they had been listening to English songs even before they decided to start the English course. And those are also the students who ask for music in the class all the time. They get bored at the grammar stuff, but move their body at the sound of music, and smile, especially if it is their favorite tune or kind of music. With time I realized that their request was based on their strong belief that listening to music is good to help them learn English.

lyricstrainingIt’s hard though to bring a song that will please everyone. So here is how I’m dealing with this nowadays.

1- Let students prepare the gap fill themselves and bring the songs. It might not be perfect as we would do it, but they need to learn and take charge of their own learning. With  feedback they will get better and better at it. Less than 15 minutes is all it takes to play it two or three times at the end of the class for them to fill the gaps. Then, we can use peer correction and quick reflection for them to talk about the errors they made and give each other tips. For large groups, I would first bring a “Get to know you” activity where students can find out more about each other’s musical taste, then ask them to group themselves in similar interest group according to what they had collected in the Ask & Answer stage. The teacher then could give a list of items and/or topics that wishes them to focus on when choosing songs to use in the class during the following weeks. Shared responsibility as well as tapping to their interests, in this case music will for sure make them pay more attention to the language they encounter on a daily basis and will leave room for a number of different discussions where the teacher can draw their attention to.

2- Here is how Lyrics training comes in hand. I have to cover Present Perfect simple and continous in the following weeks, but I don’t want it to be only about “a grammar point”. Especially because Present Perfect is seen by most students as something not really necessary to learn (at least these are the comments we usually get around here!). But funny enough they haven’t noticed how present it is in songs and tv series. This is quite easy to explain because they focus on the melody in order to enjoy it and follow the beat and lyrics most of the time without thinking about what they are hearing. I’ve seen teens singing songs beautifully and having no idea what they were singing or not able to recall the lyrics. My daughter had been before she became more proficient in English one of those who could sing beautifully. And secondly, they tend to avoid at all cost studying! At least most of them. The most successful learners I have encountered are those who DO pay attention to it + plus enjoying the music/tv series.

What I’m suggesting here is that most learners need us teachers to help them make the connection of what they like with how to use it for their own benefit without bore them to death. Don’t waste your time telling them about it, bring it to class.

I set the homework last week as follow for my 9th graders.

1) I introduced Lyrics training and showed them the features of the website.

2) I chose the songs with Present Perfect in it. I gave them the links for 4 songs. They had to choose one and then copy the verses in English and Portuguese onto their notebooks.


Modelling for Learners – my own notebook


The aim at this point was for them to focus on meaning. Get acquainted with the lyrics.

3) The second task was to use Lyrics training to practise with the song the had chosen before.

After taking iTDi course with Jason Levine, I had no doubt that this tool was just what I needed to create this connection between what we want them to learn and what they actually are exposed to on a daily basis.

Reasons to use it according to their About page are:

  • Its a perfect way to learn and improve skills.
  • It helps to learn new vocabulary and expressions, and reinforce grammar concepts through continuous exercise of writing the missing words.
  • Most important, it helps us train our ear to dramatically improve the capacity to recognize sounds and words of a foreign language in a very short time, training the brain almost unconsciously, whether you know the meaning of all the words or not.
  • Plus, music is a fun way to learn and listen to different accents and pronunciations allowing greater flexibility to test to the ability of recognizing different sound patterns.

In accordance to what Jason Levine had shared with us in Rhythm and Rhyme course, they claim that recent studies have shown that simple exposure to the sounds of another language sets up in our brain the structures and connections necessary for learning it.

4) Then, in the following class I asked them to read the lyrics again and circle the present perfect and I wrote the verses on the board to discuss form and usage. Plus I gave them the follow-up task to add to their notebooks more examples from other songs.

Title of the song:

Name of the band/singer:

The example sentences:

Three interesting things I noticed:

1: I met one of the students in the parking lot and he told me he was listening to music right at that moment and trying to find the present perfect examples. And that was interesting thing to hear because he usually listens to electronic music and he emphasized that when I gave the task.

2: Yesterday in my 1-2-1 class, I paid attention to my student using Lyricstraining. The song she had chosen was a hard one for her level of English. She played the first time, skipped a few of the words. Then, she tried again and was able to do much better. I was amazed at her persistence when she couldn’t recognize the word. She would play it over and over again. The about page also emphasizes that it is very different from the typical listening exercises in language classes, where the pronunciation is too perfect, which is not entirely practical in a real environment. And I tend to agree with them. Although scripted listening materials have their place in the class, developing strategies with the learners to become able to deal with authentic is very important.

3: Although the class, following the homework, we didn’t play any song, but used the examples of the song to work on the grammar, they mentioned that class was fun because they love music.

Plus, I noticed that it is indeed also a fun way to learn the lyrics of our favorite songs. I know that because I have been doing that myself. I was pretty bad at remember lyrics and I feel that I am starting to overcome this problem.

Does anyone out there know of tools I could use with my learners that feature music, films and TV series? Please let me know.

My own story, the story of thousands

Education as we know today was something far far away for many of us in the past (let’s say about 20? 30? 50? 70? years ago?). I’m one of the few in my generation to get an university degree. It sounds strange to my own ears, but last night while I was taking my shower and thinking of the book I have to read for uni (Literacy and Politics for the education of young adults and adults in Brazil) I realized that not many in my own family had the chance to finish even high school. Odd as it sounds, this is the story of many in Brazil.

Although education is a hot topic nowadays and we see it being featured on various medias, and also the fact that there is a growing opportunity for people to have more access to education especially in hearing about it through mass media, in practice people have to have a certain income to assure that their children go through all the academic life there is to go. Not even mentioning here post-graduation like specialization, Masters or Doctorial degree. Just plain simple higher education.

Back then, going back to my memories, going to college was a distant dream to most of us. One would be lucky if had the support and motivation to finish high school. In my mom and dad’s generation again few had achieved as far as high school. To tell you the truth I don’t think my father did. My mom, I’m pretty sure she didn’t even started it. It was actually her dream, but being married and with kids… there wasn’t enough motivation to get it done. Or let’s say lack of purpose. There is a huge difference from my mom’s generation and mine. We can’t deny history.  My mom did finish middle school though as an adult. My father even started technical course in eletronics if my memory serves me well when I was nine. But I’m sure he didn’t finish it. My brother did finish high school, I was told. I’m the first one in my family to get a higher education degree. And it wasn’t something without tears and sweating. I have to work hard to manage a full time schedule (30 hours) as a teacher, coordinate family, be  a wife, a mom to my lovely Emanuel, my teenage daughter and eldest son in college  who I don’t give as much time as I would love to, and university subjects I have to dedicate myself to. I have dreams that are beyond getting a degree. I have goals that are set for my future. Goals that do not include fame, but service.

When I have the chance to step in spaces like the one I blogged about recently. An educational institute created as I have stressed there to provide underprivileged people the opportunity to be citizens and not be excluded by the social system, my heart cries out with joy. It’s a start. And on a very positive note, yesterday my internship supervisor gave me a copy of the first stage for literacy booklet, the one that guides their practice and it is based on Freire’s literacy method which I plan to blog about it soon. I was so happy to hear that, and what I read so far made my heart sing. So, I have the opportunity to be learning from people who are applying Freire’s ideas in class with kids who are the oppressed. This is a huge thing for me. I’ll be sharing more about it soon.

Then and Now? Or Now and Then?

Education nowadays might not be seem as distant to some as it used to be. My own children have much better chances than I ever dreamed when I had their age. My son for example is 21 and is going to finish his 4-year study in Informational System in a year and half (don’t even ask me about that, so many types of jobs being invented, it’s hard to keep track of what is exactly what). He is already a certified computer programmer and has been working as one for the last 3 years, since he completed high school. Last week thanks to Linkedin, he got a new job offer, passed the interview stage and is going to work for a company that offers a better salary and benefits. My daughter on the other hand struggles to survive the educational system. She is 17 and suppose to be in her senior year of high school. She’s struggles to move along the system and make to college. She aspires for medical school. Most people tell her that she won’t make it. It’s too hard to enter one and she never had the academic score and profile of someone who can. Can you imagine what I actually tell my daughter? Well, I usually say: “Time is not the issue here. Look at your mom.” That usually helps her to feel better about the whole school thing. She is thinking of becoming a physiotherapist. I love her choice.

Historically, education has been marked by inequality and discrimination. Aranha in his book History of Education (História da Educação) explains that there is a duality in the concept of schooling. For the elite, it is to form to higher and more intelectual levels of education while for the labor people all it is necessary is to learn to be able to read and write to a basic level of skills. That is, enough for them to be able to perform a job.

Paulo Freire knew that well. He fought for change. He suffered not in his body inasmuch as in his soul. He hoped for education to become democratic and society not to be divided anymore in a social cast. A place where there is no more oppression, but as he had stated in work, the oppressors won’t ever want to let the oppressed be set free. And we all can understand why, can’t you?

Have things really changed? Do people really have equal opportunities? There has been a lot of emphasis and discussions around methodology forgeting that the problem lies deeper in the root of our people and the history of education. There is a need to change people’s mindset  in order to once for all everyone understand that education is much more than just preparing for work and getting better jobs. So, as long as schools keep helping maintaining the duality that Aranha points out, I’d say that no. Nowadays for example there is an interest to invest technical courses in order to prepare more workers. It is easy to conform. It’s easy to believe and accept that you do not have the right or need to enter university. If you get yourself trained in a job is good enough. They might easily have thoughts like, “I know how to read, write and do basic math. I’m not going to college, so why should I bothered to even finish high school?”

Although we have a large number of people attending schools in basic education (from 06-14), now extended to high school (14-17) and pre-school (04-06 years of age), most of them in public school ends middle school in acquiring a low level of literacy, that is, knows only how to read words, write them and make simple math operations but unable to operate critically in our society.

If you are interest in learning more about literacy, functional literacy and the state of education in general in Brazil read the Research articles in English below:

More video documentaries that portrays public schools whose leaders participated in the International Leadership Program of the British Council.