Archive for May, 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Teaching Strategies for Impoliteness?

By Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, SHAPE Language Center, Belgium

I was recently able to attend the IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) Conference this year in Brighton, UK. Among the many wonderful sessions I attended, one really made an impact. So much so, in fact, that I have been thinking about it ever since.

Martin Warters gave a presentation called “There is (no) need for that!” In his speech, he explored “the appropriacy and need for the explicit teaching of impoliteness in the second-language classroom in a UK setting.” When I read the session description, I was intrigued. Teaching impoliteness to our students? I wasn’t sure how I felt. I don’t feel comfortable teaching students how to swear in English (they can get that from most Hollywood movies, thank you very much) and I kind of feel that the world doesn’t need more abusive individuals in our shops, our restaurants, and our motorways.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The “New Car” Phenomenon

By David Barker
Author and Publisher of Materials for Japanese Learners of English

When I was about ten years old, my father announced one day that we were getting a new car. Now, there is very little in the world more guaranteed to arouse the interest of a 10-year-old boy and his younger brothers than a new car, and naturally, we wanted to know what my father was planning to buy. He told us that we were getting an “Opel Mantra.” This was a bit of an anticlimax, because neither my brothers nor I had ever heard of it. Later that day, however, my dad pointed one out to us when we were out shopping. Suddenly Opel Mantras were everywhere! It was as if everyone in the country had gone out and bought one at once. Of course, the actual number of these cars had not changed at all; what had changed was our awareness of them.

This “new car” phenomenon can be observed in many areas of life, and it can be a very powerful tool for language learners. In my own language studies, I have noticed a cycle that has three stages: priming, triggering, and consolidation. “Priming” is what happens when your attention is drawn to something, or when your awareness of it is raised; “triggering” is the point at which your raised awareness causes you to notice the thing in a different context; and “consolidation” is what happens when you deepen your knowledge of it through repeated exposure.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Look at It. Listen to It. Talk about It.

Richard FirstenBy Richard Firsten
Retired ESOL Teacher, Teacher-Trainer, Columnist, Author

There were lots of times during my years of ELT when I went nuts trying to think of clever ways to stimulate my students’ willingness to participate in conversations. What could I do to get them to use all the grammar and vocabulary and intonation that they were internalizing – I hoped – and make it all come together? Well, I found four gems to help me accomplish this goal and to inspire my own creativity. Three were visual; one was auditory. I wish I had created these terrific aids, but alas, I didn’t. What I did do, however, was use what I had found and then create more of the same on my own.

It was so long ago (back in the mid-1970’s, I believe) that I can’t even remember how I was introduced to this, but I started using a wonderful visual aid called Longman’s Progressive Picture Compositions, created by Donn Byrne, and published, of course, by Longman. There was a “pupil’s book” as they called it, which I didn’t use, but there were four large wall charts that could be placed on the chalk board sill, each chart showing one of four pictures that would tell a complete story together, as you can see here. I discovered that I could use these progressive pictures starting with lower intermediate students (in a more rudimentary way) and go all the way to the most advanced students in our program.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Perfectly Pleasant Presentations

By Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, SHAPE Language Center, Belgium

I Have to do What?!?

From all the groaning and writhing that was taking place in my class, you would think I just told them they would have to spend several hours at the dentist getting all sorts of uncomfortable procedures done. In fact, I had just informed my students that the following week they would be delivering a short presentation in front of the class.

This is consistently one of the least popular lessons in my classes; students really seem to hate public speaking. This reaction, though, isn’t really a surprise. In fact, in some surveys, the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) ranks higher than the fear of death (necrophobia). Add to the mix the fact that students need to do this in a language that is not their first, and you can see why this is a terrifying prospect to many language learners. In fact, one of my students used to get so scared before her presentations, she actually became pale and sickly looking and shook like a leaf.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Immigrant’s Speech

The following post was sent to us  by a local volunteer teacher.  I’m sure all of us who are ELT professionals have at one time or another done one-on-one tutoring.  I’m sure any feedback or suggestions we can give volunteer teachers on our site will be much appreciated.   -Betty Azar

The Immigrant’s Speech

By Skip Demuth
Volunteer English Tutor
Whidbey Island, Washington

About three months ago a man I know in the neighborhood named Joe called me because he’d heard I was an English tutor, or ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher.  Not true, but some truth attaches to that rumor.

In 2004, on a whim, my partner and I enrolled in a one-month ESL training class in Ban Phe, Thailand, a couple hours southeast of Bangkok.  Based on the British Oxford system of “teaching English as a foreign language,” or TEFL, this course put us through a rigorous set of lessons and drills, practice teaching in the Thai public schools, watching video of our performances, completing reams of paper work, and sitting for lectures.  An intensive overview.

At the end of the course, we returned to Whidbey Island with Thai government certificates and resumed our lives.  I tried some classes in a church annex for Mexican immigrants I’d met, but they didn’t last.  I volunteered at the middle school, working with two students, a Columbian and a Thai who basically needed fine-tuning in pronunciation and, I guess, you would call it “cadence,” or accent.  I liked working with these fellows, and they responded. We mostly studied the Gettysburg Address, the brief but elegant eulogy for dead soldiers, tied-in to their history class.

Joe called me because his wife Kefen needed some English tutoring.

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