3 ESL Valentine’s Day Activities (Compare/Contrast Focus)

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is a part of American culture. If you’re teaching ESL in America, your students will want to learn about it.

At the moment, I’m teaching compare/contrast essays in my writing class, so the following activities combine information about Valentine’s Day with language for compare/contrast. However, you can adapt most of these ideas for different units and subject areas.

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3 Uses for Socrative in ESL Classes

Other teachers have been encouraging me to use Socrative for awhile now, but until recently I just didn’t care to try it out. I’m not against using tech in the classroom; it can make things a lot easier. I just didn’t want to have to learn yet another educational technology.

And Socrative is intimidating. Students use their own smartphones to navigate the program, so that’s a lot of small screens to pay attention to. There are teacher accounts and student accounts. There are a few different ways to do things, but that means more decisions you have to make. In short, it has the appearance of that kind of tech that isn’t worth the time to learn. That was my first impression of it.

But I was wrong. Socrative is easy, useful, and even fun.

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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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Listening Activity: Instagram Podcast (How I Built This)

For other listening ideas, check out my older blog posts on my favorite listening resources and how I teach listening in class.

This post includes a listening activity for upper intermediate or advanced ESL students.

This topic should be relevant, interesting, and approachable for most adult students. Even if the students in your class aren’t preparing to be “businessmen/women” or CEOs, they’ll gain some vocabulary and listening strategies that will help them in whatever field they’re planning on entering.

I created this activity for my class this past semester. We used the Pathways 3 textbook (which I recommend) and I taught these activities in Unit 5: Making a Living, Making a Difference.

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Teaching Hedging for ESL Writing (Worksheet included)

Here’s my worksheet if you want the good stuff right away: Practicing Hedging.
Read on for more good stuff about hedging.

Students who have gone through an English-speaking education system usually pick up on how to write in a “proper” or “academic” way. They gradually learn the sentence, paragraph, and essay structure from their teachers and classes. Their vocabulary improves through contextualized exposure in reading. Gradually, these students learn what “sounds right” when writing.

But learners of English often need to be explicitly taught what “sounds right,” “sounds wrong,” and why.

One writing skill that is often used in academic writing is hedging. Many native English speakers do it fairly naturally in speaking and writing, but for newer learners of English, especially those who are thrown into the deep end of academic writing without much previous exposure to English, this skill needs special attention in ESL classes.

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Teaching Trump: Two Listenings

The election is finally over. Whether you like it or not, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. He’s a person who many of my ESL students were very interested in talking about and learning about, so I’ve given a few assignments about him.

In this post, you’ll find two videos I’ve used in my classes and the worksheet and quiz that goes with them.

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Input Junkies: Can Teachers Infiltrate Social Media?

The illustrious Stephen Krashen was the guest speaker at the MIDTESOL conference this past weekend. Since I follow him on Twitter and know of his inclination to retweet Bill Murray, I was able to predict the opening salvo of jokes, which was actually pretty funny. The rest of his speech was eye-opening (see page 46/48 for his presentation notes). The main focus was on literacy, specifically the connection between the mere presence of books and the ability to read well. And it doesn’t matter what kind of books: Krashen encouraged the attendees to check out comic books and graphic novels and see for ourselves how compelling they are.

His argument was related to a past article in which he argues for the benefits of “junk reading,” meaning reading that isn’t considered “quality.” Pleasure reading, regardless of what language it’s in,  has the potential to put readers in a “flow state,” which can in turn lead to getting readers hooked on reading.

But why does this matter for college-age ESL students? When do they ever read for pleasure, even in their own language?

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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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