Creating Attractive, Effective, and Adaptable Worksheets

EDIT: Here is the handout I used for my presentation if you want a printable version of my key points.

Was that title catchy enough? I hope so. It’s also the title of my presentation at the MIDTESOL conference this weekend. And, lucky you, this blog post has all of the nuggets of wisdom I’ll be dispensing.

Even if it’s just a list of questions typed up in Word’s default Calibri 11 pt font, almost every teacher has created some type of document. I learned very early on in my teacher career that worksheets are important to have in classes. They help students stay focused on the task. They’re something to interact with, a place to write down answers and ideas. If they’re done right, they exercise the brain muscles much more than listening to a lecture.

But teachers are busy. Creating worksheets can take just as much brain power and time as filling them out. That’s why I use the same tried and true kinds of worksheets again and again. With a couple of modifications, these worksheets can be used for in almost any type of ESL class.

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Grade Less Homework

I’ve never met a teacher who hasn’t bemoaned the amount of grading they have to do at one point or another. For many teachers, grading takes up just as much time as lesson planning and actual teaching, and for some teachers it takes even more.

The number of hours spent on grading vary from teacher to teacher and program to program. Sometimes there’s nothing a teacher can do. Certain curricula demand certain assignments and assessments that require tons of grading and there’s no way to get out of it.

But if you’re designing your own class and curriculum, you get to call the shots about how much you’re going to grade.

There are ways to lessen the amount of time spent on grading assessments, but this post is going to focus on grading assignments and homework.

And the answer isn’t to give students less homework. It’s to make them responsible for their own work.

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Teaching in Vietnam: An Interview with Amy Jammeh, former ELF

aaeaaqaaaaaaaab_aaaajdkyodcwztlkltu5nzktndq5ny04ngvjlthmnwfknwjkogezywIn this interview, I speak with Amy Jammeh, who was selected to participate in a U.S. State Department program (English Language Fellow) in Vinh, Vietnam. She is currently an instructor and my colleague in the Center for English Language Learning (CELL) at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

She is one of my favorite teachers to work with – energetic, passionate, and incredibly fun (for proof, skip to the video at the end of the post).  We talked about Vietnamese students and class culture, her roles as an ELF (English Language Fellow), and of course some travel tips. I had a great time chatting with Amy and I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.

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How to Build Rapport in the Classroom

Teachers often talk about the stuff that’s on paper. Grading, assessments, textbooks, the syllabus, and so on.

But it’s also important to talk about the soft skills. What does your class feel like? What’s the mood? How is everyone getting along?

David Bunker’s recent post got me thinking about rapport, not just between the teacher and students, but among everyone in the class. Rapport is essential. The perfect syllabus and materials are useless if the students hate each other and don’t encourage each other to do their best work.

Despite the various backgrounds of the students and the obvious barriers to communication, I’ve found ESL classrooms to be surprisingly easy places to build rapport. Something about learning a language as an outsider in a culture often causes people to form quick friendships.

As a teacher, you don’t want to leave that process to chance. You want to create situations that foster rapport building among everyone in the class – teacher to students and student to student.

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