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!

Jan 2013 18

The BBC news published an article this week about China’s economy ‘slowing’ to a growth rate of (only) 9.5% per year. What this tells us is that even in its slowest growth periods, China is booming and growing at lightening speed.The demand for native English speakers is growing accordingly. As more people gain enough wealth to send their children to private language schools, new providers are popping up all over China. In my view the number of ESL teaching jobs across the country is going to increase rapidly over the next few years as China continues to develop as a nation.

It’s not just the extra cash floating around that ensures growth in the Chinese ESL market. The country’s culture is unique in its emphasis on educational success. With many families only having one child, the Chinese are keen to make a success of their son or daughter and constantly strive to give them the edge over others in life. They hope to achieve this in many ways, extra-curricular activities are particularly important. The Chinese know that for their child to get into the best universities and get the best jobs, they increasingly need to be proficient in spoken English. The Chinese middle-class tend to beĀ  competitive and it will often be the case that parents hear about their friend’s child going to a language school and follow suit to keep up with them.

The icing on the cake is that China is very much aware of the importance of English in engaging with a global economy. With new economic powerhouses emerging over the next few years, for instance Brazil and India, China needs to put itself in the best position to secure business deals with developed nations. The English language is, of course, the communicative lubricant of the international market.

All of this considered, it is a ‘no brainer’ that China’s ESL market is going to grow significantly over the coming years and the demand for native English speakers will increase as a result.