Archive for Tag: teaching tips

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Breaking the Ice on Day One

By Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, SHAPE Language Center, Belgium
jonestamara@hotmail.com

First Day Fears

I don’t know about you, but even though I have been teaching for 15 years, I still get nervous on the first day of class. Once the students get to know each other, the tension tends to drop and the class takes on a personality of its own. But, those first few moments of the first lesson are silent, awkward and nerve-racking. Luckily, I learned early on in my teaching career the importance of lowering the affective filter. Krashen defines the affective filter as “a mental block, caused by affective factors … that prevents input from reaching the language acquisition device” (Krashen, 1985, page 100). More simply put, nervous students may not learn as well as relaxed students. For this very reason, I always spend time in the first lesson of the semester doing an ice-breaker activity. I also do it for my own sanity. I hate the look of fear and panic that first-day students tend to have, so I try to get them smiling as early in the semester as possible.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Warming Up Your English Muscles

By Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, SHAPE Language Center, Belgium
jonestamara@hotmail.com

When I go for a run, I don’t leap out my front door and sprint straight up the hill to the forest. Instead, I walk briskly for a few minutes (or at least until I get up that darn hill) before I break into a jog. Likewise, I don’t start off my English classes by plunging directly into a lesson. I prefer a gentler approach of easing my students into what might be their first English thoughts of the day. So, I start every class with a warm-up activity. I would never dream of running without warming up my leg muscles first, so why would I ask students to start a lesson without warming up their English muscles first?

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Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Be a Popular Teacher

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

As anyone who has ever worked in a language school or other educational institution will know, it is a fact of life that some teachers are more popular than others. Come to think of it, anyone who has ever been to school will know that! I remember from my own school days that there were huge differences in the way the teachers were regarded by pupils. Some were loved and respected, while others were despised and ridiculed. Of course, it is not the case that the most popular teachers are necessarily the best teachers, and teaching should never be a popularity contest, but it is a matter of common sense that a teacher who is popular (or at least, not unpopular) with his or her students will probably find it easier to be effective in the classroom.

Like most teachers, I would like to think that I am generally popular with my students. Having said that, I am reminded of a survey in Britain that found that almost 80% of drivers believe that they are better than average. I suspect that a similar result would be found if language teachers were asked to assess our own popularity!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On “False Friends”: Embracing Cross-Language Connections

By Ela Newman
Instructor in Developmental Writing and in ESL
University of Texas at Brownsville

newjgea@aol.com

There he was, sprinting toward our classroom, eager to see his new group of EFL-teachers-to-be, fixed on sharing his latest lesson materials.  My college professor, a jovial and energetic Brit, captured our hearts for many reasons, not the least of which was his active interest in languages other than English, especially our L1.

His signature opening phrase, “Jaka data, prosze?” (“What’s the date, please?”), literally and roughly translated from his English into our Polish, and pronounced in a typically “Britishly” aspirated way, would begin class every day. 

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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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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Modeling Student Talk

By Dorothy Zemach
ESL Materials Writer, Editor, Teacher Trainer
Eugene, Oregon
Email: zemach at comcast dot net

“How can I get students to talk more?” is a question I frequently get, especially in parts of the world known for quieter classrooms. Now, I don’t always want students to talk more. Sometimes, I want them to listen, or to summarize briefly, or to respond in writing. However, I do want them to make the most of their talking time; in essence, to talk better.

These days, many textbooks are set up to give students “communicative tasks,” where they speak English to exchange information. Often, there is some sort of deed to be done—A has the information that B needs, and B has the information that A needs, and they speak to exchange their information and fill in their charts or solve the puzzle or whatever end goal there is.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Giving Advice: The Value of Detail and the Importance of Realism

By Ela Newman
Instructor in Developmental Writing and in ESL
University of Texas at Brownsville

newjgea@aol.com

Student A:  I have a headache.

Student B: You should go to the doctor.

Another Student A:  I don’t like my boss.

Another Student B: Why don’t you look for a new job?

Does any of this sound familiar?  Combinations of correct grammar and appropriate “suggestion” phrases, yet ultimately advice that seems extreme, even unnatural?  In my experience, the problem usually lies in the way the dilemma is expressed.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Questions! Questions! Questions! A New Twist on a Standard Exercise

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

One of the toughest things about learning English grammar is mastering the question-making system, which is more complex in English than in many other languages. For that reason, teachers need to spend a good deal of time teaching the various ways to make questions in English as each different way comes up in their curriculum and then reinforcing those ways to give students enough opportunity to internalize this difficult part of the language.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Singing the Way to Pronunciation Success!

By Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, SHAPE Language Center, Belgium
jonestamara@hotmail.com

Last week I talked about some ways I incorporate songs into my Conversation classes. I’ve also had great success with bringing music into my Pronunciation lessons. Singing and Pronunciation are just a perfect fit. At no time is my French /r/ sound more perfect than when I am singing along with my recording of Edith Pilaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.”

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Teaching Reading Skills

By Dorothy Zemach
ESL Materials Writer, Editor, Teacher Trainer
Eugene, Oregon
Email: zemach at comcast dot net

Last year I spent two weeks in Libya at Al Fatah University working with final year graduate students who would become English teachers; and who actually already were English teachers, working as Teaching Assistants in the English department. I decided to spend one lesson each on speaking, vocabulary, writing, reading, and grammar. We’d spend the first part of the lesson

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