It’s that time of year again: School’s out for summer! It’s time to say goodbye (albeit temporarily) to lesson planning, marking and exams. And it’s time to say hello to sun, sea, and, because you’ve earned it, a glass of sangria.
Teaching can be a hugely rewarding job, but also challenging and tiring, and the chance to recharge our batteries is most welcome.
Here at Pearson we’d like to wish you a fantastic summer and we look forward to seeing you all back again in September.
One of the most common pieces of advice a teacher will give to a student wanting to improve their listening (and quite possibly their vocabulary) is to “watch films in English.” It seems like a sensible enough suggestion on the surface. After all, it couldn’t do any harm could it? But perhaps the question is: Does simply watching films in English translate into any real improvement in listening and vocabulary, or does it perhaps require a bit more effort than that?
My own experience of learning Spanish tells me that watching films or television is indeed extremely helpful, but I also remember that most of the time I spent in front of the TV in my first months in Spain was spent in the company of the family I lived with. I could easily ask them questions to check the meaning of words or concepts and instantly check their reactions to what was happening on the screen to see if I was following the thread. In short, I had something very similar to teachers on hand.
So, what tips can we give our students to get the most out of their viewing? How can they make time often spent alone in front of the TV less passive, and actively take control of their learning on their own? Here are a few tips:
Let’s face it, teachers of mixed-ability classes have a lot on their plate. Weaker students may give up on work assigned to them and stronger students often finish very quickly. Both groups can switch off and start messing about. Nobody would disagree that ‘Every child matters’, but for a teacher with eight classes of thirty children, responding to each child’s needs can sometimes seem a challenge to put it mildly.
The glass is half full!
Although challenging, mixed ability classes also have many advantages. First off, they represent a microcosm of society: we’re likely to get varied input and ideas from students and these classes lend themselves to developing values like respect, tolerance and helping others: they encourage co-operative learning. Also, they may require creativity on our part, but that makes us better teachers!
No two people have quite the same experience of teaching English. My own history includes mostly private sector teaching to adults and teens (so this post might not reflect your situation exactly). But regardless of the context you teach in, many of us, and this is undoubtedly true of any profession, might get to a time when we question why it is that we are doing it, or maybe we forget why we got into it in the first place.
For native speakers there is the added “I’m JUST an English teacher” issue to face as well, as in: I’m JUST teaching something that I didn’t have to put any real effort into learning myself, or Am I JUST taking the easiest option? Shouldn’t I be more of a go-getter in world of increasing “go-getting.” I would bet that this thought has crossed the minds of a fair number of you out there. Perhaps if you are a NNS (non-native speaker) of English you haven’t had this same feeling, and the things listed below are somewhat more obvious to you. If so, scream and shout about them! Kick up a fuss about your profession! And get your colleagues stoked about their job! Because there are a great many things to love about being “just” an English teacher.
At the end of every school year, my adult students have this same query: “What can I do to practice my English during the summer?” After 13 years of teaching experience, I should be ready for this, but often the only answer that springs to mind is to watch movies and read in English. However, neither I nor my students are very happy with this less than original answer. I am sure they are expecting a bit more from an ELT professional. But I’m not letting that happen again this year and that’s why I have prepared the following short list that I’m sharing with you in the hope that it could be useful for any age group of students you are teaching. Continue reading
Preparing our students for high stakes exams can be a daunting task. We want them to know the exam inside out, we’ll need to give them plenty of practice and we still aim to keep our lessons engaging and fun! This post is concerned with Part 2 of the First writing exam: what should we teachers bear in mind?
Part Three: A top-down approach
There are many ingredients to good pronunciation in English. In my last post on the subject I focused on individual, discrete sounds and their importance for our learners, but the thing that strikes me most when I hear a non-native speaker of English with good pronunciation is the rhythm and overall delivery of the chunks of language they use, not individual words per se. As a native speaker, if I hear a familiar pattern my ear can naturally pick out information which is being packaged in a way that makes sense to me. If some of the individual sounds are difficult to discern this is unlikely to affect my understanding to any great degree.
The importance of stress-timing
And I’m being quite literal when I talk about packaging language into meaningful chunks. Let’s see why this is and why one of the most important things we can do to help our students with pronunciation is to draw their attention to the phenomenon of stress-timing. Here’s a nice activity someone showed me years ago to introduce this at the beginning of a course. I don’t remember who exactly (my apologies) but I’ve never forgotten it.
Last weekend we were at four events in different parts of the country, where we delivered talks around various topics: the spiral syllabus, writing and exams, short video, and ICT and emotions. Keep reading to find out more and download the materials.
Teachers are often overwhelmed by the wealth of choices provided by the digital world so when trying to apply technology in their classes, they are often understandably confused about which tools might work and which might not.
It is tough job, I know, so today I will show you 3 tried and tested digital resources that will foster your students’ speaking skills. In addition, I will illustrate a few e-ffective tasks that will surely engage and improve your learners’ outcomes.
Last week I taught some classes with preschool aged children (aged 3-5) and, in honour of World Book Day and Sant Jordi, did some storytelling (as if you needed an excuse to tell stories to young learners!). As teachers we know that children who read for pleasure tend to do better in school than their less bookish peers, so trying to engender in our learners a love of reading by telling them stories from a young age can have far-reaching benefits.
However, even with very young learners, we’re only scratching the surface if the only thing we do with a story is, well, to tell it. Stories become really powerful, both as a motivational and as a learning tool if we can allow our pupils to become protagonists in these stories and this blog post will look at some ways to do that with classic stories. The ideas are relevant for pre-primary, but also primary too where we might expect more in the way of student production.