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CONTENTS
3
MUST READ: Being
the Best You: 4 Tips for
Harnessing Your True
Teacher Potential
4-5 MUST READ: 5 Student
Issues Every Online
Teacher Should Know
6
MUST READ: Making
Sense in Class:
5 Techniques to Bump up
the Effectiveness
of Any Lesson
7-8 MUST READ: 6 Things
You Should Know about
Comprehensible Input
in the ESL Classroom
9-10 MOTIVATION: Going
for the Gold:
12 Proven Strategies
for Motivating Students
11 MOTIVATION: 6 Fun and
Simple Games to Help
Your Shy Students
12 MOTIVATION: 7 Tips for
Helping Shy Guys and
Girls Speak More in Class
13-14 MOTIVATION: Ditching
the Lecture: 5 Easy
Strategies to Get Your
Students Talking More
15 MOTIVATION: They Won’t
Be Able to Look Away:
5 Surefire Video Activities
to Keep Students
Engaged
5 Ways to Boost Your
Attitude When You Need
Some TLC
22 MISTAKES: Demystifying
Mistakes: 3 Simple Ways
to Help Students
Help Themselves
23-24 TOOLS: Work Zone
Ahead: 6 Teacher Tools
Every Instructor Should
Be Using in Class
25-26 PROJECTS: 8 Simple
Steps to the Best Lesson
You’ll Teach All Year
27 ACTIVITIES: 4 No Prep
Get to Know You (or Know
You Better) Activities
28-29 SCHOOL POLITICS:
Lying Low:
10 Commandments
of School Politics
of Using Tests and
Disadvantages of Using
Them Too Often
43 TEACHER EVALUATION:
When You Are
the One Being Assessed:
Preparing for Your
Teacher Evaluation
44-45 TIME MANAGEMENT: If
It’s Tuesday, It’s ESL 215:
Time Management and
Teaching Multiple Classes
46-47 COLLEAGUES:
10 Commandments
of Dealing with Problem
Colleagues
48-49 LEARNING STYLES:
Seven in One Blow:
5 Simple Steps to
Incorporating 7 Learning
Styles in One Lesson
30-31 REALIA: Keeping It
Real: 7 Places to Start In
Choosing the Right Realia
for Your Students
50 ONE ON ONE: Home
Invasion! 5 Things You
Need to Know Before
Teaching Private Students
in Their Own Homes
32 REALIA: Getting Real
with Realia: 4 Creative
Uses for ESL Classes
51-52 ONE ON ONE: Up
Close and Personal:
5 Keys to Success for
One-on-One Teaching
33 SLAP: Happy Students: 4
Steps You Should Have in
Every Language Lesson
34-35 TECHNOLOGY:
8 Technologies You
Should Be Using in Class
16-17 MOTIVATION: Teen
Troubles? 6 Strategies
to Engage and Motivate
Teenaged Students
36-37 RESOURCES: Penny
Pinching: 13 Great Places
to Find Resources
on a Budget
18-19 MOTIVATION:
Instagram = Instant Fun:
10 Simple Ways to Get
Students Talking
with Pictures
38-39 RESOURCES: 6 Simple
Ways to Supplement Your
Textbook Lesson Plans
20 MUST READ: You Ought
to Be in Pictures: 4 Times
You Should Be Acting out
for Your Students
40-41 CLASSROOM
MANAGEMENT: You’ve
Got THAT Kid in Class?
4 Challenging Student
Types and How to Work
Well Together
21 SELF-MOTIVATION:
Teacher Appreciation:
42 TESTS: Tests, Yea
or Nay? Advantages
53-54 ONE ON ONE: Avoiding
the Rut and Isolation:
Issues in One-on-One
ESL Instruction
55-56 ONLINE: From Zero
to Online Hero: Building
Your Online
ESL Client Base
57-58 ONLINE: Free
Diagnostic Classes for
Online Students (And
Why You Should Offer
Them)
59-60 ONLINE: The Online
Student Lifestyle: How to
Practice L1
in an L2 Environment
61-62 ONLINE:
Virtual Debate:
Online Discussions
The Best You: 4 Tips for Harnessing
Your True Teacher Potential
LET’S FACE IT. None of us become a
teacher because we have nothing better
to do. We become teachers because
we love working with students, because
we get a thrill from seeing people learn
and succeed, because we love language
and we want to share that language with
others, and many other noble reasons.
With these great ideals in place from the
start, how is it then that we fail to live up
to our own potential as educators? It’s
because we don’t use the resources at
our disposal to the fullest extent. Here are
four simple ways, four little tips that can
help you become the teacher you always
wanted to become. They are no great
strategies, nothing secret. They are four
things you can do every day to make sure
you are on your way to becoming the best
teacher you can be.
4 TIPS FOR HARNESSING
YOUR TRUE TEACHER
POTENTIAL
1
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK
FOR HELP
Teachers are the ones with all the answers, right? Wrong. My first year teaching, it seemed like I got questions every
day that I couldn’t answer. Why do we
use this inflection on that type of sentence? Why do speakers use reductions? And how can they understand
each other when they do? What exactly
does this verb tense mean? The questions went on and on. Thankfully, I can
answer them now, but it’s only because I
turned to others who knew the answers.
My colleagues. My fellow teachers were
my best resource my first year teaching. When I felt stupid because I couldn’t
answer a simple grammar question, the
staff at my school stepped up and helped
me understand so I could then help my
students understand. Sometimes as
teachers we are afraid to admit when we
don’t know the answer – to our students
as well as ourselves. But one of the best
ways to reach our full potential in the
classroom is to admit it when we don’t
know something. Then look for someone
who does know it and can explain it to us.
Not only will we be more knowledgeable,
we will have an understanding of where
our students are coming from when they
can’t answer one of our questions.
4
2
LEARN YOUR OWN
LEARNING/TEACHING STYLE
As teachers, we talk a lot about our students learning styles, but how much do
we think about our own learning styles?
It’s important to know where we are
coming from because the way that we
learn will naturally be our default style of
teaching. This means that visual learners will tend to teach using visual methods, aural learners will use aural teaching methods, and so on. This is great for
students who have the same learning
style as their teachers, but it can present
a challenge for students who have different learning styles than their teachers.
When you know your own learning style
as a student, you can be more aware
of how many teaching activities you are
planning that cater to that style when
you teach. Teachers should be careful to
keep a well-balanced set of instructional
methods that meet all the learning styles
in their classroom and not fall into the
trap of overteaching in their own learning
style.
3
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE
VALUE OF SELF-EVALUATION
If you are lucky enough to teach the same
classes each year or if you plan on teaching your current class again sometime in
the future, don’t underestimate the benefits that come from self-evaluation. I’ll be
honest. I always hated when school administrators came into my class to evaluate my teaching and class management.
They made me nervous, and I swear my
teaching was worst on those days. If you
feel that way too, you might shy away
from the idea of evaluating yourself. True
you won’t have an audience in the back
of the classroom telling you what you did
right and wrong, but sometimes it’s still intimidating to ask yourself how something
really went and answer that question
honestly. What was right? What was less
than right? What do I need to change?
But those questions are exactly what you
should be asking yourself after each lesson. What was good? What was bad?
What needs improvement? Five minutes
is all it takes to guarantee a better experience for both you and your students the
next time you go through material or do
a similar lesson. You don’t have to make
your self-evaluation complicated. Jot a
few lines on three different sticky notes
and stick it to your lesson plans for that
activity. That way when you pull out your
lesson plans again, you already know
what you need to tweak to make it even
better next time.
4
SET AMBITIOUS
BUT REALISTIC GOALS
If you really want to improve yourself as a
teacher, you have to have a goal, an ideal, a destination in mind. Think about role
models in the teaching field that you’d
like to emulate. Think of qualities you’d
like to possess as a teacher. Think about
the best teacher you ever had and what
made them the best. Make a list of all you
want to be and wish you could be in the
classroom. Now you’ve done the hard
part. The easy part is getting there. Yes,
I said that right. You’ve already done the
toughest part – deciding on who you will
become as a teacher. Now that you have
that in mind, think of one tiny step you
can take toward that goal, one little thing
you can add to your daily routine that will
help you get there. You might read five
to twenty minutes in a book that teaches
you a new method or how to relate to
your students. You might choose to add
one new activity into your repertoire every week or every month. You might join a
chatroom where knowledgeable experts
give advice you want to hear. Whatever it
is, choose a tiny step and then do it. And
then do it again. The key to reaching your
goal as a teacher is to identify where you
want to go and then taking tiny, consistent steps over a long period of time. If
you do, you will reach your destination. It
won’t happen overnight or even over the
course of a year (depending on how lofty
your goals are). But you will reach it. Remember the story of the tortoise and the
hare? When you make positive choices
consistently over time, even when they
seem tiny, they pay off big in the long run.
But don’t overwhelm yourself by setting
too lofty goals too quickly. Reaching your
true teacher potential takes time and consistent effort. If you can do that, you will
make it where you want to go.
THESE ARE FOUR SIMPLE THINGS YOU
CAN DO EVERY DAY THAT REALLY WILL
MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR TEACHING LIFE.
5 Student Issues Every Online
Teacher Should Know
A LOT OF POSITIVES COME WITH
ONLINE INSTRUCTION.
Online instruction has provided some
social leveling in that it has extended
opportunity to many who were before
without access to education through
flexible scheduling, relative inexpensiveness, and ability to participate
from anywhere. Therefore students
with limited time, money, and transportation can now enroll in accredited
college and other programs.
However, online classes are not without drawbacks, especially in working
with students who are unfamiliar with
the format of online and instruction,
and indeed sometimes students in
online classes actually come to class
with limited computer skills. Often
these drawbacks of taking courses
online are the “flipside” of its advantages.
5 STUDENT
CONCERNS EVERY
ONLINE TEACHER
SHOULD KNOW
1
LACK OF OR LIMITED
ATTENDANCE
AND PARTICIPATION
Because of the flexibility in scheduling
and participation, “phantom students,”
those students whose names are on
your roster but who never show up
in real time chat or on the discussion
threads, are fairly common. There are
also those students who do show up
but who fail to participate adequately
— not completing assignments or participating in a limited way in chats or
on the discussion threads.
2
LATE WORK
Without a teacher constantly
reinforcing and deadlines, some students fail to meet them. This seems
to go on more than in a traditional onsite classroom — without constant reminders, and without set class hours,
many students forget deadlines or fail
to take them seriously.
3
GENERAL CONFUSION
Lack of context can create confusion in many students. They may
need constant reminders about how
to navigate the course, where to find
course materials, how to operate the
discussion function, what time the
class meets in live chat, and so forth.
4
LACK OF COURTESY
Again, reduced context can
lead students to forget they need to
exercise manners with peers and
the instructor online. However, while
the medium of the class may have
changed, other’s essential humanity
has not, and their classmates, even
in an online setting and often unseen,
are still human beings who need to be
treated with respect. Again, some students — especially those who have
not participated before in an online
class or interaction with others online
in general — can forget this.
5
LACK
OF TECHNICAL ABILITY
Students should have basic understanding of computer skills when signing up for an online class, but “should”
is the operative word. The occasional
student does come to an online class
without basic understanding of such
skills as how to cut and paste a web
address to a browser, how to submit
a document online, how to update a
necessary program like Java, etc.
This lack of technical understanding
and skill does present a barrier in participating in an online class.
7 WAYS TO COUNTER
STUDENT ISSUES IN
ONLINE TEACHING
1
something daily. Provide addresses
to interesting and relevant websites.
Respond to the class discussion
thread and post relevant course readings that you have written yourself
or links to such readings by experts
in the field. Email students, check in
with them, and provide updates for
the course. Set up online chat times.
This consistent participation demonstrates you take the class and the
role of the teacher seriously and reassures students you will be available to
help them. It also models the kind of
participation you expect of students.
2
ESTABLISH EXPECTATIONS
FOR INTERACTION
FROM THE START
Write a page, or post a link to a page,
on “netiquette”: that is, online etiquette. Much has been written on the
topic, and you may also establish your
own class ground rules involving not
engaging in ad hominem, or personal,
attacks, to listen to peers carefully in
live chat, to respond thoughtfully to
other’s posts, and so forth.
3
BE A ROLE MODEL
OF COURTESY
AND HARD WORK
Model the courtesy you expect in
your students. Respond to questions
promptly. Post something every day
— an assignment, reading, responds
to discussion threads, grade work,
etc. Post responses to students’ posts
and discussion topics. Encourage others to do so by advancing the discussion through your position, reflections,
and asking questions of students who
aren’t participating.
4
TEACH TECHNICAL SKILLS
As much as possible and as
MAINTAIN A STRONG ONneeded, help students develop the
LINE PRESENCE. BE A ROLE
technical skill and understanding
MODEL OF PARTICIPATION
they will need in your class online.
Post your picture and a brief professional bio on the class site before the
course begins. Check in and post
Post general directions for accessing
documents, for web searching a topic,
for cutting and pasting links you may
provide, for who to contact with more
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5
serious concerns, and so forth.
5
“TELL THEM WHAT YOU’RE
GOING TO TELL THEM;
TELL THEM, AND THEN TELL
THEM THAT YOU TOLD THEM”:
BASIC COMMUNICATION CONCEPT
Be as repetitive as necessary. Post
schedules, expectations, and assignments around the site: on the home
page, on the announcement page, on
the syllabus, on the page for submission of work, etc. Email students your
announcements as well. If they hear
and see directions many times, students are more likely to understand
and less likely to forget — or at any
rate, have less of a claim that the directions were not there or were not
clear.
6
MAKE YOURSELF
AVAILABLE
Many online instructors establish
“office hours,” in which they wait in
the class chat room for students to
come in and ask questions or discuss
course issues. Establish online office
hours at a variety of times each week
so that everyone has a chance to attend. Also post a phone number you
can be reached at as necessary.
7
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE
BENEFITS OF ONLINE INSTRUCTION; DON’T TREAT IT
AS A DISADVANTAGE
Finally, remember research has revealed that online instruction has a
number of pedagogical advantages
over the traditional. Provide links to
valuable readings in the field. Schedule a variety of online live chat at different times. Set up discussion threads
so that students in class who may be
all over the globe can dialogue according to their schedule. More introverted students, who need more time
to put together a thoughtful response,
actually do better in online discussion.
Write and post your own original material related to the content. You may
also establish on the course site a
thread or threads where students can
ask questions or post concerns.
NO ONE SAID TEACHING ONLINE
WOULD BE EASY.
Or actually it has been said as it has
6
been said, incorrectly, that taking an
online class is easier than onsite.
However, because of reduced context
and difficulties in navigation, it can be
twice as hard as a traditional onsite
class. But by maintaining a consistent
presence in class and providing instruction in computer skills and online
etiquette as well as online content, the
disadvantages can be turned into advantages.
5 Techniques to Bump up
the Effectiveness of Any Lesson
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A WHIFF
OF SOMETHING THAT BROUGHT A
MEMORY BACK IN VIVID DETAIL?
Or have you ever heard a song and
been instantly transported to the time
when you first heard it? We all have experiences like this, and there is a logical explanation. When we engage our
senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and
touch) we make strong connections in
the brain. Another way of saying this is
we remember better what we experience with our senses. And I’ll bet you
can guess why teachers would want to
know this. We want to help our students
learn, make connections in their minds,
REMEMBER. And engaging the senses during learning is one way we can
strengthen the process. So how do we
take advantage of this in the ESL classroom? Here are some ideas you can use
in class to give your students a sensorial
learning experience.
TRY THESE
5 TECHNIQUES
TO BUMP UP
THE EFFECTIVENESS
OF ANY LESSON
1
USE MANIPULATIVES
Manipulatives is a big, fancy word
to describe simple objects – things we
move with our hands. Manipulatives
are often found in math classes, especially when kids are learning to add and
subtract. But manipulatives can be so
much more and are great for teaching
language, too. Some manipulatives are
simple – flash cards, for instance. Just
moving these pictures around and playing games with them will help cement the
words in your students’ minds. But that’s
not all you can use in the ESL classroom. Giving a preposition of location
lesson using a box and a small stuffed
animal is also using manipulatives.
Students move the items in relation to
each other as you explain the different
prepositions in English. Manipulatives
can also include small world play. If you
teach young children and you haven’t
heard of this, I strongly recommend giving it a try. A small world is basically a
container filled with items that represent
a real world scene. So for a small world
setup for an animals unit, you could put a
base of colored rice (green to represent
grassy area) along with several small
plastic animals that might live in that environment. Students can move the items
in the bin and talk about them all while
they handle the play items all the while
using and learning more of the English
language.
2
COOK IN CLASS
I am such a fan of cooking in class!
I do it whenever it ties in to what I am
teaching or whenever a holiday is coming up (allergies permitting). Cooking is
great because it engages not only the
sense of touch (actually doing the cooking) and sight (watching the recipe come
together) but also smell and, eventually,
taste. Cooking is great for teaching the
imperative form in English since most
recipes are written that way. It’s also a
great listening comprehension activity when students must follow your directions. Even something as simple as
decorating prebaked cookies is fun and
valuable for teaching colors and shapes
all the while smelling the sweet beauty
of royal icing. And if you have your students present their own recipes, it’s a
great way to assess speaking skills and
share culture among your students. (Not
to mention the best lunch you’ll have all
year.)
3
PLAY GAMES
Sports and games are another
way to get students’ senses involved in
class. If you play a lesser known sport
(can anyone say pickle ball? Seriously, I
had to play that one in high school.) your
students will engage in a listening comprehension exercise while they learn
new vocabulary and move their bodies
while using their sense of touch. Board
games are great, too, since they engage
the senses with the sound of rolling dice
and the feel of moving your piece along
the board. You also get the benefit with
card games, listening to the shuffling
cards and feeling them as you deal and
play your hand.
4
GET MESSY
Not everyone enjoys messy play
and learning, but I’ll admit I am a fan.
I think it’s fun to get your hands in the
learning process whether it’s through
finger painting while teaching colors or
manipulating play dough in a Pictionarystyle review of vocabulary. Another fun
sensory and potentially messy activity
is setting up mystery bags for students
to experience. This is particularly great
around Halloween when gross and slimy
things are fun and in style. Set up a few
brown paper bags at the front of the
classroom and put some mystery items
in the bags. Then have students reach
a hand in and feel the object before describing in either to another student or
in writing. You can put items in like wet
grapes (eyeballs), cold oatmeal (brain
goo), and cooked spaghetti (wiggling
worms) in your bags. If you want a more
toned down mystery bag experience, try
putting several items in a larger paper
bag. Have one student at a time reach in
and describe one of the items he or she
feels in the bag. Let them describe it to
the class and see if anyone can guess
it right. You can do a similar activity with
different smells dabbed on cotton balls
and put in separate containers with lids,
or try doing a taste test in class.
5
ACT OUT IN CLASS
Getting the body moving is great
for engaging the sense of touch, and it
can also engage other senses depending on when and how your students are
moving. Try having students run to different areas of the classroom that represent different answers in an activity. For
example, designate one wall the simple
past and another the past progressive.
Read a fill in the blank sentence to your
students and have them run to the wall
they think represents the correct answer.
Play charades for vocabulary review. Do
relay races in which students answer
questions or work to complete a task.
MOST LIKELY, YOU ENGAGE THE
SENSES OF SIGHT AND HEARING
EVERY DAY YOU TEACH. Engaging the
other senses isn’t as easy, but it really
isn’t hard either. Just a little thinking
ahead on your part coupled with a bit of
creativity and your students can get their
whole bodies involved in whatever you
are teaching. And don’t forget, when they
do they will remember what you teach
even better.
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6 Things You Should Know
about Comprehensible Input
GOOD TEACHERS ARE ALWAYS
TRYING TO IMPROVE THEIR SKILLS
AND THEIR EFFECTIVENESS IN THE
CLASSROOM.
In the process of making ourselves
better, however, we can sometimes
get bogged down in the technical vocabulary and lose sight of our goals.
One such term is comprehensible input. We all need it and need how to
use it, but what exactly does the term
mean? Here’s everything you need to
know about what comprehensible input is and how to make sure you are
including it in your ESL class.
6 THINGS
YOU SHOULD
KNOW ABOUT
COMPREHENSIBLE
INPUT IN THE
ESL CLASSROOM
1
WHAT IS I?
No matter what your students’
level is, you can point to a rough
measure of what they understand.
For absolute beginners, it might be
a set of five commonly used phrases
and a handful of vocabulary. For high
advanced students, it might be close
to what native speakers understand.
Whatever the quantity of information
that they understand, you can call it
i. i is a general variable representing
the specific level of language a certain
student or class understands. Every
student and class might have a different level of skill, but when you are
talking about each one, you can call
that class’ skill level i. It’s kind of like
solving for x in algebra equations. X
represents a different number in each
equation, but you always use the term
x to represent the unknown. So your
students understand a certain amount
of language, and we call that i. In order to understand what comprehensible input is, you have to know what
the i of your class is.
2
WHAT IS I+1
One key aspect to comprehensible input in your ESL classroom is
8
that it is just above what your students
already understand, that is to say it’s
a little more than i. That’s where the
expression i+1 comes from. You don’t
want your input or information to be
too far above where your students
are currently, what they already understand. You might represent material far above their current level as
i+2 or i+3. When your input is too far
above where your students are at the
moment, it becomes overwhelming
for them, too difficult to understand,
and in the worst case scenario useless because it causes your students
to completely shut down. Your ideal
materials (i+1) should be a blend of
what your students understand now
and new words, grammar structures,
and general English that they don’t
understand yet. You can think of it
like chocolate chip ice-cream. The
vanilla ice-cream is what they already
understand. The chips are the bits of
language beyond what they already
know. They are throughout the mixture and do not overwhelm it. They
are just enough to make it interesting
and appealing. They make it special
just as the unfamiliar bits of language
make what your students are reading
or listening to more interesting rather
than overwhelming. It’s a challenge
for your students, but not too much of
one.
real life materials. Just make sure it’s
at the correct level to challenge your
students without overwhelming them.
(There’s that i+1 again.)
3
Part of the goal of comprehensible
input is to challenge your students. If
they can understand everything they
hear or read, it’s not a challenge. So
once you choose your materials, it’s
your job to help your students understand them. Remember they are a little
above what your students understand
on their own. You have hundreds of
options when it comes to helping your
students understand the material you
give them. You might preteach vocabulary and grammatical structures to
help them digest what they hear and
read. You might use graphic organizers to help them process and organize the information as they receive
it. You might give them questions and
answers about the material or structures that they can use to decipher the
meaning of the new input on their own.
WHAT TYPES OF MATERIAL MAKE GOOD COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT?
Not all comprehensible input will come
from your ESL textbooks. By definition
it’s any language your students have
to digest. Sometimes it comes in audio form. This can be you speaking, a
video from YouTube or movie clip, a
recorded conversation, an automated
phone menu, etc. Written input might
come from the text book, the newspaper, a website, a menu, a map, etc.
You are only as limited as your imagination. If you find materials created
for the use of native speakers, even
better. The best sources of input are
those that your students will encounter once they are out of the classroom,
4
WHAT OTHER QUALITIES
DOES COMPREHENSIBLE
INPUT HAVE?
Once you figure out what your students know and what i+1 is for them,
you still have to think about a couple
of things before you have truly comprehensible input. Not every piece
of writing or audio clip of speaking is
appropriate or interesting for your students. If a story or an essay has no
relation to what you are teaching, it is
not a good choice for your students
even if it is i+1. So when you choose
appropriate materials for your class,
think about what topics you are covering in class, what grammar structures
you are trying to teach, what vocabulary you want your students to learn,
and what material that is i+1 relates
those things. If it’s quality, i+1, and
ties into what you are teaching your
students, you have comprehensible
input.
5
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR
STUDENTS UNDERSTAND
COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT?
Encourage your students to ask questions when they need clarification.
Change up your methods, and make
sure your students are engaged with
the material even the pieces that they
don’t yet understand. The better you
know your class and the more teaching techniques you have under your
belt, the easier this will be to achieve.
6
HOW DO YOU KNOW
YOUR COMPREHENSIBLE
INPUT HAS BEEN EFFECTIVE?
When it comes down to it, your top
goal as an ESL teacher is getting your
students to use the English language.
Of course you want them to use it correctly and to feel comfortable with it.
Ultimately, though, you want more
than just head knowledge: you want
fluency that comes from English finding its place in their hearts. If the material you are using in class enables
your students to use English in effective ways, if it enables them to communicate their ideas and opinions and
understand those of others, your material is effective.
AND THAT IS REALLY WHAT WE ARE
GOING FOR AFTER ALL.
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9
Going for the Gold: 12 Proven
Strategies for Motivating Students
NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO CLIMB
MOUNT EVEREST.
It’s a long trip, and that’s putting it mildly. But what if you had to get to the top
of that glorious mountain before you
could earn a promotion? What if the
one school you wanted to attend was
at the top, and you had to get there
before you could enroll? What if you
wanted one thing with all your strength,
but the mountain stood in the way? For
some ESL students, that’s what learning English is like. It is a long journey,
and one that takes constant effort
and regular replenishment of energy.
That’s why it’s important to keep your
students moving, to motivate them.
When the days get tough, a little boost
from you may be all that they need.
So how do you do it? Well, here are
twelve simple strategies any teacher
can employ to help motivate his or her
students.
USE THESE 12
PROVEN STRATEGIES
FOR MOTIVATING
STUDENTS
1
ENCOURAGE HEALTHY
COMPETITION
Sometimes a healthy dose of competition is all some people need to push
a little harder, to go a little further. To
motivate your students, try setting up
a little competition in class. Divide your
students into two teams and award
points for performance on in-class activities as well as written work. Keep
a running tally, and be sure to reward
your winners on a regular basis. Don’t
forget to stress that the winning team
gets bragging rights.
2
BE SERIOUS ABOUT FUN
You can include some serious fun
in your classroom, and there is no one
right way to do it. Try including games,
creative activities, and just plain silliness as often as you can. These activities don’t have to be pointless, either.
Lots of games and fun activities can
also improve your students’ language
skills and making them a regular part
10
of class will keep your students moving
forward.
3
CHANGE UP THE SCENERY
Looking at the same four walls of
your classroom, no matter how great
they look, gets old. Getting your students in a different environment can
give them a boost of energy and enthusiasm. So get outdoors, take field
trips, go to another classroom in the
school - anything to get out of your
room. And while you’re at it, change
the focal point of your classroom by letting someone else take center stage.
Invite guest speakers to talk with your
students and give them real life listening and speaking experience.
4
GIVE POSITIVE FEEDBACK
Don’t just correct mistakes -celebrate successes. Everyone who
is pursuing a lofty goal needs to step
back and take measure of how far they
have come. ESL teachers can easily
fall into the trap of over correcting or
correcting and failing to point out success in our students. Make it a regular
habit to point out the things your students are doing right. Do it every day!
Don’t stop correcting their mistakes,
but don’t make it the primary feedback
you give them. Remember to give positive critique before pointing out areas
that need improvement, and then close
the conversation with something positive again.
5
MAKE THINGS PRACTICAL
Books are great. They are important. They are useful. And sometimes
they are unrealistic. Most ESL students
are studying the language for one of
two reasons – to pursue further education in English or to use the language
in their professional lives. These are
very specific and practical goals for
language learning. Motivate your students by making your instruction specific and practical as well. Whenever
possible, make sure your assignments
are similar to what your students will
need to do with English after their language program has finished (e.g. fill
out a job application, schedule college
courses, write a business letter or research report, etc.). Head knowledge
can be discouraging if there is no real
application for it. Make sure every lesson you teach has a practical application and your students will be thrilled
about everything they are learning in
class.
6
VARY
YOUR TEACHING STYLE
Every student has a different combination of learning styles, and that means
to reach each of them you will have to
hit all of the learning styles regularly.
This does more than connect with
your students at a foundational level. It
makes class more interesting for them.
Imagine doing ten written exercises
to practice forming the regular past
tense. The first and second might be
okay, but by the time you get to number ten... - boring. Now imagine doing
three exercises, playing a game, making a diagram, telling a story, doing a
role play, writing a letter, telling a funny
story, and watching a movie clip. It’s a
little more interesting, isn’t it? And each
of those activities can still focus on the
target skill while they each hit different
learning styles. Be careful not to fall
into the trap of doing the same kinds of
activities every day. Of course it’s okay
to repeat activities, but just make sure
you have enough variety to keep your
students moving forward.
7
TELL YOUR STUDENTS
WHAT YOUR GOALS ARE
For some students, all they need to
keep them going is knowing their
destination. Communicating goals to
students means more than just saying you want them to be fluent. It also
means letting them know where you
are leading them for the school year,
the semester, the month, and even
each day. Try listing two to three goals
on the board each day so students can
see that they are achieving these goals
and that they are moving forward.
8
TAKE TIME OFF
SOMETIMES
If all work and no play makes Jack a
dull boy, you are sure to see plenty
of Jacks in a class that never takes
a break. Sometimes you just need
to have a day off. Have a food day,
watch a movie, do other not so driven
activities. You don’t have to be serious
and in the book all the time to feel like
you have accomplished something in
class. And while some of these activities may seem like a waste of time,
even the fun ones can have a functional language outcome. You don’t
have to stress it, either. Just let it happen on its own.
9
TEACH STUDENTS TOOLS
FOR LEARNING NOT JUST
INFORMATION
Give a man a fish and he eats for a
day. Teach a man to fish and he eats
for a lifetime. Language learning can
be like that, too. If you define a word
for your students, great. They have
learned a new word. But if you teach
them how to discover the meaning of
words on their own, well, you get the
idea. It may take more effort up front
to teach learning strategies as opposed to information, but in the long
run it will serve your students better.
12
MAKE CLASS
COMMUNICATIVE
The goal of learning a language is to
communicate in that language. If that
communication is grammatically perfect, that’s great. But it doesn’t have
to be to get the message across. In
your class, stress successful communication not flawless grammar and
pronunciation. When you do, your
students will naturally think less about
what they are doing wrong and more
about what they are doing right which
will make them want to press on toward their goals.
DIFFERENT MOTIVATIONAL STRATEGIES WORK BETTER WITH DIFFERENT STUDENTS, BUT IF YOU MAKE A
POINT OF INCLUDING A VARIETY OF
THEM IN YOUR CLASSROOM, YOU
STUDENTS WILL CERTAINLY REACH
THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN.
And you can feel good that you helped
them get there.
10
CONNECT YOUR
STUDENTS
WITH NATIVE SPEAKERS
Conversation partners, pen pals, etc.
give ESL students a personal connection to someone who speaks English
, and that gives them more reason to
learn the language. Personal connections are important, and when your
students have them, they will be even
more motivated for learning to speak
English fluently.
11
TALK LESS
Have you ever fallen asleep
in a college lecture? If so, perhaps it’s
because your teacher did all the talking. Since students are learning English for communication purposes, get
them talking in class. The more they
talk and the less time you lecture, the
more personal and interesting language learning becomes, and that
will keep your students from throwing
in the towel in the language learning
ring.
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11
6 Fun and Simple Games to Help
Your Shy Students
WE ALL KNOW SHY PEOPLE.
We might even be shy ourselves. Talking to others can be intimidating. What
if I don’t have the right things to say?
What if I sound stupid? Imagine your
worst fears, and then imagine them in a
foreign language. This is what class is
sometimes like for your shy students.
Not only are they normally afraid to
speak, in English they have the pressure
of getting grammar and pronunciation
right as well. These students might need
a little extra boost when it comes to coming out of their shells in class. Here are
some ideas for making them a little more
comfortable and getting them to speak
up in class.
them to talk but it does require them to
understand what you are saying. It also
helps them get physically close to other
students in class, and that might be just
what they need to get socially close as
well.
3
BALDERDASH
Bingo is a classic game for the
ESL classroom. It is good for outgoing
and shy students alike. Since there is
no shouting or acting like a loon, shier
students won’t be put off by the game.
But the activity is nothing near a waste
because even students who don’t talk
still learn and review vocabulary. This is
a great go-to any time of year and especially if you have quiet students who
might hesitate to participate in other
classroom activities.
The word means a bunch of nonsense, and that is exactly what you will
encourage your students to come up with
in this game. The official board games
comes with cards that list a collection
of obscure items – a word, initials, a
movie title, a person, or a random date.
Choose one card and one of the words
etc. listed there. Everyone then makes
up their own definition or explanation for
the obscure item, and you write the real
one down. (Don’t worry. It’s on the back
of the card.) Collect the definitions with
your own, shuffle them, and then read
them all to the class giving no hint as to
the true one. Everyone votes on which
they think is the correct definition or explanation. Players score a point when
someone in class thinks their fictitious
definition is the real. Then reveal who
wrote down each definition and award
points. Players also score two points
for guessing the real definition. Play to
a certain score or just play till you run
out of time. Your shier students will enjoy this game because it gives them a
chance to be creative without being the
center of attention in class.
2
4
TRY THESE 6 FUN AND
SIMPLE GAMES
TO HELP
YOUR SHY STUDENTS
1
BINGO
ELBOW TO ELBOW
This game gets students moving
around the classroom and matching up
with their classmates. To play, have students stand in the middle of the classroom while you call out a personal attribute some students might have. For
example, you might say, “Find someone
with blond hair.” Students must then
find someone in class with blond hair.
When they do, they link elbows with that
person. Each blond can only have two
people matched to her, one on each elbow, so anyone that can’t find a match
is out of luck for that round. Next call out
another quality. “Find someone whose
name starts with a vowel.” Again, students race to link up elbow to elbow first
dropping elbows with the person they
found last round. This game is good for
shy students because it doesn’t require
12
BACK AT IT PARTY GAME
Whether you call it this or something else, you have probably played
this game in one group or another. The
set-up is simple. Write various people’s
names, occupations, or items on small
slips of paper and then tape one on to
the back of each person in class. Everyone mingles and asks each other questions to try and determine who or what is
written on their back. They can only ask
yes/no questions of their classmates.
When anyone figures out his own identity and you confirm that he or she is right,
he can sit back at his desk. Though this
game does require your shy students to
talk to their classmates, it also challenges them to solve a puzzle. Even if your
shy students don’t want to ask a lot of
questions, they will still have something
to do as they puzzle out what is written
on their back based on the clues they
have already found out.
5
ICE BREAKER JENGA
I made up a set of ice-breaker
Jenga blocks, and my students always
enjoy when we play in class. To make
the set, I took a standard tumbling tower game set and wrote one ice-breaker
question on each block. Play the game
as you normally would with one addition.
Whenever anyone pulls a block from the
tower, she must answer the icebreaker
written on it before she can place her
piece back on top. This is a controlled
speaking environment which will challenge your shy students to talk in small
measures. You may also find as you play
that everyone wants to answer every
question that is pulled, and that makes
the game even better.
6
WOULD YOU RATHER?
This is a good game for practicing
the conditional structure in English not
to mention getting shy students out of
their shells. To play, simply ask students
a questions beginning with “Would you
rather...” You can use any questions you
feel like. Would you rather be able to fly
or breathe under water? Would you rather get up early or stay up late? Any questions will do, and you can either have a
list ready before you play or make them
up on the spot. Instead of speaking their
answers, students run to one side of the
room or the other, each representing
one of the options. Once everyone is in
place, take a minute to interview one or
two people on each side. Students will
learn about each other and won’t have to
be in a chaotic atmosphere to share. Not
everyone will have to speak an answer
to every question, but everyone participates for the whole game and there’s no
winner and no eliminations.
SHYER STUDENTS MAY NOT WANT
TO SPEAK UP IN CLASS, BUT THAT
DOESN’T MEAN THEY DON’T WANT
TO PARTICIPATE.
These games which challenge them
to play without expecting shouting and
chaos may be the little boost they need
to come out of their shells a little bit. And
once you get the process started, you
may find there is no stopping your used
to be shy students.
7 Tips for Helping Shy Guys and
Girls Speak More in Class
ESL students have lots of reasons to
be shy. They don’t speak the language.
They are in culture shock. They don’t
know anyone in class. Someone else is
always ready to speak for them. These
are just a few of the many possibilities.
And while these shy students might be
perfectly happy to never speak up in
class, we know it’s our job to get them
out of their shell and using English to
communicate. But how? Trying to get a
shy guy or girl to speak up in class can
be challenging, but here are some tips
to help you invite your shy students to
speak up more.
7 TIPS FOR HELPING
SHY GUYS AND GIRLS
SPEAK MORE IN CLASS
1
GROUPING TOGETHER
One way you can help shyer students feel more comfortable talking is to
put them all in the same group. Sometimes students refrain from speaking
because there is always another ready
to take the conversation floor. When you
put all of your shy students into the same
group, someone will have to speak up.
Since all your quieter students will be
all together, everyone might feel more
comfortable opening up to speak. There
will be no big talkers in the group to take
over or steer the conversation.
2
ACCEPTING FAILURE
Give your students permission to
fail. Sometimes it’s enough just to hear
the words out loud. You are going to
make mistakes. There is no doubt about
it. Speak anyway. When you prepare
your students for potential failures, you
allay some of their fear. Sometimes even
saying the wrong thing out loud is enough
to break the ice for your shy students
and get them vocalizing in class. Help
your students understand that you do
not expect perfection from them. Rather,
you want them to communicate however
that can happen. They can be creative
with the language they know rather than
worrying about getting syntax perfect every time. If they can communicate their
ideas, no matter how flawed the English
used to do so, they have been successful speakers of English.
3
AWAY FROM PODIUM
Take the spotlight off shy students.
If the whole class is going to be looking
at them while they speak, it might freeze
their voice right then and there. By putting your class into pairs, you take thirty
sets of eyes off your shy student and
leave them with only one set of eyes of
them. This will take away the intimidation that comes from speaking to the
entire class. What about those students
who can’t even handle one set of eyes
on them while they speak? Try activities
in which students sit back to back while
they work with their partner, activities
such as a simulated phone call or one in
which partners give each other drawing
directions. When no eyes at all are on
them, shy students will surprise you by
stepping up to the plate and hitting that
homerun.
4
STEPPING UP GRADUALLY
When it comes to comprehension
questions, you can set your students up
for success by starting slow and easy.
Rather than just reading the questions in
the book, try coming up with a few questions to start your comprehension activity
that are embarrassingly easy to answer.
I find it helpful to start with observation
questions – what does the passage say?
This works for videos, too. What happened? What did you see? Then move
on to more complicated questions that
ask students to interpret what they read,
saw, or herd, questions that get to the
meaning behind the words. Finally, ask
students to apply the information to their
own lives, to make connections with experiences they have had or with their
own ideas and opinions. When you start
slow and work your students up to the
tougher questions, your shy students
are more likely to speak up when they
know they can’t be wrong.
5
MOVING ON
You may hesitate to call on shyer
students when brainstorming or asking
questions in class. After all, there are so
many other students who are eager to
give answers. But it’s important to call on
all of your students, even the shy ones.
When you do, however, move on quickly. If they don’t know the answer, that’s
okay. The shorter they are the center of
attention, the better it is for their shy nature. If they know the answer, even better. Still move on and don’t make a big
deal of them talking or being unable to
do so.
6
AVOIDING
OVERCORRECTION
Don’t correct every mistake. Nothing is
more daunting than the feeling that everything you say or write is wrong. Discouragement sets in quickly, and it’s difficult to bring students back to a place
whether they are willing to take a chance
by speaking up. If your students make
errors, let them go. Sometimes. Make
sure you are only correcting skills you
have taught in class or mistakes that
students make repeatedly. You can’t
expect a beginning student to talk like
a native speaker, and make sure they
don’t expect it of themselves either. Being selective in the mistakes you correct
can make all the difference in a student’s confidence and their willingness
to speak up in class.
7
ACCEPTING
NONVERBAL ANSWERS
Don’t make every response language
based. If you want to encourage students who are afraid to speak in English,
bypass language. Sometimes. Have
students respond in a picture or acting
something out. Sometimes if you take
language out of the equation, it’s enough
to bring your shy student out of her shell.
Once she’s out the language based participation is easier to do, and your shy
student may not be so shy for long.
IT’S TOUGH FOR TEACHERS TO HAVE
SHY STUDENTS.
We want everyone in our class to participate and learn, but we don’t want to
make students uncomfortable by forcing
them to speak in class. If you are careful about how and when you call on your
shy students and you create a classroom environment where they know perfection is not expected, you will see your
shy students start to participate more.
And once they start, all you have to do is
encourage them and give positive feedback. Before long, they will be participating just as much as anyone in class.
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13
5 Easy Strategies to Get
Your Students Talking More
IN THE WORLD OF LANGUAGE
LEARNING, COMMUNICATION IS
KING.
But in the world of teaching, it is the
educator’s role to give information to
the students and the students’ role
to receive it. All this puts language
teachers in a tough place – how do
we give our students the information
they need without taking away their
opportunities to use language communicatively? In other words, how do
we let them talk as much as possible
when we have to talk to them in order
to teach them? The more we talk in
class, the less time our students have
to use language. But without hearing
about the tools they need, they won’t
be able to use the language to communicate anyway. Can anyone say
a rock and a hard place? So what it
boils down to for language teachers
is using enough time to impart information to our students and allotting
the rest of the time to student communication. We must walk the fine
line. Give them what they need then
get out of the way. It’s easy to fall off
to one side or the other. Most often
the teacher falls to the side of talking
too much in class, and we struggle to
reduce how much of class time we
are talking. The time we present information to our classes is generally
referred to as TTT (teacher talk time).
And there is endless discussion the
English learning word on how to reduce TTT and encourage students to
talk more. It’s not impossible by any
means, but it does take some intentionality. If you find yourself struggling
to walk that fine line and would like
some ideas on how to decrease your
talk time in class, here are some tricks
you can try.
TRY THESE 5 EASY
STRATEGIES TO GET
YOUR STUDENTS
TALKING MORE (AND
YOU TALKING LESS)
1
HAVE THEM TALK
BEFORE YOU TEACH
This is one of the simplest ways you
14
can get your students to talk more in
class. Ask them to. Before presenting
a lesson to your students, start with a
class or small group discussion. Bring
up the topic that you will address in
the lesson. If you are teaching content, this should be pretty easy. Give
yours students three or four discussion questions related to the topic. For
example, if you were going to read an
article about a successful business
person, you might ask your students
to talk about jobs they have had (even
if it was just setting up a lemonade
stand). If you were planning on teaching about sports, let students share
their experiences going to a sports
game or playing on a team. But even
if you are planning on teaching grammar isolated from content, you can
still have before lesson discussion.
Ask students to talk about a situation in which they will need to use the
target structure for their answer. For
example, ask students to talk about
their plans for next year when you are
planning a lesson on the future tense.
If you will be teaching conditional
structures, ask students to share their
dreams and what they will do when
they are successful. By having this
discussion beforehand, your students
will see the need for the structure that
you will teach and will be able to apply it immediately. They will be primed
for the new information, and they will
have time to use their language skills
through discussion before you start
your talking time.
2
TRY THE DISCOVERY
METHOD
FOR GRAMMAR INSTRUCTION
The discovery method is a teaching
method in which students figure out
the target grammar based on real
language examples. In this teaching
method, the teacher gives students
an English passage that uses a target structure and then challenges the
students to figure out the rule for the
structure. For example, you might
give students a paragraph on what
you were doing when JFK was assassinated. This paragraph will naturally
use the past progressive, so you will
encourage your students to figure
out the connection and the conjugation pattern by looking at the verbs
throughout the passage. You can also
use the discovery method by giving
students an exercise which practices
the past progressive and give them
the answers to the questions. Students must then determine what the
grammar rule is for the situation. After
students have a good idea of how to
form the past progressive, give them
a lesson in which you spell the grammar rule out.
3
ENCOURAGE STUDENTS
TO GIVE THEIR OPINIONS
Your students are bound to ask your
opinion on everything from American food to body language. Instead
of answering them right away, ask
them to share what they think. You
can encourage other members of the
class to field opinion and even information questions before you answer
them, or turn the questions back on
the speaker to get their opinion first.
For example, if you were talking about
sports and a student asked, “Why do
Americans like football even though
it is violent?” rather than answer you
might say the following. “What do the
rest of you think? Why do Americans
like football?” or to the speaker “Why
do you think they like football?” Give
your students a chance to express
their own ideas, and then feel free
to share your own. You may not decrease the amount of time you would
have talked if you just answered, but
you would increase student talk time,
and at the end of class they will have
talked more and you will have talked
less.
4
INCLUDE GROUP WORK
DAILY
When you set students to a task they
have to complete with their classmates (and without you) they will have
to talk to one another. This is another
way you can decrease the amount of
time you talk and increase the amount
of time your students talk. Have group
discussions rather than an entire
class discussion. Have two students
work together to complete a worksheet rather than students doing in on
their own. Include group activities in
your lessons like games, interviews,
role plays, etc. All of these will give
even your shiest students space and
time to speak up in class, and your
more knowledgeable students will find
themselves teaching their struggling
classmates without even realizing it
which equals more talk time for them
and less for you.
5
KEEP YOUR MOUTH
CLOSED
We teachers tend to be fond of our
own voices, but sometimes we get so
caught up sharing our own ideas, opinions, and information that we forget
our students are the ones who need
to be speaking in class. Sometimes
the best thing we can do to increase
the time our students talk and decrease eh time we talk is simply keep
our mouths shut. What may seem like
an uncomfortable silence may be just
what your students need to start talking. Next time you want to jump in and
given an answer or an opinion, keep
your mouth closed. Count to sixty in
your head before you open it again.
Odds are that little bit of silence will be
just enough to get one or more of your
students talking.
IF YOU STRUGGLE WITH WALKING
THE LINE BETWEEN TEACHER AND
STUDENT TALK TIME, WELCOME TO
THE CLUB.
It’s an ongoing balancing act for most
of us at the front of the classroom.
The good news is that with a little
intention on your part, you can have
your students talking more and you
talking less.
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15
They Won’t Be Able to Look Away:
5 Surefire Video Activities
LANGUAGE IS ALL AROUND US.
Newspapers, television, the Internet
-- they are all great sources of real life
language just waiting to be used in the
ESL classroom. And authentic language
sources serve double in the classroom.
Your students will most certainly learn
from just about any authentic language
material you work into your lesson plans.
On top of that, they are great fun! One of
my favorite resources is using videos in
class. You can use them in so many different ways and highlight just about every
aspect of language learning and practice.
Here are some of the ways you can teach
language through videos in class.
TRY THESE 5 SUREFIRE
VIDEO ACTIVITIES
TO KEEP STUDENTS
ENGAGED
1
PREDICTING THE FUTURE
One of the easiest exercises you
can do with a video is ask students to
predict what comes next. You can do
this with movies, skits, or how to videos.
Play a portion of the video for your students. It might be a few steps in a how
to process or it might be a scene or two
of a movie either from the beginning
or the middle. When you are ready to
talk, hit pause. Have students discuss
what they think will happen next in the
video. Ideally, you would have groups
of two or three students talk together to
make predictions and then share their
ideas with the entire class afterwards.
This will get everyone talking. After the
discussion, press play and let students
see what really happens. Stop it again
and have groups go back and say what
was right and what was wrong with their
predictions. And don’t worry if your students have already seen the movie you
choose to use. They will still get their
speaking practice in even if they already
know the answers.
2
THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT
How to videos are a great listening
challenge for your ESL students. Since
they discuss a process which is broken
down into steps, you can play them for
your students while your students write
down the steps in the process. Have students listen carefully to an instructional
16
video and note each step in the speaker
explains. Their notes do not have to contain a lot of detail – just enough that they
remember what that step is in general
terms. Students should number their
steps as they write them down. Play the
video a second time and let students
write down more details for each step.
After twice through, have two students
compare their notes and ask questions
of each other and you if they are confused. They can use the information the
other person wrote down to give more
detail to their own notes. Finish the activity by having students write out the instructions for the process in essay form.
As they write, they should pay particular attention to the transitions they use
between steps. A note to the teacher:
make sure you preview the video before
you show it to your students. Their first
time doing an exercise like this, keep the
video simple as it will be quite a challenge for your class. But as they gain
experience with the activity, you can use
more and more complicated videos and
processes.
3
DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SEE
You can use a video as a source
of inspiration for your students or simply to practice using adjectives and descriptive writing. Choose a short clip,
preferably one that doesn’t have a lot
of action but does have an interesting
setting. You might try the beginning of
a film where the camera is moving from
a broad view of an area to a closer view
of the main characters or a clip where
characters are exploring a new area
and aren’t saying a whole lot to each
other. Give students a chance to watch
the clip once or twice, and tell them to
pay particular attention to the setting.
Then have them write a description of
the place. They can do this individually
or with a partner. If you just want to practice descriptive writing, you can end the
activity there. If you want to take it a step
further, have your students use this setting in a short piece of their own fiction
writing. Compile the stories into a class
book or post them on a bulletin board so
the rest of the class can see how their
classmates used the same location for a
very different story.
4
SPARK A DEBATE
It is said that everyone has an
opinion, and you can use people’s willingness to share theirs to help your
students learn the English language.
Start by choosing two videos that show
opposing views on one issue. News reports are a great source for this, or you
can use fictional or factual court scenes
in which the witnesses give differing
views of the same event. As you show
the videos, have your students write
down the arguments each side uses to
support its opinion. After they have those
written down, let students discuss the issue and their notes in groups of three
or four. As they discuss, each person
should decide which opinion they think
is correct. Each person should also write
down any other arguments that come up
for both sides of the issue. You can end
the activity there, or you can continue it
by holding a class debate on the issue.
5
LISTEN CLOSELY
Videos are great for teaching students to listen for specific information.
Choose a video and write a few comprehension questions on its content. Give
the questions to your students before
they watch the video. Have them predict
what type of information they will be listening for, and then give the video a go.
See if students can hear the answers to
the questions the first time through the
video. You can also do the activity in the
opposite order. Have students watch
the video and listen for the information
they think is important. Afterward, give
them a simple, blank outline of the main
points in the video and see if they can
complete the outline. Show the video
one more time and let them check their
answers.
IF YOU ARE READY TO TRY SOME
OF THESE ACTIVITIES IN CLASS BUT
AREN’T SURE WHERE TO GET THE
VIDEOS, TRY CHECKING OUT SOME
TED TALKS. If you don’t already know,
they are very short videos in which the
speakers talk about all manner of things.
Whatever topic or opinion you want to
show in class, their video bank is a great
place to start your search. They are free,
too, which makes them great resources
for teachers. Other great options are
movies, television shows which are
often free on the channel’s website, or
YouTube videos.
6 Strategies to Engage and
Motivate Teenaged Students
WHEN MOST PEOPLE PICTURE
TEENAGERS, THEY IMAGINE SULLEN,
UNCOOPERATIVE KIDS WHO WANT
NOTHING TO DO WITH SCHOOL.
Your class most likely isn’t like that,
but there is something special to
teaching teenagers. They can lack
motivation or focus, so it’s always
great to have a few motivating strategies in your back pocket when teens
walk into your classroom. If you are
looking for ideas on how to motivate
a class full of teens, try these proven
strategies.
6 STRATEGIES
TO ENGAGE AND
MOTIVATE TEENAGED
STUDENTS
1
INCLUDE AN ELEMENT
OF COMPETITION
Everybody loves a little competition,
and teenagers are no exception. You
can motivate your students by making their actions count in a classroom
competition. Divide your class into
two teams, and award points to each
team based on students’ performance
at certain classroom tasks. You might
award points for right answers on an
in class exercise, for superb class
participation, or for winning a game in
class. Make sure you make the points
mean something, too, by awarding
the winning team periodically and
then switching up the makeup of each
team.
2
USE TECHNOLOGY
Teens are notorious for loving
and using technology, so work that
to your advantage. One easy way to
do this is to allow the use of smart
phones in class. You don’t want your
students texting throughout the entire period (unless they are writing
in English and that is your goal) but
there are tons of other ways to use
smartphones for language learning.
Have students set up a free email account if they don’t already have one.
Email assignments, handouts, and
other classroom materials. Not only
will you save on trees, your teenaged
students will appreciate getting materials electronically where there is no
chance of losing them. You can also
encourage students to download language learning aps to use during free
learning periods and have them visit
ESL websites. Many places offer free
quizzes for just about every aspect of
language learning.
3
BRING POP CULTURE
INTO THE EQUATION
Who says listening activities have to
be based on last week’s news program? Use a clip from a popular movie instead. Do a cloze exercise with
song lyrics and then play the song
in class. Comic books are great for
short reading comprehension activities or as visual writing prompts. All of
these pop culture inclusions will have
your students engaged and eager to
learn. And if you’re not knowledgeable
about pop culture yourself, check out
the Geek board on Pinterest. It will
give you a good idea of what movies,
television shows, books, and other
things are popular today.
4
ENCOURAGE
OPEN CONVERSATION
When it comes to teenagers, adults
have to earn the right to be heard. In
other words, teens don’t care what you
know until they know that you care.
One way to communicate this to your
students is by fostering an open atmosphere in class. Encourage students
to share their opinions, and don’t
overcorrect their mistakes. Of course,
as the teacher you are responsible in
part for your students’ success. But
molding successful students doesn’t
mean correcting their every little mistake. Focus on the language aspects
you are teaching or have taught,
and don’t act on the impulse to correct language rules your students
haven’t learned yet. Also, focus more
on communicating and less on perfect language use. In the real world,
if a person can get their thoughts and
opinions across, even if they use in-
correct grammar to do it, they have
successfully communicated. Try to
take this approach when your students
talk in class. If they have successfully
communicated their ideas, they have
used English well. Finally, encourage
students to ask questions. You can do
this by setting aside a specific time of
the day or the week to answer questions. Consider giving each student
one or more index cards and having
them write one question on each card.
Collect and shuffle the cards and then
read them to the class before answering them. This will avoid putting any
one student on the spot causing them
embarrassment. And don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know the answer
to one of their questions. Admit it and
promise to find the answer. Then get
back to them. Nothing will discourage
students from asking questions like
clearly fabricated answers or failure
to follow through finding an answer on
the teacher’s behalf.
5
CONSIDER WHY
STUDENTS ARE LEARNING
ENGLISH
Why are your students learning English? Are they public school students
in an English speaking community?
Do they speak another language at
home? Have they travelled overseas
to see a little bit of the world before
starting their real studies at home?
Are they studying English so they
can gain admission to a dream college or university? Think about what
internal and external motivations your
students have, and then make your
language instruction as applicable to
their goals as possible. For example, if
your students are planning on attending college after their language studies, emphasize the language skills
they will need to be successful such
as note taking, reading text books,
and writing essays. If your students
are more interested in travel and adventure, teach them to read nontext
items such as maps, train schedules,
and brochures. Encourage students
to talk about the places they want to
travel and how they will use English
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17
getting there and during their trips.
6
RESPECT YOUR STUDENTS
AS EQUALS
Teenagers may be younger than you,
but they are no less individuals with
opinions and values. Respect them.
Don’t talk down to them or treat them
like children. Teenagers want to be
seen as adults, and you should interact with them that way. Don’t disparage their generation’s likes and
dislikes. Talk to them like you would
another adult. Don’t yell at them or
laugh at their opinions. And as always, respect their home cultures in
and out of the classroom.
IF YOU DO, YOU WILL FIND THAT
YOUR STUDENTS NOT ONLY
RESPECT YOU IN RETURN BUT ALSO
HAVE THE MOTIVATION IT TAKES TO
SUCCEED.
18
Instagram = Instant Fun: 10 Simple Ways to Get Students Talking
I HOPE YOU KNOW HOW VALUABLE PICTURES ARE FOR THE ESL
CLASSROOM.
Pictures can be the starting point of all
kinds of language activities from creative writing to dialogue development
to practicing verb tenses. One of the
easiest way to use pictures is to get
the conversation started – using them
for activities that get your students
talking. It’s easy when you give them
a picture for inspiration, and these activities do just that.
WHERE TO FIND
PICTURES
Pictures are all around you. You just
have to be on the lookout for the ones
that will work best with your students
and your activities. Try looking for pictures in these places.
• Magazines are a great source for
pictures, particularly travel magazines and advertisements which
often have some very interesting
and occasionally crazy pictures
that bring some humor to your
classroom.
• Personal photos can also be a
treasure trove for pictures. I tend
to leave the pictures of friends and
family at home, but I do bring in
photos from my travels or pictures
I take of everyday locations. They
are free, and I don’t have to worry
about copyright infringement if I
want to make several copies.
• You can find pictures of almost
anything online. Type your subject
into a search engine and specify
that you are looking for images.
You will almost always find something you can use.
• Books, in particular picture books,
are a regular in my classroom.
There is no better way to get a
series of related pictures or those
that tell a story than one of these
books.
• Artists all over the world since
the beginning of time have been
creating masterpieces of pictures.
Use reprints or print out pictures
online of classic works of art to
•
•
use for your picture activities.
Postcards are fun and durable
sources for pictures. You can often find them very cheap at vacation destinations, but don’t stop
there. Check garage sales, antique shops, and resale places
like Goodwill for interesting postcards.
Draw them yourself. I am no artist, believe me. My repertoire is
limited to stick figures. (I can even
draw a stick cow and have for my
students.) Even simple pictures
are perfect for some activities, so
take a shot at some simple line
drawings and bring them to class.
USE 10 SIMPLE WAYS
TO GET STUDENTS
TALKING
WITH PICTURES
Now that you have your pictures,
what are you going to do with them?
Try one of these simple and fun activities with those great pictures you are
ready to show.
1
WISH YOU WERE HERE
Pair up your students and give
each pair a photo of an interesting
place. It might be a real place or a fantasy location that an artist dreamed
up. You can also use photos and
prints of classic pieces of art. Have
one person imagine that they are in
the picture. They should tell their partner what they see and why they are
there. What are they going to do in
that place? Let the other student ask
questions for clarification or more information. Then have students switch
roles and give them a new picture to
work with.
2
BLIND DRAW
Put your students in pairs sitting
back to back, and give one person a
simple picture. (This is where even
rudimentary art skills come in handy.)
That person must give his partner instructions on what to draw. The goal
is for the drawing person to create
a picture as close to the original as
possible. Once students are done, let
them look at each other’s pictures and
see how close they are. Then switch
roles and give them a new picture to
work with.
3
DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE
Give two students two similar
pictures to work with. It is up to you
whether they are allowed to look at
their partner’s picture. Then have the
students talk about what is the same
and what it different with the two pictures. If you like, have them write
down ten statements comparing and
contrasting the pictures.
4
21 QUESTIONS
You’ve probably played the classic game in your classroom, but you
can change things up and play 21
Questions with pictures. Start with a
picture with a lot of different elements.
One person chooses an object in
the picture and the rest of the class
asks yes no questions to determine
what object it is. They are limited to
21 questions, and if they can’t guess
before question number 21 is asked,
the person who chose the object is
the winner of the round.
5
A TO Z
Complex pictures are good for
vocabulary development, too. Challenge small groups of your students to
find something pictured in the photo
starting with each letter from A to Z.
Give them one to five minutes to do
it. You’ll be amazed at how much vocabulary your students know and how
many more new words you can teach
through this exercise.
6
WHAT CAME BEFORE?
WHAT COMES AFTER?
Start with a picture that shows some
action. Then challenge your students
to say what came before this picture
and/or what comes after it. Have them
work in small groups to tell a complete
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19
story in three acts based on the picture.
7
RACE TO LIST
This game is a good way to
review parts of speech. Show your
class one picture, and give them one
minute to list as many nouns as they
can find there (or adj. or verbs, etc.)
At the end of one minute, have students share their lists and cross off
any words anyone else in the class
listed. The player with the longest list
wins the round. Or score one point for
each item on the list and play a total
of three rounds with the highest total
score winning the game.
8
STORY SEQUENCE
Copy several pictures that show
a sequence. A picture book is a good
source, just black out the words on the
page. Then challenge groups of students to put the pictures in the correct
sequence. Want a real challenge?
Give each member of the group one
picture and don’t let students show
their picture to the other members of
their group.
9
DO YOU REMEMBER?
Challenge your students’ memories in this picture activity. Have one
student look at a picture for one minute then give the picture to a partner.
That person then asks questions to
see how much the first person can remember. Give students a new picture
and have them switch roles.
10
CONVERSATION
COLLAGE
Have your students each make a
collage about a topic you are studying (family, sports, etc.). Give each
person two to three minutes to share
about their collage to the class.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO STRESS YOURSELF OUT GATHERING A DIFFERENT
SET OF PICTURES FOR EVERY ACTIVITY (ALTHOUGH YOU CERTAINLY
COULD). I HAVE FOUND IT USEFUL TO
SET ASIDE A SPECIFIC FOLDER FOR
PICTURES. I THEN LOOK THROUGH
MY STASH AND PULL OUT THE ONES
THAT ARE PARTICULARLY USEFUL
FOR EACH PICTURE BASED ACTIVITY I DO.
A picture may be worth a thousand
words, but a great collection of pic-
20
tures is priceless.
Get started with your collection today
and see just how many ways you can
get your students talking with a little
pictorial inspiration.
4 Times You Should Be Acting out
for Your Students
WHEN I TELL PEOPLE THAT I TEACH
ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE,
THEIR INEVITABLE FIRST QUESTION
IS, “OH, WHAT LANGUAGES DO YOU
SPEAK?”
I always answer the same. English. I
suppose the average person has a difficult time understanding how to teach a
foreign language without using their students’ first language, but we ESL teachers know is not only possible but often
preferred. Teaching in English only does
require some special skills, however.
Not everyone is suited to it. Those who
are comfortable teaching this way tend
to communicate through more than just
words. Actions are a big part of communicating with students whose first language you do not speak, and they come
into play more often than many people
realize. Here are four times I find acting
out for my students is effective.
4 TIMES YOU SHOULD
BE ACTING OUT FOR
YOUR STUDENTS
1
GIVING INSTRUCTIONS AND
FEEDBACK
It might seem strange to give instructions
without the use of spoken language, but
it’s really quite useful in the ESL classroom. You probably do it without even
noticing. Think about the phrase “repeat after me.” Odds are, you make a
motion with your hand to reinforce your
message, perhaps making a circle to
indicate students should repeat what
you say. Or think about when a student
only gives a partial answer. Do you ever
simply look at that student, maybe raising your eyebrows or nodding indicating
that the student should continue talking?
These are nonverbal means of communication. If you find that you already
do them, that’s great. You are helping
your students without even realizing it. If
you don’t already use them, think about
ways to communicate what you want to
say without words, and then use those
motions consistently. That way students
may recognize the physical clue even if
they don’t understand the verbal instructions. At first. Eventually, they will learn
the phrases that go along with the motions, but until then they will still be able
to follow your directions.
2
PRONUNCIATION LESSONS
I’ll admit, when I first started teaching English as a second language the idea
of letting someone look into my mouth as
I pronounced words was very strange indeed. But once I got past the initial discomfort, I realized just how useful this
practice is. Sometimes English students
cannot hear certain sounds, or they cannot distinguish two sounds from each
other. A lot of this struggle comes from
their first language and the sounds that
compose it. And if you have ever tried to
learn a second language, you may have
experienced the same struggles (especially if you have attempted to speak in
a tonal language). When your students
can’t hear the difference between sounds
or words, it helps if you let them see the
difference between the two. Showing
them how you position your mouth and
how you move the muscles there can be
the difference between ignorance and
understanding. It’s good, too, if you can
overemphasize your movements and if
you teach them the anatomy of the mouth
and how it plays into English pronunciation. Most of all, show your students the
motions you are going through when you
make certain sounds, and they will likely
have all they need to correctly produce
the sounds themselves.
3
DEFINING UNFAMILIAR
WORDS AND TERMS
What’s the best way to help students understand the difference between strolling
and marching? Act it out for them! Perhaps the most common context under
which ESL teachers act out is for defining new vocabulary. For most nouns, a
picture is a great way to help students
understand what you are talking about.
But for verbs, it’s a different story. You
can try and put an action into a picture,
but a lot of times the drawing just falls
flat. It is much more effective to just show
your students what the action looks like.
True it’s not possible for every new word
you will teach your students, but there
are plenty that you can demonstrate, and
you don’t have to be skilled at acting.
Moreover, when you act out new vocabulary for your students, you can expect the
same from them when you do vocabulary
reviews. Charades is a big hit among my
students, and we often use the game to
review words before a test or at the end
of a unit.
4
DEMONSTRATING APPROPRIATE CULTURAL BEHAVIOR
Body language does not cross cultures.
What is perfectly acceptable in one culture may cause great offense in another.
That is why it’s good for you to show your
students appropriate (and inappropriate) behavior in your culture. Culture is
important because even though most
people cannot define their own culture, it
is deeply ingrained in who they are. Inappropriate cultural behavior, even when it’s
unintentional, can cause big problems.
It’s your job as teacher to show your students the appropriate way to act. One big
cultural expectation, and one that may
not occur to you or your students, is that
of personal space. Personal space is the
distance we like to keep between us and
someone else near us, a conversation
partner for example. Personal space is
not the same in every culture. I remember how put off I was when I first moved
to China because people I didn’t even
know were brushing into my shoulders
and back. That’s because I am from the
U.S., and for us two feet is the appropriate distance to keep between ourselves
and other people. Have you ever had a
conversation with a close talker who you
instinctively stepped back from? I have
literally seen people move from one end
of a room to the other, unknowingly, because one speaker had a smaller idea
of personal space than another. Show
your students how much space to leave
between themselves and someone else
when they speak. Another important element of body language is teaching your
students to give a good handshake.
Americans like handshakes to be firm but
not crushing, to have some movement
but not keep shaking forever. Teach your
students this as well, and do it by acting
out a handshake worth copying. These
and other cultural aspects will become a
part of your students’ knowledge best if
you simply act them out.
NOT ALL GREAT TEACHING COMES
THROUGH THE WORDS YOU SPEAK.
Sometimes actions make the best teacher of all. Don’t be afraid to act out for your
students in these and other ways. You
may find that what you do in the classroom is sometimes far more important
than what you say.
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21
5 Ways to Boost Your Attitude
When You Need Some TLC
WE ALL HAVE THOSE NOT SO GREAT
DAYS.
Even the most enthusiastic of teachers needs a little TLC from time to
time. But sometimes we feel like taking care of our teacher selves means
short changing our students, so we put
ourselves last on the list. That doesn’t
have to be the case. Teachers can take
care of themselves and still give their
students what they deserve in class.
In fact, teachers who practice self-care
are better teachers overall, and they
are more enthusiastic in their teaching
when they have reserves of energy and
strength to draw on. So whether you
are trying to avoid those down days or
need a pick-me-up because you are in
the middle of them, here are five strategies for taking care of your students
while also taking care of yourself.
5 WAYS TO BOOST
YOUR ATTITUDE WHEN
YOU NEED SOME TLC
1
DO SOMETHING
YOU ENJOY
Whether it’s cooking or playing kickball,
doing something you enjoy in class
can be a nice pick me up when you are
feeling discouraged. For me, I love to
play games. On those days when I just
need a little something more, I’ll bring
in a board game, dice game, or card
game and teach my students how to
play. Though I may not always be able
to tie it in to whatever content we are
currently covering, sometimes I can.
And on top of that, there is always a
language element to whatever game
we play, so tying into grammar or language skills is always doable. Sometimes it’s learning new vocabulary with
Scrabble, and other times it’s the grammar of questions with a simple game
of 20 questions. Giving instructions is
always a good way to talk about the
imperative form in English. Or use the
conditional with if-then statements that
explain how something is done (like
what happens when you make certain
moves in a game). Whatever you do,
don’t feel guilty about “treating” yourself to a fun activity in class. Odds are
22
that some if not all of your students will
like that activity as well, and you won’t
have to feel guilty if you focus on the
language aspect of your fun activity.
2
SET UP INDEPENDENT
LEARNING CENTERS
I am such a proponent of independent
learning centers, and for more than
one reason. They let students learn
at their own pace, focus on language
areas where they need extra help,
and create a low key atmosphere in
class. Oh, and they also happen to
give you a little down time during your
classroom hours. Any teacher knows
there is never enough time to do all
the planning, teaching, gathering of
supplies, evaluating, and grading that
a good teacher needs to accomplish.
By giving your students some time at
independent learning centers, they
are meeting their individual specific
language needs as well as giving you
some time to do those things that always seem to fall through the cracks.
And even if you don’t have something
specific you need to accomplish, being
able to spend some one on one time
with students, giving them feedback
and assessing their language use as
they the centers, might be all you need
to remember why you started teaching
in the first place.
3
WRITE IT DOWN
Sometimes they days just feel
like we are going through the motions,
never really accomplishing anything.
The next time you need a little encouragement and a reminder that you are
making a difference, try writing down
five to ten things you and/or your students have accomplished in the past
month of two. Then follow up by writing five to ten things you want to accomplish in the next coming months.
Sometimes we just need to see that we
are making progress and have a goal
and direction. Writing down accomplishments and setting goals will do
that. If you want an even bigger boost,
try asking your students to list five to
ten things they have accomplished so
far this year. You can be sure that their
list will include plenty of things you
helped them with along the way.
4
LEARN SOMETHING FROM
YOUR STUDENTS
You may be the resident expert in the
English language, but that doesn’t
mean you know everything there is
to know. Your students are a great resource for learning about culture, hobbies, and career fields. When you are
feeling close to burn out, try scheduling
some time for your students to share
what they know with the rest of the
class. You might have a class discussion or assign short presentations to
each of your students. Let them simply talk about the things that interest
them. They will get valuable speaking
practice, and you will get a break from
being the know it all in the classroom.
5
GO OUTSIDE
Sometimes all you need to
make the day seem brighter is a little
sunshine. For most classes, there is
no reason why you can’t take your
students outside. Sometimes just a
change of scenery is enough to inject you with energy, and you can go
on with your class just like you had
planned, but under the big blue sky. If
you need a little more of a pick me up,
there are plenty of activities you can do
with your class outside that still focus
on language learning. Have students
go off by themselves and write about
what they see. Send students on an
alphabet scavenger hunt – finding one
thing for each letter a to z. Just take
your class outside and let them read
books. Nothing gives quite the same
energy as feeling the breeze in your
hair and the sun on your face.
IF YOU ARE FEELING OR HAVE FELT
DISCOURAGED, TAKE HEART.
You are not alone. We all have those
moments when we just don’t have the
energy we want. Take a moment. Take
care of yourself. And your students will
benefit from having a teacher who is
more refreshed and ready to tackle the
next English lesson.
3 Simple Ways to Help Students
Help Themselves
WE ARE ALL USED TO THE ROLES OF
STUDENT AND TEACHER. The teacher
gives information. The student makes it a
part of their knowledge base. The teacher
corrects mistakes and gives feedback.
But what if we could turn this standard on
its head? What if students could discover
truth for themselves? If teachers could
guide their students to discovery and
insight? What if students could correct
their own mistakes? Believe it or not, this
is possible. It just requires some thinking outside the traditional education box.
And when it does happen, hold on to your
hats! Students learn better and English
becomes a piece of who they are rather
than a tool they use when necessary.
You may not be ready to turn the whole
system on its head, but that doesn’t mean
you can’t start small. Try these simple tips
for helping students help themselves.
USE THESE 3 SIMPLE
WAYS TO HELP
STUDENTS HELP
THEMSELVES
1
GIVE THEM THE ANSWERS
Grammar exercises are a standard
part of language instruction. We do them
all the time for just about every grammar
point we teach. You can encourage students to learn independently by putting a
spin on exercises you normally use. Try
giving your students the exercise BEFORE you teach the grammar concept.
Of course they won’t be able to fill in the
blanks or rewrite the sentences. That’s
why you give them the answers as well.
Have your students take a close look
at the questions as well as the answers
and challenge them to figure out the
grammar rule on their own. For example,
say you have an exercise on forming the
simple past of regular verbs. Give your
students the questions and the answers.
Odds are your students will see the addition of –ed to the verbs to express the
past. When they do, they will have figured out the grammar rule on their own,
and that will help them remember it better. This strategy works with more than
just beginning level grammar. You can
teach nearly any regular grammatical
pattern this way including verb tenses,
conditionals, comparative and superlative adjectives - just about anything. Just
don’t expect students to find a rule for ir-
regular past tense verbs and other forms
that don’t follow the standard.
2
LET STUDENTS PROOFREAD
THEIR OWN WORK
Students in ESL writing classes can become very dependent on their teachers
and classmates for editing and proofreading. It is always easier for someone
else to find your mistakes than for you to
find them yourself. (Believe me, I know
from experience.) But just giving the corrections to your students doesn’t really
help them learn to find mistakes on their
own. Here is a method you can use to
teach students to find their own mistakes
in their writing.
Have students write a short piece – a
paragraph or two is plenty the first time
you give feedback this way. Collect the
paragraphs and proofread them for mistakes. But rather than marking the mistakes on their paper or even using editing marks in all the right places, make a
list of errors on a separate sheet of paper. Don’t write down the exact mistakes
but rather the types of mistakes you see
in the paper, and write them in order. So
you might start a list for your students like
this: subject/verb agreement, spelling error, incorrect plural form, etc. When you
encounter another mistake of the same
type, rather than listing it in order, put a
check mark next to that category where
it already is on your list. Continue until
you have noted each type of error in the
paper and the number of times it occurs.
Then give your students their paper as
well as your list. Students must then go
through their paper and find the errors
you listed. At first, it won’t be too tough
since the errors will be in order on your
list and in their paragraphs, but it will get
tougher as they go along. As students
correct the errors, they should highlight
them on your list. Students should continue to make the corrections and look
for their own errors, marking them off the
list as they find them. Through the process, your students will learn to look for
mistakes in their own writing. The more
you give them feedback in this way, the
fewer mistakes they will make in subsequent writing assignments. More importantly, though, they will be learning
a valuable skill. Proofreading their own
writing. And though it might be a bigger time investment for you the first few
times you give feedback this way, even-
tually your students will make fewer mistakes and will be correcting their own as
they write. At that point, it will take you
less time to give feedback.
3
PRESS
THE LITTLE RED BUTTON
I’m not talking about the fire alarm -- I’m
talking about the record button. Human
beings have a tendency to see and hear
what we want to. That is true from how
we look in bathing suits to believing what
others say about us even when it’s not
true. It also includes pronunciation in a
foreign language. No one likes to hear
themselves recorded. We all sound different in our own heads than we do on a
recording, but making your students listen to themselves as they speak English
is a wakeup call in a good way. Sometimes students think they are pronouncing things in one way or speaking with
fluency when they aren’t. Reality is different than their self-perception. Make
it a regular practice to record your students as they speak. If nothing else, use
an audio recorder. But video recorders
come standard with our phones these
days, so it should be no problem to video
student presentations, role-plays, and/or
discussions. Record each student regularly, and then have them review the recordings. You can get a video of everyone in class over different days and then
give class time to review the recordings,
or you can email your recordings to your
students and have them review them for
homework. Challenge your students to
listen carefully for lack of fluency, pronunciation mistakes, grammatical errors, and pauses in their speech. Have
students write down what they hear.
Also encourage them to write down their
strengths when it comes to their spoken
English. Then have students give themselves a speaking grade and see if it
matches the grade you would have given them on the same recording. You can
discuss your findings one on one, which
will also give each person in class some
individual speaking time with you.
TEACHING IS A CHALLENGING JOB, NO
DOUBT, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU
HAVE TO BE THE ONLY ONE TEACHING
IN YOUR CLASSROOM.
Use these strategies to help students
help themselves, and you will be amazed
at what great instructors they can be to
themselves.
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23
6 Teacher Tools Every Instructor
Should Be Using In Class
WHEN I WAS TEACHING ENGLISH IN
CHINA, MY CLASSROOM TOOK UP
ALMOST ALL OF MY TIME, AND MY
LANGUAGE STUDIES WERE LIMITED
TO TWO ONE-HOUR SESSIONS EACH
WEEK WITH A PRIVATE TUTOR.
For teachers with a background like
mine, who have never been immersed
in learning a second language, knowing just what modifications to make for
LEP (limited English proficiency) students can be a real challenge. After
all, if you haven’t been there yourself,
how well can you really understand
your students’ struggles? Of course
we are empathetic and do everything
we can to help our students, we just
haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.
That’s why it’s important for us to
learn and use modification strategies
for our ESL students when teaching
content in class. That way we can be
sure we are giving our students every
advantage we can and helping them
through the difficult process of learning content in a language they are still
learning as well.
Enough talking about the whys of
modification. Let’s get to the how’s
that give our students the tools they
need to do really outstanding work in
English.
6 TEACHER TOOLS
EVERY INSTRUCTOR
SHOULD BE USING
IN CLASS
1
TIME AFTER TIME
If your class is completing a task
or taking a test in class, giving everyone the same amount of time is only
fair, right? Wrong. Your ESL students
not only have the content task to accomplish -- they also have to grapple
with the English language unlike their
native speaking classmates. One of
the simplest ways you can help your
ESL students is by giving them more
time to complete their assignments or
tests. The extra time compensates for
their additional challenge of working
in English, and odds are your native
speaking students won’t even care
24
that their classmates have additional
time for the day’s tasks.
2
MORE THAN WORDS
I am a firm believer that a good
ESL teacher is by nature (or necessity) a half way decent actor/actress.
You have to be! So much of what we
communicate to ESL students happens through our body language. And
while your native speaking students
might not need this whole body information, your ESL students do. Don’t
hesitate to give your students information through nonverbal means.
This isn’t just for content which you
can communicate through pictures
or actions. This also includes giving
instructions and showing students
how to complete the task you have
assigned. Communicating through
body language lets you bypass the
language center of the brain enabling
your LEP students to follow directions
without slugging through English vocabulary and grammar before they
know what to do.
3
MAKE NOTE OF THIS
Have you ever been taught
such complicated information that
it felt like the teacher was speaking
in a foreign language? My organic
chemistry class was like this for me
in college. No doubt you have had a
similar experience. Now what if that
might-as-well-be-a-foreign-language
complicated information was also being presented in a foreign language?
Double trouble. That may be how
your students feel when you present
information in class. Not only do they
have to grapple with the information
itself, they also have to wade through
the language in which it is presented.
You can make your lectures easier
for your ESL students to understand
by providing them with notes ahead
of time. You don’t have to give them
your teaching notes, but even something as simple as a list of vocabulary
and three to five main points of your
lecture can make a huge difference
for your students. When they have
this information, they can familiarize
themselves with the content and vocabulary you will be teaching so they
have a leg up when it comes to understanding the language as you present
your information in class.
4
GIVE ME A BREAK!
Can you imagine giving lectures
to your students nonstop from the time
you arrive at school until the final bell
rings for the day without a moment for
a sip of water? With no breaks whatsoever to clear your mind or refocus
your energy? I don’t think I could do it,
and your ESL students might feel the
same way about learning in English.
Sometimes simply letting them step
away from their desks for a minute or
two can give them a big boost in their
ability to learn in English. They just
need to turn off their brains for a moment, and a chance to step away from
their desks might be all it takes. Don’t
hesitate to give your ESL students
additional breaks during the school
day. You might let them step out into
the hallway, work independently, or
go outside for a breath of fresh air.
Even if you don’t want to single out
your ESL students but want to give all
your class members a chance to stop,
breathe, and focus it won’t be a bad
thing. Sometimes a little break is good
for all your students and will give them
what they need to jump back in and
be ready to learn.
5
HOW DO I PUT THIS?
When you are assessing your
students’ knowledge in a subject area,
you might not even think about how
many skills it takes to answer your
questions. For example, if you taught
a unit on ecology and wanted your
students to give you the causes of air
pollution, how would you do it? If you
asked students to write a paragraph
giving several examples, you would
not only be testing their recall, but you
would also be testing their vocabulary skills and writing skills. If you had
students give a presentation on the
topic, speaking skills come into play
as well. For ESL students, this can be
more than a reasonable challenge de-
pending on their fluency level. To help
these students, come up with multiple assessment strategies that could
test the knowledge you are looking
for. If you want students to give you
the causes of air pollution, you might
have them draw a series of pictures,
perhaps with a caption for each. Or
you could have them give you the
answers orally rather than requiring
them to write them out. You might
have students type their answers rather than writing them by hand so spelling and grammar are less of an issue
(thank you spell check). Or you might
have students act out their answers
bypassing language skills altogether.
The more creative you are with your
assessments and the more you think
about what skills your students will really need to complete the task you are
asking, the more you can target information rather than language skills for
your LEP students.
6
LOOK UP HERE
Finally, encourage and allow the
use of dictionaries in your class. It’s
not a crutch for your ESL students but
a useful tool that enables them to fully
participate in your class. If students
have an electronic dictionary, let them
use it whenever they need a little extra information. It is fast, convenient,
and a great source of information that
won’t disrupt or disturb the rest of your
class.
HOPEFULLY YOU SEE THE VALUE
IN KNOWING AND IMPLEMENTING
THESE STRATEGIES.
And I hope that your students will
thrive under your attention and instruction whether they are LEP or not.
Making modifications isn’t copping
out. It is helping our students succeed
while meeting them where they are at
in their English fluency.
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8 Simple Steps to the Best
Lesson You’ll Teach All Year
THEY SAY NO TWO SNOWFLAKES
ARE ALIKE, BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR
ENGLISH LESSONS?
Are they all starting to look the same?
Are you bored going through the same
types of exercises in the same ways
every day? Are your students? Maybe
it’s time to change things up a bit and
in the process give what may possibly
be the best lesson you teach all year.
How you ask? Through project based
learning.
WHAT IS PROJECT
BASED LEARNING?
If you aren’t already familiar with it,
project based learning is just what
it sounds like. Students learn not
through lectures and exercises but by
completing a project. The term project
is rather broad, but in this case a project is a real world problem which your
students work to find a solution for.
Project based learning is flexible and
engaging. It’s the perfect way to take
advantage of your students’ natural
interests and have them put their English skills to practical use. This means
that students communicate in a natural way, more like they will have to
use in out in the “real world.” Students
studying English for business purposes often find this approach particularly
useful, so keep it in mind especially
if you teach a business English class.
WHAT ISN’T PROJECT
BASED LEARNING?
Project based learning isn’t throwing
your students in the deep end to fend
for themselves. It’s not giving them a
crazy hard task and then sitting back
to work on lesson plans or catch up
on grading. Project based learning
is a teaching method in which the
teacher is very involved. You work
with students every step of the way
to encourage, guide, and direct when
necessary. It’s also not a way to fill
the time when you aren’t prepared for
class. Project based learning seeks
to teach students very specific skills,
skills which you will determine before
selecting the project. It’s intentional
26
and purposeful and engages students’ interests.
So enough about the what’s and
why’s of project based learning. It’s
time to talk about the how.
8 STEPS TO A
PROJECT BASED
LEARNING LESSON
Though it might seem intimidating
at first, project based learning is really rather straightforward and easy to
plan out with these simple steps.
1
GIVE THE STUDENTS
A PROBLEM/SITUATION
If you can, go along with what your
students are already interested in or
base the project on a question they
have asked. Take advantage of their
passion for a particular topic and design your project around that. If your
students don’t show a strong interest
in any specific subject, that’s okay too.
You can choose a project for them or
give them an area to work on. Just
keep in mind that they will be working
on the project for a significant amount
of time, so make sure the topic will be
interesting and engaging for your students for the long haul.
2
GIVE THEM A QUESTION
TO DRIVE THE PROJECT
This isn’t a yes/no question or one
that is easily answerable with facts or
a Google search. The question has
to be multifaceted, complex. So for
example, if you were doing a unit on
food you would not pose the question,
“What ingredients are in pasta putenesca?” You would want to choose a
more in depth, analysis oriented question such as, “How could we design
a restaurant plan that would take advantage of the multicultural aspect of
our city’s population? What would that
look like?” Keep in mind that this step
is a good place to introduce a specific grammar structure you want to
teach or that your students will need
to complete the project. So this question or one like it might be just right if
you wanted to teach your students the
conditional form in English. Feel free
to tailor the wording of your question
to target the specific grammar structure you plan to teach or you want to
elicit from your students, too.
3
MAKE A PLAN FOR ANSWERING THE QUESTION
This is one of the parts you have to help
your students through. A big question
can be off putting and intimidating.
Develop a plan of research with your
students. The plan should be a multistep process that will lead students
to the answer to the central question.
So looking at the big question, the big
project, how can you break it down
into several steps? What must you
achieve at each step in the process
to move to the next step or to answer
the central question? It is okay if you
need to modify the plan later. It’s just
important to have something in place
for them to follow as they investigate.
Start by brainstorming as a class what
they will need to know to answer the
question. Then try and put these steps
in an order that makes sense. In case
of the restaurant, students might need
to research the nationalities present
in the community, successful and unsuccessful restaurant attempts in the
area, and a cost analysis of starting
up a restaurant as well as planning a
menu and determining suppliers for
the ingredients they would need.
4
MAKE A SCHEDULE
OR TIMETABLE FOR
THE STEPS IN YOUR PLAN
I don’t know about you, but I work
best when I have a deadline to meet,
and my students tend to be the same
way. Make a plan for when each step
in the process should be completed.
And have checks in place to make
sure they are done. Write up your plan
and post it in your classroom so your
students can refer to it daily to keep
themselves on track.
5
RESEARCH THE ANSWER
TO THE QUESTION
Now that you have your central question and a plan for answering it, it’s
time to do some research. Have students work in groups. You should decide how big of a group works best
for your students, but I would suggest
at least three in a group and no more
than five depending on how complex
the question it and how quickly you
want it completed. Make sure you give
your students plenty of time to work
in class and at the library to find the
answers to the question and develop
their plan. If need be, invite people to
come in for your class to interview and
think of other sources of information
that might be of use to your students.
6
dents’ input will be of the utmost value
for the next project based assignment
you do.
PROJECT BASED LEARNING MIGHT
BE VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT
YOU NORMALLY DO IN CLASS, BUT
THAT MIGHT JUST BE THE BEST
THING ABOUT IT.
If you try it, you will be amazed at how
much your students learn in the process and how smoothly that process
can go.
WORK
WITH YOUR STUDENTS
Step six happens concurrently with
step five. In step six, you monitor your
students in their research and findings. You give them feedback, guidance, and encouragement as well as
correction if they need it. Make sure
everyone is participating, and perhaps
do some unofficial evaluating of student skills at this point in the process.
You might also find it necessary to
teach particular language skills such
as a grammatical structure or a writing
technique. It’s okay to take time out
for a lesson on skills your students
need to complete the assignment.
7
ANSWER THE QUESTION
Now that they have completed
their research and met each deadline
in the schedule, it’s time to answer the
original question. Your students will
put the information they have gathered to use and answer the central
question. In the restaurant example,
students would put together their plan
for the multicultural restaurant in the
community.
8
EVALUATE
Evaluation is key for future successes. Give your students some
time with their groups to answer three
questions about the entire project
process. What worked? What didn’t
work? What needs to be changed
for next time? After groups have discussed this, have a class discussion
on the same questions. Make sure
you take notes because your stu-
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27
4 No Prep Get to Know You
(or Know You Better) Activities
WHETHER IT IS THE FIRST DAY OF
CLASS OR YOU HAVE BEEN TEACHING
THE SAME GROUP OF STUDENTS FOR
A WHILE, GET TO KNOW YOU ACTIVITIES ARE A FAVORITE.
For new classes, they help students begin friendships and find things in common. For students who already know
each other, they provide an opportunity
to learn new and sometimes surprising
things about friends. Perhaps that is
why I always like to keep a few get to
know you activities at the ready. They
are a great way to fill a few minutes in
class that you might not have expected to have. If they require no prep like
these, then they are even better. And
that is what you have below – a list of
easy, no prep activities that will help
your students get to know each other
for the first time or better than they ever
have before. Read on, and you might
find you’ll want to do one in your class
today.
TRY THESE 4 NO
PREP GET TO KNOW
YOU (OR KNOW YOU
BETTER) ACTIVITIES
1
MOST DEPRIVED
This is a fun game that is easy and
energetic and gives students a chance
to show what they know about each other and learn new things as well. It also
gets your class moving, so it’s great to
play on a morning when everyone is
starting out a bit sluggish. To play, have
your students arrange their chairs in a
circle in the center of the room. You will
not want to have any desks or any other
items in the middle of the circle. Take
one chair away so you have one person
standing in the middle of the circle and
the rest of your class sitting in the circle. The person who is standing starts
a sentences with, “I have never...” and
then completes it with something they
have never done and which they think
at least one of their classmates has
done. For example, if you were teaching English in the U.S. your student
should NOT say, “I have never been
to America.” Your student might say,
“I have never been to Mexico.” At that
28
point, any student sitting in the circle
who has been to Mexico must get up
out of their seat and sit down in a new
one. The person in the middle will also
sit down in an empty seat. Once all the
seats are full, you will once again have
one person in the middle of the circle.
This game is flexible because you can
play with any number of students and
for any length of time. It’s also a great
go to if you have recently taught the
past perfect tense.
2
WOULD YOU RATHER…?
This game is so popular, an entire
book has been written for it. In essence
the game is very simple. Give students
a choice between two things and ask
them which they would prefer. That’s
it. You can ask your students questions from the book, but you can easily
come up with your own questions (and
use words from your current vocabulary
unit) such as Would you rather have
just peanut butter or just jelly? Would
you rather fly an airplane or drive a car?
Would you rather eat only pizza for the
rest of your life or not eat at all? When
you give the choices, you should point
to one side of the room for each answer.
Students run to the side that represents
their choice. This alone is a good icebreaker, but the next step makes it a
great one for ESL classes. Choose one
or more person and ask them why they
made the choice that they made. This
gives students speaking practice and
lets the rest of the class get to know
a little more about the person who is
speaking. Play for as long as you like
(or as long as you can think of questions).
3
had. And you can have your students
use the information they receive in either a written project or an oral one. If
this is the first time your students are
doing interviews, take a minute or two
to brainstorm with your class questions
that an interviewer might ask. Then
have students partner up and choose
from those questions or use their own
to get to know each other better. Make
sure students have enough time to both
ask and answer questions. Then give
your students an opportunity to share
what they have learned. You might want
to give each class member a minute or
two to tell the class about their partner.
Or you might have students write up an
introduction for their partner and then
post their write-ups on an empty bulletin
board.
4
TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE
This is a super simple game that
gives your students a chance to reveal
facts about themselves that just might
be unbelievable. It works well with a
new class or an established one. Students start by coming up with three
statements about themselves. Two
statements should be true, and one
statement should be a lie. Then students take turns reading their statements to the class, and the class guesses which of the three statements is a lie.
You can have all of your students share
their facts in one session or have one
or two students share at the beginning
of each day’s class. Even if you play
this game with your students one time,
you can always play it again. Students
just have to come up with three different
statements about themselves for each
round of play.
INTERVIEWS
One on one interviews are a great
way to get to know someone in a deeper way, and they also make great exercises for ESL students. For one, they
require both listening and speaking
skills as students ask each other questions and give answers. They give students who have known each other for
a long time as well as those who have
just met a chance to ask questions and
hear experiences that their partner has
HOW WELL CAN WE REALLY KNOW
ANOTHER PERSON?
Better than you think with these four
get to know you activities. Try one with
your class today or when you have a
new group of students and see just how
well your students can get to know each
other.
Lying Low: 10 Commandments
of School Politics
SOMETIMES THE ATMOSPHERE IS
DARKENED WITHIN AN ORGANIZATION WITH WHAT I WILL REFER
TO AS “POLITICS,” THE JOCKEYING
FOR POSITION THAT GOES ON ANYWHERE THERE IS A HIERARCHY.
It may be as simple as a new department chair or school principal coming
on board. One person can in fact impact the entire climate of a school. Or
it may be that two or more people who
got along before are now feuding. The
climate of a school or department can
turn tense and hostile, disintegrating
into pettiness, complaint sessions,
and personal attacks.
Although the situation may seem
hopeless, there is actually a series of
strategies that can be used to address
school atmosphere gone rancid.
10 COMMANDMENTS
OF SCHOOL POLITICS
1
STAY OUT OF IT
The first most obvious course of
action is simply to stay out of the politics and jockeying for position. If the
principal and the department chair are
feuding, for example, simply refuse to
get involved, take sides, or even comment, if you can avoid it. You are not
under any obligation to get involved,
and there usually is little reward for
doing so.
2
FOCUS ON YOUR WORK
AND PROJECTS
Stay focused on your job rather than
the politics — creating curriculum, delivering instruction, assessing student
work, meeting with and advising students, and so forth. This will send two
messages, that you are serious about
you work and that political maneuvering doesn’t interest or affect you.
3
AVOID PERSONAL
ATTACKS. DON’T ALLOW
THEM, EITHER
If you are pulled into a conflict —
someone approaches you directly,
for example, wanting an opinion or
support, or you are working on a project or committee with two people or
groups who are fighting, don’t attack
people personally. One of the features of a dysfunctional work environment is the reluctance of dealing
with people directly and instead going
behind their back to complain. Stay
neutral, focusing on students and the
work and immediate tasks rather than
on personalities when they come up.
If someone is saying negative things
about you, it’s best to address that
person directly and privately, asking
that the behavior stop. Often people
who say negative things behind people’s back are “muted” when someone addressing them directly.
4
BE CONSTRUCTIVE
One notable feature of dysfunctional workplace environment is its
focus on the negative in the environment and the people within it. Look for
ways to build the school and community rather than tearing others down.
Focus on the positive and finding solutions to problems rather than complaining, such as considering ways to
purchase new computers and copy
machines rather than fighting over
these resources.
5
AVOID PETTINESS
A huge time and energy drain is
obsessing over minute details and issues that simply do not matter in the
larger picture. Often it is these petty
issues that negative and controlling
personalities tend to focus on. Avoid
getting drawn into a complaint session on how clean the break room table is kept, for example, and discuss
possible solutions — if the break room
table is even really an issue — or politely excuse yourself from the conversation.
6
FOCUS ON LARGER ISSUES
One way to avoid petty infighting
is by going in the opposing direction
and spending time on larger issues. If
you have no interest in whose parking
space is whose, for example, change
the subject with the concern of the
parking lot comes up and discuss instead getting more student textbooks
or computer programs.
7
PROPOSE SOLUTIONS
Rather than complaining constantly about the parking lot, or the
ancient copy machine, the dirty classroom floors, or any of the myriad “issues” than can come up, focus on
proposing solutions that may affect
positive change to these concerns.
Perhaps suggest a brainstorming session to come up with solutions -- if the
complaining party refuses to participate, it’s likely that the individual values complaining more than fixing the
problem.
8
BUILD SUPPORT
Because negative people tend
to congregate with other negative
people and affect school atmosphere,
it is necessary to build a support network of likeminded people to safeguard against this. Seek out the company of colleagues who also seem
focused on doing their jobs and keeping the atmosphere positive. Consider
having lunch together once a week
or a month during which time ways to
improve the school atmosphere can
be discussed. Also consider enlarging
the group of people by one or two — if
enough people are actively working to
keep a negative political at bay, then it
probably will stay at bay.
9
AVOID RETALIATION
It’s not unreasonable or paranoid to expect retaliation from parties
who would like to draw you into a battle of wills when you simply will not get
involved. When confronted about your
lack of interest or loyalty, empathize,
reassure the confrontational party of
your commitment to the school, but
remain firm that your commitment
is just that — to the school and the
students, not to your peers, however
much you might like them.
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29
10
LOOK FOR AN EXIT
AS NECESSARY
If the school atmosphere has disintegrated to the point where it becomes
difficult to focus or work, it may be time
to move on. Channel your energy into
brushing up your resume and teacher’s portfolio or building a professional
website. Approach trusted colleagues
and supervisors for references. Scout
the internet for both onsite and online
opportunities — increasingly there
are online opportunities for instructors. If you have accrued personal
leave days in your contract, this may
be a time to use them to job hunt and
go on interviews. Try to stay professional and avoid retaliation through
quitting without notice, for example, in
order to retain good will and professional connections.
WITHOUT A DOUBT, A NEGATIVE
ATMOSPHERE AFFECTS EVERYONE IN IT. A NEGATIVE ATMOSPHERE CAN ALSO BE SO DIFFICULT
TO ADDRESS THAT SOMETIMES
LEAVING IS REALLY THE ONLY
FEASIBLE WAY. HOWEVER, OTHER
STRATEGIES INVOLVING AVOIDING
PERSONAL ATTACKS AND FOCUSING ON THE POSITIVE SHOULD HELP
IN MOVING THE SCHOOL BACK INTO
A MORE FUNCTIONAL SITUATION.
30
Keeping it real: 7 Places to Start
in Choosing the Right Realia
THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT EVERY
ESL CLASS IS DIFFERENT.
Different students. Different skills. Different backgrounds. Different interests. But there is also no doubt that all
ESL classes have one thing in common – a need to use real language
in the classroom. You can bring real
language into your class in several
ways. One of those ways is by using
realia for reading activities. Realia is
real life material written in English for
the use of native English speakers.
It is different from materials created
specifically for ESL classes, and the
more realia you can use in class, the
greater advantage your students will
have when they encounter English in
the real world. But how does a teacher
determine what realia is best or what
will work with her students? Here are
some suggestions for real life English
materials that work well in English as
a second language classrooms.
pages of a book, and that’s no less
true for your ESL students than it is
for anyone else. It is important that
your class members be able to read
things that are not organized by paragraph and chapter. Great sources of
practical and short reading are maps,
schedules, and charts. They are information packed and use minimal language, which makes them well suited
to lower level students.
3
ARTICLES AND BOOKS
DISCOVER 7
PLACES TO START
IN CHOOSING THE
RIGHT REALIA FOR
YOUR STUDENTS
Consider what your students
already know or have learned in
their first language. You might think
it strange to give students a reading
selection that covers information they
have already learned, but for ESL
classes it can actually be a shortcut to
comprehension. When you give your
students informational material in articles, books, and the like, sources that
covers material they have already
learned, they focus less on the information contained in the passage and
more on the language that is used to
express those ideas. This also holds
true for encyclopedia entries and
newspapers.
1
4
COMICS
Comics, comic books, and
graphic novels can be a great source
of realia: for the right students. Most
kids will enjoy the three to six frame
shorts, and they may get a few laughs
from them as well. But not all adults
will receive comics favorable. For
some, particularly survival English
students and business English students, comics may feel too childish
for the classroom. If you want to keep
things short for these students withough giving them the feeling of being
patronized, try political cartoons. They
are still short, sweet, and to the point,
but they have a deeper message that
may encourage your students to take
them more seriously.
2
MAPS, SCHEDULES,
AND CHARTS
Not all reading happens between the
RECIPES
Have you ever given your ESL
students a recipe to read? It’s great
fun, especially when you can let them
try the recipe in class or you have
them present their own recipes to the
rest of the class. Recipes are great if
you are teaching the imperative form
in English or if you are talking about
ordinal transitional phrases (first, next,
after that, etc.). They can also be very
useful if you are teaching measurements used in the U.S. or are talking
about count and noncount nouns as
many ingredients are noncount (flour,
milk, rice, etc.)
5
MENUS
And while we are talking about
food, think about bringing restaurant
menus into your classroom. They are
great when you are doing a food unit.
They are jam packed with vocabulary,
and when your students can read
them successfully they will be more
prepared when they go out to eat in
their favorite restaurants. Not only
that, but they make great material for
comparing and contrasting, role playing, and inspiration when you have
your students write their own menus.
The small descriptions after each entry are super small reading passages
and can be used for comprehension
checks and to teach the passive
voice.
6
RIDDLES
Okay, riddle books might be
most popular in elementary school
libraries, but they are great for using in ESL classes, too. What makes
riddles a unique and interesting piece
of realia to use in class is their dependence on the multiple meanings
of words and idioms as well as puns.
Take for example, this classic riddle:
Why did the man throw the clock out
the window? He wanted to see time
fly. To understand this riddle, a person must know the meaning of the
idiom time flies. He must also know
the literal meaning of the verb fly. Putting those two pieces together is what
makes a riddle funny – a literal representation of an idiomatic expression.
Understanding riddles is advanced
work. Puns create a similar challenge.
To understand pun, you need to have
an extensive vocabulary as well as
a knowledge of pronunciation. If you
are looking for a challenge for your
higher level ESL students, try bringing
in a riddle book and see how well they
fare with these tricky phrases.
7
PRODUCT PACKAGING
I will never forget the unit I
taught on companies’ values. The
reason why? I brought in a container
of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream for my
class to share. It was fun and engaging, and of course they loved the icecream, but we didn’t stop there. I had
my students read the packaging. On
it they saw a nutritional information
guide, the company values, a pun in
the ice-cream name, and a list of in-
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31
gredients. Have you ever noticed just
how much information can be packed
into such small packaging? Bring in
your own favorite food packages and
you’ll be surprised at how much you
can do with them in class.
THE KEY TO FINDING THE BEST
REALIA FOR YOUR CLASSROOM IS
KEEPING YOUR EYES OPEN.
If you look around you in everyday situations, if you are more aware of the
materials you read and interact with
on a daily basis, you will find sources
of realia everywhere. Of course you
can and should tailor them to the interests and skill level of your class.
The most important thing about using
realia in your classroom is making a
point to do it. Materials that have been
written for native speakers will be
challenging to your ESL students, but
they can still have successful experiences with these reading materials if
you are intentional about selecting the
right ones for your class.
32
Getting Real with Realia: 4
Creative Uses for ESL Classes
WHAT DO A NEWSPAPER, A
ROADMAP, AND A WEBPAGE HAVE
IN COMMON?
They are all great materials for the ESL
classroom. Not only that, they are authentic materials that can be used easily with ESL students. And while most
of us have textbooks and other ESL
materials we use on a regular basis,
we also know that ESL students benefit when they use authentic English
material in addition to the books and
worksheets written especially for them.
There are good ways to use realia,
authentic English materials, and great
ways to use them. Here are some
ideas for your classroom to use realia
in some not so typical ways.
WHAT IS REALIA?
Realia is unlike most materials used
in the ESL classroom. Rather than being written with a nonnative speaker in
mind, realia are materials that are written for native English speakers. Realia
can refer to a large spectrum of items.
Realia can be visual, such as magazine ads, maps, pictures, postcards,
etc. Realia can also be aural, including
movies, instructional videos, songs,
and lectures. Realia can also be written
such as newspapers, books, webpages, and many other items. I find that
great sources of realia are all around. It
just takes eyes to see and a mind with
the creativity to put it to use.
4 CREATIVE REALIA
USES FOR ESL
CLASSES
1
WEATHER REPORTS
If you are looking for a way to
teach culture, vocabulary, and listening skills all at once, a weather report
may be just what you need. You can
easily find weather reports on your local news website, you can record a report from your nightly news, or use a
weather website such as weather.com.
You may want to start by reviewing a
few key vocabulary words with your
students that will be used in the weather report. Then give your students a
chance to view the report. Have them
listen carefully to the meteorologist’s
predictions for each area on the report.
After once through, you might pause
the recording so students can read the
maps that are displayed and challenge
another skill set. Finally, have students
use the weather report to plan several
activities for the next few days. Make
sure your activities include some that
happen inside and others that happen
in the elements. Students will have to
understand what weather will occur on
each day and then decide how to best
schedule their events. You can use
weather reports from around the country to talk about activities that are popular in different regions. These activities
might include sports, public transportation, and style of homes.
2
NEWSPAPER CIRCULARS
While circulars in class might be
a great way to plan your holiday shopping, they are also a great resource for
your students in class. Try bringing in
some sales papers that advertise similar items at different stores. Have your
students read the descriptions and
compare the prices to decide which
store offers the better deal. You can
also talk about different gift giving occasions and look through the circulars
to see what might be typical gifts for
mothers’ day, fathers’ day, Christmas/
Chanukah, or other occasions. Have
students discuss how these gifts compare to those that people in their home
cultures give and receive.
3
RESTAURANT MENUS
Menus are useful for so many
activities in your ESL class. You may
never have thought to bring a menu to
class. After all, there isn’t a whole lot
of writing in them. But once you start
to look closely, you will find many activities are right at your fingertips. Role
plays are great with the menus for a
prop, but don’t stop there. Have your
customer ask your servers to describe
a favorite dish that is served. The server will have to read the descriptions
and use the ingredients to decide how
the dish will taste – tangy, rich, creamy,
etc. You can also have students use
descriptions in menus as a basis for a
presentation in which they role play the
chef training a new employee to make
each item. Give your students a budget, and tell them they have to order
an appetizer, main dish, and dessert
within the budget. Have students roleplay their orders or simply share with a
partner. If you aren’t comfortable asking for donations from your local restaurant, don’t worry. Many restaurants
post their menus online, and many others have menus you can take for takeout orders.
4
THE JOB HUNT
If you have students who intend
to go into business with their English
skills, this activity will be particularly
valuable. Have students start with indeed.com where they can do a job
search with nothing more than a location and a few key words. The site
will generate a list of jobs, and your
students can go through the list and
choose three or four to bring to share
with the class. Have groups of three
or four students share the jobs they
picked and why. For each job, your
student’s should describe the position
and their responsibilities. For an extension activity, have students fill out a job
application – either for those jobs or
another that has an online application.
Or print out a job application and have
your students complete them on paper.
This will challenge their reading skills
and their abilities to follow directions.
REALIA HAS MANY BENEFITS FOR
ESL STUDENTS.
First of all, it gives them a boost of confidence, confidence that comes from
using and understanding real and authentic English materials. It also helps
prepare them for after the classroom. If
students have success with real world
materials before they leave their English programs, they will be able to use
those same materials better when they
encounter them in the English speaking world. Another benefit of realia is its
inevitable inclusion of culture. Culture
is subtle and hard to pinpoint, but it
comes through realia without the creators even intending so.
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Happy Students: 4 Steps You
Should Have in Every Lesson
HAVE YOU EVER FELT SO OVERWHELMED YOU DIDN’T KNOW WHERE
TO START?
Perhaps you had taken on a big project
or a lofty goal and you couldn’t see the
steps it would take to get you to the finish. Sometimes planning a language unit
can feel that way. Our students have so
many needs, there is so much to teach,
we can become at best confused and
uncertain, at worst immobilized. We just
don’t know where to start. No more. Now
planning language units can be as simple as one, two, three, and four. Steps
that is. Here is a four part process guaranteed to include everything your students need to accomplish their language
learning goals and everything you need
to walk them through the process.
Before you do any planning of activities,
clarify what your goals are. You need to
know where you and your students are
going before you can plan the route to
get them there. Ask yourself, “What do I
want my students to know or be able to
do? What should they be able to accomplish?” Keep the answers to these questions in mind as you walk through the
other steps in the instruction process.
4 STEPS YOU SHOULD
HAVE IN EVERY
LANGUAGE LESSON
1
STUDY TIME
The first step in planning a complete language lesson is to hit the books.
I don’t mean just the grammar exercises
in chapter five. I mean any instruction
you need to give to help your students
accomplish the goal. It might be grammar exercises in a book, but it might also
include reading an article or writing a
paragraph. It might mean learning new
vocabulary or learning how to interview
someone. Generally, however, step one
is when you give knowledge to your students through instruction and through
written materials. It’s probably what you
are doing without even thinking about
it. And that is great, as long as the language lesson doesn’t stop there.
34
2
LISTEN UP
I have found in my years of teaching internationals, that many students
who may be quite proficient at reading
and writing have little experience in the
verbal aspects of language. Their previous English programs did not stress listening and speaking, and that is only one
of the reasons you need to include it in
your lesson plans. The point of learning
language is communication, and much
communication happens through listening and speaking. That’s the number one
reason for including it in your lessons.
So make a point to including at least one
listening exercise in your lesson plans. It
doesn’t have to be a dialogue on a cassette that came with the book. Play a
video, a TED talk, a movie clip, a song,
a weather report, anything that will challenge your students to use the langue
they are learning in an aural capacity.
Don’t stop there. Give your students one
or more speaking exercises. Have a discussion, plan a debate, let students give
presentations, or let them talk to native
speakers. This may be intimidating for
some students, but when you include it
in every lesson, they will get more comfortable at speaking in English and the
next time will be easier and less stressful.
3
DESIGNATE TIME FOR STUDENTS TO ASK QUESTIONS
Setting aside a specific and designated
question time is important for ESL students. And though you may give your
students freedom to ask questions any
time you teach, they may not feel comfortable asking questions. Adult students
may be afraid to ask questions thinking
they may look foolish or they may lose
face. Struggling students may have such
a hard time with the basics that they do
not even know what questions to ask.
To make question asking a bit more
friendly, consider these two options.
First, you might have everyone in class
write a question on an index card, collect
them, and then answer each of them.
That way, no one looks unintelligent in
front of their classmates. Another way to
combat this issue is to have a questions
box in your classroom. Think of it like a
suggestion box, but this box will contain
questions from your students rather than
suggestions on how to improve customer service. Keep it available in your
classroom and let students add questions to it whenever they like.
Whether you choose either of these options or just set aside a specific question session, make sure you answer any
and all questions your students pose. If
you do not know the answer, tell your
students you will find it out and then get
back to them. And make sure you do it.
Nothing is worse than a teacher breaking their word to a student.
4
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, AND
PRACTICE SOME MORE
Now that your students have all the theoretical knowledge they need, it’s time to
apply what they have learned. The best
applications are realistic applications,
those that your students are likely to encounter in the real world of spoken and
written English.
Try to focus on practicing with some
real life language sources otherwise
known as realia. You may have chosen
realia for your listening material, but you
can also have students look at English
magazines, menus, fill out applications,
whatever it is that makes them use English in a practical way that will prepare
them for speaking English in the real
world. Have them place an order in a
restaurant. Have them approach a librarian for additional information. What you
choose to do will depend on what you
have taught your students and what resources you have available to you. But
the more you can get your students in
real life language situations, the better
off they will be when they complete your
program.
ESL TEACHERS HAVE SO MUCH FLEXIBILITY WHEN IT COMES TO PLANNING
A LESSON. If you make sure you have
these four components: Study, Listen, Ask
questions, and Practice (SLAP), your students will surely be successful and you
will know you have given them everything they need to succeed in the English
speaking world.
High Tech Teaching: 8 Technologies You Should Be Using
TO SAY WE LIVE IN A WORLD OF TECHNOLOGY IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT.
Technology surrounds us from the
moment our IPhones’ alarms wake
us up until we fall asleep reading our
kindles. So why is it that we don’t
use technology to its full advantage
in the classroom? Yes, we may have
a computer in the corner or free WiFi for our students, but the world of
technology has so much more to offer
teachers and students if we just take
the time to learn about it bring it into
our classrooms. The good news is if
you are reading this you are taking a
step along the right path. Here you
can learn about eight different technologies that will take your classroom
from great to stellar. So what are we
waiting for? Here’s what you need to
know to create your own high tech
classroom.
8 TECHNOLOGIES
YOU SHOULD BE
USING IN CLASS
1
SMART PHONES
If you are teaching a class of
internationals, odds are your students all have smart phones at their
disposals. Use them. Smart phones
are great resources for ESL teachers.
You probably don’t have a computer
in your room for every one of your
students, but with smart phones you
don’t need to. Your students can surf
the net, do research, set up and use
email, and use applications that will
help them as they learn the English
language. Don’t stop there, however.
Use those smart phones to record
students’ speaking and presentation
skills, and then have students review
their videos and grade themselves.
2
POWER POINT
Power Point presentations are
often a given in classrooms today, but
are you using them to their full potential? Some teachers think a simple
cut and paste with their lecture notes
makes an adequate presentation.
While that will help your ESL students,
in particular with unfamiliar vocabulary and English spelling, you can do
so much more in a presentation. You
can embed videos and songs in them.
You can show pictures and diagrams.
I don’t have time to talk about it all
here, but do yourself and your students a favor and learn about all the
options power point has to offer for
lively and useful visuals in class.
3
YOUTUBE
Oh, how I love YouTube! I can
find a video on just about any subject
I am teaching my students. These
videos are great for teaching new
vocabulary, exposing my students to
different accents and types of spoken
English, and for giving them a model
for presentations they will give to their
classmates. But you can also find language lessons, instructional videos,
and move clips on YouTube. We are
past the age of cueing up a VHS tape
to the clip we want to show in class.
Instead, find the snippet you are looking for on YouTube and play it for your
class that way. (Or email them a link
so they can watch it on their smart
phones.)
4
NEWSELA
Are you familiar with the website/app Newsela? If not you will want
to be. Newsela is a great source of
current event articles. What makes it
different from a newspaper or online
articles is Newsela has five leveled
versions of each news article. That
means you can give your beginning
students one version and your advanced students another version and
still talk about what is happening in
the world. Do a little exploring on your
own and you are sure to find lots of
ways Newsela can work for you.
5
DIGITAL BOOKS
Do you remember your younger years, dragging backpacks full of
books around from one class to another? No more. With the digital publishing age, you can have a thousand
books at your disposal at any time,
right in your pocket! You may still use
text books in your class, but even so
digital books can be a huge asset to
your classroom. Did you know that
many libraries now lend e-books?
And that those books can be imported
to your Kindle device or app for the
length of the loan? When students
read books in kindle, they can easily get a definition (in English) of unfamiliar words as well as hear that
word spoken. And there are plenty of
other ways to get digital books for free
through aps or websites, a great resource for teachers on a budget. So
don’t let yourself be chained to the
page. Consider using an e-book the
next time you give your students a
reading assignment.
6
DROPBOX/GOOGLE DOCS/
EDOMO
File sharing sites such as Dropbox,
Google Docs, and Edomo are great
for keeping up communication with
your students. You can share worksheets, homework assignments,
reading passages, and completed
homework with your students with the
click of a button. Not to mention they
are free – a word that is music to most
teachers’ ears. And if you are teaching young students, you don’t have to
have your own website to communicate with their parents (although that
is great if you can swing it). Put your
communications in your file sharing
favorite and let parents cut and paste
into an online translator, and your relationships with your students’ parents
will move to a whole new level.
7
VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS
Not many schools can give ESL
teachers the resources to take their
students out of the classroom on a
regular basis. But with virtual field
trips, you can bring the world into your
classroom. Free, online field trips include the National Zoo in Washington
D.C., the Statue of Liberty, the White
House, and the Louvre. In the age of
technology, the world is simple a click
away. Click it right into your classroom
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35
and give your students an experience
they will never forget.
8
GOOGLE EARTH
I know you’ve assigned your students to talk about their dream vacation location, write about their hometown, or do activities using maps in
class. Bring those assignments to a
whole new level with Google Earth.
With it, your students can (virtually) be
in the places they are talking and writing about. They can visit each other’s
homes, explore the world, and have a
realistic experience of a location they
might otherwise only dream of.
TECHNOLOGY HAS SO MUCH TO
OFFER TEACHERS AND STUDENTS.
It’s up to us to seek out the high tech
resources that will best benefit each of
our classrooms. I hope after reading
this you have some ideas on how to
bring technology into your classroom
in new and exciting ways. Remember,
the world is only a click away.
36
Penny Pinching: 13 Great Places
to Find Resources on a Budget
LET’S FACE IT.
None of us went into the teaching profession because we thought we could
make a million dollars. Teaching is infamous for reaping low salaries and
even lower budgets, so every teacher
I know is continually looking for inexpensive resources for the classroom.
Never fear! You can have great materials in your classroom without breaking the bank. Here are some places
to look for materials you can use in
class.
13 GREAT PLACES TO
FIND RESOURCES ON
A BUDGET
1
NETWORK
Probably your best source for
ideas and materials is other ESL
teachers. If you have other teachers
at your school, pool your resources.
You may be in different classes, but
you are still on the same team, and
you may find that sharing benefits
both you and them. But don’t feel
stuck if you are the only ESL teacher
at your school, join an online forum or
a local network of teachers and pool
your resources there.
2
SWAP IT
Once you get involved with a
group of teachers, you may hear of a
resource swap. A swap is basically a
get together where everyone brings
one or more idea or resource material
(kind of like a classroom potluck). You
come together, see what each person
has, and trade. Everyone leaves with
less unwanted classroom clutter and
at least one fresh resource for their
classroom. It doesn’t take a lot to organize a swap, so don’t be afraid to
put on one yourself if you don’t find
another one near you.
3
BUSY TEACHER
If you are looking for lesson
plans or worksheets, you already
know what a great resource Busy
Teacher is. We have thousands of
worksheets and lesson plans that you
can simply print and go at no cost to
you. If you want even more resources, try our eBook collection which will
give you enough ideas to keep your
classroom busy.
7
HOMESCHOOL RESALES
Busy Teacher isn’t the only website
to find great resources. Try Teachers Pay Teachers or education.com
among others for more resources for
free or at discount prices.
If you have a homeschool network near you (and you probably do
whether you’ve heard of it or not)
check with them to see if they have
a book swap or sale any time during
the year. Often they do, and you can
get text books for all levels and ages
which you will find useful in your ESL
classroom. Particularly useful are
reading curriculums that include reading material at a variety of skill levels
– just perfect for ESL students in the
process of language learning.
5
8
4
OTHER TEACHER
WEBSITES
LIBRARY SALES
Twice a year, my local library
has a public book sale where they sell
donations from the community as well
as library books that don’t circulate or
that have been damaged. At our sale,
you can get a paper grocery bag for
$5 and fill it with as many books as
you can. This is a tremendous way to
get books for next to nothing for my
classroom. (It’s not unusual for me
to get 30-50 books in my bag.) Many
libraries offer similar sales once or
twice a year. Ask at your local branch
about book sales coming up in your
area to cash in on a bargain book sale
near you.
6
DISCARDS
What do people do with magazines once they have read them? I
know what my friends and family do.
They give them to me! My students
use old magazines for countless activities in my classroom, and yours
can, too. Start saving magazines
of your own, put a message out on
social media that you are collecting them, or hit up your local used
book store for next to nothing prices on old reads. You can use those
magazines for all sorts of activities
in your classroom both as reading
material and for the pictures as well
as not-so-typical vocabulary words.
END OF THE YEAR
CLEAN OUT
Your local public schools probably
spend some time at the end of the
year doing cleanup and clear out of
books and classroom materials. A
phone call or two may be all you need
to have access to texts and other materials your schools are getting rid of,
and you will find that those materials
are great resources for your students.
9
USED BOOK STORES
Used book stores are a favorite
hangout of mine, but besides giving
me reading material for next to nothing, they are a great place to get resources for your classroom. My bookstore has a clearance section where
nearly everything is $1-2. These
clearance items include children’s
books, nonfiction books, and teacher resources. It’s all about looking
through the clearance section at the
right time to find the books I’m looking
for. But even if I don’t hit the clearance
section at the right time, the store has
plenty of educational resources at low
prices. Check out your local bookstore and see if you can’t find some
great resources for next to nothing. I’ll
bet you can.
10
THRIFT STORES
When was the last time
you were in a thrift store? While most
may focus on clothing for all ages,
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37
you will also find books, games, and
other materials that work great for the
ESL classroom if you take a look. Inventory changes every day, so make
a habit of stopping by the Salvation
Army Store, Goodwill, or whatever
thrift store is close to you and look
for old games, books and magazines,
and other materials that fit in with
whatever unit you are teaching.
11
THE DOLLAR BINS
Have you looked in the dollar bins at Target and Michaels lately?
You can find great resources there all
through the year but especially right
before back to school. You can find
workbooks, flashcards, classroom
manipulatives, and tons of creative
materials. I take a look every time I
am in the store, and I am rarely disappointed. They are also great resources for student prizes, stickers,
and classroom decorations. Don’t
see what you are looking for in these
bins? Try a dollar store near you for
an even greater selection.
12
EBAY
Are you an eBay shopper?
You should be if you are looking for
discounted equipment and resources
for your classroom. You can find just
about everything imaginable for sale
on eBay. I was intimidated before
my first purchase, but now I see how
easy it is. You can also check sites
like etsy and even amazon.com for
discounted purchases. Amazon sells
used items that you can often get for
nothing more than the shipping. Just
click on the other items for sale button
to see what you can get used or new
from other sellers.
13
MAKE YOUR OWN
MATERIALS
No doubt you have made plenty of
your own materials for use in class.
I don’t think any teacher can make it
through his or her first week of teaching without making at least a worksheet or two. But you can also make
audio recordings, film your own videos, and write your own reading passages for use in the classroom. A little
creativity will take you a long way
when it comes to making your own
materials.
IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR DISCOUNTED MATERIALS, THEY ARE
38
EASY TO FIND IF YOU JUST TAKE A
LOOK AROUND YOU.
Be creative in where you look and
what you make yourself, share with
others around you, and you will be
ready to go with tons of resources for
your classroom.
The Book Is Not Enough: 6 Ways
to Supplement Your Lesson Plans
DON’T YOU LOVE IT WHEN YOU
HAVE THE PERFECT LESSON PLANS
SIMPLY GIVEN TO YOU?
When you can follow along in the book
and just do the exercises the curriculum’s author set forth? When you don’t
have to supplement at all? Yeah, it’s
never happened to me either. Even
the best curriculums and lesson plans
need supplementing. Don’t you wish
you had a tool that could make this
easier? That could show you just what
you need to add and how? Well, here
you have it. No matter what you have
or don’t have in your curriculum, here
is a step by step process to figure out
what you need and how to supplement
what you have.
6 SIMPLE WAYS TO
SUPPLEMENT YOUR
TEXTBOOK LESSON
PLANS
1
READ THE CURRICULUM
As you might expect, the first
step is to read the curriculum. You
have to know what you have before
you know what you need. As you read,
you’ll have to have your goals in mind,
what you want your students to learn.
While you are reading, ask yourself
these questions:
1. Is the curriculum at the appropriate level for your students? Just
because you are teaching an intermediate class doesn’t mean your
students are intermediate level.
Give the activities a hard look and
determine if your students will
be able to successfully learn the
material through these activities.
Eliminate any that are too hard or
too easy for your class.
2. Does it cover reading, writing, listening, speaking, vocabulary, and
grammar? It might not need to if
you are teaching only one area
of language. But more likely than
not, you can’t draw lines so clearly
on what areas of English you are
responsible for teaching your students. Plus, language flows together. Reading is connected to
writing, listening to grammar, etc.
You can’t truly isolate one aspect
of language from another. If you
notice any areas of instruction that
aren’t covered in the lessons you
are given, make note of it.
3. Do the given activities touch on
different learning styles? Are students working on their own and
in groups? Is it communicative?
Is there something visual? Aural? Kinesthetic? Logical? Social?
Solitary? Each of these is a valid
learning style, so make note if one
or more of them isn’t included in
the activities you have.
Once you ask yourself these questions, you will have a good idea of
where you need to supplement. Make
notes of any area that isn’t covered in
the given curriculum, or if it’s easier
make yourself a check list with your
goals, the different areas of language
instruction, and the different learning
styles. Check each one off the list as
you read through the curriculum and
what you have left on the list are the
types of activities you need to supplement.
2
CHOOSE ACTIVITIES TO
COVER THE MISSING LANGUAGE SKILLS AREAS
This step is so easy to write down, but
the actual doing of it can take some
time. Depending on what you have on
your missing items list, you may only
need a few supplemental activities or
you may need a lot of them. Here are
some ideas for activities you can do in
each of the language skills areas.
Reading – If you don’t have reading
covered in your curriculum, consider
adding an activity like the following.
Read a newspaper article or short story and answer questions on the material. Do research online. Have students
look up answers to questions in books
you have in your classroom.
Writing – If you need to add a writing
exercise, try the following. Have students write a summary of something
they read or heard. Have them write a
letter to someone associated with what
you are studying. Have them support
their opinion in writing or write an essay that discussed the topic. Have
them write an email or memo.
Listening – Do your students need
more listening practice than is included
in the curriculum? Show a video, movie, news clip, or play a song. Challenge
students to listen for specific words,
information, or to use the information
they hear in a response.
Speaking – There are tons of ways
to get your students talking, but here
are some easy ideas. Have students
discuss the topic, have them practice
a dialogue, play a game, talk about
a picture, or plan an event. Let them
interview each other or, even better,
native speakers to cover listening and
speaking at once.
Vocabulary – For any new words students encounter in their reading or
listening materials, have them look
up words in the dictionary, determine
meaning from context, match words
to synonyms or antonyms, or break
words down into roots and affixes and
learn the meanings of those.
Grammar – If you need additional
grammar practice for your students,
give them worksheets, exercises in the
book, have them make corrections to
something you write, or have them edit
a classmate’s composition. You can
also take time in the computer lab to
do exercises online or play a grammar
game on any of many ESL websites.
3
CHOOSE ACTIVITIES
TO COVER THE MISSING
LEARNING STYLES
You’ve read through the curriculum. Is
there something to look at? Listen to?
Touch and manipulate? Do students
have a chance to talk to each other?
Do they have a chance to work on
their own? Is there music involved in
the lesson? Hopefully your curriculum
connects with several different learning styles. If not, supplement with one
of these ideas.
• Visual/Spatial – Write notes on the
board, have students read information or gather it from a chart.
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39
•
•
•
•
•
•
Aural/Auditory/Musical – Make
sure you tell your students what
you want them to learn in addition
to reading it. Put the language
skills or vocabulary you are teaching to song. Or have students listen to a recorded dialogue and
use it as a model for their own
speech.
Verbal/Linguistic – Here is some
good news for all of you language
teachers out there. If you are
teaching just about any aspect of
language, you have covered this
learning style. For students who
learn this way, languages come
easy – both spoken and in writing. You probably won’t’ have to
add anything to your lesson plans
to accommodate these learners.
Just remember that not every language learner will pick up on what
you are teaching as quickly as
your verbal learners will.
Physical/Kinesthetic - Are your
students doing something? Are
they moving? To aid these learners, use manipulatives in class,
play games that include movement, or try the Total Physical Response technique.
Mathematical/Logical – Give
these students a puzzle to solve
with the skills or information you
are teaching. Have them solve a
problem. Use the discovery instruction method. Students who
learn this way want to figure out
things on their own.
Social/Interpersonal – Students
who learn this way like to talk,
and that’s good news for the language teacher. Include some type
of discussion or group project in
your lesson plans to make sure
these students are getting what
they need.
Solitary/Intrapersonal – Students
who learn this way need time to
work on their own. You might add
doing worksheets or writing about
their own opinions for these students and of course giving homework.
4
TWEAK EXERCISES
AS NEEDED TO MEET THE
STRENGTHS AND STRUGGLES
OF THIS SPECIFIC GROUP
OF STUDENTS
Only you can know what your students are capable. Make your activi-
40
ties a little harder or a little easier. Add
steps to the process or take some
away. Or if you are lucky, leave them
just where they are.
5
CHECK FOR PRACTICAL
APPLICATION AND ADD
IF NECESSARY
Practical language use is realistic
language use. Make sure you have a
connection to real life language use in
at least one of your planned activities.
If not, add one or more. Have students
read something written for native
speakers. Have them talk to strangers
on the street. Or maybe have them
write a letter or make a phone call.
6
PLAN A WARM UP
AND SOME FILLERS
IF THEY AREN’T INCLUDED
Don’t expect your students to jump
right in to the deep end when it comes
to what you want to teach. Plan one or
two activities to warm them up. Do a
review, play a game, do an ice breaker, give students a problem to solve,
or plan a discussion on today’s topic.
While you are at it, make sure you
have a couple of fillers in your back
pocket for those times when your lesson doesn’t take as long as you anticipated or it takes too long to go on to
the next thing in today’s class. Busy
Teacher has tons of resources for
warmers and fillers.
THAT’S IT.
Six steps and you are ready to go confident that your students are learning
everything you intend them to learn
and that every student will connect
with the material in meaningful ways.
You are ready to conquer the world,
well at least teach this week’s lesson.
You’ve Got THAT Kid in Class?
4 Challenging Student Types
HAVE YOU EVER FOUND YOURSELF
ASKING, “WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN
MYSELF INTO?”
Teaching the English language requires a certain set of knowledge and
skills, but dealing with challenging
students requires a whole other skill
set. The good news is that many of
these student types can end up being no problem at all if you know how
to make class work for both you and
them.
4 STUDENT TYPES
THAT MIGHT
CHALLENGE YOU
IN CLASS:
THE I’M-JUST-HERE-FOR-AVACATION STUDENT
Teaching is not only your job -- it’s
your passion. Perhaps that is why a
I’m-just-here-for-the-vacation student
can be so frustrating. These students
want to travel, see the world, take a
trip to the United States, and the easiest way to do it is to enroll in an ESL
program. Once they get to the U.S.
however, their motivation is low, their
participation minimal, their homework
nonexistent. How do you keep your
entire class engaged and motivated
when at least one among them won’t
take classroom time seriously?
These students are challenging because they tend to have an influence on the other members of your
class. When one person never does
homework, doesn’t engage in class
(if they show up), and makes no effort to learn, these attitudes can rub
of on other students, especially ones
who have been studying English for a
length of time and might like a vacation themselves.
To help manage unengaged students,
you can try these strategies.
• Make class as fun as possible.
Play games, use movement activities in class, and watch movies
when they tie into what you are
teaching. Not only will this peak
the interest of your unengaged
•
•
students, your other students will
enjoy themselves as well.
Take fieldtrips when possible.
Most travelers love to sight see,
so make that a part of your class.
You may not be able to take your
students to the statue of liberty or
other traditional sight seeing destinations, but even trips to a local
playhouse will let your students
experience the special places
your country has to offer.
Make your lessons practical.
Most likely you have preset material you have to cover in class,
but tweaking it to apply to international travelers can help. For example, if you were doing a unit on
travel, apply it by teaching your
students how to use the public
transportation in your specific city.
If you are doing a unit on sports,
talk about your local professional
teams or even your high school
teams. Go to a game outside of
class time if you can. Make real
connections between your course
material and the world right outside your door, and you will see
your students engage.
THE I-NEED-TO-UNDERSTANDEVERY-SINGLE-WORD STUDENT
I will never forget one of my students,
Anna, who was determined to know
the exact meaning of every singe
word she read. She spent so much
time look words up in the dictionary
that she missed the greater parts of
language – things like grammar, sentence structure, and conversation.
She was chained to her dictionary,
and no matter how many times I tried
to help her understand, she would not
believe that she could read and speak
English without memorizing a translation of every word she encountered.
These students are a challenge because what underlies the issue is fear.
They are afraid they will not be able to
function in English if they don’t know
every nuance of vocabulary. Students
who are overly dependent on the dictionary actually end up hurting themselves more than helping themselves.
There are a few things you can do to
help students stuck in the bilingual
dictionary rut.
• First, try limiting bilingual dictionary use. For me, I find that once
students reach an intermediate
level, they tend to hinder their
progress more than further it. My
preference is to have no bilingual dictionaries in class, but that
is not always possible. In such
cases, limiting dictionary use to
certain activities can encourage
students to develop the skills that
help them acquire new vocabulary without getting a translation
for every word.
• You should also have English only
dictionaries available in class and
encourage all of your students to
use them. English only dictionaries are different because their
definitions force students to make
connections between English
words rather than between English words and those of their first
language. Make sure your dictionaries have simple definitions,
those that will be easier for your
ESL students to understand.
• If you still have students struggling
with dependence on bilingual
dictionaries, it’s time to do some
activities with nonsense words.
Students can’t look up a word’s
definition if it doesn’t really exist in
the English language. Give your
students exercises in which they
must determine a word’s meaning from context by replacing said
word with X or a made-up word
such as buzzing. This activity will
help them develop the skill they
need to guess meaning of unfamiliar words in the future.
THE THIS-IS-KEEPING-ME-BACKFROM-REAL-LANGUAGE-USE
STUDENT
In all of my years teaching ESL, I
would guess that ninety percent of
my students were planning on going
on to an English speaking secondary school or using English in the
business place. For some students,
studying English can feel like an in-
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41
convenience, something that is keeping them from the real world. The
problem is that students who are not
adequately fluent (not perfectly fluent)
will have far more struggles after their
English studies. These students are
very similar to...
THE I’M-JUST-HERE-FOR-A-TOEFLSCORE STUDENTS.
None of them necessarily wants to
learn English. Fluency is simply a
hurdle to overcome before heading
out to the real world. These students
just want to get through the program
as quickly as possible.
The underlying struggle with these
students is impatience. They feel
like they are wasting their time while
studying the English language and
want to move on to the real stuff.
To help these students, make your
class as real-life applicable as possible. Rather than having them write
an essay along the lines of how I
spent my summer vacation, have
them write a product comparison and
recommendation for their company.
Instead of playing news clips for listening practice, try using recorded
college lectures. (You can probably
find these in your college library or online.) Choose topics and assignments
that directly relate to what your students will be doing after their English
program. That way students feel like
they are already doing the “real stuff”
even though they are still studying the
language. Another tip – if you have a
class that has both pre-academic and
pre-business students, give them different assignments that use the same
skills. There is no rule that says half
of your class can’t write an interoffice
memo while the other half writes an
email to a professor.
TEACHING IS CHALLENGING, BUT WE
LOVE IT.
That is why we do it. And while most
of our students are as pleasant as
punch, every once in a while we end
up with students who challenge us.
These student’s don’t have to be the
end of your happy classroom. With
a few simple strategies that problem
student might just become your best
student of all.
42
Tests, Yea or Nay? Advantages
and Disadvantages
WE ALL NEED TO KNOW HOW OUR
STUDENTS ARE DOING, RIGHT?
We need to know if they truly meeting
all the objectives, or not. This is where
tests come in handy. They give us the
feedback we need to know what to focus on more, what needs to be worked
on and what doesn’t. Sadly, they make
a lot of people nervous and anxious,
and they are also a lot of work for
teachers. Nonetheless, we all know
what the advantages to testing are.
The real question is: how often? Some
subscribe to the idea the more the better. Others don’t since they believe that
testing too often does not promote real
learning. So what are the advantages
to using tests and disadvantages of using them too often? Let’s take a look.
4 ADVANTAGES
OF USING TESTS
1
TO TEST THE STUDENT
It goes without mention that
checking to see if your students are
learning is incredibly important. No
matter what is taught, tests are a way
for teachers to determine which students are having trouble and which are
acquiring the skills and knowledge they
should be acquiring. The result of the
test can help the teacher know if some
things should be reviewed, or if it’s
okay to keep moving forward. Where
grades are concerned, they give students something to strive for and work
towards. Students can ask themselves:
I know how I’m doing. Can I do better?
What other goals can I achieve?
2
TO TEST YOUR SCHOOL/
INSTITUTE
Schools and/or institutes are responsible for choosing or even creating
the programs that are used in their
institutions. Tests give them accurate
feedback on how well designed these
programs are and how they can be improved. Also, they would be able to see
if something needs to be added or removed from the program.
3
TO TEST THE TEACHER
Since teachers are directly re-
sponsible for providing the lessons
themselves, tests also provide insight
on how well they do their job. After all
it’s not only about the program, material and students. Teachers have to
work their magic to manage all these
elements and any others that exist to
ensure learning takes place. Basically,
to see how well they are teaching their
students. Tests can help them ask
themselves: Are the strategies I’ve chosen, the best? What teaching methods
or approaches are most effective? Are
any changes or modifications needed
to help my student? What have they
learned? Can the student use the new
knowledge? Can the student demonstrate and use the new skills accurately?
4
TO KEEP STUDENTS
MOTIVATED
Most would agree that the harder you
work, the better you do. With this in
mind, students tend to work harder if
someone is checking up on their work.
Tests help keep students on their toes
and ensure, to some extent, they don’t
let their work slide. If they know that
they’ll have to take a test on the material, they might be more likely to give it
that extra effort.
4 DISADVANTAGES OF
TESTING TOO OFTEN
1
UNREALISTIC
EXPECTATIONS
Unrealistic expectations may be one
of the greatest risks to success where
tests are concerned. It is very important
to have clear and realistic objectives
of what your students are actually excepted to achieve. Testing too often can
affect how clear objectives are to learners and teachers. Testing should take
place only after specific milestones
have been achieved.
2
DE-MOTIVATING
Too much of something is usually
not good, at least that’s what most say.
It’s always better to avoid excesses.
So if that’s the case, testing too often
should be avoided too. While working
towards a goal can be very motivating,
as we mentioned earlier, by using tests
too often you run the risk of putting unnecessary stress and pressure on students. Testing often may result in a decrease in their enthusiasm.
3
CAN PROGRESS BE
MEASURED ACCURATELY?
Tests need to be spaced out. When
there are too many tests, they tend to
bunch together and don’t really provide
a clear view on what the progress has
been between one test and the one that
follows. It’s kind of like reading something when it’s held too close to your
eyes. The words get jumbled up and it
is confusing. By holding it away or leaving some room, things become easier
to see.
4
IS THERE ROOM
FOR IMPROVEMENT?
When tests are taken too often there
is little space between them to make
improvements or needed changes. If
a student is facing an issue, they won’t
have enough time to dedicate to the
areas that are difficult to them either.
There simply might not be enough time
to make the necessary improvements.
SO WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Well, as we said before, perhaps it’s
best to simply avoid extreme situations.
Use tests moderately. Keep in mind
that tests are part of assessment, they
are part of a bigger picture. As they say,
there is more than one way to skin a
cat. To avoid using tests too often, perhaps other forms of assessment should
be used instead. Remember that there
are many different forms of assessment. Project-based assessment is yet
another alternative, though it tends to
be collaborative. Tests should be used
when you need to look for knowledge
and skills for individual students. They
provide data on individuals. To sum up,
don’t go overboard with tests. Try to
prepare a well designed portfolio that
includes different types of assessment
including some tests.
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43
Preparing for Your Teacher
Evaluation [10 Tips]
TEACHERS SPEND A LOT OF TIME
ASSESSING STUDENTS AND TEND TO
BE GOOD AT ASSESSING OTHERS.
Sometimes, however, the tables are
turned and teachers are the ones who
are assessed in the form of observations and student evaluations that often
occur annually. During the evaluation, a
peer or supervisor visits the classroom,
watches the teacher in instruction, prepares notes on the observation, and often at the end does a student evaluation.
Teacher observations and student evaluations are usually taken seriously professionally, having implications for advancement and continued employment,
so teachers are generally concerned
about doing well on their observations.
There are several strategies and steps
an instructor can take to have a successful evaluation.
10 TIPS FOR PREPARING
TO YOUR TEACHER
EVALUATION
1
CONSISTENTLY NURTURE
A POSITIVE CLASSROOM
CLIMATE
The first step to a successful classroom
observation actually occurs before the
observation — from the first day of class,
in fact. It involves consistently nurturing a positive classroom environment
where students feel respected, the work
is productive and focused on course objectives, and the instruction is clear and
meaningful. If this environment has not
been established, putting it into place
for observation day will not likely work.
Again, establishing the positive learning environment is much of the battle —
then all that is required for the observation is to teach as usual. However, there
are still some further steps that should
be further taken.
2
DECIDE THE LESSON
Review the observation parameters
in the letter sent by the department. How
long will the observation be, how much
of the class session? Is there any specific content or strategy that the observer
wants to see demonstrated? Decide on
a lesson that will likely work within these
parameters. Plan it carefully, noting the
objective, materials needed, and steps
44
involved. Remember to put the plan in
writing and make it clear and readable
as observing faculty usually wants a
copy of a written lesson plan.
3
PREPARE THE STUDENTS
Mention the observation to the students and what to expect, just so that
they are prepared for the break in routine, which some students have difficulty
with.
4
PREPARE THE CLASSROOM
Going back to the lesson you have
decided on, make sure the class is set up
for that day with audiovisual equipment,
books, and other materials needed. Configure the classroom as necessary, moving the desks in the desired format and
gather the supporting materials needed.
5
INTRODUCE THE OBSERVER
During the actual observation, begin by explaining in a matter-of-fact way
why the observer is there: “Ms. Holloway,
whom you may know from other classes,
will be joining us today to watch the lesson...” etc.Treat the observer as much
a part of the class as possible, such as
sitting with the students and following
along with the same materials.
6
RELAX
Relax. Breathe deep. Smile. Remember the observer is there to support you. If you are prepared, you are
less likely to be nervous. Rely on your
notes as necessary. Focus on the task,
the instruction, and the students, not the
observer.
7
TRY A TYPICAL TEACHING
DAY AND LESSON
Proceeding with a typical teaching day
that fits into the sequence of instruction
will help with any anxiety, as you are doing something familiar. Also, it is helpful
to the observer as well as the class as
whole if this is a usual lesson, not a “dog
and pony show” — that is, something for
demonstration only, not authentic purpose. If you are genuine, this helps with
your nervousness, the observer’s sense
of what you are really like in the classroom, as well as the students’ learning
as they are not receiving “fake” instruc-
tion for show but genuine teaching within
the true context of their class work.
8
BE FLEXIBLE
As stated, the written lesson plan
will help with anxiety, giving a sense
that you know where you are going. But
as with teaching in general, flexibility is
called for. Don’t be afraid to deviate from
the lesson plan. A student may ask an
unexpected but very relevant question
that deserves to be addressed in some
depth. You may find that the lesson plan
is a little too complex or too simple for
the students and that you need to slow
down or speed up and adjust in general.
That you are able to make these adjustments on the spot will impress the observer more than if you had stuck faithfully to a plan that wasn’t quite working.
9
INTEGRATING THE OBSERVER INTO THE CLASSROOM
Observing faculty and administrators
have different philosophies about how
much they want to be involved in the
class instruction when they observe: do
they prefer sitting in the back of the class
taking notes or would they like to have
a more active role in actually joining the
class instruction? If possible, find out
ahead of time how the observer would
like to participate in the class.
10
DEBRIEF
Whew — it’s all over! The observer has left after the completing the
observation and perhaps doing student
evaluations as well. You may now spend
some time debriefing students, answering any questions, and thanking them
for participating in a successful observation. You may also have a final debriefing session with the observer, in which
feedback will be given, both positive and
constructive. Listen attentively, perhaps
take notes, and take the feedback seriously for possible adjustments to your
instruction.
Few people like to be observed or
watched. It provokes stress and can
even lead to mistakes. However, through
preparation and attentive planning and
listening to feedback, a successful observation can be achieved.
Time Management and
Teaching Multiple Classes
ONE OF THE CHALLENGES OF
TEACHING IS TEACHING MULTIPLE
CLASSES WITHIN YOUR DISCIPLINE
RATHER THAN MULTIPLE SECTIONS
OF THE SAME CLASS.
Teaching multiple classes means
having different class preparations or
“preps”: that is, different texts, curriculum standards, and different lectures
and activities. This can be stressful
and nearly impossible if the different
preps begin to reach four or five. In
addition, for adjunct faculty, the courses may occur on different campuses.
Fortunately, however, there are some
methods to manage the course load
and still serve students well.
10 TIME
MANAGEMENT AND
TEACHING MULTIPLE
CLASSES RULES
1
KNOW THE STANDARDS
AND COURSE OBJECTIVES
OF EACH CLASS
Knowing intimately the standards
and course objectives of each course
will help in instruction in that you’ll
have internalized the direction of the
course and what educational goals
students are headed toward. Therefore, much time is saved in not having to go back and review and check
off objectives as you design activities.
With clear understanding of the objectives, some “automaticity” will take
over, and you’ll be able to plan the direction of the course fluidly.
2
FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF
WITH THE CURRICULUM
OF EACH CLASS
Similar to understanding the course
objectives is knowing the curriculum
and materials intimately. You will with
this knowledge be able to connect the
curriculum with each objective. You’ll
be able to see where an activity will
meet a course objective, perhaps impromptu, during “live” instruction, if it’s
in your repertoire of teaching strate-
gies, and know how to implement the
activity without much preplanning.
3
ORDER BOOKS
AND MATERIALS EARLY
Ordering books, desk copies, related
materials, and setting up accounts on
related sites as soon as possible helps
enormously in advance planning. The
book and related materials are usually a major focus of the instruction.
You may also go on the publisher’s
website and/or Amazon -- many sites
now have the table of contents of the
textbook available so that you can begin some preliminary planning even
before you have the text.
4
PRACTICE GOOD
ORGANIZATION
AND TIME MANAGEMENT
Strong organizational and time management skills are critical to successfully navigating a large course load.
Keeping all course materials in separate files, for example, and maintaining the file system, correcting student
work as soon as it comes in rather
than procrastinating (as tempting as
that may be), and budgeting time for
planning are all strategies that will
help you in successfully plotting a
course for a successful semester with
a full course load.
5
PLAN A SEMESTER
SCHEDULE BASED
ON COURSE OBJECTIVES
Plan out a draft of the semester’s
schedule based on course objectives,
noting what goals and activities and
assignments will be completed and
what should be read on a week-toweek basis. This schedule can and
will change, of course, but there is
now a tentative plan in place to keep
everyone, students and instructor, on
target, and the instructor at a glance
can get an idea of what the class
should be prepared to do on a weekto-week basis with some adjustments.
6
PLAN AS YOU GO
As you are finishing one class
session, take notes on possibilities
for the next. If something was not finished in one class session, or questions came up this class session that
were not addressed, then the instructor knows what the next session
should cover. If she noticed during the
course of the session a skill or point of
understanding that students are weak
in, then that may suggest the next
session’s learning focus.
7
LEARN STUDENTS’ NAMES
As difficult as it may be if you
have six rosters of thirty students,
learning students’ names early is invaluable in building relationships and
saving time. If the instructor knows
the students’ names, for example,
she will not have to go back through
six rosters to identify which student in
which class just emailed her (or is on
the phone at this moment). Learning
names can be accomplished through
such techniques of saying each student’s name when returning papers
or during discussion, having students
make up name cards to place on their
desks in the first weeks of class, or
even saying each student’s name to
yourself as you circulate the class
during group work.
8
TAKE NOTES
Regularly taking notes, even a
couple of lines, during group discussion, individual conferences with students, and after a lecture can help in
keeping a record or what material was
covered and what students’ individual concerns are, again saving time
in reconstructing where the class is
and what student concerns are when
planning.
9
USE REMINDERS AND
OTHER MEMORY TRICKS
Most smart phones these days come
equipped with a calendar application,
which has a “repeat” and “reminder”
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45
system. Noting all of your classes and
their times and places, set to repeat
through the term, as well as a reminder set for a half hour or hour ahead of
time will help you avoid the dilemma
of running across campus trying to
remember if you are now supposed
to be in English 105 or 51 or if it is
in Building B or C, or even avoiding
heading south on the freeway toward
one campus when you are supposed
to be heading north toward another. If
you don’t have a smart phone with a
calendar application, much the same
principle applies to noting the classes
in pen throughout the term in a paper
day planner/schedule.
10
UTILIZE THE
SCHOOL’S LEARNING
MANAGEMENT SYSTEM. POST
LECTURES, ASSIGNMENTS,
GRADES. STORE MATERIALS
IN ALL ONE PLACE
Course management systems/companion websites, available through
such vendors as Canvas and Blackboard, are really one of the great educational innovations of the technical
age. On the class site the instructor
can post announcements, email students, upload important files, read
and mark student work and return it to
them. All of this saves time and space
in not having to phone or email students with changes in the schedule,
not having to keep and organize multiple copies of the course syllabus and
important documents, and keeping
student papers organized and safe. It
is all on the website.
TEACHING ITSELF IS NOT EASY, AND
TEACHING A LARGE COURSE LOAD
WITH MULTIPLE CLASSES SPREAD
ACROSS VARIOUS CAMPUSES IS
MORE DIFFICULT STILL.
But by utilizing time management and
organizational skills, as well as taking advantage of such developments
of the technical age as smart phones
and course learning management
systems, the instructor can successfully navigate the very busy term.
46
10 Commandments of Dealing
with Problem Colleagues
The overwhelming majority of colleagues in the teaching profession are
supportive of each other, going above
and beyond in helping each other with
the endless bureaucracy of education
and its paperwork as well as mentoring each other with curriculum, instruction, and assessment matters.
There are those trouble making colleagues, however, as with any profession, who seem to thrive on obstructing one’s effectiveness as an
instructor and damaging professional
relationships. This behavior is probably the result of personal insecurity as
well as professional instability. Particularly in times when the general economic climate is poor or the individual
worksite is going through turmoil or
change, some insecure professionals at the site may feel the need to
establish a pecking order and their
place within it to secure their position.
These particular colleagues can be
difficult to deal with because of their
lack of respect and aggressiveness,
but there are ways to address the
problem behavior.
5 TYPES OF PROBLEM
BEHAVIOR
IN COLLEAGUES
The first step in addressing a problem
is generally in identifying it. Below is
a discussion of the different types of
common problem behavior found in
faculty.
1
LACK OF RESPECT
FOR BOUNDARIES
Disrespect of personal boundaries
is usually a starting point in problem
behavior, a “red flag” that the behavior will continue if it isn’t stopped. Examples are unwelcome touching (not
necessarily sexual, such as wiping
invisible “dirt” off your shirt), barging
into your classroom when you are
teaching, interrupting at faculty meetings, and general lack of respect for
personal and professional space.
One such violation means little, but
added up they mean a lot and can
chip away at personal and professional self-esteem.
The first step in addressing problem
behavior is professional behavior of
your own. Keep a polite and professional distance from the bully.
2
2
GOSSIPING
The next level of problem professional behavior is gossiping. With
teachers this can often be related to
perceptions of what is, or is not, going on in the individual teacher’s class
and the “kind” of teacher she is.
3
CONTROLLING
Another boundaries violation involves control: control of one’s time,
space, and resources. Some examples might be continued attempts to
bait you into unwanted discussions,
change your classroom to a less favored one, and “borrowing” class materials without permission.
4
BACKSTABBING
Sometimes, not often, the problem behavior escalates into actual
sabotage. Methods by the offending
party might include are the efforts to
damage your personal reputation and/
or performance, through such behavior as gossiping and saying negative
things to students about your classes.
5
BULLYING
Bullying can include orders and
demands that the individual making
them has no place giving, such as
where and when your class should
meet and what you should teach students.
10 COMMANDMENTS
OF DEALING
WITH PROBLEM
COLLEAGUES
1
BE A ROLE MODEL.
DON’T BACKSTAB, GOSSIP, CONTROL, BULLY,
OR VIOLATE BOUNDARIES
ESTABLISH A NETWORK
OF SUPPORTIVE COLLEAGUES
Establishing a professional network
can be helpful — people you support
and who will support you.
3
FRIENDLINESS. ATTEMPT
TO WIN OVER THE BULLY
It may be difficult, but be as friendly
and helpful as possible to the problem
individual. At minimum, even if friendliness doesn’t win her over, she will
have less to complain about to others
if you are unfailingly polite.
4
DISENGAGE
Refuse to engage the problem
colleague at his or her level. Just ignore him, as your mother might have
said. This does send a message that
the behavior is too petty for you to
trouble with. This is called an “extinguishing” strategy: if the colleague
gets no reinforcement for his or her
behavior, he will often cease and desist.
5
CALL OUT BEHAVIOR.
AVOID PERSONAL
ATTACKS
Confrontation finally may be needed.
Avoid personal attacks. Stay focused
on the behavior, and don’t let the offending party change the subject or
sidetrack the issue.
6
SET LIMITS
Set limits about what behavior is
and isn’t acceptable. Discuss consequences of further negative behavior,
such as speaking to the dean or chair
of the department.
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47
7
DIALOGUE
Attempt to engage the offending
colleague in dialogue, your position in
the matter, and how destructive behavior is not in anyone’s best interest.
8
EMAILS. KEEP RUNNING
RECORD
It may be helpful to get the dialogue in
writing. Ask the problem colleague to
email you his or her concerns. However, often the problem colleague initiates an email dialogue and copies a
series of colleagues, both peers and
superiors, in a further effort to establish control, and often apparently
ignorant of the inappropriateness. I
always keep such a dialogue open,
“copying all” in my responses — having opened the dialogue to the public, the colleague will have to keep it
there. The tactic usually can backfire
as his or her inappropriate behavior is
exposed. And it is in writing!
9
KEEP THE DIALOGUE BRIEF
AND TO THE POINT
Stay focused on the problem behavior you want changed: colleague’s
constant invasiveness of your classroom, for example. Don’t let the conversation trail off into a discussion of
how long the colleague has or has not
been at the school site, etc. Be a broken record on the behavior you want
to see changed if necessary.
10
INVOLVE HIGHER AUTHORITIES
Finally, involving higher-ups may be
the last resort. This usually will come
after the “copy all” caper. You now
have a running record of the behavior. Indeed, a higher up may approach
you first on the concern.
ADDRESSING PROBLEM BEHAVIOR
IN COLLEAGUES CAN BE VERY DIFFICULT AS THEY ARE USUALLY DIFFICULT INDIVIDUALS WITH SEVERE
PROBLEMS, BOTH PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY, ACTING
OUT OF HURT AND INSECURITY.
HOWEVER, WITH PERSISTENCE,
YOU CAN ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES
AND THE MESSAGE THEY WILL NOT
ENACT THEIR HURT ON YOU.
48
5 Simple Steps to Incorporating
7 Learning Styles in One Lesson
LEARNING STYLES…YOU’VE HEARD
THE WORD.
You’ve thought about how to include
them. But if you’re anything like me,
when it comes to incorporating every
learning style into every lesson, it’s
a bit overwhelming. A bit bulky. A bit
more than I might want to think about
with every lesson I teach. If you’ve
ever felt that way, I have good news
for you. You don’t have to have seven
special activities in every lesson to hit
the learning style of each of your students. Here’s a simple five step process to make sure you cover all your
bases (and styles).
5 SIMPLE STEPS TO
INCORPORATING
SEVEN LEARNING
STYLES IN ONE
LESSON
1
TEACH
Most likely when you give a lesson, you spend at least part of your
time presenting information to your
students. I know I’m not one for lecturing, but even keeping teacher talk
time to a minimum I still spend some
time explaining how English works
to my students. If you do too, you’ve
already reached out to two different style learners – the aural learners (who learn best though listening)
and verbal learners (who learn best
through words whether spoken or
written and are your natural language
learners anyway). With one simple
part of your lesson, you’re almost a
third of the way there.
2
WRITE NOTES
ON THE BOARD
While you are teaching, you are most
likely making notes on your board.
You should be. Because this is how
your visual learners will connect with
the information you are presenting.
They learn best through their eyes,
and seeing the rules of syntax on the
board or reading the new vocabulary
you are presenting will be great for
connecting them with the language
concepts you are teaching.
3
GET MOVING
Now that you have presented
your information in both spoken and
written English, it’s time to get your
students moving. This is where you
can include an active game or any exercise that requires students to move.
In so doing, your kinesthetic learners
will thank you. They learn through
movement, and getting their bodies
involved in the lesson will help them
connect with language.
4
DISCUSS
You’ve presented the information to your class. You gave them
some practice in a movement activity.
Now, let them put the language you
are teaching to use in a discussion. If
you can, give your students discussion
prompts that will elicit the structure
you just taught or will require them to
use the vocabulary they just learned.
For example, if you were teaching the
simple past, ask students to talk about
what they did yesterday or last year.
They will have to use the simple past
as they discuss their activities. When
you include a discussion in your lesson, your verbal learners will connect
with the content again, but so will your
social learners. These students learn
best through interaction with others,
and that is exactly what they will be
doing when they talk with a classmate. Depending on what content you
are teaching, you might want to give
your students a problem to solve during their discussion. Problem solving
appeals to logical learners. In our past
tense example, you might say Jane is
preparing a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. What did she buy to get ready
for the dinner? When you give students a problem to solve, your logical
learners will love you for it.
5
ASSIGN HOMEWORK
Odds are you are going to assign homework to your students. Believe it or not, even this will appeal to
one of the seven learning styles, this
time the intrapersonal learners. These
students like to work independently,
and when you assign homework,
these students will learn and connect
with English while working on their
own.
That’s all it takes. Five simple steps
which you are probably already including in your lessons and each
of the seven learning styles will be
reached. But just because you can
doesn’t mean you have to stop there.
Here are some other ideas for appealing to each of the learning styles as
you teach.
1. Aural learners learn through listening. Try including activities that
use music in your classroom. Play
a movie clip or video in class.
2. Visual learners learn through
sight. They will connect with information written in your text book,
which you can have them read.
You can also use diagrams or
graphic organizers to appeal to
their learning style.
3. Kinesthetic learners like to move.
The Total Physical Response
(TPR) technique works great with
these learners. Try doing a little
TPR before presenting your lesson to the class. You can also
have manipulatives available in
class – things they can move –
like cards, objects, or pictures.
4. Logical learners like to think and
solve puzzles. You can appeal to
their learning style by including
work with money or shapes. You
might also consider having them
gather information (try interviewing native speakers) and then
organizing that information into a
chart.
5. Interpersonal learners like to work
with other people. Interviews are
great for reaching them as well,
and any kind of group work will
give them the social interaction
they love when learning. Setting
up conversation partners will also
help these learners on their English journeys.
6. Intrapersonal learners like to work
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49
independently. If you assign group
work, they may end up doing all of
the work on their own. Consider
defining and assigning specific
roles for the group work so they
are not the only ones completing
an assigned project.
7. Verbal learners are naturals when
it comes to learning languages.
To make sure they are adequately challenged in class, you might
want to assign additional activities or a more complicated application of language to keep them
interested and engaged in class.
Have them do a presentation or a
role play as well.
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT APPEALING TO EVERY LEARNING STYLE IN
EVERY LANGUAGE LESSON, THINGS
CAN GET A BIT OVERWHELMING.
But you may be appealing to more
learning styles than you realize in
what you do. As long as you present
your information, make notes on the
board, assign homework, and include
discussion time and some activity that
gets students moving, you are teaching to the seven different learning
styles. You don’t have to stop there,
though. In the case of learning styles,
more is better, and the more activities
you include in your lesson, the better
off your students will be.
50
5 Things You Need to Know Before Teaching Private Students
ESL TEACHERS COME IN A VARIETY
OF SHAPES AND SIZES, AND SO DO
OUR TEACHING ENVIRONMENTS.
Most ESL teachers may have classes
in classrooms and schools, but some
of us get to teach in more challenging
environments, like company offices or
private homes. The latter in particular
poses a series of challenges, especially if you’re teaching kids. Whether
you are already teaching students in
their homes or planning to do so in
the near future, here are five things
you need to know before you embark
upon this journey, most of which you’ll
need to discuss with at least one of
the child’s parents.
5 THINGS YOU MUST
KNOW BEFORE YOU
TEACH ESL STUDENTS
IN THEIR OWN HOMES
1
WHERE WILL THE LESSONS
BE HELD?
Will you be teaching in the living room,
dining room, family room, den or outdoor terrace? No matter what they
choose to call it, it’s better if you have
access to a large room with few distractions. I don’t recommend teaching
in your student’s bedroom and here’s
why. In most cases, the bedroom will
be filled with distractions, like toys,
games or stuffed animals. Students
might be tempted to plop down on
the bed while they listen to you. While
there’s nothing wrong with your students wanting to show you their collection of Marvel action figures, it is
best for you to recreate the classroom
environment as best you can – and
the bedroom should be the sanctuary
where students get to rest after their
lessons. Don’t invade their sanctuary
and pick a more neutral ground instead. Also be sure to find out if there
are any places that are out of bounds.
Needless to say, you shouldn’t wander around the house. Stay within the
confines of the area that has been
designated for your lessons.
2
WHAT MATERIALS
CAN YOU USE?
Are you planning on using materials
like paint, glue or modeling clay? It’s a
good idea to get a parent to authorize
their use. Some parents are very strict
about things like finger painting in the
living room where they have expensive rugs. If they agree to let you use
these materials, try to come up with
ways to protect the furniture or other
expensive items.
3
WHAT ACTIVITIES
CAN YOU DO?
Will you be able to sing, dance or play
an enthusiastic game of catch? Again,
you need to get the parent’s authorization. You may be alone with your
student during the lesson, but you
don’t know if there other people in the
house, an elderly grandparent who
might be napping or someone working in a home office. Before you start
bellowing “Head, Shoulders, Knees
and Toes” at the top of your lungs,
you need to find out if there’s anyone
who might be disturbed. By the same
token, before you start tossing a ball
around the living, you need to find
out if there are any delicate items you
might accidentally break. Be mindful
of your surroundings and respectful of
the residents of the house.
4
WILL THE PARENT
BE PRESENT?
It has never happened to me, but I
have heard of cases where the parent
sits next to the child during the entire
lesson. This is something you need to
negotiate with the child’s parent. They
might want to be there for the first lesson just to see what it’s about. And
that’s fine. But I would recommend
trying to encourage them to gradually
step aside. If the problem is that child
doesn’t want to be alone with you, this
can also be remedied over the course
of several lessons until the child gets
to know you better. Once you’ve established trust between all parties involved, the parent will probably natu-
rally step aside.
5
WHAT TECHNOLOGICAL
DEVICES WILL YOU HAVE
ACCESS TO?
Will you be able to use a computer in
the house? Where is it located? What
about the TV set and a DVD player?
Is there WiFi in the house so you can
use your laptop? Maybe your student
is old enough to have their own cell
phone... will you have the parent’s
permission to use it? Or a tablet? Before you hit play on the family DVD
player for that special video lesson,
you need to make sure you have the
parent’s permission to use it, and furthermore, you need to take a few minutes to learn where everything is and
how everything works. Because some
of these devices might be located in a
different room of the house, I recommend telling the parents in advance
that you’ll be needing the TV, DVD
player or computer for the following
lesson.
SETTING SOME GROUND RULES
Above all, you need to remember that
you’re in someone else’s home. You
need to respect the family’s privacy
and be sure you don’t disturb any of
the other members of the household.
Have a meeting with one or both parents and be sure to discuss each one
of these points. If you produce a written contract so much the better.
IT MIGHT TAKE A FEW ADJUSTMENTS, BUT TEACHING ESL STUDENTS IN THEIR OWN HOME IS NO
THAT DIFFERENT FROM TEACHING
STUDENTS AT A SCHOOL.
Private ESL students are not that hard
to find and private lessons are a great
way to boost your income! Keep these
pointers in mind, and you’ll keep everyone happy.
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51
Close & Personal: 5 Keys to Success for One-on-One Teaching
I have taught ESL in many different
contexts – an ESL class in an international school overseas, classes at a
university in the U.S., university level
classes for a corporation, and one on
one both in a tutoring center and with
business clients.
I appreciate different aspects of each
of my teaching positions -- they have
all been memorable in their own ways.
But one of my most interesting experiences was the one on one teaching.
There is so much potential when you
are working with only one student. You
can tailor what you teach to their exact needs. You get to know them and
their culture in a deeper, more personal way. But teaching one on one
also comes with unique challenges. If
you find yourself teaching one on one,
no matter what the context, here are
some tips to help you make the most
of your teaching time and ensure that
your class is a success.
5 KEYS TO SUCCESS
FOR ONE-ON-ONE
TEACHING
1
KNOW THE CULTURAL ISSUES THAT COULD COME
INTO PLAY WITH YOUR STUDENT
When you have one and only one student in your “class” cultural issues can
become more obvious. If you do or
say something offensive in your student’s culture, they might take offense
whereas a full classroom might buffer
those offenses or make it clear that
the issue is cultural and not personal.
To avoid cultural missteps, once you
know who you will be teaching do a
little research about the cultural expectations for teachers in that culture.
You might want to pay special attention to acceptable forms of body language, eye contact, personal space
(how close to stand to someone when
talking to them), and gender roles.
That way you can know what triggers
might cause a cultural misunderstanding between you and your student and
52
take special steps to avoid them.
2
KNOW WHAT YOUR
STUDENT’S SPECIFIC
GOALS ARE
When your student is paying for one
on one teaching, the (higher) bill for
them will often come with higher expectations for you. Take some time at
the beginning of your teaching schedule to assess both the perceived
needs (what your student thinks he
needs to know) and the real needs
(what you evaluate what he needs
to know) of your student. What does
your student want to learn? How will
he be using English once he has finished your program? Knowing what
your student wants to learn will help
you keep him satisfied. But you’ll
also have to teach what your student needs to know. Is there a specific area of grammar in which he is
lacking? Does he need pronunciation
practice whether or no he knows it?
Once you know these real needs and
these perceived needs, you will have
to walk the fine line of teaching what
your student wants to learn while also
teaching what he needs to learn.
3
BE PERSONAL
If you are accustomed to teaching in a more traditional classroom,
you might be tempted to jump right
into instruction with your student at
the start of each day. Teaching one on
one, however, requires a more personal beginning to the lesson. Take a
few minutes to build rapport with your
student before you start your lesson
plans. Ask polite questions and take
time to chit chat. Building this relationships is important for successful one
on one teaching. It is also good for
getting your student ready to learn.
And don’t feel as though you are
wasting time being social at the start
of class. Your student will be learning and practicing polite conversation
skills, speaking, listening, and pronunciation as you talk together.
4
MAKE YOUR LESSONS
PRACTICAL
You probably already know how important it is to include realia in class.
Materials created for native speakers
present a different challenge for English as a second language learners.
But realia isn’t the only way to make
your lessons practical. Whenever
possible, include materials your student will have interaction with after
your program, whether those materials include business memos or academic texts. When you give assignments, angle them toward how your
student will use English in his real
world. Have your student write an
email rather than a personal letter.
Have him fill out a real job application rather than talk about his family
tree. Whenever you can, apply your
student’s ultimate language goals to
what you use in class and the work
you assign him to complete outside of
class. Doing so will give your student
a leg up when it comes to his post instruction English use.
5
MULTITASK
When you are a classroom of
two, reviewing homework may not
seem a valuable way to spend class
time. But even if there are more important or interesting things to do in
class, assessing your student’s performance on yesterday’s work is still
important for you. You need to know
what he does and doesn’t understand
so you can teach the appropriate material today. So instead of having your
student sit there in silence as you correct his homework, plan on multitasking. Have an independent assignment
ready for your student to work on as
you look over his homework at the
start of class. Beginning class this way
offers many benefits. First, you will
have a guilt-free moment to look over
yesterday’s homework. Second, your
student won’t feel like they aren’t getting the full attention they are paying
for since they won’t have empty, purposeless minutes in your class. Third,
it’s a good way to get your student in
the mindset to tackle today’s lesson.
You have many options for the independent work your student completes
at the start of class. Give him a review
sheet. Have him attempt a new skill
that you will be teaching today. Give
him a reading passage, listening assignment, or grammar exercise to get
him thinking about today’s topic. All of
these will be a beneficial start to your
student’s class session.
WHETHER YOU ARE A SEASONED
TEACHER OR GETTING READY TO
START YOUR FIRST TEACHING
POSITION, ONE ON ONE TEACHING
IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM
HAVING A FULL CLASSROOM.
When you know the expectations your
student has and what he plans to do
with English in the long run, you will
be able to design lessons that give
him just what he needs and keep him
satisfied with your role in his education, too. Keep these tips in mind, and
you are sure to get off on the right foot
with your student.
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53
The Rut and Isolation: Issues
in One-on-One ESL Instruction
MOST LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION, INCLUDING ESL INSTRUCTION, TRADITIONALLY OCCURS IN A
GROUP SETTING, THE CLASSROOM,
WHETHER IT’S A LARGE OR SMALL
CLASS.
However, occasionally the ESL instructor will be called upon to tutor an
ESL student in a one-on-one situation,
usually because the student can’t attend a regular class because of work
or other scheduling difficulties.
One of the most effective methods
of learning is actually one-on-one instruction and coaching because of the
ability to target the student’s specific
learning needs, among other advantages. However, especially in a language class, one-one-one tutoring
can also have a number of disadvantages such as the following.
3 DIFFICULTIES
IN ONE-ON-ONE
ESL INSTRUCTION
1
INTENSITY
Focusing on one student’s
needs is intense, for both the instructor and the student. The class session
is not broken up in the usual rhythm of
moving, calling, on different students,
and transitioning between activities,
both of which provide at least short
breaks for everyone. This intense focus on one student can be tiring or
even exhausting.
2
MONOTONY
One-on-one instruction can also
be monotonous. In the first week of
instruction, usually, the student and
teacher usually target the student’s
specific needs and favored learning
style and often fall into a set routine of
a couple of favorite activities.
3
LACK OF VARIETY
One-on-one instruction often
takes place in the student’s home, and
the curriculum materials are brought
in by the teacher, which therefore lim-
54
its options. In addition, even within
these limited materials, often a few
activities are focused on, as noted,
because they are the most favored by
the student and teacher.
In addition, because there are only
two people in this setting, the conversational practice and groupings
are limited between the student and
the teacher rather than between the
student and one or more peers, as
usually would be the case in a larger
classroom.
These concerns can leave the instructor holding up a stop sign if asked to
tutor. However, there are also methods to turn these disadvantages into
advantages.
7 METHODS FOR
TRANSFORMING
DIFFICULTIES INTO
ADVANTAGES
1
INTENSE PRACTICE
Because of the intense focus, a
lot of ground can be covered both in a
class session and a term. The teacher
can read more student work outside
class as well as teach more material
during, and the student can practice
more both during and after class.
2
CHANCE TO VARY
CURRICULUM
Because there is only one student,
the specific student needs can be
targeted and the curriculum can be
changed rather than sticking to one
text and set of standards and course
objectives, as is usually the case in a
regular semester classroom with thirty
students, where the text and the curriculum is usually firmly established,
often by people far removed from the
classroom, and the curriculum can’t
be altered even if most students are
failing or bored.
In one-on-one instruction, the teacher
can find out student interests and areas for development and bring in re-
lated materials.
If the assignment isn’t working, the
lesson isn’t working, the student did
not complete the requisite homework,
finds the work too easy or too difficult,
the instructor can alter the curriculum
based on changing need.
3
OPPORTUNITY FOR A VARIETY OF PRACTICE
In one-on-one instruction, there is
freedom to expand classroom walls
into the community, and therefore the
monotony of student working only
with instructor can be eliminated. The
student and teacher can go into community of shops, cafes, parks, bowling alleys, golf courses — whatever
appeals to the student and where language is used — rather than just reading about these places in a book. The
teacher and student can also, rather
than sticking to the book, go online for
practice on sites of student interests.
Finally, the student can bring in texts
or work from other classes that can be
the focus of instruction.
4
OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS VARIETY OF ISSUES
Often students come to class with
questions related to living in the community, adjusting to college, and US
life in general that is of more pressing
concern than the unreal conditional
verb construction. In a one-on-one
class, these more personal issues
can be addressed, setting aside the
regular curriculum for a moment. Addressing these specific life needs of
the student can become “teachable
moments” in which authentic language and culture become the curriculum.
5
OPPORTUNITY TO PACE
CLASSES
Because the class and instruction
take place outside of a regular class
setting, the class can be paced according to student/instructor need:
lengthening and shortening classes
according to student need or taking breaks during the class session
as appropriate. In a traditional class
setting, the time for class is rigid and
fixed whether or not it meets most students learning and life needs.
6
FREEDOM
FROM BUREAUCRACY
Because the class takes place outside
of a regular school, there also tends
to be less bureaucracy: fewer forms
to fill out, fewer surveys given to students, fewer meetings and workshops
and classroom visits, all of which eat
up valuable class time.
7
FREEDOM TO DESIGN
CURRICULUM
If the instructor has an ambition to
write a book or design curriculum, the
one-on-one class is a great place to
begin gathering materials, designing
activities and learning projects, trying
them out with the student, and getting honest feedback. And it can all
be done without designing a formal
survey!
Without a doubt, the one-on-one tutoring session has the potential to be
both intense and boring. However,
with careful consideration, these disadvantages can be turned into the advantages of freedom from set curriculum, timing, and bureaucracy as well
as freedom to design one’s own class
and materials to meet student need.
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55
From Zero to Online Hero: Building Your Online ESL Client Base
TEACHING ENGLISH ONLINE, EITHER
THROUGH A SCHOOL AND AS AN
INDEPENDENT FREELANCER, HAS
BECOME ONE OF THE FASTEST
GROWING SECTORS OF THE ESL
MARKETPLACE.
There is tremendous, global demand
for cost-effective, personalized lessons, and no shortage of both new
and experienced ESL teachers who
are keen to take advantage of the new,
widespread availability of broadband
Internet. From Tokyo to Timbuktu, new
students are signing on in ever-growing numbers, and for many teachers,
the flexibility of working from home has
become an attractive alternative to the
week-in, week-out grind of working for
a traditional, bricks-and-mortar school.
4 TRICKS FOR
BUILDING YOUR
ONLINE ESL CLIENT
BASE
1
GENERATE A CONTACTS
LIST
If you sign up to work for an online school, then they will handle the
tricky business of finding students for
you. This relieves you of the burden
of marketing, using social media and
generating a contacts list, although it’s
important to stress that many schoolbased online teachers eventually
‘graduate’ to working for themselves,
and that their existing students will
form the basis for the client base as
an independent teacher. However, if
you’ve decided to strike out on your
own from the outset, you’ll need to put
some time and effort into creating the
client base for yourself.
In such an active marketplace, creating
a studio of online students might seem
as easy as posting an advert on Craigslist or creating a simple website and
then waiting for the students to come
knocking. But the very vibrancy of the
market poses a challenge: how can
teachers hope to differentiate themselves from the competition, when veteran teachers and low-cost providers
are so well placed to sign up these ea-
56
ger students? How can we reach, sign
up and maintain relations with a range
of students when so many others are
doing the exact same thing?
Unless you’re arriving in the online
ESL field as a brand new teacher, you
have the luxury of using your existing students as the basis for a larger,
ongoing client base. They know and
respect you, and are in a position to
recommend you to their friends, family
and classmates. Depending on where
you’re working, it might be possible
to quietly gather contact information
(most critically email addresses) from
your existing students: ensure them
that you won’t be spamming them with
offers of cheap Rolexes! This information will form the first few lines of
your all-important contact list, a master
database of all the potential students
you’ve ever been in contact with. If
possible, also include contact information for their parents, as many online
teachers have found consistent business by teaching first the older child
of a family, and then their younger siblings.
Your contacts list will probably be an
Excel file which will include:
• the student’s name
• their email address (and, if possible, those of their parents)
• their social media details (Facebook, Twitter, Skype etc)
• their age and/or grade level or university year group
• notes on their age, level and life
situation (applying to colleges,
studying for an MBA, big fan of
How I Met Your Mother, etc)
• notes on any friends or family who
might become students in the future
2
USE YOUR CONTACTS LIST
The main purpose of having
such a list is to generate customers, in
this case, students for your online lessons. Though they know you already
(either personally, or by reputation),
it’s important to remember that most
people don’t respond too well to a
bare-faced sales email, begging them
to sign up for classes. Instead, generate relationships with these people
which will be maintained by email. Ask
how their studies are going, or whether
they need help with their university or
job applications. Send them a friendly
email on their birthday, graduation
day, or to celebrate their engagement
or wedding. In this situation, it might
be best to liberally bend the rules regarding the separation of ‘students’
and ‘friends’ in your life: they will be
far more likely to sign up with you if
you demonstrate a genuine interest in
what they’re doing, and offer guidance
on those nerve-wracking and important rites of passage, such as the first
day of college, beginning a new job,
giving a major presentation, speaking
at a conference, or traveling abroad for
work.
3
CONSIDER YOUR NICHE
Where are your strengths as a
teacher? Did you teach a Business
English class, or work mostly with one
particular L1 group? Are you a specialist when it comes to university preparation, or test-taking? Perhaps you’ve
worked with one age group more than
others, or you’re a wizard with beginners?
Deciding your niche will help you tailor
your marketing to a specific group who
are more likely to respond to someone
with your skills set. Demonstrating a
strong track record in the very type of
teaching your clients most need is a
great way to show that you’re just the
person for the job.
4
KEEP YOUR QUALITY HIGH
The most efficient marketing is
done through word-of-mouth, and this
relies on your students having a good
experience during your lessons, both
before and after you take the plunge
and become an independent online
teacher. If the students loved your
style, produced tons of language,
learned a lot and grew in confidence
while working on engaging, relevant
exercises, they’re much more likely to
recommend you to their friends. To
ensure consistent, high-quality lesson
delivery, make sure to:
• Plan every lesson carefully, even
if you’ve taught the material many
times before, or know the student
very well
• Carry out detailed diagnostics
and needs analysis in your initial
lessons so that the student will
see and feel their progress, lesson by lesson
• Follow up each lesson, or set of
lessons, with a courtesy email.
This should include:
• Your thanks for their taking
the time to practice English
with you
• Praise on their progress: be
specific on this, e.g. “You’re
really improving your grammar, especially your past
tense conjugations – well
done!”
• Recommendations for practice exercises, especially if
you are their only teacher
• Confirmation of, or suggestions for, the timing of your
next lesson.
BUILDING A LIST OF POTENTIAL STUDENTS NEED NOT BE AN AWKWARD
OR INVASIVE GATHERING OF PERSONAL DATA; STUDENTS WHO HAVE
ENJOYED YOUR CLASSES WON’T
MIND SHARING THEIR DETAILS, OR
AGREEING TO RECOMMEND YOU TO
FRIENDS AND FAMILY.
In the increasingly crowded and competitive world of online ESL teaching,
such a list is critically important for
building a client base which will hopefully enable you to create the independent, home-working lifestyle you’ve
been dreaming about, and to generate lasting relationships with people
for whom you’ll be an important guide
and mentor over a number of years.
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57
Free Diagnostic Classes for Online Students
I NOTICED SOMETHING VERY INTERESTING WHILE BROWSING AROUND
THE HUGE RANGE OF NEW ONLINE
ESL SCHOOL WEBSITES: THE MAJORITY (SOME 75%) OFFER A FREE,
INITIAL, DIAGNOSTIC CLASS, WITH
NO OBLIGATION FOR THE STUDENT
TO TAKE THINGS FURTHER.
At first glance, this appeared a little
risky. The school would have to pay
their teacher the usual fee (somewhere between $5 and $25 per hour),
with no guarantee that the student will
ever part with their hard-earned money. But, on reflection, I found that this
was a canny and powerful technique,
one well worth the time and effort, and
one that every online ESL teacher
should carefully consider.
ONE CLASS, TWO
PURPOSES
An initial, diagnostic class serves two
different but parallel purposes. It offers
you the chance to meet and impress
a potential client, and to secure their
business for (we hope) many months
and years to come. It also provides an
opportunity to evaluate the student:
you can decide, at the end of the lesson (normally a half-hour, or perhaps
an hour) whether you’re a good fit for
each other. After all, you’ll be spending a good deal of time together and,
with the best will in the world, you’re
not going to be a huge fan of every
single online student you’re ever in
contact with -- neither are they certain
to find you to be the perfect English
teacher, despite your many virtues
and undoubted charm. This way, if
things aren’t working out, you can
avoid hours of thankless tedium: if,
that is, your studio is already healthy
enough that you can turn students
away.
Here are some hints for getting the
most of your diagnostic lesson:
3 HINTS FOR FREE
DIAGNOSTIC
CLASSES FOR ONLINE
STUDENTS
58
1
LISTEN CAREFULLY
AND TAKE NOTES
The majority of your findings about
your student’s English level and learning needs will come via their speaking.
How is their accent? Are there any elements of pronunciation with which
they’re having particular trouble? Are
they repeatedly making grammatical
mistakes? If so, which kind? Are they
struggling to find the right word, or are
they halting in their speech? Or are
they complete beginners, with almost
no language skills at all?
Take plenty of notes on what you
hear: they will be extremely useful.
Note down words or sounds the student struggled with, and examples of
the mistakes they made. Then, after
the lesson, analyze them carefully
and tease our the problems in the areas of structure (modals, conditionals,
pronoun use, tenses, etc), pronunciation (‘th’, the s/z, l/r, p/b and t/d minimal pairs) and vocabulary (repeated
use of the same word, limited ability
to describe people, places and things,
or a paucity of vocabulary in particular
lexical groups).
2
PRIORITIZE
THE WORKLOAD
You won’t be able to solve every problem in the first week, or even in the first
few months. That said, the most important pronunciation and grammatical issues can be largely addressed
in a highly concentrated ‘blitz’ which
may last only a handful of lessons.
Decide which issues are the most serious barriers to communication. For
elementary speakers, the priorities
will probably center around polishing up their pronunciation, ironing out
basic grammar problems, increasing
their confidence and fluency of speaking, and expanding their vocabulary
beyond the most simple words.
For more experienced learners, you
could look at accent reduction (where
you focus on particular sounds which
are still influenced by L1). Consider
studying some of the more advanced
areas of grammar, including a lesson
common tense, families of phrasal
verbs, and the more complex conditionals. You could also schedule work
on conversation skills, advanced listening, and a focus on slang. This process of prioritization will allow you to:
3
CREATE A LEARNING PLAN
This will be your overall guiding
strategy for addressing the student’s
learning needs. After the initial lesson, write to the student (using an
appropriate level of vocabulary and
structure, or their L1, if you feel that’s
best), proposing a number of meetings each week or month, and providing a personalized learning plan. This
will include the objectives and timescale, the general topics to the covered, and the specific areas on which
the student needs to focus (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, writing,
reading, listening, etc).
Presenting a professional-looking,
personalized learning plan is a huge
step. It demonstrates your commitment to the student’s progress, and
shows your ability to professionally
analyze their needs and create an appropriate response.
PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST
LESSON
Gather everything you know about
the student – their age, background,
school or work situation, past English
experience, travels, -- anything which
might help to create a successful and
vibrant initial class. Plan thoroughly,
almost as if you were preparing to be
evaluated by an observer: taking the
lesson seriously, and giving of your
best, are only appropriate, given that
this student might become a customer who spends months or years with
you, generating thousands of dollars
of much-needed revenue. They may
also, in turn, become an important
source of recommendations, so it’s vital to put your best foot forward.
Organize the lesson into bite-sized
pieces of 5-7 minutes each: most diagnostic lessons last a half hour, which
will whiz past much faster than you’d
imagine. Each section could focus on
a particular skill. For example, assess
vocabulary through a short reading
or listening exercise, through having
the student choose synonyms and
antonyms, or through a word game
focusing on a particular lexical group
(colors, animals, employment, weather). Examine the student’s grammar
level by providing them with a simple
error correction exercise, or by asking
check questions which target particular structures, e.g. “How many countries have you visited?” should elicit
a response using the present perfect
tense, while, “Tell me about the rules
at your school,” explores the student’s
knowledge of modal verbs (can,
should, may, must, etc).
GIVING OF YOUR BEST DURING A
DIAGNOSTIC LESSON CAN MAKE
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN
INDIFFERENT RESPONSE FROM
YOUR STUDENT AND AN ENTHUSIASTIC, UNHESITATING SIGN-UP.
Treat these students like royalty, and
think long-term as you gradually build
up your studio by being courteous,
responsive, diligent and professional
with every student with whom you
come into contact.
Pronunciation will probably be assessed more generally: only once
the student begins regularly working
with you will the classes focus on particular sounds. Listen and note the
problems you hear, or consider making use of one of the range of new recording software for Skype and other
online communications media, so that
you can play back excerpts from the
recording and really analyze the pronunciation situation.
Have ready a range of questions of
roughly the right level – remember
that our favorite topic of conversation
is nearly always our own lives, preferences, hobbies, travels and families.
Throw in a few questions of a more
challenging nature: for example, if
your student tells you they’ve traveled
to Bulgaria and Romania, ask for a
comparison between the two. Or, if the
student tells you that his sister was recently married, ask a little about wedding customs where they come from.
Think on your feet, and don’t feel the
need to simply read through a list of
prepared questions. The student will
respond well if they feel you’re genuinely interested in them, and if your
questions reflect the fact that you’re
carefully listening to what they’ve
said. After all, expressing yourself in
a second (or third) language can be
very tough, and the student will appreciate your close attention to each
hard-won utterance.
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59
Online Student Lifestyle: How to
Practice L1 in an L2 Environment
WHAT DO OUR STUDENTS NEED IN
ORDER TO BE SUCCESSFUL LANGUAGE LEARNERS?
Good language acquisition begins
and ends with practice, but how can a
student make progress if nobody else
around them speaks English? Learning online might seem like a lonely
task, leaving the student isolated in
an environment where they’re the
only budding English speaker. Thankfully, there are plenty of methods our
remote-learning student can use, both
with your help and by working independently, to bridge the gap and achieve
their learning aims.
4 IDEAS HOW TO
PRACTICE L1 IN AN L2
ENVIRONMENT
1
A LITTLE ANALYSIS
Successful language students
tend to work in roughly the same ways,
despite important differences in culture and background. In fact, the same
methods are used by high-achieving
students in any field: being organized,
maintaining a commitment to improvement, remaining open-minded about
the learning process and new styles
of learning, and being ready to practice the relevant skills in a genuine and
honest way.
If your students aren’t making the kind
of progress you (or they) would like
to see, take time to analyze why this
might be. Even in the hazy and contentious field of education, the rules of
‘Cause and Effect’ always apply: every
learning outcome happens for a reason, and those reasons can be laid out
and studied. The same is true of your
successes: if a lesson really worked,
use your evaluation time at the end of
the class to quite deservedly pat yourself on the back, but also think carefully about what worked, and why, so
you can replicate this success with
other students.
For example, if a student continues
to make the same grammar mistakes
after you’ve corrected them numer-
60
ous times, think of new ways to break
down and demonstrate the structure.
Parse the sentences and label each
grammatical element, teaching the
necessary vocabulary if possible, so
that the student can see (and eventually hear) that they’ve forgotten the
participle ending, or they’re using the
wrong conjugation, or (and this is very
common) that they’re allowing their L1
grammar to inflect their L2 production.
2
ENCOURAGE
HONEST REVIEW
From the outset, encourage your students to review and practice what
they’ve learned during the class, and
not only because they’ll be seeing
the same material again, perhaps in
a more advanced or challenging format. Students who review material
before their next class typically exhibit
a 20-25% higher rate of retention and
language acquisition than those who
don’t.
3
BAN SILENCE
Encourage your students to ask
questions and never to simply sit there
in silence when they don’t understand.
Silence is a huge problem for language teachers, as it could mean any
number of things, from lack of comprehension to shyness, from distress or
illness to a failed internet connection.
I’ve tried to declare silence ‘illegal’ in
my classroom: someone should be
talking virtually all the time (preferably
the students, of course). If they need
time to think, that’s obviously fine, but
this should be fruitful deliberation, not
stunned, confused silence.
4
ENCOURAGE CONSISTENT
PRACTICE (EVEN IN A
TOTALLY L1 ENVIRONMENT)
It’s naïve to imagine that thirty minutes
of practice each week will result in
solid progress, be it in the karate dojo,
playing a musical instrument, or learning a language. Skills acquisition requires the twin fuels of time and focus.
A quick burst of intense work might
result in some success, but nothing
encourages improvement like wellplanned, conscientious and (above all)
consistent practice.
This is much easier said than done,
one might argue. How can students
who live in China, and are surrounded
by Chinese throughout the day, ever
hope to participate in a non-Chinese
environment? It’s tough, but there are
ways to do it:
• Talk To Yourself. Have your students narrate their routine as they
go, complete with varied tenses,
prepositions and careful subjectobject constructions: “Now, I’m
cleaning my teeth... I’ll wash the
dishes next, and then I’m going
to set my Tivo to record Game of
Thrones.”
• Label Objects. If you’ve ever visited the home of a dedicated language learner, you might have
seen sticky notes all over the
place, labeling the nouns in each
room (fridge, stove, sink, bed,
dresser, mirror). These constant
reminders are tremendously useful, and doubly so when the student says the word whenever the
touch or see the object. The next
step, and a more interesting one,
is to make a short sentence using
the noun: “My fridge is set at four
Celsius, “ or, “the oak dresser is
opposite my suitcase.”
• Set an English-Only Time. For students who live in houses or dormitories where everyone is studying
the same language, a mandated
‘Zero-L1’ period can be priceless.
That said, your online students
probably won’t live in such an environment, so they’ll have to make
their own: this might not be easy,
but with a little creativity, it can
work. For example, if you’re teaching a working mom, her kids will be
learning English at school, and will
probably think it’s the coolest thing
ever that between 6:30 and 7pm
every day is ‘English Only Time’.
Similarly, students who are managers in international companies
(or any kind of business, in truth)
•
•
might encourage an ‘English hour’
during the afternoons of certain
days, provided it doesn’t interfere
with business. However, most of
your students will be learning in
a more isolated situation, and for
them, technology comes to the
rescue...
Watch Media and Use The Internet. Watching a movie in English
is a tremendous way to learn Encourage regular and varied movie-watching, with some caveats:
• Avoid movies which feature
culturally sensitive topics,
raunchy stuff, heavy politics
(unless your student is interested) or something other
than PG-13 content. Assigning the wrong movie can
really upset a student and
compromise your reputation.
• Be aware that watching and
listening don’t comprise production: the student isn’t
going to say anything while
watching a movie, unless
they’re in a group.
• Set comprehension questions to ensure the movie-watching
experience
remains educational and focused on language acquisition. For example, if you’ve
set Gladiator, ask questions
about freedom, slavery and
blood sports, e.g. “What
does our enjoyment of human combat say about us as
a society?”
And don’t forget the radio. Most
people have, and it’s a mistake.
Voice of America and the peerless BBC World Service remain
fantastic news sources. Be aware
that they are occasionally blocked
in China.
age solid practice and review, and to
seek out opportunities for in-person
practice wherever possible.
Encourage Meet-ups. There are a
surprising number of groups, English Corners and the like which
are organized for the benefit of
English learners. Every major city
has one, and this is increasingly
true of smaller towns, too.
LEARNING ENGLISH ONLINE
DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A LONELY
EXPERIENCE, BUT YOUR STUDENTS
WILL NEED SOME GUIDANCE ON
HOW TO BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN
THEIR FAMILIAR ENVIRONMENT
AND ONE THAT WILL FACILITATE
GOOD PRACTICE.
The main advice remains to encour-
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61
Virtual Debate:
Online Discussions
THE IDEAS “ONLINE” AND “DISCUSSION” SEEMS AN OXYMORON TO
MANY, THAT ENGAGEMENT IN DISCUSSION CAN OCCUR WITH PARTICIPANTS REMOVED IN TIME AND
PLACE.
How to facilitate such discussions
is confusing to many teachers, and
online discussion threads and chatrooms may be seen as a poor substitute for the “real” thing, an evil necessity of the online class. However,
although there are some barriers such
as its more decontextualized nature,
in comparison to face-to-face discussion, there are advantages that are
unique to the online discussion that
can be built on by the instructor while
the drawbacks are minimized.
7 ADVANTAGES OF
ONLINE DISCUSSION
1
CONVENIENCE
Online discussions generally
can be set for a time convenient for
everyone. And you do not need to
leave your home! In a “real” onsite
classroom, students can arrive so
tired from work, anxious from the
commute to the classroom, worried
about their home situation, and so
forth, that instruction becomes impeded as the instructor tries to lower
students’ anxiety levels and get them
focused on the class, which can eat
up half a class session, sometimes. In
an online class, students do not have
to commute and the class is being
taken according to their own schedules, generally, so students can then
focus more on instruction.
2
MORE FOCUSED
Because of the convenience,
student, again, are less distracted,
tired, and stressed. Therefore, they
are able to focus on the topic. Usually, after some very cursory greetings, the instructor can dive right into
the course content and spend a full
hour discussing it with students without distractions such as bathroom
breaks, sharpening pencils, eating,
62
etc. Much more content then is typically covered than in a face-to-face
classroom. Small talk and off-topic
talk is also minimalized.
3
MORE IN DEPTH
More focus leads naturally to
more depth. Also with asynchronous
discussion threads, especially — that
is, threads on which students post
at different times — there is time for
more serious consideration of the topic. A topic such as “What do you think
about the novel’s protagonist? Is he a
sociopath? Why or why not?” can be
posted on a discussion thread, and
students can go on for paragraphs of
developing their ideas without getting
bored, losing track of their trains of
thought, getting distracted by noises
from the other classroom, being interrupted, etc. In live chat, if someone
really needs to leave the chatroom
due to something going on in their
“live” environment, they can do so
with minimal or no disruption to the
rest of the class.
4
MORE INTROVERTED STUDENTS PARTICIPATE MORE
The research shows that introverted
students may actually perform better
in online discussions because they
are allowed more time needed to reflect on comments than is allowed in
face-to-face communications. Extroverted students who tend to dominate
the discussion in face-to-face classrooms are not necessarily the most
insightful: online discussions can
somewhat equalize the contributions
and participation.
5
MORE DIVERSE
PERSPECTIVES
I have been in online chats with students from Sweden, Portugal, Taiwan,
Canada, the United States, and New
Zealand — sometimes in one session.
We naturally bring different perspectives to a topic and different information, different understandings of family relationships and responsibilities,
for example. In a traditional classroom and discussion, by the nature of
the school being located in a specific
place, the discussion participants live
in that location and may have in fact
grown up together or be related, if the
community is small, so differing perspectives are less possible.
6
INCREASED ABILITY
TO LIMIT REMARKS
THAT AREN’T CONSTRUCTIVE
Not all contributions to a discussion
are constructive or even welcome.
Some students are obstructive to the
process, and deliberately engage in
behavior such as making off-topic,
cynical, or otherwise inappropriate remarks. Such students, perhaps only
one per class, in a traditional classroom, take up excessive amount of an
instructor’s attention in attempting to
guide the discussion on the topic. In
an online chat, however, the instructor can always claim not to even have
seen the student’s inappropriate contributions (there is “lag time” in an online chat, sometimes several minutes
between typing and the text appearing.) This can act as an “extinguishing” strategy (e.g., behavior that is
ignored is “extinguished).
7
MORE READILY AVAILABLE
RESOURCES
Most instructors know the feeling
of students not understanding what
seems to them a relatively simple concept or reference because of cultural
or generational differences. It may
be something simple, such as what a
unicorn is or the more complex, such
as what the artist Botticelli’s “Birth
of Venus” looks like. In a traditional
classroom, especially for one that is
not “smart,” with online resources, unless the instructor has anticipated the
gap in understanding — not always
possible — she will be reduced often to drawing pictures on the board
or verbal explanations, both of which
might further confuse students. In an
online discussion, the instructor has
the option of going to the Web imme-
diately, searching “unicorn” or “Birth
of Venus,” and posting the link or the
image itself in the discussion room.
Another advantage is being able to
view student work: in online chats I’ve
been able to immediately view students’ work that was just emailed or
uploaded and make some quick comments. This is not possible in a traditional classroom if the student has left
the paper at home. The work may be
further shared, with student approval,
with the rest of the class for discussion by posting it in the chatroom.
The online discussion, because of
decreased context, can seem a poor
substitute for the “real” discussion
of traditional classrooms. Class participants are not, after all, even in the
same time zone, often, and are separated by at times thousands of miles.
We often can’t see each other’s facial
expressions or hear each other’s voices. However, the convenience, focus,
reflection, and resources available in
an online discussion more than make
up for the disadvantages.
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