How do students learn? – live on Facebook

Tomorrow’s Coffee@IH session will be streamed live on Facebook (see event here).

Ever wondered about how your students learn? Ever thought about how to get them to learn what you’re teaching them? We all have, so in this informal session we’ll be sharing experiences and looking at some ways to help you and your students.

After the session, we’ll be sharing the video here, in case you don’t get a chance to join us here at the school or online through Facebook!

Hope you enjoy it!

Back to school – Teachers’ edition

Although September is half way through, and most of us have already started teaching or planning the year ahead, it’s always important to take some time and reflect on our goals for the coming year. What is it that we aim to achieve in terms of our Professional Development and what are we going to do to get there.

Did you know IHWO runs online courses for teachers? In the video below, you can watch Monica Green, IH Torres Vedras’ Director talking about how the teachers at her school and the school itself has benefited with these courses.

In the meantime, I’m happy to announce that our TT Programme for the coming year is already available. We’ve got a few surprises in store, with new sessions, an IT for ELT teachers’ course, among other. Make sure you visit our website to find out more and remember to download our IH Porto TT magazine with our programme and interesting articles written by our teachers.

See you in the Teachers’ Room and have a wonderful year!

IH Porto Teacher Training

Talking about Games by Sandra Simões

We all know that games are very useful to teach a foreign language. As teachers we have already experienced that using games in the classroom makes students feel more motivated to learn as well as providing a non-threatening environment. Moreover, games are a tool to promote cooperation amongst learners allowing them to reinforce their knowledge and articulate their skills. That is to say that, playing a game makes students speak, listen, read and often write in English in a way that they do not associate to “learning in the classroom” so this will also allow the teacher to assess their strengths and weaknesses more effectively.

Therefore, if we are used to using games like Scrabble, Tic, Tac,Toe, crosswords, Hangman, and so on, why not use computer games? According to Dr. Patrick Felicia, lecturer and researcher from the Department of Computer Science, Waterford Institute of Technology, in Ireland, “digital games were associated with many stereotypes and alleged to have negative effects on gamers’ physical and mental health. However, later studies have shown (…), if good gaming habits are followed (eg. appropriate time, environment, moderation of online games, etc.) they can be considered a safe and fulfilling activity.” Computer games, can be therefore a very useful and powerful learning tool.

There are a lot of games that can be used in class and to start I usually use the ones that everybody knows in order to make it easy. In fact, to prepare a lesson based on a gaming activity may not be very simple at first because there is a lot to bear in mind and to research when you are not a gamer (which is my case!).

Here are some suggestions that I found very useful:

  • Start with something that you know or that you find easy to use for example “Snakes and Ladders which is a traditional and widely known game that you can adapt to almost every topic that you teach. If you don’t find a suitable version you can always make your own game or even better, you can plan a lesson for your students to make it. Go to La Vouivre and download the free software. After that you just have to fill it in with the questions you want and the possible answers for each question. If you decide to make your students participate in making the game, you can divide the class into groups and each group is responsible for a different topic. While they are asking and answering the questions, they are consolidating what they have learnt.
  • If you have the chance to use consoles, you can use some movement games like “Just dance” or “Wii sports resort” and once again you use groups to play in turns and the other groups have to watch and take notes of what is done during the game playing. After that you can deepen the topics of sports, music, healthy habits, food and drink, daily routines, etc.
  • If you don´t have consoles or computers available you can use the student’s smartphones and make them download applications like Duolingo, Fluent U, Bravolol or Mindsnacks.
  • If you can use a classroom computer, try to plan a lesson using Minecraft. Go to Minecraft Education (it is free now) and plan a lesson according to your students’ needs and level. You can always make a plan that makes your students follow your directions in order to build a village in the game.
  • If you are a fan of simulations you can use Slim city and make your students describe their world or use the game as motivation for a creative writing activity.
  • With young learners, Class dojo works very well and although it is not only a game, kids usually see it like that and like to use it. Class dojo also allows you to work with parents and share with them what is done in class.

Hope these suggestions make your teaching much more interesting not only for your students but for you, also! Don´t forget you must know the game before you use it so if you want to try it but you have never played it before, you must do so first.

To sum up, games are in fact very useful but you also have to be aware of their age and language suitability. Some might be appropriate for all ages but others might not, so if you are not sure about it go to and search the game you want to use to check if it is the right one to use in your classroom.

Here are some links, in case you want to learn more:

Happy playing, I mean, teaching!


September webinars

September is the month we go back to school. Not meaning to spoil anyone’s holidays, here is the link to MacMillan English “Back to school special” which is this month’s pick.

September 14th:

  • Classroom Routines for Young Learners – Mark Ormerod       09:00  &   14:00 (UK time)
  • Evaluating Online Information – Dorothy Zemach     10:00  & 15:00 (UK time)
  • Managing and Motivating Teens – Dave Spencer     11:00  & 16:00 (UK time)

Back to School Special


How to subtitle a YouTube film – by Shawn Severson

Want to have your students subtitle a film to practice dialogue and narration skills? Would you like them to work on a grammar point like the present continuous, explaining what someone is doing? Well, one way is to subtitle. If you create a YouTube channel, you can use your administrator account to subtitle and the process is simple.

1. Download a video from YouTube.

2. Upload the video to your channel.

3. Click on CC (closed captioning)

4. “Add new subtitles or CC”. The rest of the process will be to define at what points you want your captions to appear and disappear.


Looking for online practice tips? – by Sandra Luna

If you’re looking for online practice to suggest to your students, try one of the following links:

Lyrics Training
The website has been slightly remodeled, but it’s still great! Lots of songs with different levels of difficulty to help your students improve their listening skills!

Free Rice Game – /english-vocabulary/1374
Have you fed anyone today? This game helps students improve their vocabulary, and it donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger!

Poetry Board
Encourage students to play with words to form sentences and poems. They can then save and share their masterpieces with you and the rest of the class! Great to include in class blogs.


Getting to the core of specialty exams: A look at the GRE – by Shawn Severson

There are many specialty exams out there, each, as the designation implies, focusing on a specific area and skill. Additionally, those exams prepared in the US, such as TOEFL and TOEIC on one hand, for testing non-native English ability and the GMAT and GRE, on the other, which incorporate serious timing constraints and even psychometric methods, ultimately measuring how the candidate responds under pressure. In other words, for these last two exams, the focus is to pinpoint the skills each candidate possesses and to minimize the influence of rote learning on test scores. Many arguments for and against these types of exams are out there. However, as these exams are carefully created to ensure a level of language, thinking skills and math, why don’t we take a look at one such exam—the GRE? The Graduate Records Examination (GRE) is an exam to assess verbal, math and writing skills for those applying to Master’s or PhD programs at universities in the US and in an increasing number of universities around the world. Both presume native English speaking ability, especially in the case of GRE. Like the Cambridge exams, the GRE takes about 4 hours to complete.

On the other hand, the GRE is computer-based, which means that students have the added difficulty of not being able to mark on the exam paper, although they may make notes on scratch paper if they wish. Just for a taste of the exam, here are some of the most challenging words that keep appearing, interestingly enough, share a common theme: profligate, spendthrift, pecuniary, miserly, avarice, prodigal, squandering, rapacious, mercenary, acquisitive, niggard, parsimonious, penurious, stingy, munificent.

To give you an idea of one the exam types, chose two words from the options below that logically complete this sentence.

Despite having earned over two hundred million dollars during his career, the boxer’s _______ spending and bad investments left him insolvent within a few years of retirement.

a. parsimonious b. penurious c. perfidious d. prodigal e. profligate f. pugnacious

There are also critical reasoning and reading texts, which are very tricky in addition to two essays, one of which requires you to analyze an issue and another a short argument, commenting on the argument structure and logic. Here are a couple Analysis of an Issue writing prompts: “As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.” “In any field of endeavor, it is impossible to make a significant contribution without first being strongly influenced by past achievements within that field.”

Curious? We have a wealth of materials available electronically, and you can find out more at


Website ideas 4 teachers & students – by Joana Styliano Costa

Looking for tools to help you make material such as exam tips more engaging for your students? Well, here are some ideas which aren’t too much work and will make a great deal of fun and learning for all.

Here you can select a character and his/her voice to say whatever you want them to say – all you have to do is type the text and select from a wide range of accents! I have used Vokis as a way of providing students with tips for writing tasks, and they have found them fun and more engaging than any handout. I opted for a static background, in order to ensure they focus on the actual content without their getting too distracted by the scenario. I then selected one of the characters and made sure that similar tasks would have the same spokesperson in order to ensure coherence and thus make it easier for students to identify the topics. The fact that it is computer-based – my students watched them in class and I then shared them by email – ensures the experience is more interactive and memorable. All you need is a free account to sign up, log in and start creating those Vokis! And they are actually quite simple and enjoyable to make!

This is a truly fun website where you can create short videos – you can choose pretty much everything from background, symbols and characters to include, text, etc; alternatively, you have ready-made templates which you can easily adapt. It is very useful for promotional videos, as you may have seen on our website, but it can also be used for presenting students’ work or even as a tool for their projects. It can also be an alternative to a more traditional slideshow when introducing a topic.

Yet another fun website for creating animation videos, as you may have guessed from the name. Lots of different characters, including celebrities, as well as familiar backgrounds can be used. It is similar to the previous one, so explore the ready-made videos and then start making your own to suit any educational purpose – be it students’ project work or exam-related ideas and tips. All of the above may be used by students themselves as well, provided they have been given a specific task.

Finally, two suggestions to make sure you are always up-to-date with the latest technological tools for education: – which you can follow on Google+ and Pinterest

– the teachers’ group on Facebook called Ferramentas Educativas 2.0 where different teachers from different areas exchange tools, resources and viewpoints.