ESL Presentation: A Business, Charity, or Organization

Please check out my older post on presentations for an overview of how I usually teach them.

This post will describe a presentation that I did with my class during the same unit that I described in my last post. We studied different types of businesses and organizations throughout the unit. For their final project, they had to give a presentation about an organization that they were interested in.

The premise was that they were spokespeople for their chosen company or charity and the rest of the class were wealthy investors/donators who had $100,000 to donate or invest. The student who raised the largest amount of money for their organization would be the winner.

Here’s how I did it.

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5 Minimal Pairs Activities for Your ESL Pronunciation Class

Minimal pairs are one of the most helpful tools for any pronunciation teacher. They have been proven to help significantly with the perception of unfamiliar phonemes. And since perception of a phoneme is required before production can occur, minimal pairs can also help students when they are ready to speak.

Before you dive into minimal pair training, you should have first done some kind of needs analysis of your students. This could be a done with diagnostic test, or something as informal as listening to the phonemes that your students mispronounce. It’s also possible to predict what types of phonemes your students will have problems with based on their native language – Arabic speakers will often have difficulty with the /p/ phoneme, Japanese speakers will often struggle with /l/ and /r/, etc.

Once you’ve identified phonemes that you want to practice with your class, then you’ll want to either create or find lists of minimal pairs. Here are a few different sources:

I like to gather pairs from different lists for my classes and it’s best if you can incorporate vocabulary that students are already learning.

So once you have your needs analyzed and have some good lists of pairs for the relevant phonemes, it’s time to start practicing. Here are my favorite minimal pairs activities.

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How Teachers Can Actually Help “Quiet Kids”

A recent article by NPR describes the difficulties that introverts and “quiet” kids face in traditional classrooms. It presents some reasons why students might be quiet in class and states the need for their participation.

The article is nice, but it doesn’t offer many practical solutions to the question posed in the headline. How can teachers actually get quiet students to participate in class?

I’ve got a few ideas.

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5 ESL Story Ideas

Computer brains use ones and zeros to organize and process information. But human brains use stories.

Don’t believe me? Read The Storytelling Animal for an entertaining and insightful look at this phenomenon; read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World if you want a mind-blowing novel on the same topic.

If you teach English as a second language, you should be using stories in your classes. Not only are they the ideal information-delivery mechanism for the brain, they’re also fun and interesting. And we all know English learners need to be entertained.

In this article, I’ll list a few activities that can be done in class to incorporate stories. I’ll explain how to do the activity, what materials you should use, and why it’s beneficial for learning.

Let’s get started.

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How to Kill Creativity in the Classroom

Have you ever found yourself thinking these thoughts?

I wish my students would take fewer risks.

My students should really stop coming up with new ideas.

I need to structure my classes to reduce creativity.

If you have, then you’re on your way to becoming a good teacher. Every teacher should try to find ways to kill creativity in the classroom before it becomes a problem.

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6 Teaching Tips from Fluent Forever.

I’ve been reading books with the word “fluent” in the title. First, I reviewed Becoming Fluent. Then Fluent in 3 Months.

This time, I’m looking at Fluent Forever, a book by Gabriel Wyner, who was an opera singer before he became a polyglot and language hacker.

Like the first two I reviewed, this book is aimed at adults who are thinking about learning a foreign language. And again, I’m going to be reversing the point of view and looking at how it can be applied to teaching English as a foreign language.

So let’s take a look at the aspects of this book that are useful for ESL teachers.

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Pronunciation versus Accent: Why it Matters for ESL Teachers

Picture this: You and your friend meet someone for the first time and have a conversation with her. She speaks a little differently from you and your friend.

Now imagine scenario 1: When you finish the conversation and the woman leaves, your friend says this to you:

Where do you think she’s from?

Now scenario 2: the woman leaves and your friend says:

What was she saying? I couldn’t understand most of it.

To me, this is the difference between accent (scenario 1) and pronunciation (scenario 2).

If you’re a language teacher, you should focus on improving your students’ pronunciation, even if they say they want to speak with an American/British/Australian/whatever accent. Hopefully by the end of this article, you’ll be able to convince your students to focus on improving their pronunciation and accept, maybe even embrace, their accent.

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Teaching “th” sounds (theta and eth) + a card game

When I start my pronunciation unit on the “th” sounds, half of my class sounds like snakes and bees.

That’s because many languages don’t have theta (/θ/) or eth (/ð/) sounds, so those sounds come out as /s/ and /z/ respectively. If you do a speaking exercise with a lot of words with “th”, you’re going to hear “sssss” and “zzzzz” until you start helping certain students improve their pronunciation.

Since both of these sounds are represented with a “th” in English writing, you can teach your students the symbols – θ for unvoiced, and ð for voiced (these are real letters, just not in English. You’ll find θ in modern Greek and ð in modern Icelandic – pretty cool!)

For Arabic speakers learning English, this will make sense to them since they have two different letters for these two sounds:

 ث  = θ (unvoiced) and ذ = ð (voiced)

Arabic speakers will have no problem pronouncing these sounds since they have them in their language. But they might have trouble choosing which sound to use when they see a “th” in writing, so they can still get something out of a lesson on these two sounds.

Let’s consider a few more things when you’re teaching the “th” sounds.

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How to Teach ESL Presentations

Giving presentations is a useful skill for ESL students to master, especially if they’re going to be attending an English-speaking university or giving presentations in English professionally.

However, teaching presentations can get messy. There’s the issue of choosing topics and structure for the presentation, and then dealing with how to grade them. Also, depending on your class, keeping the non-presenting students busy (or at least respectful) while a presentation is going on is a challenge. For these annoying reasons, some ESL teachers relegate presentations to a minor role, or do away with them altogether.

But you shouldn’t – giving presentations is such a good thing for students to practice and perform. Here are some tips so you can teach them how to do it successfully.

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