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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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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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 English in Saudi Arabia: An Interview With Daniel Johnson

14787112_10104428013821697_477744730_oI met Dan Johnson at the University of Illinois where we both received our Masters’ degrees in TESL. After graduation, I went to Missouri and Dan went to Saudi Arabia. Needless to say, we’ve had some different post-grad experiences. I got in touch with him to hear about his life and work in the Middle East.

Unlike my previous interviews, which were in person, my interview with Dan was done over email. It starts off with a few general questions about teaching English and then gets into his experiences in Saudi Arabia later. You’ll find Dan to be an interesting, eloquent answerer of questions. I’m very appreciative of the time and effort he put into these answers and I think you will be too. Enjoy.

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How to Help Your Class Review for a Big Test

Midterm examinations are upon us here in the United States. My classes have their midterms this week. Since the exams are cumulative, we’ve been reviewing everything that we’ve studied so far this semester.

I have a different method of review for each class – my grammar class’s review looks nothing like the review we do in my speaking class – but I always try to consider a few key principles.

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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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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 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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How to Use Blogs in Your ESL Class

For writing teachers, blogging is a great teaching tool. But since it’s a newer technology and not everyone is familiar with it, some teachers might avoid using blogs in their classrooms. If you’re one of those teachers, don’t worry. They’re easier to use than you might think, and they offer some advantages you can’t get from traditional writing exercises.

This post will show you the benefits of blogging for ESL students and get you started on incorporating it into your classroom.

Note: To incorporate blogging into your classes, you will need access to a computer lab for at least one day, or an in-class computer with internet access that all your students can see (with a monitor or projector). Your students will need access to computers connected to the internet outside of the classroom (either at home, at a library, at school, etc.). For very low-tech situations, using blogs might be very difficult.

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My Favorite ESL Listening Resources

My last post gave a run-down of how I teach listening in class.

I wrote briefly about authentic listening material and why it’s so important. This post is a collection of different sources and examples of listening materials that I think work the best for in ESL classes.

First, I’ll go through examples of listening materials I use in class.

Then we’ll look at resources that you can use to give your students outside of class listening homework.

Finally, I’ll talk about my favorite listening textbooks out of the ones I’ve used.

Let’s get started

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