Category Archives: learning

Advanced students – working with movies

Below, some movie scenes with questions for discussion or comprehension, ideal for advanced students.

  1. Where are the characters of the scene?
  2. What is the problem with his order?
  3. How does the waitress initially react to his order?
  4. How does she try to solve the problem of his order?
  5. How does he try to solve the problem of his order?
  6. Does he eventually get what he wants?
  7. How would you have solved the problem?
  1. Where are the people in the scene?
  2. What is the overall atmosphere of the room and why?
  3. Who is Mr Sullivan?
  4. What is the initial problem described by Mr Sullivan and what does his model show?
  5. Why don’t the figures “make much sense today”?
  6. What could be the consequences or his “projection”?
  7. Is the projection accurate or could it be worse?
  8. What does the director mean by “the music is about to stop and we will be left holding the biggest bag of excrement ever assembled in the history of capitalism?
  9. How does the director react, overall?
  10. What solution do Jarred and Sam provide? (7:00)
  11. What would happen if they followed this solution?
  12. What were the real consequences of this “problem”?
  1. Where are the characters and what is initially happening in the scene?
  2. What doesn’t Josh get?
  3. Why?
  4. What does he suggest?
  5. How does everyone in the room react?
  1. Where are the characters of this scene and how does Chris Gardner start his speech?
  2. What is their reaction?
  3. Can you remember anything about his resume?
  4. What qualities does he mention, about himself?
  5. How does he convince them to hire him?
  6. Why does he reject the position?

General Questions

  1. Which scene did you enjoy the most? Why?
  2. Have you seen any of these movies?
  3. What film genres do you prefer?
  4. Which ones do you not like and why?
  5. What is your favourite film and what is the film about?

How to teach English effectively

This article is for people who teach English to adults. I have little experience teaching children and am sure the points listed would be very different for children.

After almost a lifetime of teaching using different methods, I can safely say there are a few points we should consider to teach English effectively.

  1. Find your preferred method(s) or create your own. You will only teach effectively if you believe in the method(s) you are using. Experiment, mix and adapt. Learn as many methods as possible and work on different ways of using them (one at the beginning, another at intermediate level, etc.).

2. Students learn faster when they are interested in the subjects. I once used a formal method to try to improve a student´s fluency. At one point, we deviated from the subject and started talking about his son, who was suffering from a disorder. Although I had to remind him constantly that he should stick to English, he managed to talk for a full hour, non-stop, in English, while I sat, listened and asked the occasional question. I have never seen a happier student in my life. Experiences like these make students feel pleasantly exhausted, like we feel after hours in the gym, and that they have learned something, which is the goal of all our efforts!

3. Reinforce the basics, always. There is no point using videos, magazines, songs, flashcards and all the other resources available to us if our student has not mastered the basics. If an advanced student is making simple mistakes while talking, it will be very, very hard to correct them. Students love new vocabulary and learning new tenses, but we must resist the temptation to expand without a solid foundation. If you don´t want to bring beginner’s resources to class, ask questions in the simple tenses or using simple structures or use complex vocabulary in simple ways that force the student to use the basics. Don´t be afraid of repetition. As in the previous case, the student will leave the class feeling he or she has learned something.

4. Create special activities for special requirements. If your student has fluency issues, focus on improving fluency. The same goes for pronunciation, grammar (same as above, back to the basics), but not so much for vocabulary unless the student has no other language problems. In the case of vocabulary, focus on topics and merge them with the special activities.

5. Do not focus too much on explanations. Make all grammar explanations quick and to-the-point. Use lots of examples instead of blabbing on for hours about rules and exceptions (which are way too many). Show them how it works and then continue to practice as soon as possible.

6. Set an approximate deadline for each level. Students need a goal and they need to feel they are reached that goal, even if we slap them with another one in rapid succession. If preferred, use official tests. If not, create your own or prepare a test-oriented conversation class. Provide feedback whenever possible. Use a framework as your guide if necessary. Oh, and don´t turn up at class with a huge coursebook. If you use a coursebook, divide it into sections so the goals seem more achievable.

That´s about it. Love what you do and do it well!

Do you have any tips or experiences to share? If so, please leave a comment. – Learn Words – English Dictionary – Learn Words – English Dictionary.

This website is fantastic for improving vocabulary. All you have to do is sign up and start the test. It starts off easy and gets more complex. The great thing about this website is that it repeats words you get wrong, provides great definitions and example sentences and awards points for every stage you complete. Great for those extra minutes at the end of each class and students can use it at home.

Online teaching platforms

If you don´t have the skills to create a Moodle or Claroline platform for your classes, there are some online teaching platforms that provide a virtual classroom and other interesting and useful features. The main problems with virtual teaching platforms are all based on compatibility. If you do not have the latest Flash player or browser installed or a decent compatible headset, you will encounter some problems. Here are some we have tried, still have to try or are currently trying:


Image via Wikipedia

Learnopedia (free)

This platform allows you to upload material, create courses and divide them into chapters. The only disadvantage is that it does not support all file types, and you cannot upload videos or audio. Another problem is that once you publish the course, you cannot make changes to it. We did not find the virtual classroom, so I suppose it must only be available after publishing. We also found this platform a little difficult to understand.

Udemy (free)

This platform is one of the most complete, although they are still making adjustments. In January, when we tried it, we could not see the videos in the virtual classroom. You can upload material in all formats and the classroom has various display options. It also has a chatroom, file sharing feature and all the usual marker, text and whiteboard features. The audio controls were a little complicated because you have to keep deciding if you want to press control to talk or just leave it on/off. We did not test this platform with a student.

WiziQ (free or paid plans for teachers, paid for companies)

We have been using this platform for a while in order to test it. The only issues we encountered were related to live two-way audio (delay, crackle), etc. The support is great and they have no problems in spending hours with you on the phone or in the classroom testing and checking to solve your problems. The uploading and visualization tools are very simple and they work very well. This platform is our favourite so far.

Odijoo (free)

This platform is in its Beta version. It allows SCORM integration and it has its own authoring tool to create courses from scratch, but if you already have a course book and material with videos, etc. it can be tricky. I personally found it very confusing to use, but that´s only a personal opinion. The authoring tool is not that flexible and it only supports two video formats.


We are currently doing the 30-day trial and so far this solution is one of the best. It´s simple, like WizIq, and you can quickly upload content in the middle of the class. We still have to test it with live students, so I´ll get back to you on this one.

If you have any more good online teaching platforms that we could use or test, please let us know.