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Oct 2014 22

Movement and sounds are essential parts of students’ learning experience. Children respond particularly well to activities that are heavily music-based. It is a good idea to use sounds, songs, dancing and TPR to aid you in catering to a wider range of students’ learning styles. It can help to cover almost all of the learning styles; Visual, Kinetic and Audio, and above all it is highly engaging, interactive and it can be very fun.

Taking words or sentences and chanting them out to your students, even incorporating a clap to go with it or a specific movement for a certain word, will have a huge effect on your students’ memory of English language interaction. This method of teaching can help students to recall these words much quicker next time. It can also help them to connect certain actions with a certain sound and therefore aid them in having a better understanding of the meaning or simply remembering how to say the words or sentences that have been taught.

Another great reason to use sound or actions in teaching English is to help with pronunciation or simply the breakdown of syllables. Chanting can help to emphasise the individual syllables and other key components of a phrase, such as its rhythm. A method to try is slowly clapping out the parts of a multi-syllabic word, whilst saying it and simply getting a student to follow and repeat. This method has also proven to be very effective when teaching adults who may struggle with pronunciation. With children however, you can incorporate far more things without fear of embarrassment; including dancing, TPR and music.

If a particularly long or difficult sentence needs to be taught then one technique to try is breaking down the words into sections and introducing a different dance move or action for each one. For example, a simple activity would be using the good old ‘hands on hips’ approach and sway your body forward, back and side to side, with each movement corresponding to a different word. However, star jumps, hops, the crab, crawl, waving and many other actions and dance moves are equally effective when used properly. This is great for kids who enjoy movement-based learning.

Language schools around the world often provide teaching staff with audio equipment and a range of songs to use in the classroom. I strongly advise making the most of them. The small fraction of time it is used for will have a huge impact on the memory building capacity of your students.  Moreover, if it’s a catchy song then your students will subconsciously repeat it in their heads, which, if they understand the meaning of the lyrics, does your job for you.

Try this: if you have an audio recording of a dialogue, song or story, play it and then stop the track suddenly part way through. Ask students what the last word they heard was, what they think the next word could be, if it was the end of a sentence, etc. Asking questions like these can encourage a student to listen more and work harder, but ultimately it helps you to know if they were listening or not.

You could also try having the words of a song clearly written on a piece of paper, give it to the students in pairs and have them sing or point to the words along with the music. Or you could have them dance and sing along and play the song often enough for the students to eventually learn the words and be able to sing along well.

Music is a great way to get children to learn. It really awakens their senses and forces them to interact and engage with the topic at hand. Failing to make good use of this valuable teaching tool will make your life harder and it means that your students are missing out on a rewarding and fun aspect of the learning process.


Aug 2014 04

As educational technology continues to develop, many ESL language schools are adapting their teaching styles and classroom environments by using Smartboards and various other high-tech gadgets.

In terms of teaching style, I try to use a wide variety of techniques, props, gadgets and activities that are simple to set up and effective in aiding the understanding of the topic being taught. This is a combination of my own personal teaching style and the fact that i like to have a backup as technology often fails .

I do embrace technology in the classroom much more now and use it to my own advantage. Smartboards have replaced the regular white boards in the classrooms of many teaching establishments. Whilst this kind of technology is not essential, it certainly adds a great resource to the lesson and enables the teacher to engage audio-visual learners on a new level. For example, I’ve used some great flash games to drill vocabulary, letters and phonics. By getting the students up and having them use the interactive technology, they get a kinetic/visual memory to attach to the new words. The possibilities with Smartboards are endless. You can design activities, make presentations, play songs, use videos and integrate all kinds of visual effects to engage and enthuse your students.

If your school has technology in the classroom and you are like me  and have avoided using it in your classes much before; then we should embrace the modern era together and spend some time learning new ways to use the technology and resources we’ve got to enhance the learning experience for your students! However, always have a backup in mind for when technology doesn’t hold up to its end of the deal.


Jan 2014 23

Hey all! I just want to leave a quick blog post on something I’ve heard a lot about lately- internships for TEFL. I have known some reputable companies offering internship opportunities for ESL teaching. These programs usually provide on-location training abroad and ultimately there is the potential of a permanent position with a school. Not all of these companies are out to rip you off and some of them offer new teachers a good way to start their career in ESL.

Last week I ran a training course in Chicago and a young participant told me of his recent ordeal during an internship position in China. As a fresh college graduate, he decided to travel and try out teaching. After browsing on the internet he applied for an internship program which offered a comprehensive 3 months training period and a ‘guaranteed’ job offer. The day after he got off the plane, his school threw him straight into 25 hours of teaching  per week, without any training period. They employed him illegally for 3 months on a tourist visa, gave him no support in his general living and paid him just 2,500RMB ($401.15) per month!

When I heard about this person’s experience I did some research and found that there are many similar stories of people being taken advantage of via an ESL internship; all over the world. If you are a job seeker, I don’t want to discourage you from considering internship programs but please be careful and don’t lead yourself into this kind of position! Ask to see a contract beforehand.

Nov 2013 08

Some of my teachers have been asking me lately what they can do to make story telling more interesting and student focused. It got me thinking about different ways to approach stories in my higher level classes where the kids are often too mature for the content of the reading materials in front of them. After surfing the net for a while I came across a clip of an ESL teacher, Antonio Graceffo, on Youtube…

ESL Picture Stories

The idea is that you simultaneously tell a story whilst drawing the images on the board. When you’re done, you have your students come up and attempt to re-tell it using their spoken English and drawing skills. I’ve tried it out in a couple of my classes since I watched the clip and it really is effective! My students loved to get creative and crazy when attempting to re-tell the stories and the added element of imagery keeps their attention and helps them to add visual stimulus to the language. This kind of activity is great for both auditory and visual learners. It also emphasizes creative and unscripted use of the language.

Give it a go in your next story class and let me know how it goes or if you come up with any ideas to develop the activity!


Aug 2013 03

Good ESL teaching goes hand in hand with creativity in the classroom. Nothing is more boring for students than having someone stood at the front of class flicking through flashcards for 30 minutes whilst they call out the vocabulary in a robotic manner. Most schools in the industry have recognised the need to integrate gimmicks into vocabulary drilling activities to distract students from the fact that they are continuously repeating the same set of words. During my time as an ESL teacher I have experimented with tonnes of different gadgets and gimmicks to spice up my classes. I can’t stress enough how useful it is to throw in something different with any age group you teach. Here are some things you can use:

  • Sticky balls: A classic must have item for ESL teachers. Stick flashcards to the board, get the students into teams and have them try to throw the sticky ball at the vocabulary whilst performing some kind of drilling activity.
  • Mirrors: You can use mirrors to do all kinds of things, with written English in particular.
  • Fake money: For teenagers, team points can seem a little bit immature and pointless. Bring out the fake cash and give them something they can relate to.
  • Puppets: Kindergarten aged children love puppets and even with juniors it can be a great way to make role-play activities more interesting.
  • Ping pong balls: If you want a quick and easy repetition exercise, throw a ping pong ball into the air and have students shout out the word every time it hits the floor.
  • Chopsticks: If teaching in Asia, you won’t run out of supply. I saw a colleague recently use chopsticks and a pile of small elastic bands to create a great language activity. Get students into small groups, equipped with a pair of chopsticks and a plastic cup each. Put a pile of bands in the middle and tell them to race to get as many bands into their cups as they can- each time saying a relevant piece of vocabulary.
  • Flashlights: Another great activity someone told me about recently involved flashlights. Stick your flashcards on the board, turn off the lights, shine your light on the vocabulary and have your students call them out.

Always remember when teaching young children that a minor addition to the class will feel like a completely new adventure for your students!

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