Sunday, December 23, 2007

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot
, "Little Gidding"


Best wishes to all of you...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Time for reflection

BubbleShare: Share photos - Delicious Christmas Recipes.

We've come a long way dear TOEFLers! It's been an amazing year with lots of excitement, new experiences, some disappointments, puzzling situations, great ideas, ... learning, learning, learning 24/7!
I strongly believe the new TOEFL is a breakthrough in EFL/ESL assessment since it really focuses on the development of integrated communication skills and critical thinking, resembling real life academic situations. Therefore, a TOEFL prep course should foster authentic interaction, knowledge sharing and collaborative learning.

I've tried to find some images to help us reflect on our learning process. How would you describe the TOEFl iBT Prep courses (regular and blended)? As a puzzle, a building process, a bridge, a race against time?

What do you think? Can you find your own metaphors for the TOEFL iBT?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Amazing bird nests

Inspired by one of our speaking integrated tasks (?) I share with you these (look Carla I've used the plural) photos about 'enclosed' bird nests.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

It seems I'm still under the effects of Rosario BlogDay. Clicking my way through Rosario's blogosphere, I came across some unique spots like Potlatch or BlogPuntoAikawa. Now I've found this compelling video by Mike Wesch, the author of the masterpiece The Machine is Us/ing Us. It relates to some of the topics we discuss in class such as the educational system, overcrowded classes at University, the relevance of the content we teach and learn, etc.

The opening quote reminded of the thesis statement of Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Doubtful about my status of digital citizenship, I decided to share this video with you. It was created with the collaboration of 200 students at Kansas State University. Maybe we have something to add to the discussion...

For further information you can visit:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Meet the Blended TOEFL iBT class

Dear all,

I’d like to introduce you to the Blended TOEFL iBT Course students.

Since August, we’ve been sharing a new, innovative experience called Blended Learning, a combination of face-to-face and online learning. We meet at ARICANA every Saturday morning and work throughout the week on a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Moodle. They also have lab sessions and have done some of the same assignments you’ve worked on, but, most importantly, they share many of your goals, fears and dreams.

Together, we’ve faced the challenge of teaching and learning online, of becoming a community, of learning through the language and beyond it.

I’m sure you’ll have a lot to discuss and learn from each other.

BubbleShare: Share photos - Here comes Halloween!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Early Spring Musings

Is it all coming to an end? I wonder…
An amazing bunch, the TOEFL group fills up my life with challenging questions, compelling discussions and endless correction hours. As the end of the year approaches, some of you have to leave early to meet required deadlines and achieve your most cherished goals.
The TOEFL test is definitely not an end in itself, but a point of departure. Just like a crowded platform before a journey, filled with promises, hurried good-byes, a bit of anxiety and anticipation, it is a path to new beginnings.
After Vani’s farewell party , I have to confess I felt a bit sad, but before I could get too gloomy, it dawned on me that this space is a treasure box where some of those unique moments we spent together will be kept. And then I thought we can keep it rolling for new groups, new stories…
Why let this channel of communication dwindle when it can thrive and bloom with new voices?
What do you think? How do you feel about sharing this blog with another TOEFL group?

Mrs. Dalloway

"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."

If you want to find out more about Vanina's book, you can check out the following links:

. . Mrs._Dalloway . . . . . Virginia_Woolf . .

Friday, August 17, 2007

Class Project

What is the difference between a group of students and a community of learners?

"In a community of learners, teachers and students together construct a culture that values the strengths of all participants and respects their interests, abilities, languages, and dialects. Students and teachers shift among the roles of expert, researcher, learner, and teacher, supporting themselves and each other." Aída Walqui, West Ed, San Francisco, California

I think one of the strengths of our class is the possibility of learning form each other's knowledge and experience. Although this is exactly what we've been doing since the very first day, the aim of the present project is to create a collection of mini-lectures on specific academic topics related to your fields of study and close to your hearts. Topics that matter.

The start couldn't have been more powerful. Delivered with great clarity, passion and commitment, Maxi's presentation aroused great interest on a topic that is both too important and too painful to be forgotten.

Remember you can read a summary of his presentation on the wiki and you can also give your feedback or ask more questions there. Each presentation will then contribute to a kind of TOEFL iBT wikipedia we are building together.

I look forward to the rest of the presentations!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Learning through Games

It all happened here, on this virtual spot. An image, a word, a comment sparked the initiative.

Last Thursday a failed meeting ended up in a gaming session. Childhood memories, an old Monopoly game from NYC, a common interest, a shared language, similar goals?
A new plan:
TOEFL iBT Prep Class Game Night Monopoly NYC Edition
And some basic rules you worked out :
- Always speak English
- Have fun, it's just a game

Here's what Bernie Dodge, the creator of WebQuests, thinks about the power of games in education:
Power = Attention x Depth x Efficiency

And you thought you were just playing a game!?

Just as I told Vani in a recent e-mail:
Remember when we talked about experiencing the language at the beginning of the year? This is exactly what you are doing. I knew an exam prep course could be more than just grammar and drilling. It's about people and connections. You've proven me right!
Have fun tonight!

Update: TOEFL iBT Monopoly Game Night Video

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Have a nice winter break!

Dear TOEFLers,
I’m glad you could all get together to celebrate the end of the first term and your first complete practice test. I’m really sorry I missed it! : (

I’ve added a couple of videos to the wiki in case you have time and want to enjoy some top notch resources while honing your listening skills. The picks include:

Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech at Stanford University
Google Tech Talk by Kevin Kelly “The Next 50 Years of Science”

See you all on July 23rd.
Hugs, Carla

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Meeting post Mid Term

Hi everyone! We'll meet at OConnel's at 9 pm tonight.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TOEFL iBT Photo Album

This album is powered by BubbleShare
I've uploaded the first group photo to an album. If you bring your cameras next class, we can add the rest of the photos here.

I just want to wish Pablo the best of luck in his new life in Spain. We are going to miss his him a lot!

And remember to get ready for the mid-term next week!
Complete test coming soon...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Welcome to Cyber TOEFL Prep

Nowadays, with such a wide array of online communication and collaboration tools available, there’s no excuse to stop learning, working and sharing during a long holiday week, right? So, here I am, ready to go beyond the walls of the classroom with you once again.

First, there’s a site called
Exam English which has free online exercises for the most important ESL/EFL exams. Nik Peachey , a British learning technology consultant I met in Córdoba, has prepared a reading passage for the TOEFL iBT .
You can try it out

Wiki News
Vanina has sent us a link to a funny video, so I’ve added a new wiki page to share videos related to language learning or any other relevant topics. I’ve also made some changes in the Vocabulary Page. Each vocabulary item is a link to a new page, so in order to read the definitions you have to click on each word. In this way the vocabulary “home” page will feature a glossary of the available words and other relevant vocabulary resources such as concordancers and exercises.

As you can see, you have plenty of possibilties to work throughout the week. Choose your own TOEFL iBT adventure!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sophomore etymology & Independent writing task

I have added a new page for the "Grading" topic on the Independent Writing Task page of the Class Wiki, and I have published my essay as Carla said.

I have also posted the etymology of "sophomore" on the Vocabulary page.

Regards, Alejandro.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Carriages & Coaches

Last class we did some grammar, readings, etc. In the reading about Dorothea Dix, there was a sentence that said she traveled by "..., coach, carriage, ..." Someone asked what was the difference between a coach and a carriage. I said that I thought that one was a closed vehicle, and the other wasn't. Vanina said that I shouldn't make things up : ). I must say that I was wrong, the one that is closed is the stagecoach. Carriage has a more general meaning, it’s a vehicle with wheels that is pulled by a horse, used in former times. And coach is just a type of carriage, a large one according to the Longman, but the Merrian-Webster says it is a large usually closed four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage having doors in the sides and an elevated seat in front for the driver.

More information and links on the Vocabulary page of the class wiki:

And finally, this is the picture that appears on the Longman’s CD, Vanina, as you can see I was wrong but I wasn't making it up : )

See you next week. Alejandro.
PS: Yes, something is wrong with me, I’m googling about carriages at 2 in the morning. : )

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mini Test

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Next Week

Dear all,

As you already know, I'm traveling to Córdoba this Monday to attend the first
Congress on Applied Technology in Language Teaching that is held in Argentina. I really hate to leave you, but I think it is essential for us teachers to keep abreast of the latest developments in our field. I strongly believe the successful integration of electronic tools in language classes can enhance students' performance by fostering authentic communication and providing access to a wide array of multimedia material.

Anyway, everything is set for you to go on working, so here's the plan for the week:

Monday (20.30-22.00)
You'll take your first
mini-test at the computer lab.
The mini-test will feature the following tasks:

Reading: 1 reading passage (20 min.)

Listening: 1 conversation
1 lecture (15 min. approx.)

Speaking: 1 Independent Task
2 Integrated Tasks (15 min. approx.)

Writing: 1 Independent Writing (30 min.)
At the end of the test you'll check your scores on the reading and listening tasks. Please, write them down since Leda is going to keep a record of your scores. As regards the speaking and listening tasks, you'll record your responses and print your essays so that I can correct them the following week.
Important: Please, be punctual so that you can do the whole test within the time allotted.
Try to do your best and enjoy the experience!
Beatriz will meet you in room E2 at the usual time. Please, bring your book and booklet and remember to do Vocabulary Ex. 8.
Do not hesitate to leave your comments or questions here. I'll keep in touch throughout the week. I'm really going to miss you a lot. (I mean it!)
Good luck!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

How do you feel about having a class wiki?

I'm sure all of you have heard about Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia anybody can edit.

A wiki is then a fully-editable user-generated website that allows a group of people to share and build knowledge collaboratively. For example, I'm sure each of you keeps a record of new vocabulary. What would happen if every student added a word to a common vocabulary page on a daily basis? We would soon have a huge resource of relevant vocabulary. The same would happen with writing tasks and extra reading resources.

Anyway, this is just a suggestion. You can visit our baby wiki at . I just started it today, so I could only add a couple of pages. Once in the wiki, click on the sidebar on the right to see the pages. Also, the default home page features two videos: one on how to edit a wiki and the other on the use of wikis in education. Have a look!

I'll send you the password by mail just in case you want to give it a try.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Class Update

Last class we started dealing with Lesson 1 (Factual and Negative Factual Questions) in the Guide to Reading section. This lesson features three short articles you have to scan in order to find specific information. We worked on the first passage (on Dentistry) in class and the other two were assigned as homework for Wednesday.

Apart from learning about the unusual origins of dentistry and its early fearsome methods, we had a look at some modern dental procedures such as scaling and root canals. In addition, we read some real stories written by people suffering from phobia of dentists or dental phobia and discussed its causes as well as some possible ways both dental professionals and patients can cope with this problem.

By the way, I found this wacky website about Unusual Phobias and was surprised to see the weird (completely illogical) phobia I suffer from is actually one of the most popular ones. Can you guess which one it is? ;)

Next Monday, we are going to start working on the Grammar Tutorial in your books. You are supposed to do the exercises on pages 706-708 for homework.

See you in class!

An early bird...

Mariano has sent me an e-mail to let me know he’s already signed up for the TOEFL. He’s also posted an entry on his blog: New development on the road to happiness where he wrote some nice words about our group and the time we spent together. He’s planning to drop by on Monday to tell us about it. I really hope we can keep in touch and share all the exciting experiences he’ll have along the road.
Thanks, Mariano, for your enthusiasm and contribution to our class.
Best wishes,

Monday, April 23, 2007


Are they necessary?
Feel free to comment.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Last class we discussed the layout and organization of essays based on independent writing prompts. We also analyzed sample responses trying to see how language mastery, use of sophisticated vocabulary and a wide variety of structures accounted for a high level of achievement.

Just as we need to write more, noticing how other texts are organized and how language is used to convey meaning is equally important to develop good writing skills.

Here's an online activity on paragraph development you can try: Constructing the Paragraph .
I'd like to thank Dr. Elizabeth Hanson-Smith for granting us permission to use this activity.
More resources:

About Language Learning and Identity

"It's like learning a language; you can't speak a language fluently until you find out who you are in that language, and that has as much to do with your body as it does with vocabulary and grammar." Fred Frith

Much has been said about the different intonation, tone of voice, pose or attitudes we have when speaking a foreign language. It’s not uncommon to see people who are reluctant to utter a single word in a foreign language or that just can’t learn it either because they harbor a negative attitude towards that language or culture or just because they are not connected to it in any way. Even when it doesn’t mean that we embrace or completely agree with every aspect of the target culture, if we’ve gotten so far, there must be something- a place, an idea, an image - we feel identified with, something we wish to achieve or we want to recover when we speak English.

In my case, I first went to the States when I was a little girl and even attended kindergarten there for some time. I remember I cried every single day at school. I cried when I waved my mom good-bye, when we sang the anthem, when other kids wouldn’t play with me. Every morning, the teacher would ask “Is everybody here?” and I simply cried because I couldn’t understand. I got the noise, the sounds of the language, but I couldn’t figure out the meaning of those words until, suddenly, one morning, it just happened: “everybody” referred to “all of us”, all the students in the class. An insight. Sheer epiphany. A moment of discovery. That’s how I picked up the language and made sense of the world around me at the time.

Many years have passed by; years of formal language instruction at ARICANA, at school, at teacher training college, and some things have remained instinctive, playfully accurate, awkwardly natural. I think I am still that little girl trying to find her way back home, to discover the wwworld around her, and to invite others to explore it with her.

Now, the big question arises:
Who are you when you speak another language?

Saturday, April 14, 2007


I want to share these images as a reminder of the passage we studied about the Statues from Easter Island. I could find the uncommon one with white coral eyes!!.

Also, I selected another that best describes The Hanau Eepe's proper characteristic: the heavy earrings to extend the legnth of their ears.

Can you see it very clearly in the photo?

If you want more information, please visit the following Internet sites:

Friday, April 13, 2007


There has been a slight change in the class schedule. On Mondays, you’ll have Computer Lab Sessions from 8.30 to 9 p.m. and classes from 9 to 10 p.m. On Wednesdays, we’ll have classes from 8 to 10 p.m.

By the way, I wanted to congratulate you all on your wonderful performance last Wednesday. You all managed to record your speaking tasks successfully and the jig-saw listening activity proved both interesting and appropriate to your level. I think relating TOEFL tasks to different types of authentic material can help us see the relevance of the skills we are learning in everyday communication. I’m also pleased to see some of you have gone beyond the tasks and tried to find out more information about the topics we discuss in class. It’s a pleasure to teach such a group of motivated and self-directed students!

Keep up the good work!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Dear all,

I've just been informed that we'll have no classes today.
Let's reflect on the terrible events that have taken place in Neuquén.

Pegarle a un maestro por Mex Urtizberea (La Nación)

See you on Wednesday,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Everything you always wanted to know about dandelions…

Since dandelions really aroused your curiosity today in class, I decided to add a couple of resources to help us get a better picture of these wild plants and learn about some of their interesting secrets.

Spanish: diente de león(Taraxacum officinale)

- Dandelion with seeds - - - Dandelion seeds being blown -

More information
Dandelion Uses and Health Benefits

Bonus track: A poem about dandelions!!
The First Dandelion
Simple and fresh and fair from winter's close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter'd grass--innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face.
Source: "Leaves of Grass," by Walt Whitman

Friday, March 23, 2007

Class Summary

Dear all,

The second week is over and here’s a summary of all we’ve done:

After introducing ourselves and talking about our expectations and reasons for joining the course, we discussed the necessary skills to succeed in the new TOEFL iBT. Have a look at this brief summary: Skills Chart - Longman (pdf)
Then, we started working on a diagnostic test, which was an overview of the actual test, for you to get acquainted with the type of exercises and consider your strengths and weaknesses in each area.
Next class we are going to start using the book. You are supposed to do the first Reading Preview Test (pages 18 to 21) for homework. Before reading, check out the tips on page 11 (How to approach the passages and questions). On the actual test you will have 20 minutes to read each passage and do the exercise. Of course, it will take longer this time; just make sure you read the passage at a comfortable speed and do the exercise at once. After completing the task, you can go back to the text and analyze or look up the specific vocabulary and identify the question types. In class, we’ll go over the passage and questions and clarify all your doubts.

Good luck and enjoy the challenge!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

About the TOEFL iBT

The New Generation TOEFL integrates the four skills, reading, listening, writing and speaking as the occur in real life. Therefore, the test assesses not only your knowledge about the language, but your communicative competence i.e. how you use the language.

Let’s take the TOEFL IBT tour

Listen to an interview about the TOEFL IBT.

Welcome to TOEFL Prep!

Hello everybody!
This will be our online journal and our “virtual classroom” throughout the year. Here you’ll find lots of multimedia activities and information to access at the lab or at home. Check out the sidebar for useful sites, online dictionaries and extra exercises. You’ll also be able to post any comments or queries or just keep in touch with classmates. Let’s make the most of this wonderful tool! Let’s start blogging!