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.
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.
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…
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!
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:
Always remember when teaching young children that a minor addition to the class will feel like a completely new adventure for your students!
For my first blog on this site I want to give my opinion about some of the ideas that, for whatever reason, have been perpetuated by certain people. Here are a few of the negative misconceptions about ESL…
1. ESL teachers are not real teachers: What do you call a ‘real teacher’ nowadays? Some say that people who teach English as a foreign language are unqualified and have jobs that are in no way similar to mainstream state school teachers back home. Okay, so most ESL teachers don’t have a Masters degree in Education and their role is much different to an elementary or high school teacher in the U.S.A, U.K and so on. On the other hand though, most of us complete a recognised intensive training course before beginning our careers, prepare detailed lesson plans and carry out teaching duties under the same basic principles as any teacher in, any subject, anywhere in the world. ESL teaching presents a whole range of challenges that are unique to this area of education. The job is often hard work and professional development in the industry is a long, bumpy road. If people don’t consider this job to be ‘real teaching’ they should talk to the millions of students in the language schools across the world and ask them what they have gained from attending an ESL school.
2. English language schools only care about making money: Around the world, particularly in Asia, language or ‘training’ schools are often private enterprises- offering extra-curricular education in English to local children and adults. Is there money involved? Yes. Does that mean that employers don’t care about their staff? Not necessarily. Obviously there are some organisations that are keen to make a quick buck at the cost of low paid and overworked teachers, but like any business, the people who start it usually have some interest in the well-being of their clients and staff. It’s easy to generalise from the horror stories that appear on forums and it’s easy to forget about the thousands of reliable, trustworthy and highly professional organisations that operate in every country!
3. You can’t earn big money from ESL teaching: This misconception usually comes from people who have looked at the salary amount on job ads and noticed that compared to equivalent wages back home, the monthly earning figures are small. What people need to bear in mind is that English teaching jobs abroad usually involve bonuses such as free or subsidised housing, air fare allowance, contract completion bonuses, regular pay increases and most importantly; MUCH cheaper costs of living in your new country of residence. Add all this up and compare the amount of money you can save every month to how much you would have to earn back home to bank that same amount after all your monthly outgoings! Probably the best way to debunk this myth though is to read a job ad for ESL teachers in Saudi Arabia…
4. Many teachers find themselves alone and without any support: Again there will be instances of this happening but if prospective teachers do their research beforehand and make back up plans for the worst case scenario they should be fine. If teachers feel like they don’t have the support network they need or feel trapped and alone, they can always leave to go back home or find a job elsewhere at any point in time. In fact, if your employer is not providing you with the basic support you require, you should probably think about working elsewhere anyway!
So I suppose on a final note, the thing to say is that despite some of the negative reputation the ESL industry has picked up in recent years, the industry on the whole is incredibly dynamic and I believe it’s gaining more credibility as time passes. Job seekers are right to read some of the more negative opinions before they reach a decision on their future, but I would strongly urge them to consider the misconceptions that often result from these views.