How to Make a Syllabus (when you’re freaking out)

My first teaching job was stressful. I was working in South Korea as the native speaker English teacher at a middle school. About a day before classes started, I asked one of my Korean co-teachers,

So, um…What should I teach?

At that point, I had never had any substantial teacher training and I hadn’t even been given a textbook to work from. Needless to say, I was looking for a little guidance.

Her response?

It doesn’t matter. Teach whatever you want. We just want you to try hard.

The next few months were a little difficult.

And when I say “a little difficult,” I mean agonizing. I spent several school nights staying up until two or three in the morning combing the internet for standalone lessons that would work with classes of 30-35 middle school students of varied proficiency. I’ve been teaching for several years since then and I think I’d still find that situation challenging.

At the time, I was desperately in need of some structure and order to ease my cognitive load. The solution would have been to create a syllabus. But that’s easier said than done, especially for a novice teacher without any guidance. I wouldn’t have known where to start.

Since that period of chaos, I’ve created different syllabi for the various teaching situations I’ve found myself in. In this post, I’ll talk about a few of those situations and how to create an appropriate syllabus for each of them.

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4 Reasons to Teach the 5 Paragraph Essay (and 1 Reason Why You Shouldn’t)

Love it or hate it, the five paragraph essay is a core part of writing curriculum in the United States. There are many arguments against it, but for most teachers and students, it’s here to stay. And while some people like to grumble about it, there are some solid benefits to writing in this style for both students and teachers.

So here’s my thesis statement: there are four reasons why teachers should teach the five paragraph essays, and one reason why they shouldn’t.

Not repulsed yet? Read on.

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3 Ways You Can Use VIRTUAL REALITY in Your ESL Class!

Virtual reality is here and it’s only going to get bigger and bigger in the next few years.

If you don’t know much about virtual reality and don’t believe me, go to YouTube on your smartphone and search for “360 VR” (360 degrees, virtual reality). Choose a video that looks interesting and start watching, but move your phone around. That’s right: you’re controlling where the camera goes.

Now, that’s cool. But can you use VR to teach? I’m sure there’s going to be tons of apps and equipment hitting the markets, but you can already do some activities in class with VR that’s already available, and you won’t have to spend more than $20.

Introducing: Google Cardboard.

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Can Your ESL Students Become Fluent in 3 Months?

I recently finished Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis. As a teacher of language, I’m interested in books that claim to have tips, tricks, and yes, even “language hacks” that can help people learn a language quickly.

This book, on the surface, looks quite different than the last book I reviewed. Becoming Fluent was written by a Foreign Service Officer in the US Department of State and a professor of psychology at a major university. What are Benny Lewis’s credentials? Well, just take a look:

 

Pretty impressive, right? So, what are his methods?

Actually, what he writes in Fluent in 3 Months isn’t too different from some of the content in Becoming Fluent, with some basic language learning/teaching tips thrown in.

And while I  believe that it really is possible to become very good (“fluent” is tricky to define) in just three months, I don’t think we language teachers are in danger of losing our jobs due to a sudden rise in language autodidacticism.

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In defense of pop quizzes + an example

“Surprise! Today we have a pop quiz.”

The word “pop” is usually associated with things that make us happy – bubbles, soda, popcorn, Michael Jackson.

But when it’s put before “quiz”, “pop” suddenly turns sinister.

Pop quizzes get a bad rap from students, and even some teachers say they would never use them. The idea of being surprised by an assessment is unsavory if not downright scary. But if they’re used in the right way, pop quizzes can be very useful for both the student and the teacher.

There are definitely right ways and wrong ways to use pop quizzes. Let’s look at some of the bad ways to use pop quizzes first.

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