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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The 8 a.m. Class

5:30. The chiming bell alarm on your phone goes off.

You hit snooze and reach over your head to turn on the reading lamp. A bluish-white glow fills the pitch black room. You roll over and sleep for eight more minutes.

At 5:38 the bells start again and you hit snooze one more time and turn on your back. Your mind is almost awake now and already it’s wondering if Junwei will remember to print his essay and turn it in at 10 o’clock today. There are a few more moments of quiet and at 5:46 the alarm goes off again.

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How to Forge Ahead After Midterms

The weeks after midterms are a depressing time of the year for teachers in the United States. Some teachers even have a name for it: DEVOLSON: Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November.

The beginning of the semester seems like a lifetime ago. The freshness and excitement of August and September have worn off a long time ago. Students are becoming more tired and apathetic. Winter is right around the corner and yet the end of the semester is nowhere in sight.

The time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving break is the longest stretch without a break in most schools’ calendars. It truly is a test of endurance. As the days drag on, sometimes you just want to curl up and shut the world out for a few days. Of course, for teachers, that’s not an option. We have to be leaders and drag students, sometimes kicking, sometimes screaming, through the remaining classes of the semester.

Teachers can do a few things to help them make it through and come out on the other end less frazzled, if not all rosy. Here’s how I get through these most difficult months.

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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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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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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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What to Put on Your Student Questionnaire

The beginning of the semester is a busy time for teachers, so I’ll give you the good stuff right away. Below is the student questionnaire I’ll be using for my classes this coming semester. I kept it in Word so you can edit to your heart’s content.

Some quick background: I teach an adult ESL writing class at an intensive English program at an American university.

Now, if you’re interested in why student questionnaires are so important and want to know what to include in a student questionnaire for your own class, then keep reading!

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Teaching in Tegucigalpa: An Interview With Juan Jose Reyes, EFL coordinator

12696924_10207589351846080_7544691585711756894_oJuan Jose (JJ) Reyes is from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He is the Coordinator of the EFL program for TECVOC, a Vocational Technical degree at UNITEC (Universidad Tecnologica Centroamericana).

I met him in the MATESL program at the University of Illinois and he’s remained a close friend. I was excited to interview him about his job in Honduras, and he didn’t disappoint.

There are a lot of interesting topics covered here: ESL versus EFL, academic contexts versus vocational contexts, perceptions of non-native teachers in ESL contexts, insights from his experience as a program coordinator, and of course, some travel tips.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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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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