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Posts Tagged ‘english teacher’

Teacher on the Move: What Would You Bring Abroad?

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

So you might remember that I went to the TESOL Convention. But you might have forgotten that I had a job interview while I was there.  Turns out I got a job offer! So the Ebaby! teacher might go abroad. The job is on the beautiful coast of Turkey at a university with small class sizes and motivated students.

I am super excited about the opportunity, but as I was cleaning my house it hit me: where is all my stuff going to go? And what will I do without the fifty teaching books that I regularly reference like Zero Prep and my huge file cabinet of lessons (which of course I only have paper copies of)? I have heard EFL teachers talk about bringing one boo abroad (usually Azar).  But I just can’t imagine it.

And then I start to think about my other stuff: My poor furniture, clothes and colorful dishes that I’ll have to leave behind.  I know that is silly. I have lived aboard before and it is actually surprisingly easy to pack a years worth of stuff in two bags. I know that is really the least of my worries.

But truth be told, I am so excited about the opportunity and not really worried. I know it will be perfect. I still have a few weeks before I have to sign the contract, but I think my mind is made up.

Using American Libraries

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Last week, I was in meetings with librarians and adult educators from around the country. I realized how little I know about libraries. Libraries in the US are community centers, lifelong learning schools, and places to find books. Mistakenly, I have only used the library to check out books.

stewart I have recommended that my students go there to read and also to use the free computers. What I didn’t know was that libraries have some great computer programs and subscription services. Libraries have the tools to improve students’ reading, writing, and other skills. They offer free tutoring service (online and in person). They have English conversation groups. But more than offering traditional educational opportunities, they provide other great free services: art clubs, museum passes, and knitting groups.

Since I last moved, I haven’t gotten a new library card. Now, I know I need one. I also made an appointment with my local library, which is one of the highest ranked in the nation. The woman I’ll be meeting with is going to tell me about (even more) library services that will help me and my students. If you live in the US, I recommend you go see your local librarian. Librarians have a lot to teach students, teachers, and everyone, really.

March Madness: ESL Conferences

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

March Madness usually refers to basketball, I know. But this March is full of conferences for ESL teachers like me. And doesn’t that conference logo to the left kind of look like a basketball tournament logo? It’s pretty intense.

I am gonna give you my top three conferences in March. You might not be able to go to them all. (I certainly can’t.) Hopefully, though, you’ll be able to go to one. So here they are:

  1. TESOL Convention– March 26-28 in Denver, Colorado. Learn teaching tricks and tips. Hear about the latest research. And bonus, there is a large job fair at the conference.
  2. American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL)- This conference is more research based, but it is the same week as TESOL (March 21-24) and in Denver. So you could do both maybe!
  3. Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO)-At this conference, you will find out how people are using technology in their classes and how that benefits students. It will be on March 10-14 in Arizona.

I am going to the TESOL Convention. I’ll be presenting a little something about why ESL students report using Facebook. If you happen to go to one of the other conferences on my top three list, please tell me all about them. You can learn so much at a conference. I am excited!!

Read-Write-Think Online Student Materials

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

We want our ESL students to read, write, and think. But how do we help them do that? With Read-Write-Think curriculum and online materials, of course. The site has great materials that students can work on by themselves, but it also has examples of how teachers can integrate Read-Write-Think tools into lessons.

The Essay Map is one example of materials available for learners. It walks students through the process of making an outline for an essay. There are a bunch of writing lessons on the site that use the Essay Map. I have used it in class and students liked it. It makes essay writing a lot easier. Bonus: after making the Map, students can print it out in a nice format. (Alternatively, teachers can leave the Essay Map blank and print the blank Map to use as handout for class.)

If your writers are more advanced, they might not need the Essay Map. But the site has other things to offer too. Here are my favorite Read-Write-Think online activities for students:

They have materials for all students of all ages. Some are more appropriate than other for adult ESL students. Anyway, I like Read-Write-Think. Hope you do too.

Star English Teacher: nad1a

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

nad1aSince we added our user generated lessons feature about a year and a half ago, a lot of great teachers have posted some really cool stuff here on English, baby!. But one teacher stands out above the rest as the most frequent and most popular lesson creator. You may know her as nad1a but her real name is Nadeen. She lives in Bulgaria and recently answered some questions for us via email about making special lessons to match her students’ interests and using ESL resources on the Web.

Jason: How many languages do you speak and where did you learn them?

Nadeen: I speak 5 languages in total, at a different level, of course, but I guess I could get by just fine in any of them. These are English, Bulgarian, French, Greek and some Spanish. I am equally fluent in English and Bulgarian as I was born in Bulgaria but spent the most part of my life in the United States.

Jason: What’s a typical day in your class like?

Nadeen: The truth is that there is no ‘typical’ day in my class. I always try to bring some variety into the classroom so that people won’t get bored.

Most people don’t really study English for fun or because they like it, but they’re pressured by circumstances in one way or another. Children are forced by parents who are trying to equip their kids for their future education and careers. Adults are trying to land a better job, to upgrade their qualifications, or they are businessmen striving for better communication with their international partners etc. The only way to get them involved and grab their attention is to personalize the lesson.

I once had a teenage boy who hated having to learn English. I had to use the recommended grammar and vocabulary from his textbook to edit Internet articles and interviews and prepare exercises and activities centered around his own interests – hip-hop, soccer and graffiti. He was having fun and was learning English almost unaware of it.

Jason: Your English, baby! lessons are on all sorts of topics, from Beyonce to pronunciation. Where do you get the ideas for them? Which one do you think is your best?

Nadeen: Well, I won’t pretend to be some kind of genius here. It’s not like I make everything up by myself. I use various materials on the Internet or textbooks of my own. I get a lot of ideas from my interaction with my offline students. This may be a question I am asked, or an issue they show an interest in during the lesson, or a frequent mistake I notice. Sometimes I just come across something interesting on the Internet and decide to make a lesson out of it. So I elaborate on it, editing this material and adding my own touch to it, and share it on English, baby!

I can’t grade my own lessons and won’t be able to say which one is the best. I would say my favorite is “Learning languages: Myths and Truth”. It’s a fact that English baby members, though, seem to favor “The American Pronunciation of T“. It’s probably because most of them are fans of American English and it may also be something they’re lacking in their ESL classes.

Jason: What do you like about English, baby!? Do you use any other online English resources?

Nadeen: It’s a great place for both students and teachers. Students are exposed to real, natural English (which you are less likely to get from textbooks alone) in a wide range of contexts that they can relate to. Teachers can use lessons from the site pertinent to the material they cover in class to live up their lessons.

What most people seem to appreciate about English, baby!, however, is its being this huge social network, bringing people from all over the world together and giving people like Zeus and Kinski one more reason to be thankful for.

I also use VOA Special English, ESLdiscussions.com, esl-lab.com, UsingEnglish.com. I sometimes Google the topic or grammar point I want to cover and I accumulate material from different sites to use in the classroom or my individual lesson.

Jason: I looked at your photos and it looks like you have a son who plays some sports. How old is he? Do you think he could beat me in a challenge?

Nadeen: Yes, I have a 12-year-old son who is my pride and joy. His name is Roy. He plays for Olympiakos, a Greek soccer team. Right now he’s recovering from an injury on his knee and hasn’t been playing for a while, but when I asked him if he would play against you, he said: “Is he ready for that? Did you tell him this is European and not American football?”


Making an Educational YouTube Video

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Mark RoquetVideos can be really fun in the classroom. In older posts, I have explained a few ways to use YouTube videos in the classroom. They can be used in esl lessons about food. Students can also learn to use YouTube videos in their presentations or you can integrate them into lectures. Well, now, I have a slightly new challenge for you. Make your own educational video!

TeacherTube is full of videos teachers and/or students have made. You can use YouTube and TeacherTube to find videos for your esl classes, but when you just can’t find what you are looking for it might be time to make your own video. The next few posts will explain how to make a YouTube video.

First, you have to start with some video clips. Use your cellphone, a video camera, a web cam, whatever to capture some video and audio. I used the built in video camera and microphone on my Macbook to make this video. It will be used in an international studies class. The final project in the class is to make an annotated bibliography and this explains how to do it.

Once you have the video, you have to find video editing software. You probably have one on your computer. On Macs, there is iMovie. On PCs, there is Movie Maker.

So from here out, the directions are for macs on iMovie. But I have used Movie Maker and it is pretty simple too.

Once you have the video recordings, you need to import them into iMovie (File > Import Movie). A simpler option is to record video in the iMovie program using a webcam. Then, go through the recordings and drag the parts you want to use into the video screen. The process is a simple drag and drop. (There is a link at the bottom of this to a more detailed video tutorial.)

The next step is to add titles. There is a little “T” for text or maybe for title. Click on the “T” and the different formats of titles come up. Drag and drop the title that you want to the place where you want it.

Once you’re finished adding video clips and titles, press Share in the toolbar and then select YouTube. Follow the steps (including creating a YouTube account) and before you know it you will have a video on YouTube.

Here is an iMovie tutorial. It may seem a little complicated. But I opened the iMovie program for the first time last week and was able to completely finish a YouTube video in less than one hour!

Assumptions about Language Learning

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

I stumbled upon a New York times article today about several language learning software programs. It was an old article (from  2005). So what was so interesting about a NY Times article from 2005? The article discussed the different programs’ underlying assumptions about language learning. The Rosette Stone, for example, is based on the assumption that people learn their second language in the same way they learn their first. Basically, they believe second language acquisition is the same as first language acquisition. Personally, the idea that adults learn language in the same manner as children seems slightly absurd.

As teachers, we have all sorts of beliefs about how people learn language.  But I don’t think we give the idea much focused attention. While we might have a teaching philosophy that clearly states how we can help students learn, I think we all need to have a clear idea about how people learn language. A colleague of mine thinks that extensive reading is essential to language learning. I don’t know if that is at the center of her teaching philosophy but it certainly affects what she does in the classroom to some extent.

So like all of the software programs from the NY Times article, our ESL classes are each based on our assumptions about language learning.  If you aren’t sure how people learn language, it might be time for you to start researching second language acquisition. And make more informed decisions in the classroom.

Teaching Them How to Fish: Teaching Language Learning Strategies

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

by stefgDo you teach your students language learning strategies? Well, I do. I have started integrating a few strategies into each lesson. I feel like I am empowering students by teaching them how to learn. If you don’t know much about language learning strategies a good place to start would be with Oxford’s (1990) Strategy Inventory for Language Learning. It is a simple questionnaire that assesses how many and which strategies you use.

Even as a teacher, I found my results on the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) to be very helpful. I discovered that I use surprisingly few strategies for managing my emotions. Looking back on my language learning experiences, my emotions were often debilitating in the classroom because I wasn’t using strategies to manage them. So on a person level, I wish someone would have taught me about language learning strategies.

After teaching some strategies,  I can tell you that students really like it. They love to know the different ways they can learn. The SILL offers a bunch of different ways to remember things. You can demonstrate these in the classroom and have students use them.

The most important thing with strategy instruction is reflection. Because some strategies don’t work for everyone, have your students reflect on what they do now and on what new strategies work well for them. Read more ideas about teaching language learning strategies here. I think, it can be very powerful instruction. So give it a try and leave me a comment about how it went.

Medical English – An Emergency Room Experience

Friday, November 14th, 2008

emergencyOne of the beauties of teaching adults English is that they are more than students. ESOL students are wives, fathers, business professionals, and hospital workers. So unlike their youthful counterparts, adult ESOL learners need to learn English for a variety of contexts, including work. I vividly experienced an ESOL learners’ work context this week: the hospital.

What I thought was a little stomach ache turned out to be appendicitis.  Suddenly, I was being rushed into an operating room and having my appendix removed. Before I got cut open, I learned a little bit about how hospitals work and about the profession of hospital transportation. Most of the hospital transportation people that I met were intermediate English language learners. They graciously pushed me around the hospital. Literally. There job, as far as I could tell, was to push people’s beds from one location to another.

I was so delighted by their conversation skills and medical knowledge. They were so comforting: “Don’t worry the CT scan won’t hurt.”  And so polite: “May I take that cup from you?” The ESOL Hospital Transportation staff were so well versed in how to take care of a patient and the English vocabulary you need to do so.

And it got me thinking about their language acquisition. How had they learned the medical terminology? Was it on the job training? An English class? If it was a general ESL class that helped them, I bet they really paid attention to the polite forms of speech. As a teacher, I know, I don’t really pay that much attention to my students’ work life. But I am going to start bringing in readings from occupational contexts and making a point to link class learning objectives to work. All of my students work, so it seems stupid that I wasn’t integrating their work life into class. In most cases, to be successful at work they are going to need specific English skills. I want to help give them that knowledge so that they can become the knowledgable, polite, professional, and friendly English language learners that helped me at the hospital.

Happy Halloween Lessons!

Friday, October 31st, 2008

danny_grangers_batcaveThrow away whatever you have planned for today! Unless you have something Halloween-themed planned. You MUST take advantage of the holiday today and use it to introduce your students to a little bit of culture and fun!

Since it is such short notice, I am going to give you three good links to websites where you can download Halloween-themed worksheets and activities for free.

The first link is to ESL-Kids. You might not teach kids, but this website lets you create a worksheet, flashcards with pictures, word finds, bingo, board games and more. Just pick the Halloween vocabulary theme and select the exact words you want to use and print it out. Awesome!

The second handy Halloween resource is from English Raven. There you can find cards to play fun Halloween role-play activities and more word finds and flashcards.

The third website has reading activities that students can do online, but you could also modify and print them. In fact, the page has a lot of Halloween resources. Maybe because it is titled ESL and Halloween.

If you don’t have time to print out any of these handouts or games, consider handing out candy (a Halloween tradition) or doing something with scary stories. You could make one up as a class. You could read a scary story as a listening activity or students could write their own. No matter what you do today, don’t forget that it is a holiday…so have fun!