Create Conditions for Language Learning -(Series Inspired by TESOL 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching)

I fell in love with the TESOL 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching because they perfectly summarize the values I have uncovered while playing and applying CBC Codebreaker in the classroom over the last ten years or so! We first started playing with laminated pieces of paper then as a full blown developed game with a look and feel as professional as if you were playing Uno.

The principles ask us (in my opinion) as Teachers to CREATE CONDITIONS for Language Learning, speaking for myself as a teacher who is constantly experimenting and bringing new ideas to the table CBC Codebreaker was born to spark new conversations about grammar and ignite critical thinking and analysis when speaking about diverse topics.

In my explorations online I recently ran across a blogger, Rebecca Serle,  who referenced the works of Arlene C. Schultze, author of Helping Children Become Readers Through Writing on her blogpost dated December 3, 2009, in admiration of Schultze´s treatment of how to Create Conditons of Learning. Rebecca Serle, summarizes Schultze´s work by presenting a brief description of the 7 Conditons of Learning a Languge: Immersion, Demonstration, Approximation, Employment or Use, Responsibility, Feedback or Response & Expectation.

I quote Rebecca´s blog here as I highlight how CBC Codebreaker can facilitate the  7 Conditions of Learning Language by Arlene C. 

CBC Codebreaker facilitates Immersion.

According to Schultze when teaching literacy children should be saturated with language. This includes meaningful reading and writing and lots of talk time. When it is Codebreaker game time- students are broken up into small groups or paired up to teamwork and meaningfully dialogue about what move to make. They truly discuss among themselves and are committeded to making a decision to determine which card to play. Students waste no words and are fully engrossed by the task at hand.

NOV DEC 2015
CBC Codebreaker facilitates Demonstration.

According to Arlene C. Schultze, when a child is learning language they receive thousands of demonstrations of speech all the time, every day. Demonstration in this sense refers to demonstrating to a child not just how you read and write but how you LEARN to read and write. This involves pointing at words as you say them, doing shared writing exercises, and, at home, demonstrating your own desire to read.

This is where CBC Codebreaker comes in it is highly demonstrative as it presents the linguistic code like a lego puzzle and students get to explore it one piece at a time or all together. Learners can build up or break down sentences as experienced in my classes over the years. The holding up of the cards, the selecting and exchanging ideas makes the Demonstration even more meaningful. (see previous image)

CBC Codebreaker facilitates Approximation in the classroom.

Young children use approximation in speech as they are learning to talk. They often do the same as they are learning to write… children should be encouraged to use approximations both in oral and written language. They are testing out the literary waters and beginning to store information that they will refine as time goes on.

The Codebreaker game brings them lots of reading and writing approximation opportunities as they explore the linguistic code on the table.  Once ideas are organized physically on the table learners are then asked transfer to paper, booklets, posters, etc where they further explore the connotation of words and sentences in a very meaningful way.

CBC Codebreaker definitely facilitates Employment or Use.

Shcultze states in her book that there should be plenty of opportunities to engage in reading and writing. There should be independent reading and writing time as well as shared reading and writing time. Remember our key word: abundance.

Everytime a student plays a turn with the CBC Codebreaker a reading or writing opportunity is created. Whether everyone pauses to examine the same or they are invited to create more ideas in a similar fashion is at the discretion of the teacher/mentor in the classroom.

A more more efficient Use of the language is a natural by-product of playing CBC Codebreaker in the classroom.

CBC Codebreaker facilitates conditions of Responsibility in the classroom.

The author says, this is a condition I really believe in and love. It refers to the idea that children should be able to decide what topic and what conventions of language they want to master based on their individual needs. They should be responsible for the direction of their own language learning. If a child lives in Southern California, he or she might want to read and write about the ocean. If a child loves art, he or she might want to learn how to write the colors. When children are engaged in what they are learning they retain information much better and often at a much faster rate. Not to mention that then they begin to develop not just a need for but a love of reading and writing.

I could not have put it better if I tried. CBC Codebreaker was designed to give FREEDOM to the learner to engage in whatever topic he or she wanted to discuss. Once the structure was clear then the student would only need to collect the words necessary to express his or her concept.

With my game students are keenly aware of their responsibility to think and acquire the content necessary to express themselves clearly, as demonstrated in our classroom trials over the years of playing.
3rd grde Armenta Visit

CBC Codebreaker always facilitates Feedback or Response in an encouraging and positive manner from my experience in the classroom.

The example Cambourne uses is this one: “How do we get a child to progress from saying ‘I goed downtown’ to ‘I went downtown?'” Correcting a child, no matter how tempting, is not the answer. Instead we should use what is called “feedback and response.” When a child says to you “I goed downtown” instead of saying “it’s went downtown,” we repeat their statement using the correct form of speech and then expand on it.

Example: “You went downtown? How exciting! What did you do when you went downtown?”

When a child hears the correct form in a non-corrective way it registers in their memory. By expanding the statement we also get the child to continue actively constructing language. The same method should be employed in a reading a writing workshop. Approximations should be encouraged and congratulated and then built on verbally. If a child has written “I goed downtown” on the page we can say the same thing in response that we would to a verbal comment and then encourage the child to keep writing from there.

CBC Codebreaker allows the learner to see the error in the moment, explore and analyze how the error was made, then guided by the teacher/mentor it fosters the opportunity to make a change in thinking thereby creating a platform for autocorrection.
We have experienced in CBC that our students become metalinguistically aware while playing CBC Codebreaker!
CBC Codebreakers breeds Expectation.
Expectation is important when it comes to literacy. We want to let children grow with words in their own time while simultaneously retaining the belief that they will learn, and flourish.
CBC Codebreaker creates Expectation as it dispels the clouds of confusion regarding verb conjugations creating a sense of wonder and anticipation for the next sentence formation. We have experienced this over and over everytime we play and teach using the CBC Codebreaker learning cycle. The dazed look disappears and their pupils dilate as the clarity of what they just realized set in!
It is wonderful to watch and experience all at the same time.
For more information on how to add CBC Codebreaker to your set of ESL teaching tools write us at : or whatsapps us at : 504-9982-6053 here in Honduras, Central America.



Know Your Learners


A lot of thought and years of experience went into designing CBC Codebreaker! Twelve  years sparked the idea then it took close to five more years to polish and present to the public.

The game ” Reveals” most learner types when they start playing! It is amazing to watch all the different player strategies that arise when students are sorting through their thoughts before making a move or playing a turn.

As for “Engaging”, it captures, focuses and holds their attention- they transition from bored and bothered to curious and analytic 🙂 .

I wanted a tool to help most if not ALL learner types in my classroom: the slow ones, the attention deficit ones, the distracted ones etc. I wanted  something to engage them and make the learning effortless.

  • For Visual Learners CBC Codebreaker brings life to mundane grammatical theory. They can touch grammar theory! They can contrast it side by side! They can hold it and play with it- make sense of it without all the high academic jargon to confuse them.
  • For Kinesthetic Learners it allows movement, awkard jerking, raising of hands, clapping, jumping out of the seat, even racing if the teacher is game into the classroom. Their restless energy is now focused on winning & learning.
  • For Verbal Learners they ask questions and are provided with instant answers or group discussions rise up where they end up analyzing grammatical theory in a fascinating and unforgettable way.
  • Logical thinking learners get a pattern to analyze and examine both physically then mentally they can play the sequencing over and over in their minds. It puts abstract form into a linear form they can relate to without being overly complicated.
  • Both Inter-personal & Intra-personal learners walk away with a bonus! Inter-personal learners collaborate with their classmates, gaming fosters their strategy building as a team rather than a single learner. Intra-personal learners can take what they observe and remodel it, restructure it, make adjustments to their ideas helping them sort out mentally their concepts and terms.
  • For Musically inclined Learners  playing CBC Codebreaker just gives me an excuse to add music while we play and discuss and do all the aforementioned in the classroom. Also I use actual song lyrics to compare and contrast with content that arises from playing the game.
  • For the Naturalist learner their best benefit with CBC Codebreaker is that you can take the class anywhere to play: outdoors as a racing competition, out into the cafeteria tournament style, on the floor, drawing out concepts learned, creating their own version of the game etc. There are no limits to the imagination with CBC Codebreaker.

We at CBC invite you to invite us 🙂  into your classroom. You will not regret the decision to acquire our Dual Immersion Accelerator! CBC Codebreaker facilitates the thinking in 2 or more languages simultaneously. It is a truly mind-blowing experience! This 6-article series is inspired by the TESOL 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching to English Learners.


4th Honduras TESOL Annual Conference a Smashing Success!


When I first decided to raise my hand to volunteer at the Honduran English Language Teachers Association, I had no idea what amazing times were awaiting me. I write this entry in the first person because I am overflowing with gratitude, first to God for His immense blessing and grace during our 4th international event and for the amazing group of persons I am blessed to be a part of.


Left to right from the screen is our resident chef, Mr. Wilmer, our treasurer Ms. Juana, our president elect Ms, Suzanne, our Knight in Shining Armour, Mr. Juan, our inspiration, Ms. Grazzia, board members; Ms. Sayda, Ms. Carolina & Mr. Juan Jose others were busy prepping the evening.



I believe what unites us is our love for Honduras- a beautiful country that has been ravaged over the years by corruption and a history of violence, yet amidst all the turmoil there is beauty and joy in the hearts and minds of our students who eagerly seek learning that will help them shape the quality of their lives. We the teachers on Team HELTA work to serve them! We work and pray for open doors where people who are untrusting and unwilling turn around and say Yes!

The images you see below are a testament to a faith that can move mountains because we at HELTA live in different cities, have demanding jobs & families in addition to our committments to different social projects – yet by the grace of God and the digital technology at our finger tips we were able to open the doors of Honduras to 45 International presenters from all over Latin America and the Caribbean Basin, in addition to a community of over 475 attendees over two days of intensive ESL workshops and plenaries.


In the photo above we have our international delegates from: L to R on the screen: Nicaragua Tesol, Colombia Tesol, Panama Tesol, Dominican Republic Tesol, Venezuela Tesol, Costa Rica Tesol, Peru TESOL, Bolivia Tesol, El Salvador Tesol (in the back), Grazzia Mendoza our first president,next to her Mexico Tesol, Aham Eduction from the USA in the back, surrounded by members from Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua TESOL, Honduras and Puerto Rico Tesol next to our beloved Karen Vasquez our North Regional Coordinator.

We are very grateful to the US embassy for their unwavering support for a better Honduras by helping us motivate and inspire our teachers with scholarships to attend the event.  In the photo below we have the US embassy representative Eric Turner and PAS Carmen Urcuyo  and RELO office rep Frances Westbrook and English Language Fellow in El Salvador Kati Casto.


Always supportive, US embassy Cameron Thomas- Shah, invigorating our teachers with the vision of collaboration in the region at our first ever TESOL Academy presenter´s dinner.

cam US Embassy

Empowering Communities through Collaboration was our theme at the conference and boy oh boy did we see that manifest in the tremendous Logistical support from our Host Centre UNITEC, main campus in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I say congratulations to Ms. Carolina Euceda, Mr. Juan Jose Reyes and their team of ushers for a marvellously executed conference.

Our presenters were able to share their expertise with eager yearning minds and we hope to see as much enthusisam or even more in our next event in Choluteca 2019.

presenter 2018

presenters 2018 bPLEsHOPS PLENARY WORKSHOPSmexHnPR helta 2018

Puerto Rico, Mexico and Honduras sharing together in the spirit of Empowering Communities through Collaboration.

DAY 2 HELTA 2018

Our international and local presenters having fun in the sun! Aham 2018 Pat

Where heart and mind meet- Education that transforms formalities into bonds of friendship. Two honorary Helta friends Dr. Pat Dyer and Aham Edu CEO, Knellee Bisram, our Mindfulness expert.


Our wonderful up and coming student teachers Mely Manzanares full of energy to step into transformational education, getting ready for the next generation of HELTA volunteers.


When we teach love, we harvest love in return! Leadership by example from our dear Grazzia Maria Mendoza, always giving, always serving.

Honduras awaits CHOLUTECA 2019 here we come!

Are We Ready To Accept RESPONSIBILITY And Do Something About It?

This is the most eloquent discourse on “Millennials” that I have come across in my research and as a parent it confirms all my observations on how my children are behaving as a result of making everything too easy for them.

I truly recommend starting a conversation about ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY for our participation in the process of weakening “Millennials” by simply not challenging them  lying to them about their true capacity, by taking away their opportunities to learn patience and breaking them down when they do not meet with our expectations of their output.

Please click and enjoy the Simon Sinek Video on Millennials in the Workplace:

17 Years in Honduras!

Presentación de PowerPoint - [Building Better Biliterates] 26082013 094825 a.m.

A friend of ours asked me – Are you sure you wanna go Honduras?- I answered “Of course I do!” He continued to tease me- You never know you just might end up selling oranges on the side of the road and washing clothes in the river! With a toss of my hair, I shrugged off his comments and like any newly wed bride I was in-love and excited to start my new adventure with my Honduran husband.

We started our adventure with a little stop-off in Miami on Feb. 20th to go to the Peru vs Honduras Gold Cup game- a game I would never forget- the historic game turned into a riot – I remember protecting a little girl with my body as I tried to wrap myself around her in efforts to shield her from flying bottles and stadium seats that were being flung into the arena by angry patrons.

It was my first impression of my soon-to-be new people. OMG! Anyways we got out mostly unscathed with the exception of a few bruises from ducking in between seats and dodging missiles. Then we were off to San Pedro Sula on the 22nd of February 2000.

From his years living and working abroad my husband had built our house and it was suppose to be just ten minutes from the airport. The sight of the majestic Merendon mountain range filled me with nostalgia because the scenery was not very different to my own little island paradise.

We made our way to San Manuel. Cortés and to a small neighbourhood located along the La Sabana roadway.  As we approached our new neighbourhood, I was startled by the sight of women washing clothes in a small river that we needed to cross over.

Immediately, my mind flashed back to my hubby’s friend and his taunts-Nahhhh! I said and shook myself back to reality. I tried to convince myself that I would not be washing in any river soon. Just as we were crossing a bridge along came a man on a bicycle with a box-styled basket welded to the front part of this bike,  filled to the top with oranges for sale- with that image I burst out laughing. Honduras was definitely going to be can adventure.

I had so many plans- I was going to take a break and enjoy being at home until I could set up a new business- I wanted  to have my own Reading Café with internet and international newspapers and books from authors around the world, an occasional reading circle would be great too! I was excited, but my husband just laughed at what he considered my naivety! He said that the business model would not work as people were more interested in surviving rather than pay to read books- reading for him was a luxury a rich man’s hobby.

I tried not no show  my disappoint determined to explore my ideas all the same. Upon arriving at our little 2 bedroom home- it was charming! A small flats with 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and living room and 2 bathrooms. It was enough for us.

Living my new adventure was cut short for me when I got to my new home and realized that there was no internet. I came from a 24/7 internet and cable supply to ZERO service. I had underestimated the power of connectivity and began to show signs of withdrawal like a drug addict.

After couple of days, I was ready to go out and look for a job. We got out the newspapers, and I went to town seeking gainful employment. By the end of the day I had set up 3 job interviews. My husband took me for the interviews the next day and we got lost!

What is it about men and their inability to ask for directions??? We drove around Colonia Zeron for a while until I got tired and told him to forget about it let’s go to the second option. When I arrived at this place I feel in-love with the building- a mixture of wooden and glass fixtures put together to accommodate the large cannon ball trees that filled the court yard.

It was almost three hours later that they let me out with a signed contract and a full card of 12 hours worth of teaching both at the company and in some industrial parks. Little did I know that while I was being grilled on the idiosyncrasies of the English language my better half was having his own adventure with the local authorities! Apparently where he had parked was a no parking zone (suffice it to say there were no signs to that effect either) and when he was not looking the pickup was wheel-clamped!

He had to get a taxi, go to City Hall to pay the fines then wait for them to return and set our pick-up free. By the time I came out from the interview with job in hand the poor thing had had quite a busy morning dealing with “chepos” (local term for police- somewhat disrespectful and mostly used when angry at them), red tape , hot weather and haggling with local taxi drivers.

Three months into living in Honduras and listening to Cantinflas on channel 14 whenever I was at home, our pick-up was stolen from in front of our home and a new adventure of public transport was initiated. We had to get up at 5:00am to get the first bus out as I had to be in my first class at 7:00a.m. and I was and still am a stickler for punctuality and my dear spouse accompanied me on my travels. It was quite a sight to see me decked out in stockings, high heels, business suit with my laptop case sometimes standing room only or if we were early enough we might score a seat. My partner in life would stand protectively over me to avoid me getting crushed by the overcrowding in the buses.

We travelled on public transport for about three months more until one of my students recommended a place for us to purchase a second-hand vehicle that would fit our budget and the miracle in this was that she would also vouch for us for the credit as she believed in me as her teacher! My Honduran family was stunned they could not believe that a stranger would do that for anyone in Honduras but for me it was one of the many blessings I have had in my adventures in this beautiful green country.

Flash forward to 2017, our eighteenth anniversary in Honduras is coming up, as well as our 18th wedding anniversary and my heart breaks to see the destruction taking place because of the political unarrest, never before now have I ever felt that I was in the most violent country in the world. Family, friends and neighbours divided by political ideologies and the thirst for vengeance and justice for corruption both past and present.

In my seventeen years I have seen a country move from charging L500.00 lempiras for a three minute call to my country to having wide-spread internet access and connectivity with almost every corner of Honduras. A new level of prosperity has started yet most of the population is unaware of the opportunities before them.

When I first arrived one of the more coveted jobs was working in a “maquila” or manufacturing plant-  the maquilas represented stability and provided a comfortable salary with legal benefits. The newly emerging middle-class in Honduras are the children of  hard-working maquila labourers who sacrificed for their children to be educated. Today in 2017, those children are now sacrificing tosen their children to bilingual schools, under the current regime bilingual education was made available to all students yet the value of this opportunity is only appreciated by few.

Today, young graduating bilinguals can get a startup job in a BPO- Business Process Outsourcing company commonly referred to as Call centers here. Instead of working in hot manufacturing plants with little or no options to grow, they now can work and study simultaneously with opportunities to grow in the enterprise. The buildings are climate controlled, with smart elevators and hi-tech equipment in many cases. Their options are different and Honduras expects to attract more investors because it is working hard to create a bilingual labor force.

For the first time there is a generation being encouraged to become entrepreneurs with projects designed to help them form and market their ideas and products. NOW not all citizens take advantage of these opportunities because they are most times uninformed or incapable of meeting basic project standards i.e. set up a business plan, have their financial information in order, get the documents necessary to establish themselves as a legitimate business. But that in itself is a learning opportunity to help prepare them for the next round of competition.

I work with professionals who want to move ahead, who are willing to sacrifice their time and money to study, to improve themselves, to take risks- not everyone is willing to do this because they have a false sense of it being easy; sometimes the general public watches a person’s success and they think it is because of corruption rather than recognizing the hours, days, weeks, months, even years invested in trying before this singular moment where they finally open their own office doors, named after their children or themselves, inspired by motivational stories in order to change their living conditions.

When a country has a history of being told you are third-world class the people begin to believe that it impedes them from becoming better or growing into first-class citizens- this mentality is a TREMENDOUS MENTAL OBSTACLE in Honduras.

If your mental attitude is weak then you are defeated even before you start! If you think you cannot or are a victim of others then you will never see yourself as a hero capable of saving others and yourself. You will never comprehend that you have a power of determination deep within yourself to overcome any circumstances.

My husband is a brilliant Honduran professional who has worked diligently for all the years we have been here to take care of his family and employees. He is a natural leader who cultivates the leadership in his team by insisting they study and work- of a team of almost 15 auditors we have seen at least 4 of them graduate and become Licenciados (a term of respect used for a university graduate) and several others who have started and are in the process of becoming graduates.

Is there poverty in Honduras? Yes, there is, but there is also opportunity to take risks- it is not easy but it involves long hours studying when everyone else is sleeping, it involves getting up early to be punctual at work without excuses and it means discipling yourself to have a culture of savings in order to invest in changing your future.

I work at cultivating these values- I teach my students that they are future change agents of Honduras. I help them believe in themselves that they can make a difference in not only their lives but their community’s as well. Honduras is not the destitute place that the opposition is making it out to be- it is a land of opportunities and I think the men in power know that and they wish to have those opportunities for their own interests. We  need political stability to invite investors to bring new business models to Honduras. Honduras is a land of so much potential I truly wish every Honduran could see the opportunities they have.

In case you may read this and wonder what is this person going on about here is a list of working opportunities in Honduras: Agriculture ( you need to clean out a lot of rocks but there is fertile soil waiting to be tended); Coffee farming; Aquaponics- tilapia farming, Aviculture- layers or breeders (Hondurans consume a lot of chicken); Domestic Cleaning Services (very difficult to find good help), Firework industry ( needs licences & regulations), Gardening & Landscaping, Service Businesses, Food Industry, pastries, Animal grooming, Tutoring, Business schools (technical skills formation), sell snacks (topogigios, candies etc), Sewing Clothes, Tailoring, Plumbers are disappearing etc

Obviously all the options listed above requires time and dedication- these are the qualities of a true patriot, anyone can burn down a building, but it takes a special citizen to get up every day and go to work to put food on their table for their kids, save for repairs or to open a small business.

There is no liberty in anarchy!