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3 MUST READ: 6 Deadly How To Cooperate

Mistakes Most Teachers Make And Collaborate 46 USEFUL TOOLS: Mind-What?
On Their First Day Of Class 6 Simply Awesome Ways
(And How To Avoid Them) 25-26 CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: You Can Use Mind Maps
What is Culture? A Creative To Teach ESL
4-5 INTRODUCTIONS: Who Am I?: Language Unit to Help
7 Creative Ways to Introduce ESL Students Understand 47 USEFUL TOOLS: What Can I
Yourself to Your Class Each Other Even Do with That?
Great Uses for Smartboard
Ice-Breakers To Help What Did I Get Myself Into? 48-49 USEFUL TOOLS: Think
Your Students Get to Know 11 Tips to Mentally Prepare Outside the Box: 3 Things You
Each Other Quicker for the Foreign Classroom Can Teach With Logic Puzzles


to Know You: Every Level Ice So Tell Me about Your Feelings 10 Twists on Bingo
Breakers for the First Day Here: How Open and Direct perfect for the ESL classroom
Communication should be
9 ICE-BREAKERS: 7 Back in the Multicultural Classroom 52-53 LEARNING MANAGEMENT:
to School Games And Activities What Do I Even Do with This?
To Help Your Students Bond 31 SYLLABUS: First Things First: Great Uses for Your Class
How To Get Your Students Online Learning Management
10 CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT: to Actually Read the Syllabus System
Move Over: Addressing
Bullying in the Classroom 32 MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: 54-55 PROJECT-BASED
Keep It Real. How to Manage LEARNING: Where Do I Start
11-12 CLASSROOM Your Students Expectations With PBL? 5 Steps To Building
MANAGEMENT: Please Have Killer Projects
a Seat: Setting Boundaries 33-34 MONOLINGUAL CLASSES:
in the Classroom English Only Please 56 TASK-BASED LEARNING: Get
13 Methods Those Juices Flowing with
13-14 CLASSROOM for Monolingual Classes Tasks: 4 Simple Steps Toward
MANAGEMENT: This isnt a Wealth of Learning
the Right Time: Setting Limits 35 CLASSROOM LANGUAGE:
in the Classroom 7 Speaking Activities to 57 ADVANCED LEARNERS: They
Introduce Classroom Language Think They Know Everything:
15-16 CLASSROOM 6 Strategies to Get Advanced
MANAGEMENT: Oh, No! 36-38 TEACHER TALKING TIME: ESL/EFL Students to Practice
Drama Queens/Kings and Most Teachers Never Shut Up. with You
Masters of Crisis: Minimizing Heres Why (And How) You
their Effects Should: 6 Ways To Bring Down 58-59 ADVANCED LEARNERS:
Your Teacher Talking Time 4 Fun Ways to Challenge
17-18 CLASSROOM Advanced Learners
MANAGEMENT: What Do 39-40 PROBLEMS AND with the Present Simple
You Want Us to Do, Exactly? SOLUTIONS:This is the Way
Tolerance of Ambiguity and We Should Do It: The 5-Minute 60 ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES:
Lack Thereof in Students Guide To Dealing with Control Tested Out: 5 Alternative
Freaks in the Classroom Assessments
19-20 BUILDING A LEARNING for Your ESL Classroom
To Sharing To Critique To They Remember Nothing! 61 MUST READ: Get It Together:
Feedback: How To Create An Poor Retention And How Your Colleagues Might Be
Effective Learning Community 4 Great Activities You Need Your Best Untapped Teaching
To Fight Back Resource
Knowing This Now Might Make 42-43 GENERAL KNOWLEDGE: 62-63 MUST READ: You Can Do It:
All the Difference in Your A 5-Minute Guide To Building Words of Encouragement for
Classroom: How to Assess Your ESL Students ESL Teachers And 5 Important
Your Students Learning Styles General Knowledge Things I Have Learned
(and Then Teach to Them!) Through Experience
44-45 USEFUL TOOLS: Picture
23-24 COOPERATION AND This: 10 Easy Activities You
Involved: Teach Your Students with a Picture Dictionary
6 Deadly Mistakes Most Teachers
Make On Their First Day Of Class
FOR NEW TEACHERS, OR FOR EXPE- your attention throughout the students be games based. So, play games if that
RIENCED TEACHERS ENTERING NEW and include even those who have tried to is what you prefer, but also include some
CLASSROOMS, FIRST IMPRESSIONS avoid that inclusion. Note that, depend- partner dialogue practice or easy work-
ARE INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. ing on your teaching style, this may re- sheets so the students are aware that
Students will be testing us, trying to dis- quire that you buy a remote to advance they will be expected to do some work
cern where the boundaries lie, what they your presentation from anywhere in the during your classes.
can get away with and what the expec- classroom.
tations are. While it may be overstating
the case to say that the first few classes
can make or break your school year, fail- 3 DONT: CALL ONLY ON STU-
ure to make a solid impression on your Teachers tend to class students into two
students (and your co-teachers, if appli- This is very much linked to the above categories: good students, and trouble-
cable) can certainly make your life much point. It is easier to call only on students some students. This can cover a whole
more difficult for the next several months. who raise their hands than it is to force range of qualifiers that usually vary
Elsewhere on this site you can find in- all students to engage in the class. How- based on the teacher but may include
formation on what you should do on the ever, you will eventually want all your stu- behaviour, intelligence, interest, etc.
first day of classes, so I will not address dents to participate, so setting that prec- Having these mental categories can be
that here. Instead, here are 6 things you edent early will help you down the road. very helpful when it comes time to cre-
should NOT do in those early days. Unfortunately, this is not quite as simple ate seating charts, groups, or for class-
as just forcing everyone to participate. To room management, but it is important
AVOID THE FOLLOWING begin with, you may not have time to get that teachers dont form their impression
DEADLY MISTAKES all students to speak. Further, if it is the based on the first class or two. Early in
ON YOUR FIRST DAY beginning of the year, this will be a new the year, students are still finding their
class and the students may not be entire- own role within their new classroom and

ly comfortable with one another. Some
students are particularly shy and forcing
them to answer overly difficult questions
their relationship with their teachers. It is
not uncommon for a students behaviour
to change significantly after the first few
Students tend to be shy and nervous dur- can only cause them to withdraw. Ide- weeks of class. I am sure that many of
ing the first few classes, making them ally, call on groups or have every student us have seen watched a few exemplary
reluctant to speak up. To counter this, complete the same basic speaking tasks. students turn into classroom manage-
teachers often make their first classes ment nightmares over the course of the
about them (the teachers) talking. We
explain the class rules, expectations,
perhaps do a bit of review, etc. However,
semester. Keep those assessments flex-
ible until things have settled down a bit.
As a side note, there is a plethora of
as ESL teachers, speaking (in English) Class rules are there for a reason. Most literature out there stating that teach-
will be a key part of our classes and we literature emphasises the importance of ers should never pick favourites. Ever. I
should try to encourage students to en- presenting the classroom rules in the first agree with this, with a slight twist: teach-
gage and participate from the very begin- class. The follow up to this is that teach- ers should never play favourites in class.
ning of the year. ers need to start enforcing them right We all have favourite students: those
from the start. Of course, this requires who make us laugh, are interested in our


coming to class with a concrete set of
rules and consequences already in mind.
Not enforcing them will result in an up-
subjects, go the extra mile, but, and this
can be very difficult, we cant favour them
above their peers.
It can be very tempting to remain at the hill struggle of trying to break established
front of the class, that place where the au- bad behaviours among your students in FIRST CLASSES ARE IMPORTANT
thority of being the teacher seems stron- subsequent classes. TESTING PERIODS FOR ANY TEACHER.
gest and where we often have things to It is the foundation of the relationship that

point at on the screen/board. But this DONT: JUST PLAY GAMES will exist between the teacher and that
sets a precedent that you will not inter- class. There are a million things that can
act with your students and creates an im- Teachers may feel pressure to go wrong in these early weeks, but be-
balance in the class. Those in the front make students like them, like their class, ing well-prepared will help stave off most
receive most of your attention and those and like learning English. This can lead of them. Teachers, especially new teach-
at the back are much more difficult to en- to simply playing a series of English ers, tend to be nervous and anxious for
gage (and control). Traditionally, trouble- games, often considered review games, the students to like them. This may often
makers will attempt to sit in the back of for the entirety of the first class or two. lead to the common mistakes discussed
the class where they are comparatively While there is value in getting the stu- above. Remember that students will of-
free from the teachers scrutiny. By mov- dents speaking in a fun, relaxed environ- ten like a teacher who is consistent, fair,
ing around the classroom, you spread ment, not all of your classes are going to and inclusive. Beyond that, relax and
have a great year.
Who Am I?: 7 Creative Ways to
Introduce Yourself to Your Class
eaten. Bringing a bag of candy from out one or two people at a time to ask
ONE OF THE FIRST CHALLENGES your home country (preferably candy other groups to share their sections.
FACING NEWLY MINTED ENGLISH that students cannot purchase in their Especially for higher level students
TEACHERS, ESPECIALLY WHEN own country) to serve as a prize in that and classes, it is best to emphasise
TEACHING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, first class will also get the students in- that the slips must be read out loud
IS FINDING A WAY TO INTRODUCE terested in you and where you come when they are being shared, not sim-
THEMSELVES TO THEIR NEW CLASS. from. ply handed to the person asking for
Although it may vary depending on them. Explain that the first group to

the culture you are teaching in, the
GAME-SHOW-STYLE get the complete story wins. Suggest
students are generally interested in that groups may want to bargain (ie.
you and curious about your life and QUIZ GAME
I will give you point three if you have
why you are now living in their country. This method can take a bit more work, point five).
Sadly, many teachers mistake this as but it has the benefit of giving students

an opportunity to hold a monologue at a reason to listen and engage with the 20 QUESTIONS
the front of class as they run through a class from the very first lessons. Cre-
presentation discussing their country, ate a short game-show-style activity This activity is one that is familiar
schooling, hobbies, etc. While there for the last half of your class. There to most teachers, but only really works
is nothing really wrong with this ap- are many templates for this avail- for introductions to older classes that
proach, it can get a bit boring for the able online, but something along the have a relatively high English level.
students, regardless of how curious lines of jeopardy is usually best as it To begin, introduce yourself by first
they are about you. allows for teamwork and is (usually) and last name. What happens next
a familiar game. Before starting your depends on the age and level of the
It is always better to get the students presentation, divide your students into students. For high level students who
not only interested, but involved in teams and explain that there will be a have a solid grasp on geography the
the discussion if at all possible. While game based on this information at the first topic for twenty questions can be
question and answer period may be end of class. Having pre-knowledge your country of origin. From there top-
a great way to do this, some cultures will encourage them to listen atten- ics can include province and/or city
(Korea for example) tend to discour- tively. Present your introduction and (it may help to provide a map of your
age students from asking many ques- be sure to include some interesting country at this point), size of family,
tions. In those instances, it is important facts about your home country, prov- type of degree etc. While this activity
that the teacher create opportunities ince or state, culture, and family. This can be interesting, it will not fill an en-
for the students to get involved. Here information will form the basis of the tire class. Limit it to ten or fifteen min-
are a few ideas about how to go about game. Once the presentation is com- utes then move on.
doing that. plete, the teams will have the neces-
sary information to participate in the
game. Play until the end of class. As
mentioned in the above point, some
This is a very simple game that
candy from your home country might can take up ten or so minutes at the
FROM DAY ONE be a great prize for this activity. end of an introductory class. It starts
to draw the students into speak-

While our primary purpose is to 3 JIGSAW PUZZLE
This activity takes quite a bit
ing and helps them get to know a bit
more about their teacher. Teachers
need to come up with several small,
teach English, most foreign English obscure facts about themselves and/
more preparation but is much more
Teachers also serve as a cultural am- or their lives. The teacher will present
interactive and student-based. There
bassador, or at least a multicultural these statements in groups of three.
are several ways to approach it. To
influence, in the classroom. Language Two statements will be true and one
encourage speaking practice, create
is certainly an important part of culture will false. False statements can be ei-
a short write up about yourself and
but, lets face it: food is going to be way ther completely fabricated or a slight
where you come from (pictures al-
more interesting to your students. As alteration of a truth. Start with false
ways add to student interest) and then
part of your self-introduction, include statements that are more blatant and
cut it up into one or two sentence sec-
some information (especially pictures) progress to more subtle differences.
tions. Be sure that the language you
of your favourite foods. Depending Students will guess which statement
use is appropriate to the students lev-
on the culture within which you are is false. To turn this into a game, have
els. When class starts, divide the stu-
working, you may want to explain how teams write their answers down and
dents into groups and give each group
the foods are made, what the ingredi- then award points to the teams that
part of the write-up and a lined piece
ents are, and when they are usually have guessed correctly.
of paper. Each group must then send

This is a good activity as it prac-
tices all aspects of English and gets
the students up and moving. Create a
list of facts about yourself, your coun-
try, and your family. Print off several
copies and attach them to the board
at the front of the room. Divide the
students into groups of four to six.
Each group will need a sheet of pa-
per. One person in each group will be
the scribe. The others will take turns
running up to the board, reading and
memorizing as much as they can,
then running back to their group and
reciting what they can remember to
the scribe who will listen and write it
down. The first group to finish wins.
Remember when you are creating the
list to keep the language within reach
of your students levels.

Its easy to forget that your students
likely want you to know who they are
as well. Many teachers will have close
to a thousand students in a given se-
mester, so it seems pointless to at-
tempt to learn the student names. Af-
ter all, there is no way teachers can
remember them all. However true this
may be, the act of introducing them-
selves is important to students in that
it gets them speaking and shows them
that they matter to the teacher.


Finding creative ways to engage your
students from the very beginning may
be the key to capturing and maintain-
ing students attention for the dura-
tion of the semester. They are curious
anyways, so instead of just talking at
your students, try drawing them into
conversation with you.

5 Ice-Breakers To Help Your Stu-
dents Get to Know Each Other
Whether it is the first day of school or others profiles. One person stands in memory anything is ok as long as that
your students have been studying to- front of the light, and the other person person can explain the connection be-
gether for most of the semester, get to traces their shadow on a piece of white tween it and themselves. Students take
know you activities are very valuable for paper. Students then cut out their pro- turns showing their objects to the class.
the ESL classroom. For ESL students, files and paste them on a colored piece The class makes predictions about how
classmates and friends are often family of paper. Once students have their pro- that object relates to their classmate.
away from home, and the sooner and files, have them look through a collec- After enough people have shared their
better your students can get to know tion of old magazines to find pictures of guesses, have the person explain how
each other, the more support and en- things that interest them. They should the object really relates to them. Did
couragement they will be able to give glue their interest pictures inside their anyone guess correctly?
and receive as they pursue their lan- profile cut out, looking up any vocabu-
guage studies. Here are some get to
know you activities that work well with
newly formed classes as well as those
lary words they do not know but will
need to talk about their pictures. After
the collages are finished, give each stu-
This get to know you party game
who have already gotten to know each dent a few minutes in front of the class is designed for native speakers, but that
other to some degree. to talk about the pictures in their collage. doesnt mean your ESL class wont have
After the presentations, you can display a ball with it, too. A simple set of Apples
the collages around your classroom. to Apples cards costs as little as ten
HELP YOUR STUDENTS dollars, and you and your students will
get hours of entertainment from them.
Each person receives seven cards that
have a characteristic of a person, place,


Help your students get to know
A simple way for students to get to know
each other and learn adjectives that
describe people at the same time is to
or thing on them (the red apple cards).
One person lays down a green apple
card, which has the name of a person,
each other with this fun icebreaker ac- have them create acrostics from their place, thing, or event. Each player then
tivity. Prepare for the game by getting a names. Start by brainstorming with your chooses one of his characteristic cards
large plastic beach ball and writing sev- class a large list of adjectives that might that best represents the green apple
eral ice breaker questions on it with a be used to describe people. Put these card and gives it to the judge for that
permanent marker. To play, arrange your words up on the board (and if you have round (the one who laid down the green
students in a circle and toss the ball to a daring class you might even want to apple card). That person reads all the
someone. They catch it, read the ques- have students act out some of the ad- red apple cards and chooses the one he
tion that is nearest their right thumb, and jectives). Once your lists are complete, thinks is most fitting. His choice is based
then answer it. They then toss the ball have each person write his full name solely on his own preferences, and this
to another student who reads and then vertically down the left side of a piece of is how your students will get to know
answers the question nearest their right paper. He must then choose an adjec- each other. Whoever laid down the
thumb. Continue playing until everyone tive that begins with each of the letters card he chose gets to keep that green
in class has at least one chance to an- of his name that also describes him and apple card. Play continues around the
swer a question. You can also play this write it next to the letters. For example, circle until one player has earned five
game with a class that already knows someone named Li might write loving, green apple cards or however many you
each other fairly well. Rather than an- intelligent. Once the acrostics are com- choose to set as the winning number. If
swering the question right away, have plete, have students share their adjec- you like, you can leave the game at a
several students predict what the catch- tives with the rest of the class. You might learning center for students to play dur-
ers answer will be to the question. After even invite your class to suggest other ing free learning periods. Make sure to
three or four people have made predic- adjectives each person might have used include a dictionary at the center so stu-
tions, have the catcher answer the ques- to describe himself. dents can look up unfamiliar words.
tion for himself and then toss the ball to

another student.

COLLAGE In this game, students will guess at in- ESL STUDENTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO
formation about their classmates based LEARN NEW VOCABULARY AND PRAC-
This get to know you activity doubles on objects that person shares with the TICE THEIR SPEAKING SKILLS. Whether
as a vocabulary builder for your ESL class. As homework, each person should your class is a bunch of old friends or
students. Start by setting up a shadow gather two or three objects that repre- they are just meeting each other for the
tracing station in your classroom. Simply sent something about them. It might be first time, these activities can be valuable
direct a bright bulb at a blank wall. Stu- something they love, something they tools for building a more tightly knit class
dents work with a partner to trace each hate, something that evokes a certain and supportive atmosphere in the class-
room and outside it.
Getting to Know You: Every Lev-
el Ice Breakers for the First Day
pected fact. Have each person write who does, that person should sign
ICEBREAKERS ARE IMPORTANT IN a fun or unexpected fact about them- their name in the box. When some-
ANY CLASSROOM, AND EVEN MORE self on a sticky note (I have a pet one gets five boxes in a row, he calls
SO IN YOUR ESL CLASSROOM. squirrel, for example). Collect all the Bingo and wins the round. If you like,
Your students will be working together sticky notes and put them on your play another round, but you will need
for the rest of the semester, and the front board. Students come up one at a bingo board with different descrip-
sooner they get to know each other, a time and point to a fact. They then tions in the boxes to make the second
the more supportive and encourag- guess who the fact describes. If they round as challenging as the first.
ing they can be. Some icebreakers, guess right, they keep the sticky note.

though, are better for beginning stu- If they guess incorrectly, they leave HELP YOURSELF
dents while others are best for ad- the note on the board. Students take
vanced students. Here are some ac- turns until all the notes are gone. The Bring a big bag of M&Ms to
tivities you can use with your students person with the most notes in their class on the first day and pass them
no matter what level you are teaching. possession at the end of the activity around, but tell your students to wait
wins. before they indulge. Once everyone
TRY THESE IDEAS has taken at least one candy, its
WITH BEGINNING time to get to know each other. Go
STUDENTS WARM UP YOUR around the room and give each per-
INTERMEDIATE son a chance to share about himself

1 20 QUESTIONS JAR STUDENTS or herself. He will have to share one

piece of information for every piece of
Keeping icebreakers simple for
beginning students will get your class
off to a stress free start, and this ice
This simple icebreaker requires
candy he took. Some students may
not have much to say if they only took
a few pieces of candy. Others with a
breaker is one of the simplest. Write nothing other than personal creativity. sweet tooth may end up sharing twen-
a list of simple get to know you ques- Students prepare three statements ty or more pieces of information about
tions (Do you like sports? What is about themselves two that are true themselves. After a student shares,
your favorite song? What did you and one that is a lie. On her turn, a he can enjoy his chocolate while lis-
eat for breakfast? What time to you student shares her statements with tening to his classmates.
go to sleep? Etc.) Cut the questions her classmates, and they must guess
into small strips and put them in a which statement is the lie. This ice-
small jar. Students take turns choos- breaker even works with students USE THESE IDEAS
ing a piece of paper from the jar and who already know each other, as long WITH ADVANCED
answering the question. This activity as your students can come up with STUDENTS
also doubles as a fun way to review some really interesting facts about
specific grammar points you will cov-
er later in class. Just formulate your
questions using the target grammati-
cal structure and see if your students
can answer with the correct grammar.
This ice breaker will require a
One of the greatest investments
I ever made for my classroom was in
a simple set of Jenga style stacking
little preparation on your part, but af- blocks. Its a fun game and easy to


If you teach a class of interna-
ter the initial investment you can use
it year after year. On a blank Bingo
board, fill in the boxes with phrases
play, but I wanted to add a language
element and use it with my ESL stu-
dents, so I wrote an icebreaker ques-
tionals, this activity will help them get that might describe the people in tion on each block. I have groups of
to know where their classmates are your class: likes soccer, was born this students play the game, and whatever
from. On a large map, have every- month, has more than two siblings, block they pull, they have to answer
one put a small sticker where they speaks more than two languages, the question on it. Its a great way to
are from. Once everyone has marked comes from the same home country learn about each other without putting
home, allow students to guess which as you, etc. (You can see some ex- a lot of pressure on students, and the
sticker belongs to each person in your amples here: game aspect gives us all something to
class. ) Give each enjoy while we are answering ques-
person a copy of the sheet. Then on tions.


This simple icebreaker matches
your go, have students mingle and
talk to each other, looking for some-
one who fits the description in one of
each student (and you) to an unex- the boxes. When they find someone Would you rather always be late

or always be early? Would you rather
have only peanut butter or only jelly?
Asking questions such as these
is an easy way for students to get to
know each other. Have your students
stand up, give them a question, and
have them go to opposite sides of the
room based on their answer. Then
choose a few volunteers to share
why they made the choice they did.
Though this is a simple icebreaker,
students will have to be comfortable
with the conditional structure to un-
derstand and answer appropriately,
which is why its perfect for advanced

Advanced students should be com-
fortable talking with a classmate and
getting to know them through conver-
sation. Take things a step beyond this
by having each person introduce his
new friend to the rest of the class. Not
only will your students get to know
each other, you will also get a good
chance to evaluate the speaking skills
of your new students.


These are just some of the activities
you can do with your students on the
first day to get the getting to know you

7 Back to School Games And Ac-
tivities To Help Your Students Bond
groups according to different abilities. Or perhaps they can draw some-
WHETHER YOU HAVE A CLASS FULL OF Form groups of students who have mu- thing connected to a sport they play.
ANTSY FIVE-YEAR-OLDS, SHY TEENS, sical talent, artistic skills, or are really Or their country of origin.
OR BUSY ADULTS LEARNERS, THEY ALL creative writers. Each group has to work Secondly, they must place three
HAVE ONE THING IN COMMON: THEY as a team to prepare something to show things that represent them inside the
WILL BE TOGETHER FOR THE DURA- to the class. Dancers may choreograph bag. Obviously, they must be small
TION OF THE ESL COURSE, AND THEY one of their favorite songs. Artists may enough to fit inside.
WILL WORK TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE create a poster. Writers may write a short
THEIR ENGLISH-LEARNING GOALS. story. Give them enough time to prepare
Finally, they must bring the bag and
What better way to start classes than to its contents to school, and share it
and choose a day for your talent compe-
help them get to know each other? Here with the class.
tition. Each team has to vote for another
are some games and activities. These

team they consider the best. The win-
are more than simple icebreakers -- they ning team wins a special prize. CHOOSE A CLASS NAME
will help your students really bond as a AND CREATE A FLAG

THINGS IN COMMON You may have a class with students from
BACK TO SCHOOL: Create a questionnaire with 5 to 10 different backgrounds and nationalities.
HOW TO HELP YOUR questions like: While you may encourage them to share
STUDENTS BOND Whats your favorite American/Eng-
information about their countries of ori-
gin, it would be nice for them to also form

lish food?
A BLANK CANVAS TO FILL their own little nation. Ask students to
Whats your favorite American/Eng- come up with a name for their class:
Once youve greeted all of your lish TV show? English Ninjas, Grammar Warriors, or
students and gotten all of the introduc- Whats your favorite international the like. Then, they may create their own
tions out of the way, present them with pop star? class flag or banner, something that will
a completely blank bulletin board. Tell Whats your favorite color? represent them as a group. If you decide
them that their first task as a group will to create a class website, you can tell
What month were you born in?
be to decide what they want to do with it: parents what your English Ninjas have
Etc. been up to and proudly display their
Fill it with drawings of what they did
over the summer? Students must first complete this ques- work.
tionnaire and then walk around the
Put up family photos?
classroom to find other students they TRY ANY OF THESE ACTIVITIES, AND
Choose a theme and decorate ac- share some of these things with. They YOULL SEE. WHAT WAS AT FIRST
cordingly (fall, summer movies, pop must write the names down. When ev- A GROUP OF COMPLETE STRANG-
stars?) eryones done, each student counts how ERS WILL BECOME A GROUP OF STU-
What they hope to learn? many people they share things with. The DENTS WHO SHARE A GREAT MANY
When they have chosen their theme, student with the biggest number wins! THINGS AND ARE READY TO EMBARK
they must decide how they will decorate ON THIS ADVENTURE THAT IS LEARN-
the bulletin board and which materials
they will use (you may have a box of
odds and ends they can recycle).
Ask students to bring in baby pic-

tures of themselves and put them up on

the bulletin board. Students take turns
matching a student to a baby pic. The
Hand out slips of paper and ask student who guesses the most correctly
each student to write two things about wins. For obvious reasons, this game
themselves that are true and one thing works best with teens or adult learners.
that is untrue. Shuffle the papers and
give one to each student. Students must
guess which statement is untrue about
their classmate.
Give each of your students a paper
bag and instruct them on what to do with

First, they must decorate it in a way
Tell your class that they will have that represents them. Students may
the chance to show off their best talent. draw a guitar on it because playing
Have students divide themselves into the guitar is their favorite thing to do.

Move Over: Addressing Bullying
in the Classroom be referred to and reinforced throughout and point it out as inappropriate, refer-
TOPIC OF BULLYING, WHICH SEEMS the term. For example, have students ring to the classroom polices: As weve
TO BE A KIND OF TERRORISM AT THE spend part of a session discussing class- discussed, it is important in the academic
INTERPERSONAL LEVEL, THE BULLY room expectations and policies in groups environment to let everyone express her
CONTROLLING THE BULLIED THROUGH and then as a whole class share what opinion. Please let Sarah finish, William,
INSTILLING FEAR. Most of the writing on they brainstormed. There will probably be and then you may respectfully disagree
the topic is focused on bullying among a core of standards that all of the groups with her. This emphasizes the classroom
school-age children, where we seem to mention in some way: these can be typed standards while sending a message the
associate the problem the most, and indeed up and handed out at the next class ses- instructor will enforce them.
sion and/or posted on the class website.

the very term bully tends to summon
Typical policies include such standards as MIX GROUPS UP
images of a large boy in shorts, intimidat-
ing his smaller peers on the schoolyard to arriving and leaving on time, coming pre- TO AVOID CLIQUES
steal their lunch money. However, bullying pared, and so forth. Almost always listed is
A bullys power is in large part derived to
does occur among adults, of either gender, listening to and respecting others. Some
from the posse which supports him, ei-
and it can occur in the classroom. instructors go so far as to have students
ther through admiration or fear. Prevent
sign the classroom behavior polices, in
cliques from forming in the first place so
DEFINITION AND TYPES effect creating a contract, If the contract
there will be no such group to prop up the
OF BULLYING is breached, varying consequences may
follow, from loss of points to, in extreme
bully. This can be done by regularly mix-
Bullying is simply the act of controlling ing groups and seating arrangements so
cases, referrals to the dean of academic
others by instilling personal fear. The that the same students are not always
discipline. Often a set of such policies will
methods used by the bully can be both working together.
alert the bully to boundaries-- boundar-

physical and mental, often both. In the ies that wont accommodate his behavior. USE OF PEER PRESSURE
classroom of adults, bullying rarely is tak- Some bullies drop the class when they re-
en to the level of physical violence but can alize their conduct wont be tolerated, and In extreme cases, it may not be
be just as intimidating. Specific methods the instructor is serious about enforcing enough for the teacher to confront a bul-
used may be among the following: verbal the expectations. ly himself: the use of peer pressure can
abuse, humiliating, moving into others then prove useful. This often evolves
physical space, implied or direct threats,
demeaning criticism and the spreading of
rumors. The purpose of bullying is to con-
Model respect for your students
allowing others to talk uninterrupted, re-
organically from the classroom climate
as the semester progresses. If the class
standards are being regularly enforced,
trol through fear those the bully targets other students often will speak up about
specting others opinions and providing
for whatever reason often because the bullying behavior or react with dismay or
criticism in a constructive manner. Much
target is perceived as weaker in some even outrage when the bully interrupts or
of the classroom climate can be traced to
way. The bully, who almost always feels in belittles others. This is in effect turning the
the teacher: if the teacher is authoritarian
some inferior to others, gets a temporary table on the usual bullying pattern, where
and doesnt respect others, then the stu-
boost to her ego through intimating at the bully garners support for his inappro-
dents will see a classroom where these
least someone is of lower status. priate behavior among his peers. In this
behaviors are appropriate. In addition,
case, the peer pressure can be used to
some students, those who are new to an
METHODS TO ADDRESS academic environment, may not know
stop rather than encourage bullying.
what constructive criticism, for example, PRIVATE TALKS WITH
IN THE CLASSROOM really looks like although they may be fa-
miliar with the term on the abstract level.
Preventing bullying is easier than trying to
Therefore the instructor should model Sometimes, if necessary, a private talk
stop it once it has begun. Either can be
criticizing student work respectfully, fo- with the bully is needed to curb his behav-
achieved, however, in the following ways:
cusing on ways to improve the work, not ior if it continues or grows so excessive

1 SET UP CLASS POLICES FROM attacking it, or worse, its author. Establish it interferes with learning. When isolated
your classroom as a place where it is safe from her peers and an audience, the bul-
THE FIRST DAY to express opinions and make mistakes lying loses a lot of her power. Sometimes
Many teachers spend the first day of class without being exposed to attacks or ridi- the bully will react with anger -- oftentimes
establishing ground rules and norms of cule. with confusion, as he is so unused to his

behavior in class. This is important even behavior being corrected.
in classes with adults, due to the diversity CALL OUT BULLYING
of our classrooms. Students come from If bullying occurs, even with careful ADDRESSING BULLYING IN THE CLASS-
widely different backgrounds and have design of a safe classroom environment, ROOM CAN BE STRESSFUL OR EVEN
varying understanding of appropriate be- its important not to ignore or avoid con- FRIGHTENING. BUT BY CAREFUL CRE-
havior and often little or no background fronting a bully as this sends a message ATION OF A SAFE CLASSROOM CLIMATE
of such behavior in an academic setting. that the behavior is all right or at least that AS WELL AS CONFRONTING BULLYING,
These standards, once established, can it wont be stopped. Name the behavior THE INSTRUCTOR CAN ELIMINATE OR
Please Have a Seat: Setting
Boundaries in the Classroom
them must be defined. Some broad
BOUNDARIES CAN BE DEFINED AS categories of boundaries violations METHODS
A boundary is where I can claim some
personal item, space or mental pro- These methods can be taught explic-
cess as mine. Boundaries have long Violations of personal space in- itly through discussion and lecture as
been a problem in the high school or clude sitting or standing too close, as well as implicitly through modeling.
college classroom as young adults already mentioned. This is often sim-
may have little understanding of adult
boundaries as they have just begun to
navigate the adult world.
ply a cultural misunderstanding: dif-
ferent cultures have different notions
of what is appropriate social distance.
It also can be quite deliberate: stand- Just identifying why you are uneasy is
Different understandings of bound- ing too close to someone can signal a first step. An example would be de-
aries exist across cultures as well: a desire to dominate that individuals termining why you are suddenly tense
a well-known example is personal movements. Violation of personal or annoyed: perhaps another person
space and how it varies across cul- space can proceed more seriously, is standing too close or asking things
ture. For example, most Americans and usually deliberately, into viola- he doesnt need to or shouldnt know.
require more personal space than tions against ones person itself, such
many other countries, and if some-
one, especially someone you dont
as uninvited and unwanted touching.

know well, moves into that personal PERSONAL PROPERTY
space, they are likely to become un- ... if necessary: for example, Stand-
comfortable. Besides physical bound- Boundaries surround not only ing so close makes me uncomfort-
aries, there are more abstract bound- ones person but also personal prop- able, or That is information Id rather
aries, such as emotional boundaries, erty. Violations against property in- not give.
reserving as my right to determine clude examples such as borrowing

my own feelings or refusing to take something and not returning it, bor- STATE WHAT YOUD LIKE
responsibility for someone elses. An- rowing it without asking, or damaging
noyance, even anger, and a sense of it accidentally or otherwise, and not
violation come with others crossing admitting it or offering to fix it or re- This can be more direct, such as
our personal boundaries. These feel- place it. Again, there is a continuum Please have a seat, and I will help
ings have implications for the individu- here from non-serious to more critical you in a moment to the more direct
al student, teacher and the classroom concerns. Students frequently borrow Please dont touch that. Again, in-
as a whole. Protecting boundaries, classroom items like pencils, pens directness is largely cultural while
and modeling this for students, is im- and paper and then forget to return many Americans will recognize Have
portant as students may have very dif- them. More serious would be tak- a seat as often being a way of saying
ferent boundaries from the teacher as ing confidential material, such as the that their standing is a specific place
an individual as well as from what is grade book or stealing books or class- is causing a problem, this isnt always
expected in the classroom and broad- room equipment or damaging them. the case, and more directness may
er culture. Students may not even be be required.
consciously aware of the concept of
boundaries even if they feel uneasy
when their own are violated. Finally,
students may have little knowledge
Violations against ones mental METHODS
space are among the most insidious
of how to protect their boundaries in because they are more difficult to PROTECTING
an appropriate manner. Therefore, it name and protect. Prying into person- BOUNDARIES
important for the teachers to model al information and telling another indi-
claiming and protecting boundaries
while respecting others.
vidual what she or thinks or feels are
common violations. Again, this may
be unintentional as cultures widely dif-
Discuss what is appropriate in
EXAMPLES fer on what privacy is and how much American culture, such as what may
OF BOUNDARIES should be shared with others. or may not be asked. Or when reading
VIOLATION or watching movies, point out the be-
havior of the characters: who is stand-
Before teaching how to protect bound- ing too close, for example, or why one
aries, boundaries and violations of character reacted with anger at being

asked something. Letting students
know when theyve asked an inappro-
priate question is another method to
teach about boundaries. This has to
be done sensitively to avoid embar-
rassing the student, as she or he may
have been unaware of the inappropri-

This is done largely through
modeling: standing an appropriate
distance from students, asking per-
mission when borrowing something,
such as a students pencil, or asking if
it is all right to ask a specific question.

Sometimes having students
take certain roles and acting out a
situation, either through script or
through improvisation, can teach a
lot about boundaries. It can develop
understanding about roles within cul-
ture. For example, students current
understanding of how one relates ap-
propriately to friends, teachers and
classmates can be revealed through
role playing and the boundaries with
U.S. culture rehearsed. The language
for talking about boundaries can also
be taught when role-playing, such as
how to tell politely tell someone she
is asking a question you would rather
not answer.


However, it is necessary for students
to develop understanding about ex-
pected boundaries in their new cul-

This isnt the Right Time: Setting
Limits in the Classroom
five years. For good teachers to keep they can bug me just about any time.
TEACHERS ARE ROUTINELY PUSHED teaching, they must learn to set limits. Just not during class. Also there is the
PAST THEIR LIMITS THAT LINE nagging question: if it were really such
THAT SEPARATES WHAT INDIVIDU- an emergency, why is the student in
ALS CAN AND WILL DO FROM WHAT PRINCIPLES class at all and not, for example,
THEY CANT AND WONT. OF SETTING LIMITS at the emergency room? There are
In fact, pushing teachers to the line other people in the universe better
has long been popular entertainment
for students. Most often, of course,
it isnt intentional. All students have
Who should you help first? Who
equipped on occasion than the teach-
er to address emergencies. Enabling
students by helping with each emer-
needs: many have a lot of needs, and can wait or help themselves? Its pret- gency helps no one, ultimately.
many of those needs are huge and ty common even at the college level to
beyond the individual teachers con- have five to ten students crowding the
trol. Because teachers have so many teachers desk before and after class ENFORCING
conflicting needs to address in a finite needing help right now. Determining THE LIMIT
time, setting limits on what teachers who needs help immediately and if
can and cannot be reasonably ex- who (probably all) can wait until office Deciding what your limits are is only
pected to do is paramount. hours is critical. a first step, of course, although it is
important. After that comes the more
We also come from a culture that has
sometimes shocking expectations of
teachers: note the portrayal of teach-
Decide what you can realistical-
difficult part of stating the limits and
enforcing them. This is harder than it
sounds, but it can be done.
ers in the movies. If we are not able to ly be expected to do for students and
live up to those hero standards, such what is beyond your time, expertise In the example already cited of the
as single-handedly turning around a and resources. Students sometimes class where students individual emer-
failing community in a few months, demand not only time and academic gencies took precedence over the
as Michelle Pfeiffer did in Dangerous help but also extra psychological, fi- class lecture, setting limits became
Minds or draining herself financially nancial and social support. Communi- important because this was a fairly
and damaging her marriage for the ties also seem to take it on faith teach- regular occurrence.
good of the school as Hillary Swank ers will spend a hefty portion of their
did in Freedom Writers, we are then
salaries and time on what others in
the community should be giving. Set
limits on how much and what you can
give. To not do is of course bad for the
In addition to it not being good for the After it happened once, I stated the
individual teacher, having no limits is individual teacher but also enables limit. When I am teaching, please
ultimately not good for the students others in not taking responsibility that dont interrupt. See me before class,
they serve, the teaching profession as is really theirs. phone, email... etc. This worked for
a whole, and the school community. several days, and then there was the
The lack of limits shifts responsibil-
ity onto the teacher from students in
addressing their own needs, leaving
student who ran in late and came up
to me while I was lecturing:

them dependent on the teacher. It Determine the appropriate forum for Ms. Stacia, I really need to talk
also is bad for the school culture as helping someone. I teach at a college to...
a whole why set up a budget for of mostly lower-income, first-genera- Elizabeth, remember what we
books and supplies, for example, if tion college students, where it is ap- said about coming up during
you know the classroom teachers are parently considered appropriate to class? Please wait.
going to foot the bill out of their own come up to the instructor while she is But this is really, really important
pockets, as they often do? Teach- lecturing with the whisper I need to we need to talk now... etc.
ers, by engaging in this kind of self- talk to you now. Nothing will satisfy
So more had to be done. This is
sacrifice and failure to set limits, are the student until I step out of class to
where the mantra comes in.
actually enabling a dysfunctional hear her emergency. Ive had to re-

culture, where those in charge fail to ally set limits with this class on when
set priorities. And certainly the lack they can present their emergencies: HAVE A MANTRA
of limits is not good for the teachers, Im available before class, after class,
My mantra is something like
draining them financially, emotionally during office hours and by appoint-
Talk to me later, before class, after
and physically. In fact, about half of all ment. They also have my email ad-
class, email, or call. If I repeat that
teachers leave the profession within dress and office phone number where

each time a student comes up by
rote, in a monotone they finally get
the message. Or they dont come up
anymore just because they dont want
to hear the mantra. Either way works.

Students shouldnt feel cut off by you,
with no alternative. (Note I didnt say
there were, actually, no alternatives,
just that students might feel there are
not.) Suggesting an alternate might
be helpful. In the case of the chronic
problem of interrupting during lecture
well, of course, the mantra regard-
ing seeing me outside of class time
was an alternative although appar-
ently not a good one for some stu-
dents. Find an acceptable alternative
to your line in the sand might help:
e.g., I cant address that problem at
this minute, but if you have a seat, we
can talk as soon as Im finished here
could be a solution both parties can
live with.


Students dont learn how to problem-
solve, the teacher is left drained, other
leaders within the school community
dont fulfill their own commitments to
students, and the whole community
suffers from the loss of good teachers
every year. Therefore, setting limits is
critical to the practice of teaching.

Drama Queens/Kings & Masters
of Crisis: Minimizing their Effects
I cant address the wastepaper
because the motivation in keeping it
alive also dies.

(OR KING), CAPABLE OF TAKING problem right now, and am not actu- STAND FIRM
THE MOST MINOR OF ANNOYANCE ally motivated to, as Im setting up for
E.G., THE FULL WASTEPAPER class, but will do so at break. This People like the drama queen
BASKET AND TURNING IT INTO gets the student to put the issue in who are used to being in control natu-
A CRISIS OF ALMOST GLOBAL PRO- perspective and consider effects of rally are threatened by the loss of that
PORTIONS, REQUIRING IMMEDI- the behavior on others. control. Therefore, they may lash out
ATE ACTION. Or the drama queen or and become even more dramatic than

king may actively create crisis. In life usual. Be prepared for adult tantrums:
outside the classroom, these crises
acknowledge the feelings behind
are often real ones, involving job loss, Im sorry you are so distressed the outburst, but stand firm on your
bankruptcy, or criminal offenses. In the over the loss of five points. If you ar- boundaries: e.g., Im sorry you are so
classroom, the emergencies tend to rive on time, then you will not lose upset, but as Ive mentioned before,
be smaller, at most unsubstantiated points. This will strip away the drama I cannot take up class time with this.
reports of cheating or other offenses masters illusion of control, that he or Please take a seat and speak to me
committed by classmates, however, she can make the loss of points the after class.
they remain a major drain of time and focus of immediate attention, and

energy. places the control back where it be- TAKE BACK CONTROL
There are a number of puzzling rea- longs, on what he or she can control
sons for the drama addict to engage in FROM THE DRAMA QUEEN
his or her behavior.
such destructive behavior, of blowing Drama queens often have a limited

up minor concerns or creating major
PRIVATE DISCUSSIONS set of boundaries. It is the instruc-
ones. Upon further examination, the tors job, ultimately, to worry about
biggest motivation is probably control. A large part of a drama queens the classroom environment, other stu-
By creating the drama, the master of power is an audience hence the dents classroom manners, and over-
it gets everyones immediate focus in drama portion drama queen. How- all, how class time will be structured.
dealing with the crisis and creates a ever, drama isnt really drama with- Point out gently to the drama mas-
situation she or he has unique quali- out an audience, and the audience ter when she has transgressed one
fications to manage, having long ex- is indeed part of the drama masters of these boundaries: Thank you for
perience in such crises and agency control, especially if more players your concern, Abigail, and Ill certainly
in this one in particular. Whatever the can be pulled in. Well, maybe the look into this matter of Jennys use of
reason, however, as in life in general, wastepaper basket isnt important to Facebook during the lecture. Mean-
steps must be taken within the class- you, Ms. Baker, but it is to the rest while, please focus your energies on
room to minimize or even extinguish of us. Hey, class, how many of you your own grade and doing well in the
the drama masters effects if not the agree with me? Isnt the waste paper class. This is actually correct: other
behavior itself. basket... etc. Remove the audience students behavior is the instructors
and pull the drama queen into a pri- problem unless it directly impacts the
HERE IS HOW vate discussion in your office or after drama queen, and the individual stu-
TO MINIMIZE EFFECTS class. It is more difficult to be dramatic dents main responsibility is her own
OF DRAMA QUEENS/ in a small space before an audience success. Again, be prepared for out-
KINGS of one. In addition, the instructor can bursts, insistence that she is address-
help the drama master save face: Im ing the concern because you arent

Ask critical questions: How im-
sorry that X has caused you anxiety.
Can you explain what the problem is,
exactly, that is creating such concern
doing your job, and so forth. Stand
firm by repeating the expectation the
drama queen remove herself from this
portant is this right now? What do you and what can be done about it? This matter and focus her energies else-
want me to do about it? What actually kind of isolating and direct question- where. This reinforces your respec-
can be done about it? This gets the ing forces the drama king or queen tive roles and boundaries.
student focused on solutions rather into demonstrating there is an actual

than the drama itself or may even lead crisis by giving specifics about it with-
to a concession that the issue isnt re- CONSIDER INVOLVING
out embarrassing him or her in front of
ally an issue. peers, which will compound the prob-
lem. The lack of a larger forum also As a last resort, if the drama master
allows the issue to die a natural death becomes so disruptive that he im-

pedes classroom instruction, consider
meeting with him and the dean. The
drama master may actually preempt
you in this move if you are not respon-
sive to the effort to disrupt the class
with his antics. Remain calm during
the meeting, stay factual: e.g., that
the drama king repeatedly interrupts
lectures, argues with you and other
students, and in general takes up
class time. If you have documented
the behavior, such as notes of specif-
ic incidents on specific dates, this can
also help. In addition, a drama mas-
ter might well have created her own
paper trail in a series of argumenta-
tive or hostile emails to you. She may
have even copied the dean or other
administrators because of her convic-
tion in the rightness of her actions and
the degree of offense that has been
directed at her. All of this serves the
purpose of demonstrating inappropri-
ate behavior on her, not your, part,
especially if you have remained coolly
professional in the face of her drama.
The situation, however, rarely evolves
this far. More commonly, the drama
queen by her very nature finds it diffi-
cult to sustain a drama you are largely
not entertained by and unresponsive
to and takes her act elsewhere, usu-
ally by dropping the class.


However, by remaining professional,
sticking with facts, and redirecting the
attention of the drama master to more
productive uses than creating crises,
the instructor can limit the negative
energy of the drama master and even
channel it in more productive uses.

Tolerance of Ambiguity
and Lack Thereof in Students
ect be eliminated--which the student derstand it. Therefore, when students
I HATE TO SOUND LIKE AN OLD, stated explicitly was to protect her begin to show some understanding,
IRASCIBLE PROFESSOR, BUT IM grade. the teacher should stop helping so
TION GAP BETWEEN COLLEGE STU- It is my position, however, that some

DENTS TODAY AND THOSE OF MY ambiguity is part of an education, in- EMPHASIZE THE NEED
GENERATION. deed may be the essential compo-
Most notable today is the tendency FOR COMPLETING
nent. Development of critical thinking
of students to treat a college educa- skills naturally involves learning new ONES OWN ORIGINAL WORK.
tion as a commodity which theyve material that it is initially confusing,
purchased, and the quality of which Along with the increasing demand of
demanding ones active engagement detailed instructions is the expecta-
and the individual students grade in the learning process in order to plan
is solely in the responsibility of the tion for examples: students expect
ones original work that is not mod- examples of almost all assignments,
instructor. Related to this consumer eled completely on someone elses.
attitude is an intolerance of ambigu- from essays to research projects to
Students should approach the class journal responses. Again, while a val-
ity, the demand to be told exactly what expecting some ambiguity and lack
to do, in order to protect the precious ued teaching method, excessive use
of immediate understanding, and the of examples is problematic. For one,
grade, the students investment. teacher should guide students toward
This has resulted in a number of its not always necessary, especially
this acceptance. with familiar assignments. While the
trends: for example, the expectation
to provide increasingly detailed ru- instructor shouldnt assume that all
brics for each project which explain STEPS TO GETTING students have seen a webquest, its
in excruciating detail its expectations STUDENTS TO not at all unreasonable to expect they
and their relationship to the students ACCEPT AMBIGUITY all know what a paragraph looks like.
Scrambling up so many models is also
overall grades.

an additional burden on the instructor,
START THE TERM WITH as not all student work is exemplary,
In a personal experience, a few years CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS
ago I had a student in a graduate- and a model created by the teacher
level education course who claimed
BUT MOVE AWAY FROM THIS is often artificial. By nature teachers
to not understand what to do in the GRADUALLY. are not at the students level of de-
design of a webquest. A webquest velopment, and examples created by
Starting with clear instructions of the teachers on assignments can look
asks the student to visit a number of
material but eventually turning control forced. In a related concern is the
related websites, recording informa-
over the learning process to the stu- potential for plagiarism. If the model
tion from each, in order to investigate
dents is a traditional teaching method is too close to the project students are
a problem. In other words, it is a re-
called scaffolding. That is, the in- expected to complete, the probability
search project incorporating online
structor provides temporary support of students just copying the model in-
data. The problem was not that the
as students progress in competence. creases. Teachers should therefore
student didnt understand and admit-
In the webquest, the clear instruc- not yield to demands for examples in
ted it: most students then had not yet
tions, examples, and instructor com- all cases. In addition, there is a need
had experience with such a project.
pletion of part of the assignment are to explain what plagiarism is and the
Indeed, because I had anticipated
all temporary scaffolding that teach- seriousness of the offense.
some confusion, I gave out a list of
ers should be expected to provide,
detailed instructions on how to com-
plete the project. Because the stu-
dent still expressed confusion, I then
provided a model that I created of a
especially over unfamiliar material.
The operative word, however, is tem-
porary. Students are expected to ac-
tively engage in this learning process
webquest investigating my own ques- DO THEIR OWN RESEARCH.
from the start so that they can gain
tion on the effects of writing portfolios.
enough understanding of the material
This again issued the response the A main problem behind the demand to
to eventually progress independent-
student didnt know what to do, with be told what to say and how to say it
ly. The problem is when the student
the strong implication it was my fault is students mistaken belief they have
shuts down and turns over all control
for not explaining well. I then obliged nothing original and of value to say.
to the instructor. The teacher should
by asking for the students topic and This notion is usually incorrect: almost
actively discourage this response.
completing the first step for her. Not everyone has some original interest
Explaining too much can create a
surprisingly, there was still feedback and something of value to say about
passive learner who has not grappled
that the assignment was confusing it. Therefore, wide latitude in the
with the material enough to truly un-
and an implied demand that the proj- choice of topics for projects should be

allowed. Ive had students who have
researched such nonacademic top-
ics as the process of recruiting profes-
sional football players and controver-
sial topics such as whether a college
education really delivers on its invest-
ment. Allowing this choice not only de-
creases the possibility of plagiarism,
but student engagement is also in-
creased. Students are more engaged
with a project they care about and
therefore work harder, learn more,
and produce better work.


At some point in the process, often
early on, the students begin to ask
why: why is the instructor not telling
us exactly what to do, how to do it,
what her expectations are: why isnt
she doing her job? It is now time to
discuss the nature of a college educa-
tion. By telling students exactly what
to do, the teacher is actually doing a
large part of the students job, which
is to grapple with the material, maybe
get frustrated, feel confused, and deal
with ambiguity in general. This is all
part of the learning process. In deal-
ing with these problems, students be-
gin to develop critical thinking skills
required in figuring out, for example,
what they want to research and how
to go about finding the answers to
their questions. To take over the pro-
cess completely is to rob students of
this experience which is the very edu-
cation theyve paid me for (which they
often remind of).


And often Im pleasantly surprised.

How To Create An Effective
Learning Community
were reflective on the topic, and in this is a source of constant amazement
A LOT HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT way they also got to learn each oth- to me that California youth who may
DIVERSE CLASSROOMS AND THEIR ers backgrounds -- if they had sec- have taken Spanish from kindergar-
ADVANTAGES. ond language/cultural experience, for ten onward leave high school without
From many years of experience as an example, or if they shared the same being able to communicate in the lan-
instructor in diverse classrooms, I can interests in reading material. guage at all.) Because students have
attest to this: there is nothing quite this shared experience, and probably

as energizing as the flow of ideas,
INSTRUCTOR MODELING have reflected on it, they can discuss
sometimes heated, that comes out of why the instruction was so ineffective
a classroom among people of vary- Instructors must model the be- and what might have improved it.
ing levels of maturity, cultural back- havior they wish to see in students:

grounds, and socioeconomic status. in this case, authentic concern for CORE TOPICS OF SOCIAL
However, that is not to say that these each student and her experiences. If
classrooms are without disadvantag- AND CULTURAL CONCERN
the instructor treats each student as
es. if her contributions to the class dis- Once students are comfortable dis-
cussion are valuable -- and invariably cussing more universal topics, they
An inherent concern in the diverse they are--then the other students will can begin discussing specific social
classroom is initial student alienation act accordingly and take an interest issues that are still of general con-
from each other. What, after all, does beyond the students of similar back- cern. For example, one of the course
the eighteen-year-old female fresh- ground that they might normally gravi- readings was written by a man serv-
man have in common with the male tate to. For example, a number of stu- ing a life sentence for an unpremedi-
veteran in his thirties readjusting to dents had unexpected opinions on the tated murder committed when he was
being a civilian? Or to the student topics of our criminal justice system a young man. He wrote compellingly
with gang/criminal history trying to and treatment of drug offenders--un- about how the prison system, focused
straighten out his life? To the young expected and perhaps unacceptable, on punishment rather than rehabili-
immigrant student longing to break in a traditional college setting. But by tation, was ineffective in addressing
free from the confines of his parents modeling listening to their opinions on crime--mostly committed by people
boundaries? How does the instruc- the topic, even if they werent entirely such as himself: young males with
tor create a community of students of socially acceptable--e.g., opinions on poor impulse control who would not
such varied background and goals? It the criminal justice system, drawn in their lives commit another crime.
is a challenge, but it can be done. from personal experience of involve- Because most students have some
ment with that system--respect for dif- experience with crime -- either as
TEACH A DIVERSE ferent viewpoints was modeled. victim, or a relative of a perpetrator,
CLASS EFFECTIVELY sometimes themselves a perpetrator-

-all were concerned with the topic and
had varied perspectives on it to share.
Entering a dialogue with each other
Discussion of course readings is one on a topic of importance deepened
Group activities should be incorpo- of the activities that can really get understanding of the topic and each
rated from the first day, in learning students exchanging ideas with each other.
about the class together. On the first other. The discussions are based on

day, have students work in groups
to come up with three to five critical
core class readings, on topics such EXTENDING
as language use and learning, from
questions they have about the class: THE DIALOGUE:
writers like Amy Tan and Richard
they can then read the syllabus to find Rodriquez, both of whom have writ- ONLINE DISCUSSION BOARDS
the answers or ask the instructor. Fur- ten compellingly of their experiences
ther ice breaking activities related to The dialogue can be further extended
in growing up in bilingual homes and to online discussion threads, if your
the course content or college life can of language learning. Language is
be incorporated in the early days of class has a companion website or
of course a universal--everyone has learning management system, as
the class in surveys to find out peers experience with it, and it is through
college majors, for example, or past many do today, such as Blackboard
dialogue here that students can be- and Turnitin, websites set up spe-
experiences related to the course gin to exchange opinions and experi-
content. For example, as the first writ- cifically for classroom use and which
ences. For example, many students can be modified by individual class
ing assignment, I had students write have had the experience of suffering
their literacy biography, in which need. I posted some of our topics on
through foreign language classrooms the discussion threads portion of the
they discussed their own experiences with less than effective instruction (it
with reading and writing. All students site, asking students to post once to

the topic and to at least two peers ing over and over again with the same
responses. This got students more peers -- usually those they happened
involved in the topic and deeper re- to be seated near. In teaching the
sponses their peers were developed class again, I would make sure that
as students were more able to reflect students changed the groups every
than in a face-to-face discussion and day.
did not have to worry about turn-tak-
ing as they did in class. In addition,
introverted students who had trouble
speaking up in class were drawn into
the dialogue more. Most students
However, with teacher planning and
went beyond the required participa-
effort, students can move beyond ini-
tion because they became committed
tial discomfort to sharing their experi-
to the dialogue.
ences enough to feel comfortable in

the dialogue with each other and cri-
INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS tique of their each others work that
AND RESEARCH BASED make an effective learning commu-

Once students have become accli-

mated to the academic dialogue, they
are ready to develop the dialogue
more through independent research
and writing on a topic of individual in-
terest. It is here that students are re-
ally drawn into what it is to be a col-
lege student. Some students chose
to write about topics we had been
discussing, such as gun control, but
others chose to research a topic of
interest to themselves -- cleared by
me, the instructor, for appropriateness
(they invariably were.) One young
man, a returning student, researched
the value of the four-year, liberal arts
degree, focusing on the drawbacks
(expense, time, lack of focus on stu-
dent need and interest, all leading to a
high attrition rate). This research gen-
erated a great deal of interest from his
peers and led to students considering
focusing their college goals early and
learning ways to limit expense. In ad-
dition to generating interest in other
students, students who posted their
writing received feedback on ways to
improve their work from their peers --
critique they were receptive to as they
now knew and were comfortable with
each other.

Are there some concerns in students
sharing diverse opinions? Of course.
A major one is the concern of con-
versations getting overheated, which
quieter students in particular may find
uncomfortable. Usually a reminder
from the instructor to respect each
other in exchanging opinions is all that
is needed. In addition, a problem I en-
countered last semester was groups
solidifying early, with students work-

How to Assess Students Learning
Styles (and Then Teach to Them!)
present in a lecture though they strug- with hand motions and classroom
HAVE YOU EVER TAUGHT A LESSON gle to answer questions on paper. They manipulatives to help these students
AND WALKED AWAY JUST FEELING may often wear headphones and listen physically connect with the information
LIKE SOME STUDENTS WERENT to music both in English and their na- they are learning. Make your class-
GETTING IT? tive languages. To make the most of room as full of hands on manipulatives
In fact, have you ever had a student this learning style, be sure to present as you can, and have learning centers
who just didnt seem to connect to the information in a spoken manner. But available where these students can re-
way you were teaching no matter what dont stop there. Tie songs and jingles ally get their hands into what they are
you said? If so, it may be because that into your lessons whenever possible. learning.
student had a learning style that didnt Talk about rhythm and rhyme. You may

connect with your personal teaching even want to play soft background mu- LOGICAL LEARNERS
style. Learning styles are intangible, sic while students are working inde-
but they are so important for making pendently or in groups. Aural learners Logical learners are mathemati-
sure students get what you are teach- tend to do well in traditional classrooms cal, analytical, and look for the reasons
ing. Thats why its worth taking some since most information is presented language acts the way it does. These
time to determine what learning style orally, but make sure you add special are the students who ask deeper ques-
each of your students seems to prefer. touches to your teaching style to really tions about grammar that might be
You dont have to take extra class time connect with the students who learn difficult to answer. They want to know
to do it. Just observe your students this way. why. They might be engineers, scien-
(you do anyway) and see which of the tists, or business analysts or will take

following categories seems to best de-
VERBAL LEARNERS on these professions in the future. To
scribe them. Then make sure you give reach these learners, emphasize the
them just what they need to flourish as Do you have any ESL students whys behind the whats when it comes
language learners. who just seem to pick up the language to language patterns. If you can, give
without even trying? They are likely reasons for grammar rules and explain
CATER FOR STUDENTS verbal learners who thrive on using how the brain is processing language
LEARNING STYLES FOR with words. Their skills with language (so English language rules make
IMPROVED LEARNING will most likely come out in both oral sense). These students will value dis-
EXPERIENCE and written modes. These are your nat- cussions about language acquisition,
ural language learners, and they may phonological rules, psycholinguistics,

Visual learners prefer working
even be multilingual already. For these
learners, incorporate both speaking
and writing into assignments. Include
and syntax. You might want to use
sentence trees/diagrams in class to
help these students see the underlying
with images or spacial relations as they group activities in class like discussions structure behind spoken English.
learn. ESL students who are visual or skit writing and performing. The

learners might prefer a picture diction-
ary to a written one. Or you might find
more these students can use words, SOCIAL LEARNERS
the more they will learn both inside and
them highlighting with different colors or outside class. Write your notes on the Social learners, also known as
creating a highly organized system of board or give handouts, too, and you interpersonal learners, learn best when
note organization. For these learners, will be impressed with how easily these they work with other people. You might
letting them see what you are teaching students learn. see these ESL students flourishing
is key. Bring in objects when you teach in groups and on partner projects but

new vocabulary. Write everything on
the board. Use different colors or fonts
PHYSICAL LEARNERS struggling when they are tackling ques-
tions on their own. These are the stu-
when giving informational handouts. Physical learners are also known dents who are always talking in class
Anything you can do to stimulate their as kinesthetic learners. These students and who are social butterflies. Many
vision will help these learners under- learn best when their hands and bod- strong extroverts are also social learn-
stand and retain the information you ies are involved. You might recognize ers. For these students, group assign-
are giving them. these ESL students by their inability to ments are key. Using activities where
sit still, by their love of hand motions or students must work together to under-

Aural learners use sound to help
working with manipulatives. The more
you can get these students moving as
they learn, the more they will remember
stand something or reach a goal will get
these students interested and involved
in any lesson. Role plays are a great
them process and retain information. and be able to use English in real life. method of social language use. So are
These ESL students may stand out as One of the best ways to teach physical jigsaws. Getting these students out of
good listeners, or they might have no learners is the Total Physical Response the classroom and into the real world
problem understanding material you technique. You can also include songs to use the English that they know will

also hit them in just the right educa-
tional place.

Solitary learners, also known
as intrapersonal learners, may seem
uninterested in the very activities that
social learners love. That is because
these learners prefer working inde-
pendently and studying on their own.
You may identify these learners by
their disinterest in group activities or
their reluctance to pair up with class-
mates. They may often have their
head in a book trying to puzzle out in-
formation you may have already pre-
sented to your class. To encourage
the most learning in these students,
give them time to work on their own.
Setting up learning centers and offer-
ing free reading periods are great for
giving these learners time to figure
things out for themselves. Dont take
it personally if they are disinterested
in your teaching or classroom activi-
ties with other students. Giving them
the space they need to puzzle things
out on their own will make all the dif-
ference in their English studies.


And even though it is a lot of work,
it is worth taking the time and mak-
ing the effort to really reach students
where they are. If you do, you will see
your students achieve success in their
language studies, and they will retain
and use the language they learn for
many years to come.

Get Them Involved: Teach Stu-
dents To Cooperate & Collaborate
ferent and varied alternatives to and adapt to a wide range of course
COOPERATION AND COLLABORA- problem solving. material.
Working with others teaches stu-

dents to value all contributions.
Students learn to work with all
THAT MATTER. This is a great activity to use as
types of people and diversity is
It is one the first things kids learn to do an ice-breaker because by interview-
celebrated. Different things like,
in kindergarten and preschool, and its ing each other children learn about
culture, likes, and personal experi-
no surprise. When children work to- their fellow classmates and can share
ences allow students to add their
gether in small groups, they can share opinions, positions, or ideas. Students
perspectives to an issue. Students
strengths and also develop their weak- are paired and take turns asking each
have the opportunity to reflect and
er skills. Also, they develop their inter- other questions that can either be pro-
this helps students to better under-
personal skills and learn to deal with vided by the teacher or created by
stand other cultures and points of
conflict. When they cooperate and are them with supervision. After the inter-
guided by clear objectives, students view they can introduce their partner
participate in different activities that They will have more opportuni-
and tell the other students what they
improve their understanding. In todays ties for personal feedback on their
know about them.
world where being a team player is ideas and contributions because

often a key part of business success, there are more exchanges among
students, and they will provide JIGSAW
teaching children to cooperate and col-
laborate from an early age is very use- feedback for each other.
This is great for problems that are
ful and important. Take a look at some Often cooperation and collaboration in more complex. Here, students become
of the benefits of cooperation and col- learning is not easy to achieve. There experts in one of many parts of a prob-
laboration in the ESL classroom. are situations in which conflicts that lem. They first participate in a group
Since students participate together arise obsticalize learning, particularly exclusively focused on a single part
in groups, they interact and de- in situations where students must work of the problem. Later, groups are rear-
velop interpersonal skills. As stu- together on a problem. As a result, co- ranged with a representative from each
dents interact, they acquire skills operative and collaborative learning expert group who can now manage the
for resolving conflicts or differenc- require teaching kids to work well with whole problem because they have suf-
es when they appear. They learn others by resolving these inevitable ficient expertise.
to relate to fellow learners as they conflicts. Thats why, in order to cre-

work together on tasks in groups. ate an environment in which coopera- PEER EDITING
This is particularly beneficial for tive and collaborative learning can take
students who have difficulty with place, three things are necessary. First, Students are paired up and as-
social skills. Also, because learn- students need to feel safe, but also signed a task. Peers give each other
ing to communicate is essential in challenged. Second, groups need to be feedback during the completion of that
language learning, structured in- small enough that everyone can con- activity. For instance, each student
teractions can improve communi- tribute. Third, the task students work in the pair describes their topic ideas
cative abilities. together on must be clearly defined. and outlines the structure of their work
There are a number of techniques and while their partner asks questions, and
Learning to respect others is ex-
exercises that you can use. Among the develops an outline based on what is
tremely important, and by learn-
most popular are: described.
ing to respect each other in order
to work together, children can ac-
knowledge individual differences.
While working together, students
will have a variety of responses.
For any student, learning how to
take notes is important. The reason is
This is very positive since it can
help the group become aware of a
RESULTS that poor note-taking leads to poor per-
formance. A good way to exercise this

wide range of perspectives which
will make their work more complete THINK-PAIR-SHARE is by having students summarize what
they understood of a concept based on
and comprehensive.
It is one of the best known and notes they have taken and by getting
Children need to be challenged. most common exercises used. Stu- feedback from their partner. This gives
Through teamwork, challenges are dents have the opportunity to reflect on students the opportunity to find gaps in
easier to deal with since they can the question and then practice sharing their written records. The note-taking
rely on each other to find solutions. and receiving possible solutions. Since should be guided by questions so stu-
Different perspectives provide dif- it is simple, teachers find it easy to use dents realize what is important.

Graphic organizers are power-
ful tools that make information mean-
ingful and less complex. In exercises
that involve sequences, students can
provide a visual representation of a
series of events or actions. Students
working together can be asked to or-
ganize information. They can even be
asked how each sequence relates to


Helping students learn to cooperate
and collaborate with one another can
enable them to become actively and
constructively involved in the lesson,
to take control of their own learning,
and to improve teamwork skills.

A Creative Language Unit to Help
Students Understand Each Other
Thank you describing its geography as well as its
Sorry people. Depending on your class, you
Cheers might want them to illustrate the planet
and people and display them around the
Not only do they speak a different lan-
What do you do when room.
guage from you (and often from each
other), they hold different cultural val- you meet someone for
the first time? Shake hands Once your students have created the
ues. Culture, though it may seem easy
planet, they should think more about the
to understand, is in fact a very complex
What do you do when beings who live there by answering each
and intimate part of who a person is.
you meet someone Shake hands, of the following questions:
What makes culture more difficult to un-
derstand is that it permeates so much you know? hug, kiss What do the people do all day and/or all
of who a person is without that person night?
even realizing it. This activity is designed What do you say when Do they work?
to help your students appreciate different someone sneezes? God bless you What do they do for fun?
cultures among the worlds people and to What do they eat and drink?
develop cultural sensitivity toward each What are actions you What kinds of sports do they play?
other as well as the rest of the globes should never do in Show someone What kinds of music do they listen to?
populations. Your students will be creat- your culture? (Cultural your middle What are some of their laws?
ing their own culture and the elements Taboos) finger or use it What is most important to each person?
that are part of it and then sharing that to point or What do the people not care about?
culture with one another. do other actions,
pick your nose Once your students have answered
CONSIDER USING THIS or fart in public these questions, have them go back to
ACTIVITY TO DEVELOP the questions you answered about your
reasons you
religious holidays,
own culture and answer those questions
about their fictional planet. Encourage

celebrate? historical events, students to be creative throughout the
ELEMENTS OF CULTURE a personal accom - culture creation experience.
Before your students get creative plishment / success
with their own cultures, your class should
take a look at the finer points of their own
cultures. If you teach a class composed
As you answer these questions with your
class, encourage students to offer other
examples they might know from their
Once your students have devel-
of the same nationality, you can use that oped their own cultures (and kept the
nationality as your example. If you teach own or other cultures. information to themselves), it is time for
a class of internationals, use your own all the people groups to meet. Half of
culture as the example, and then have
them note the same points from their
own cultures. Explain that culture com-
Once your students have an under-
the class will do the role play at a time
while the other half watches. Have the
students who are playing in the role play
prises much of who we are without us standing of how culture manifests itself, come to the front of the room. Each per-
even realizing it. Culture shows itself in it is time for them to create their own son will be acting as a person from the
our beliefs, our values, our habits, our cultures. This is the scenario. Space ex- culture he created. In this part of the
expectations, our language, and our tra- ploration has reached a new height, and activity, the peoples are meeting each
ditions among other things. Take a closer your country has discovered life on many other in an informal atmosphere, like a
look at either your culture or your stu- other planets far from your solar sys- party or mixer. They should perform their
dents culture by thinking about and not- tem. These planets are small, and their greetings, use their language and dis-
ing specific elements on the board. Make populations are small as well. Though play other elements of the cultures they
a note of each of the following. I have they are in close geographic proximity, created. If someone from another culture
used the USA as an example. they had no knowledge of each others performs one of the taboos, the person
existence until your country visited the should act offended. Once the students
Country/Nationality USA/American planets. Your country is organizing an have had enough time to meet and greet
interplanetary conference where these each other, have the groups change
Language English peoples will meet each other for the first places and repeat the meeting.
time. Each students task is to create a

culture for one of those small planets.
How to say the THE DEBRIEF
following words?

Have students start by thinking
After all your students have played
the greeting, ask them about the experi-
ence. How did they feel when they were
Please up a name for their planet/culture and meeting people from other cultures?
Were they uncomfortable at any Helping your students understand
point? Did anyone do anything that of- each other and other peoples of the
fended them? How did that feel? Did world does more than make your ESL
anyone do anything that made them class run smoothly. It helps them be-
feel welcome or happy? What was it? come globally sensitive people who
Encourage your students to share as can make a difference in the future of
many details about the experience as our world.
they are comfortable doing.

Then help your students understand

why they had the experiences they
did. Have pairs of students share
the specifics about their cultures with
each other. If possible, match students
with someone who offended them in
the meeting. As they discuss, each
person should take notes about the
other persons created culture, listing
the same information they have about
their own culture. After students have
shared, change the pairings and have
students gather information about an-
other culture.

Once students have gathered in-
formation about two other created cul-
tures, come back together as a class.
Ask students to share any insights
they got learning the specifics about
another culture. Then place students
in groups of four or five for some dis-
cussion time. Give each group a copy
of the following questions.
When have you felt uncomfortable
or offended in real life because of a
cross cultural experience?
How does the activity we did compare
to real life?
What can we learn from the in class
cultural conflicts?
How can we be more sensitive to peo-
ple from other cultures in real life?

After students have discussed
their experiences in both the class ac-
tivity and real life, ask them to share
their own experiences in writing. You
might have them write a paragraph,
an essay, a letter, a newspaper arti-
cle, or something else. Individuals can
use the discussion questions for in-
spiration, or they can write about their
own ideas. Whatever they choose to
write about, ask students to include a
paragraph on what they learned from
the entire experience.



What Did I Get Myself Into? 11 Tips
to Prepare for Foreign Classroom
would be eager learners, but any ex- words, but avoid lengthy worksheets
YOU ARE AN ENGLISH SPEAKING perienced field professional knows the and writing assignments. Students will
NATIVE WITH AT LEAST A COLLEGE opposite to be more likely. Examine the probably learn slower and you will need
DEGREE FROM THE FIRST WORLD reasons for student disinterest and dis- to review more than you hoped, but just
EMBARKING ON YOUR JOURNEY associate yourself from it so that it does accept that as a reality in your lesson
TO FILL EAGER MINDS WITH YOUR not affect your morale. planning.
Their parents enrolled them, and

they are normal teenagers that do
not care about school. TECHNOLOGY!
Furthermore, your EFL program may It is a mandatory government initia-
tive and not auto-initiated by stu- You planned PowerPoint presentations
provide you with some sort of training, for all of your 20 classes only to find that
but most likely that training will do little to dents.
you not only have no projector, but your
prepare you mentally for the challenges They are poor and have bigger wor-
classroom space is a field with no walls.
of teaching in a different culture. Here ries (Maslows needs).
Do not plan too many classes that use
are 11 common foreign classroom dis- They thought it would be easier or technology! Or have a backup plan. If
coveries first world-ers make and some more fun when they enrolled and you do not even have a blackboard, you
tips to anticipate them. are now bored after one or two can use large sheets of paper and rig
classes. them to a tree with two horizontal sticks
HOW TO MENTALLY and a bit of twine.
PREPARE FOR THE You luckily will have at least a few stu-
dents that are generally interested. THEY CANNOT READ
11 TIPS Feed off of their energy to stimulate the
class as much as possible. You can also AND WRITE WELL!


What is polite to you is not what
separate students into work groups to
mix up the interested and disinterested.
The ones that do not want to learn will
Maybe students cannot read and write
at all, or they do not respond well to
reading or writing. Either way, it does
is polite everywhere in the world: man- probably stop coming to class after a
ners are culturally constructed. Not only not mean that they are less intelligent
little while, so think of the situation as or incapable of learning a foreign lan-
is it important to understand that what temporary!
seems rude to you is probably not in- guage. Plan to focus your classes on
verbal and listening skills. Conversation

tended to be rude, but also you should
THEY DO NOT RESPECT is probably more important for them to
recognize that your actions might be
rude to foreign natives in their country. YOU! learn anyway!
You are the foreigner -- you need to

You having a fancy degree from a far THEY DO NOT RESPOND
adapt. Your training program probably
off place means nothing to these peo-
taught you a few dos and donts, but
ple. You will have to command respect TO COMPETITION!
you need to experience the culture of
in other ways. The best is to earn re- You created a fantastic activity where
the classroom to understand. Here are a
spect from leaders in the community or students have to race against each other
few tips if you find yourself cursing your
respected teachers. Establish yourself to win a prize. The moment comes, and
bad-mannered learners.
within the community as a teacher ac- they either do not care about winning or
Go to a school and sit in on another cepted and respected by peers. This do not care about the prize. They even
teachers class. Observe and take might require developing personal re- share the prize with the losing team. Be
notes on behaviors. What is nor- lationships with those teachers by any prepared that typical first world rewards
mal? means necessary. Visit them at home! systems might not translate. Competi-
Be patient and minimize reactions. Have a dinner! tion is a cultural trait, especially strong in
Do not react to student behavior for Americans who have a fierce indepen-
a few classes until you understand
better what is happening. You might
not get a lot of teaching done the
dent and capitalist ethic. Collectivists
want to share. Figure out to what they
respond best by trying different types of
first few weeks, but that is ok! First world-ers study outside of the activities or asking other teachers in the
class, but your foreign students prob- area before planning!


You assumed when you signed up
ably do not. Do not plan to give a lot of
homework. Instead, integrate it into your
lesson plans. You can give short tasks
that students enrolled in EFL courses like bring in a picture or find three They stare at you like you have

horns when you assign a creative to communicate. Even if it is just
writing activity or ask them to draw a a smile exchanged, that human
vocabulary word. Art, creativity, and connection helps.
imagination are not universal learn- Go for a run or walk. It releases
ing tools and cultural traits. Do not endorphins and makes you feel
assume all kids like to paint or all better.
kids like to imagine. Especially in au-
Call your mom!
thoritarian regimes, creativity could be
stifled in your teaching culture. Adapt
creative activities to mostly copying
an example and gradually add more
creativity expectation as your semes-
ter moves along.


Your students do not come because it
rains, or your electricity went out half
way through class. Developing coun-
try barriers are a challenge to meet-
ing learning objective milestones, so
plan ahead to teach less or to need
significantly more time to complete a

You thought the local government was
going to lend a salon to teach, but
they do not want to help you when you
arrive. Your students parents do not
greet you when you see them at the
market. Expect this -- you are foreign.
You are not one of them. Be patient
and unobtrusive, and in time you will
fit in and be supported more by the


That lack of immediate acceptance,
coupled with being away from you
family and country, will create a feel-
ing of loneliness and possibly even
depression in even the most inde-
pendent, adventurous, and adaptable
EFL teacher. Be patient with yourself
and try a few of these tactics when
those moments overwhelm you.
Have movies and TV shows from
you culture on hand to watch, or
some great books. Sometimes it
helps to just escape into your cul-
tural world for a bit!
Leave your house and go talk to
whoever is friendly. If you do not
know the language, go to a cof-
fee shop, a bar, or another simi-
lar place and use body language

Open & Direct Communication
in the Multicultural Classroom
A great deal of value has been placed
on openness in communication in
U.S. culture over the past years, per-
haps in response to political scan-
should be respected. When I was a
new graduate student twenty years
ago, just on the cusp of this move-
ment of self-revelation, I had an in-
Another related concern of the loss
dals of several leaders hiding critical structor who twice pulled me into her of professional distance when self-
information. Openness may also office to complain about distance in revelation goes too far is the introduc-
be in a backlash to traditional U.S. my writing. I was already writing pro- tion of bias into the grading process.
manners which tend to emphasize re- fessionally at that time and was sur- Professor Turner did not like me be-
serve. The cultural change in reveal- prised by a serious complaint about cause I didnt participate in her group
ing ones innermost secrets, which in my work. However, willing to correct therapy nor did I treat the class journal
the past would have been kept secret, any deficiencies, I asked her to please as a personal diary. My grade reflect-
can also be seen in popular culture, point out instances of what she was ed her frustration with this reserve. In
where celebrities as well as the less- talking about. She didnt but just re- a contrasting situation, a number of
er known readily reveal such infor- iterated the complaint. Because years later, when I was myself a col-
mation as abuse, addiction disorder, distance and objectivity is usually a lege professor, I allowed a student to
and mental health concerns. There is value in academic writing and higher confide in me personal details related
also the proliferation of reality TV, in education in general, her concerns to an emotionally abusive relationship
which people invite cameras into their continued to elude me. Ive since con- that were affecting her class grade.
homes to film their family dysfunction cluded that she was annoyed that I Later, when that grade was not up to
for the publics entertainment. Some of refused to participate into the kind of her usual standards, she was angry
this change has actually been positive therapy session her class regularly because she had opened herself to
individuals shouldnt have to hide devolved into students and instruc- me. It can be difficult to turn students
their heritage or sexual orientation, for tor sitting in a circle, and sooner rather away, or seem to, because teachers
example. However, there should also than later abandoning discussion of are usually compassionate individu-
be boundaries in this openness -- an the curriculum and moving into their als. However, to preserve the objec-
opinion a number of people apparent- personal lives. I was simply uncom- tivity of the grading system, students
ly share, as seen in the popular use fortable with this. Because instructors with personal problems should be re-
of the acronym TMI or too much have an obligation to teach the stu- ferred to professionals trained in ad-
information (about ones personal dents who come to their class and not dressing them.
life). In addition, opinions on what is pick and choose their culture or per-

appropriate public information about sonality type, boundaries should be
oneself vary across cultures and gen- respected.
erations. Therefore, in the classroom, ENVIRONMENT
especially the multicultural classroom,
care should be taken on how much
students should be expected to reveal
A final and prime reason to avoid too
much openness in the classroom is
the potential creation of a hostile envi-
about themselves even in a culture Another concern with self-revelation ronment. The incident with Professor
with an increasing expectation of self- in the classroom is the loss of pro- Turner and her group therapy ses-
revelation. fessional distance. If students are sions would not have occurred today
too self-revelatory, there is a breach because if not I then another student
of the boundary that exists between
EXPECTATIONS ON students and teachers that is there
would have taken the situation to the
STUDENT SELF- for a reason: students and teachers
dean regarding the creation of a hos-
REVELATION: HOW are in actuality not peers even with
tile environment that is, a learn-
MUCH IS TOO MUCH? pretenses that they are. When there
ing situation that is so oppressive or
anxiety-producing to individuals that
is an imbalance in power instruc-
PROBLEMS WITH tors hold power over students in their
learning becomes impossible. The
EXPECTED STUDENT grades and possibly entire academic
students comfort level and safety
SELF-DISCLOSURE future the relationship is not equal.
in the learning process takes prece-
dence over the individual instructors
Therefore, some distance must be preferred teaching style.
maintained. Students and teachers

Take into account cultural and
are really are not friends free to share
everything without fear of repercus-
personal boundaries. Many students
are uncomfortable revealing so much
about themselves. That boundary

WARY ABOUT A much-touted, perhaps too much
so, strategy in recent years has been

A journal in an academic sense
moving from the traditional classroom
design of rows of desks where stu-
dents sit facing the instructor, who
is not a personal diary. Because stu- stands in the front of the room and
dents often confuse the two most lectures. Replacing this is the circle of
have had experience with a diary desks facing each other, the instructor
but not a class journal care must joining as just another member of this
be taken to distinguish the two. The group. There are several problems
personal diary many students have here, however. The first is it seems
kept reveals their reflections on their facile to claim the simple change in
personal lives: indeed, the diary is of- a seating arrangement has so many
ten seen as so private that it is hidden advantages: breaking down barriers,
away even from family members. An fostering classroom interaction, creat-
academic journal, on the other hand, ing equality and so forth. In addition,
is meant as reflections on course ma- even if these claims prove true, it is
terial and drawing connections be- not a given that the changes are posi-
tween it and other material students tive. As noted, the barriers are there
have read and in turn to their profes- for a reason, and since the student-
sional and academic not personal teacher relationship is not equal to
lives. An academic journal, in addi- begin with, pretenses that it is are
tion, is intended for an audience, un- troubling.
like the secrets of a diary. Make the
distinction between the two clear and THERE ARE ADVANTAGES IN THE
what is expected in an academic jour- MOVEMENT TOWARD MORE SELF-
If implemented well and without un-

Many instructors start the se-
due pressure, it can foster learning in
allowing students to feel safe in be-
ing who they are and free to share
mester assignment with a writing ideas related to the class curriculum
topic that will demand in response without fear of criticism. There are pit-
a personal narrative, an account of falls, however, in crossing boundaries
something important that happened and creating a nonprofessional and
to the student in itself fine and a even hostile environment. Therefore,
traditional way to start a writing class. a curriculum that invites student self-
Most of us have some experience disclosure should be approached with
telling stories about our own or oth- care.
ers lives. The potential problem lies
in the specific topics assigned: top-
ics related to experiences of trauma
and disagreements with family and
friends, for example, invite the kind
of intimacy that should be avoided to
preserve professional distance and
student comfort levels. More appro-
priate topics might relate to students
introduction into the academic com-
munity, such as experiences related
to coming to college and how it con-
trasts with high school. Assignments
like these not only preserve comfort
levels and objectivity but also lead to
student reflections on the academic
community they are entering.

First Things First: How To Get Stu-
dents to Actually Read the Syllabus
havior, so its best to make these expec- to the syllabus or the syllabus quiz that
EVERY INSTRUCTOR IN THE UNITED tations explicit from the beginning. This they have read and understood the poli-
STATES--AND BEYOND, FOR THE can also be a mini-introduction to college cies within the syllabus. I dont know how
MATTER -- HAS PROBABLY HAD expectations as a whole for new stu- much this contract would stand up if it
STUDENT APPROACH HER NEAR THE dents: e.g., most instructors will not nec- actually came to a dispute over the stu-
END OF THE SEMESTER TO SAY HE essarily remind the student of upcoming dent grade with the office of the dean,
DIDNT KNOW REGULAR ATTENDANCE assignments or give her an update if she for example, but this carries at least
WAS PART OF THE GRADE. Other stu- was absent: it is generally seen as the some added accountability within the
dents didnt know they were required to students responsibility to take initiative class itself: e.g., if the student claims not
take a laboratory component, or that inter- on her course progress. to have known about the attendance
net access was expected, or that there policy, the instructor can remind her of
was a midterm exam. None of this infor-
mation is hidden, by the way: most of it
on the first page of the course syllabus,
the statement she signed regarding hav-
ing read the syllabus, where the policy is
clearly stated.
in fact. But therein lies the problem: these
students usually are not reading the sylla-
bus, and they should, as its actually the
instructors contract with the students on
One concern, even for instructors who
have carefully gone over the syllabus
the first day, is that introducing the syl-
how they will be taught. Its not easy, but labus is not an interactive activity: that is, A final step an instructor can take is to
getting students to read the syllabus and the students role is largely passive while post the syllabus, along with other im-
making them aware of the class expec- the teacher talks and explains. There- portant course documents, on the class
tations is actually an integral part of the fore, students often dont pay attention, website, where he can direct students
class and actually can serve not only as and hence they are surprised to learn when they claim to have lost the syl-
an introduction to the more routine and that a specific assignment is part of the labus.
administrative details of the class but also course. One way combat this concern
to the content area of the course itself. is to make the reading of the syllabus a BENEFITS OF TEACHING
more interactive activity: have students THE CLASS SYLLABUS
MAKE SURE YOU TEACH sit in groups, for example, and develop
THE COURSE SYLLABUS five questions they have about the class.
The benefits of actively teaching the
course syllabus are many and extend

They can then search the syllabus and
GO OVER THE SYLLABUS find answers to the questions. This also
beyond understanding the policies of a
THE FIRST DAY specific class. These benefits include
can serve as a first-day icebreaking ac-
increased awareness of college expec-
tivity, introducing each student to at least
It seems elementary, but on the first day tations in general: namely, that students
several of their peers, and setting the
of the class, the instructor should go over are responsible for taking the initiative
tone for the rest of the semester.
the syllabus thoroughly with the students for their own learning and grades. The

and introduce them to the course expec- syllabus can also begin to introduce
GIVE A SYLLABUS QUIZ course content: typically, on a syllabus,
tations. Some instructors skip this step,
believing that students are responsible Another way of holding students major topics and assignments are intro-
adults and should be expected to read accountable for reading and under- duced, giving students a quick overview
and understand their course documents standing the syllabus is, a week or so of the semester.
on their own. I agree with this position, into the course, to give a quiz on the In addition, students can begin to learn
actually, -- however, the actual practice syllabus with about ten important points the lingo of the subject matter from
of it proves problematic as significant the instructor really wants the students the first day: for example, if the syllabus
numbers of students arent responsible to understand. I count the quiz as par- states that course papers are to be sub-
enough to take this step without being ticipation points, really a smaller part of mitted in MLA style, the instructor will
guided. In addition, while introducing the the grade than the actual quiz points, likely have to explain this phrase, and
syllabus, the instructor can introduce her and I allow students to check their an- the students will acquire a term used
own teaching expectations and style: for swers against a peers before turning throughout academic life.
example, whether or not she prefers stu- their quizzes in. The point is for students Finally, teaching the syllabus at the be-
dents to contact her directly about an ab- to actually read and understand the syl- ginning of the course sets the tone for
sence or if its better to contact a class- labus, and they are more likely to do so if the rest of the course: there will be as-
mate to find out what went on in class or they know they are going to be tested on signments every day, there are no throw
to check the course website, how much that knowledge. away or easy days, each day comes
students are expected to participate in with an assignment (even the first day

class, whether or not peer interaction, for MAKE IT REALLY LEGAL. of class). In general, the syllabus should
example, is a critical component of the communicate the message students are
course. Each instructor varies on prefer- Some instructors go so far as to required to take responsibility for their
ences and expectations of student be- have students sign a contract attached own learning as well as work with their
peers throughout the course.
Keep It Real. How to Manage
Your Students Expectations
dents should have a detailed interview dents consider their own expectations
AS TEACHERS WE KNOW WHAT WE or meeting with their teacher when the as the only or true objectives. What they
EXPECT FROM OUR STUDENTS, BUT course begins. You need to make sure dont understand is that sometimes to
MANY TEACHERS ARE NOT FULLY they fully understand what level they reach their objectives they will first need
AWARE OF WHAT STUDENTS EXPECT are in , what they can do now, what their to reach yours. There are many things
FROM THEM. biggest challenges are, and what they they are simply not trained to consider,
This happens for different reasons. will achieve and be able to do when the after all, you are the teacher. They have
Mostly because many teachers think course ends. to understand that they have to be able
they know what their students want or to trust your decisions and that will have
need. Many believe that since they have
experience, it is essentially a waste of
to devote time to their learning

class time. It is shocking how many of

them actually take the time to address
all their students expectations. Taking
Some expectations are easier to fulfill
than others. Watch out, dont promise
some time to fully understand what your things you wont be able to do later. It Of all the things students expect from
students needs are, is definitely not a is not uncommon for teachers to prom- us, motivations is at the top. Nothing will
waste of time. Not managing your stu- ise a little too much. Make sure to plan kill their spirit and desire to learn faster
dents expectations well can lead to a ahead with them once you know what than an unmotivated teacher who cant
whole bunch of problems, and feedback they expect from the course. Involve or wont motivate them. Your students
from your students can help you adapt them in the process and think about ob- want you to bring out the best in them.
and find a better alternative. So, how jectives and timing together. Also, some They want you to help them reach their
can you manage your students expec- specific needs might require special goals, to make them want to work, and
tations? Take a look at these awesome material, and that might change how to constantly remind them of their day
strategies. long the course lasts and even the cost. to day achievements. Believe me, mo-
So make sure to communicate a pro- tivation is contagious and it will spread.
HERES HOW YOU gram and let your students know what Once it does, you will see the difference.
SHOULD DIRECT objectives that course includes
Sometimes teacher lose sight of
simple things. One of those things is


Good communication with your students
is not only necessary at the beginning of
the course but throughout the course as
how students feel and what they are
going through in general terms. Learn-
ing a language is not an easy process.
This seems so obvious but you would well. Things start out a certain way and Students can function perfectly well in
be surprised by how many teachers ac- could change further along. Challenges their native language and suddenly all
tually take the time to find out in detail and pitfalls are not uncommon, make that is gone the minute their ESL les-
what their students expect from them sure any problems regarding their pro- son begins. They now have to struggle
and the course. You need to know what gram are communicated clearly. Also, to communicate things and try to avoid
their language learning objectives are. provide details on how you plan to deal making mistakes. They often feel anx-
What do they want or need to learn? with those problems and what the op- ious and uneasy and it could be worse if
Your students will want to learn some- tions are. an important life goal is tied to their lan-
thing new and useful in each lesson. guage learning. They want the teacher

The knowledge or skills they develop to understand their difficulties and their
will have to be relevant to their lives. hesitations. They dont want to feel hu-
Otherwise they will simply lose interest EXPECTATIONS ARE miliated, they want to feel contained
or feel they are wasting their time. Sometimes, what teachers and students and, as their teacher you have to make
expect are two different things. Our ex- sure they are.


pectations regarding students perfor-
mance can differ greatly from what they
expect. Once again, communication is
Very often what students expect is not the key. After you have told them where
very realistic. This could be because There is no need to complicate things.
they are and once you understand what
they are missing information. Many The key is good organization, commu-
they expect, make sure to explain what
teachers dont provide detailed informa- nication and respect. If your students
you expect from them as well. Remem-
tion about where and how students are communicate what they want and are
ber, learning a language requires a lot
from the language learning point of view clear on what you expect of them, they
of hard work and dedication. They need
before they begin their course. Stu- are on a road to success.
to be committed to your goals too. Stu-

English Only Please 13 Meth-
ods for Monolingual Classes
Those who use lots of L1 only end up
getting better at their first language!

Remember in your high school foreign
CONSTANT A lot of L1 chatter is actually function-
language classes? Did you speak for
about two minutes in the target lan- REINFORCEMENT al: asking to borrow something, check-
ing the meaning of a word, confirming
guage and the rest of the time in L1,
Like any kind of training, especially if it classroom instructions or homework
your first language?
goes against the natural grain, estab- assignments. Practice suitable Eng-
lishing a purely English environment lish phrases with the students early
Monolingual classes pose special
takes reiteration and reinforcement on in your time together, so that they
problems. Teachers are obliged to
from the outset. It may seem strict, have no excuse for lapsing back into
tackle a very strong, natural tendency
but reacting to every instance of L1 L1, even for something as simple as,
for speakers of the same language to
might be just the impetus the students Can I borrow your dictionary?
go ahead and you guess it speak
need. There are some classes, and

the same language together. After all,
some age groups, where this will take DICTIONARIES!
this has likely been their language en-
longer, but with sufficient reminders,
vironment for their whole lives. Who
the students will gradually make the In the last ten years, at least in
are we to drag them out of it?
change. my classroom, dictionary use (and Im
talking about book dictionaries) has

Persuading students to speak only
English can be no small challenge, but YOU HAVE ALLIES declined to virtually nil. Ive tried and
tried, but the students dont seem to
happily, there are a variety of ways to The strongest, or most confident see the point. Their cellphone may
tackle it, centered on a mixture of car- students are very helpful here. If they have a dictionary on it (of which more
rot and stick, a little inventiveness and buy in to the idea early on, youll have in another article) or they might nev-
constant reiteration! very useful allies in persuading their er have developed the habit of us-
classmates to follow suit. You might ing one. Having one to hand helps
RECOMMENDED go so far as to remind them that they to avoid diverting to L1 if the student
METHODS are role models for the class: in many doesnt know a particular word. Hang
cases, the idea that theyd be helping

on... let me look it up, could be an
START FROM SCRATCH you is itself attractive and persuasive. early phrase they learn.

5 8
Begin to address the problem
on day one, when you first meet the WHAT ON EARTH PUNISHMENTS
students. This way, we immediately IS THAT?!
Keep this super light-hearted,
set the precedent of speaking only
After a week or so, I find it useful not but impose some sanction on those
English together. If we wait until the
to mention, pretty funny to deliber- who still dont play ball. One of my fa-
second week of classes, for instance,
ately overreact when I hear L1 in the vorites is to paint the tip of their nose
the students will already have spent
classroom. Exhibiting what appears green with a whiteboard marker, I also
a week establishing an environment
to be genuine shock, or even jaw- insist on their singing a song or danc-
in the wrong language, and it will take
dropped horror, at the sound of this ing for the class. In extreme cases, I
much longer to bring them round.
unwelcome, imposter language car- threaten to reduce their grade or to

ries a strong message: this behavior, mark them absent for the class. In
GRAPH IT OUT however familiar it may be, just doesnt situations where attendance counts
belong in the classroom. Poking fun is towards the final grade, this can be a
Draw three graphs on the board
useful, too: Hey, your Chinese is re- very effective method, if a little drastic.
and explain very simply that the lines
ally improving nicely!, or, Wait a min-

represent three students rates of
progress: a) the first speaks mostly ute, Im lost. Which country are we in? INCENTIVES
L1 in the classroom and doesnt prac- Wait... Were not in Venezuela? So,
why am I hearing Spanish? I dont get Award points to a pair, team or
tice outside, having made few non-L1
it. One colleague of mine reacts to L1 table of students who speak no L1.
friends, 2) the second speaks 50/50
as if she has been shot, with a pretty Once a team reaches 50 points, re-
L1 and has a couple of native speaker
good impression of being in real pain. ward them with candy or something
friends, 3) the third speaks only Eng-
Its a bit silly, but by golly it gets the similar. Students who speak L1 lose
lish and has a vibrant English-only so-
point across! their team points. Collective policing
cial life. This is useful for demonstrat-
can be extremely effective -- no-one
ing an unavoidable truth: students
wants to let the group down.
who practice more will achieve more.

Recommend that the students agree
that they will speak only English for
part of their non-class time. This could
be a specific time each day (7-8pm) or
a fixed duration (1 hour, measured on
a timer with an alarm). You could also
ask the students to submit a recording
of this period, proving that there was no
L1 -- whether you listen to it or not, its a
good motivator.

A tendency for lower-level
students is to translate new words for
their friends. This is very damaging to
the learning process, in my experience,
and sets a precedent that translation
is the fastest, and therefore best way
to learn a new word. I use the green
nose principle, or just look severely
disappointed. Either gets the message

Although its tempting to make notes
partially in L1, I think it best to make
English-only notes routine. It practices
language much more if definitions are in
English, rather than a direct translation,
and are accompanied with at least one
practice sentence.

Try some games to increase
confidence and the students own sense
that they might not need L1 to express
themselves. Taboo is excellent for train-
ing students to go around the vocabu-
lary roadblocks theyll encounter. Just a
Minute, based on an old BBC radio quiz
game, requires one student to speak for
a minute on a particular topic, without
hesitation, deviation or repetition. Suc-
cess is greeted by massive applause, in
the affirmation of the students ability to
speak at length without any of their first
language creeping in.


Eliminating L1 might be an ambitious
aim, but it could usefully be among the
learning aims of every classroom in
which communicative methodology is

7 Speaking Activities to Introduce
Classroom Language
the same dialogue to practice, and then els, its best to let them show you first
discuss the dialogues as a whole group what they already know so you dont
and answer any questions. Alternatively, have to waste time repeating informa-
you could give each pair a different dia- tion. Put students into groups and have
logue to practice in pairs first and then them think about all of the school re-
BEFORE. Whether you have new stu-
with the whole class. Make sure you lated words they know. The group who
dents, beginning-level students, or young
rotate the dialogues so that all students has the longest list wins! Alternatively,
students, its crucial to review some key
can get practice with each scenario. prepare a set of pictures of classroom-
vocabulary before you begin the new
If you have more advanced students, related words on it and have the groups
school year in order to build their con-
give them role play contexts rather than label as many as possible.
fidence in speaking about these neces-
sary items throughout the year. Try these dialogues. Prepare a written context or
activities for building up their classroom
give them a picture with two people in
a classroom and have them construct
the dialogue for this picture. If you give

YOUR STUDENTS each pair the same picture and have the Use the words as often as possible and
USE CLASSROOM students present their dialogues for the in as many ways as possible. Say, write,
LANGUAGE class. Going over the similarities and and point to the words in all appropri-
differences between the dialogues can ate contexts. When an appropriate time

1 KEY VOCABULARY ITEMS lead to some great conversations about comes up, not only should you repeat
the variations of speech they may hear. the word clearly, but have all of the stu-
FOR YOUR CLASSROOM dents repeat after you to practice using
Each classroom is different, so spend
some time thinking of the important 3 I-SPY the word in the correct contexts.

words you want your students to know.

Since these are items theyll be encoun-
tering daily, make sure they get intro-
Another great activity for lower-
level students to review the tangible
items in the room is the classic game
Another extremely important fac-
duced either directly or indirectly early I-Spy. If you want to provide more prac- tor to consider is making students feel
on. They may or may not already know tical language, change the name of the very comfortable with using this practi-
some of these words, so dont be afraid game to I can see something... De- cal vocabulary. Use fluency games to
to challenge them and give them many pending on the level of the students, build their familiarity and speed in recall-
words in the first week. Here are some you may need to review some adjec- ing the vocabulary. One way to achieve
suggestions to get you started. tives and descriptive vocabulary as well this goal is to do a hot potato game.
before you begin. If the level of your Have students stand in a circle and toss
Supplies: desk, book, paper, pen, pen- a small object around the circle. When a
students is too low to give adequate de-
cil, notebook, binder, syllabus, iPad, student receives the object, they should
scriptions, change the game to Piction-
marker say a vocabulary word within three sec-
ary. Have one student come up to the
Rules: Imperative grammar, dont, board and you show them a vocabulary onds. If they stall or take longer than
should, must, can, cant word. Have the student draw the word three seconds, they have to leave the
People: Student, teacher, classmates, on the board and the other students try circle. To make it more challenging, stu-
principal, director to guess the vocabulary word. dents also must leave the circle if they
Classroom: clock, board, computer, cal- repeat a word already said by a different
endar, poster
Requests: question formation, bath-
room, water, feeling sick
student. Feel free to adapt this activity
to the level of your students, such as us-
ing words that start with the same letter
or words that are related to each other.
Have students in groups separate into
Respectful words: please, thank you different parts of the room. Together,
they have to find and identify everything THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR IS THE


A great way to introduce or review
in their corner of the room, and then in-
troduce the class to all of the objects in
their room. They can use their diction-
Teachers need to make sure that they set
the boundaries of the classroom, create
these words is to practice them in dia-
aries if they want. Have students rotate a supportive classroom environment,
logues accompanied by pictures. These
around the room to get practice describ- and equip students with the tools they
will take some time to create, or you can
ing different areas. need for the year. Classroom vocabu-
scan the Internet to find some already
lary is the foundation to a successful rest

written. Practice a variety of dialogues
such as a conversation between two PREVIEW THEIR of the year, so its a step you dont want
KNOWLEDGE FIRST to skip ! Be sure to try these activities to
students, a conversation between a
build students speaking skills and their
teacher and a student, and a conversa-
If youre unsure of your students lev- mastery of the basic English vocabulary
tion with the whole class. Give each pair
words they will use on a daily basis.
6 Ways To Bring Down
Your Teacher Talking Time
trained to do so, and they will en thousands!
IF YOUVE NEVER MADE A RECORD- bring in their classmates. Teacher: Do you use Face-
We have a lot to communicate. book?
Whether its the simple matter Students: Yes! / No really / Is
I first tried this during my CELTA quali-
of todays grammar content or passed now, I like [names a social
fication, way back in 1999, and was
vocabulary, a story you heard media site from home].
amazed at what I found. There were
on the news that morning, or a
some good things the atmosphere Teacher: Its great, isnt it? All
deeply philosophical life lesson,
was active and noisy, the students of my friends are just a click away.
we need to transfer information,
spoke entirely English, and there was Selene and I talk almost every day on
often in large amounts. Consider,
a good amount of production going Facebook and I get to learn all about
though, the interaction patterns -
on but I noticed one thing which the things shes been doing. Its really
Teacher to Student (T-S), Student
stopped me cold. helped us to stay friends, even though
to Teacher (T-S), Student to Stu-
I never, ever shut up. Not even for a she lives a long way from Boston.
dent (S-S) - created by a lengthy
minute. [Pause.] Now, do you have any ques-
explanation. Think of the students
Im a talkative guy anyway, but this as being set to receive, rather
was a real problem in the classroom. than transmit for these periods:
It sounded as though I believed the they are left passive for (arguably)
My students didnt have any ques-
only way to conduct a class was ver- too long.
bally, and the most important, the
Here are two real examples. The first While upbeat and fun, and accompa-
most knowledgeable, and the funniest
is by a relatively new teacher who nied by some entertaining cartoons,
voice was always going to be mine.
was actually interviewing for a job at her session was more a mini-lecture
Im happy to admit that I was quite than a class. I made notes, as I had to
my school. Unfortunately, she was not
wrong, and Id like to share some help with the hiring process. I wrote:
chosen, but can you see why?
ways of bringing down your Teacher
Going to talk to you about... Wor-
Talking Time (TTT). This way, the EXAMPLE 1 rying start. Feels like a lecture al-
teacher relinquishes the center of at- Teacher: Good morning! Today ready.
tention, providing more practice time Im going to talk to you about making
for the students. No questions!
friends from other countries.
Could ask about students friends
Students: OK! / Great!
WHY DO TEACHERS Teacher: I have lots of friends
& countries theyve visited or
SOMETIMES TALK from other countries, because Im
made friends in.
SO MUCH IN THE curious about other languages and
Could ask them to describe the
CLASSROOM? cultures. I think theyre fascinating.
work of an architect.
[Draws a quick cartoon of herself on Students could guess her friends
Were happy. Teaching is enor- ages, whether theyre married,
the board, linking it to other, small
mous fun, and many of us express what work they do...
cartoons of her friends]. This is Pe-
their love for the art by chattering
dro, my friend from Spain. Hes an Answered her own question,
animatedly. Thats understand-
architect. [Draws a house next to the Now, how did I make all these in-
able, but it has its downsides.
cartoon of Pedro.] And this is my best ternational friends?
Were trying to energize sleepy friend. Her name is Selene and shes Asked one question [about Face-
people. A worthy aim, but con- from Peru. Right now shes a student, book] but then ignored students
sider this: on a sleepy morning, like you guys. [Draws a scholars cap reaction.
which wakes you up the fastest on the cartoon of Selene].
being chattered to, or doing the Could ask about other social net-
Students: [Some giggling at the work sites, and why Facebook is
chattering yourself?
cartoons.] losing members.
We chatter to fill the silence. To
Teacher: So, how did I make
my students, I describe silence as This was a nice opportunity to bring in
all these international friends? Well,
illegal. It is a symptom of limited the students and find out about them,
I like to friend people on Facebook.
production and, equally worrying, but ultimately, there was only one
I have nearly seven thousand Face-
limited interaction between the dominating voice.
book friends now, but I want a lot
students. However, as scientists
say, nature abhors a vacuum,
more! [Writes 7,000 friends on the EXAMPLE 2
board under the cartoon of herself.] The second example comes from my
-- silences tend to be filled by
Students: Wow! / Is a lot / Sev- work with an advanced ESL class who
students, if given the chance and
had asked me to cover the Ukraine

crisis: this was in February 2014, Student 2: Is for mutual defense. process rather than passive observ-
when the situation was very uncer- Teacher: [Big thumbs up for ers.
tain. I did some preparation and ar- producing this important vocabulary.]
rived determined to help the students
understand the issue, but to take my-
Nice one, Tomas. If something is mu- TRY THESE 6 TIPS FOR
self out of the center.
tual, what does that mean? [Short REDUCING TEACHER
silence, then teacher gestures a two- TALKING TIME
Teacher: Morning, everyone! way exchange.]
Morning, teacher
Morning, Graham /

So, theres this thing

Student 5:
from you to me.
[Almost all nodding.]
From me to you, and 1 COUNT YOUR QUESTIONS
Record your class and count the
number of questions you ask. Next
going on with Russia this week, right? Student 6: Everyone benefits?
class, count them as you ask them,
Student 1: Its getting crazy over Student 3: Yeah, both benefit. Is and aim to increase the number by
there. advantage for both. 10% (or 50% or 100%!) over the pre-
Student 2: I think there will be a Teacher: Good, well done. So, vious class.
war. if Ukraine were a member of NATO...
Student 3:
suddenly, now?
Why it happened all

Well, lets think about

Student 2: Whole NATO will
need to help Ukraine.
Student 5: NATO will be fight
In the above example, I could
have explained mutual, but instead I
the background. First, lets name with Russia? Too terrible.
waited for an answer and then helped
these places. [Points to a wall map Student 1: That would become out non-verbally, thereby eliciting the
and elicits the names of the countries World War Three, no? meaning. The most common collo-
and the Crimean region, their capitals
Student 3: [Mimes a mushroom cation mutual benefit came out of
and other major cities. Then elicits the
cloud and provides the sound effects]. that, so again, I didnt need to teach
names of the relevant political lead-
Everything gone! it. Dont be afraid of that ten seconds
ers. All of this goes on the whiteboard.
Teacher: Well, lets hope not. of silence: language production takes
Very quick pronunciation check to
Dont you think these leaders are too considered thought and preparation. If
stop the Saudi student from rolling the
smart to let that happen? ever you doubt this, think back to your
r in Crimea, and so that the Russian
early days learning Spanish or French
student adds the required two sylla- Student 4: Hope so. But politi-
at high school, and imagine how you
bles to the L1 name for the area.] So, cians... they are sometimes no so
would manage, in the same position!
what does Russia want? smart.

Student 2: To control Ukraine? Students: [Laughter.]
Student 3: Is so big! How can
they control? *** Your students are much more
Teacher: Well, how do the two The teacher has become a facilitator likely to talk if theyre being engaged
militaries compare? or guide, rather than a lecturer, and with your eyes. Establish this as a
relies on student comment and inter- routine way of expressing to students
Student 4: Russia is stronger,
action more than on the delivery of that you expect them to speak to you.
much bigger. They will win a war if it is
new information. If they break eye contact, discover
why: is it just shyness, or did they not
Teacher: Is that the impression I decided in advance what the students
understand the question? In either
everyone has? needed to understand the Ukraine is-
case, dont give up. Ask the question
sue, and I led them towards that infor-
Students: Yeah / For sure a different way, or go two steps back
mation using only what was immedi-
Teacher: What about NATO? in your explanation.
ately available to everyone. We used
What is that, exactly?

a map, some help from the teacher
Student 3: Is the North Associa- on names and places, and the Inter- PREPARATION
tion of... net, but most of the information came
If you know that a complex ex-
Student 5: No, its North Atlantic from the students themselves. I didnt
planation is on the horizon, practice
something... have to lecture, because I knew the
it before class. Think of check ques-
resources for our success already ex-
Student 1: Treaty? tions you could ask at every stage of
isted -- I just had to ask the right ques-
Student 2: [Reading from his the explanation, so that you come as
tions, and keep the channels open for
IPad.] North Atlantic Treaty Organiza- close to you can to following another
follow-up information and opinions to
tion. foolproof maxim:
Teacher: Thanks, Google! DONT SPEAK FOR LONGER THAN
The secret to this is almost childishly
Students: [Laughter]
simply. If I may paraphrase an old US
Teacher: OK, what does NATO Army maxim: ASK. DONT TELL.
do? Why was it created, how does it Students can often already explain
connect its members?
Student 1:
work. Like a team.
It is a military net-
much of the issue to you, or at the
very least, have some basic knowl-
edge which they can share. This way,
I literally put my finger on my lips
they are contributors to the learning to remind myself to shut up. Ive also

put a small egg-timer on the desk be-
fore, resolving to say nothing until it
has expired, and glanced at the clock,
choosing a time until which Im not al-
lowed to speak, unless really needed.
This works wonders in open class dis-
cussions, permitting space and time
for even the shyer students to pipe
up. Its amazing what youll hear when
you decide to listen.


Once a discussion is going well,
you could announce that you dont in-
tend to be involved for the remainder
of it, and would prefer just to listen.
Again, remarkable things can hap-
pen: student to student interaction is,
hands-down, the best form of spoken
language production, and an enor-
mous amount can be generated by
the teacher simply withdrawing.



The 5-Min Guide To Dealing with
Control Freaks in the Classroom
the control freak, and from there, con- with her because she assumes it was
WE ALL KNOW CONTROLLING trol of the agenda and direction of the an oversight on your part.
PEOPLE AND PERHAPS DEAL WITH class or committee to the control freak,


FREAK. While being often insensitive in her
In addition to taking leadership in areas treatment of hers, the control freak,
We dont necessarily expect students she really has no authority in, the con-
or other school staff to demonstrate because of her social tone deafness,
trol freak will often assume expertise is unaware of her own dictatorial quali-
this personality type, however, as the in an area where she has no apparent
cultural expectation is that the teacher ties and therefore is offended when
qualification. Her very conviction that others negative responses such as
is the leader within her own classroom. she is qualified to lead will blind her to
However, since control freaks occupy ignoring her, refusing to follow her or-
her lack of competence, such as as- ders, asking her to please wait her turn
all walks of life, it should be anticipat- suming that a group of Asian students
ed some students and school staff are to speak, and so forth, finally register
working together are all Chinese and with her. She may accuse others who
control freaks or demonstrate some of that an apostrophe goes in front of all
their personality traits, and the traits do this of being rude, taking challeng-
ss. The control freak will not hesitate es, even relatively polite challenges, to
of course can also be found among to point out such lapses in classroom
parents and others within the larger her authority as an offense.
procedure and expectations.
school community. Because their be-
Because of her strong personality and

havior is insidious and can damage a
classroom environment, the behavior DWELLS poor interpersonal skills, the control
of a control freak must be recognized ON THE INCONSEQUENTIAL freak can be quite difficult to deal with,
and addressed. but some strategies prove effective.
Perhaps because of the lack of ex-
REMEMBER THESE 6 pertise, there is a lack of sense of the
TRAITS OF A CONTROL big picture, so the control freak mi-
FREAK cromanages and get wrapped giving
orders over the inconsequential, such

as the correct method to stack books
The first step of addressing the control
or arrange papers--again, not hesitat- DONT TAKE IT
freak personality, since the task can PERSONALLY
be quite overwhelming, is simply rec- ing to give orders on the matter.
ognizing you are dealing with a control

Control freak behavior is not about you
freak. Again, control freaks can exist in DISREGARD OF OTHERS and your lack of competence, weak
all walks of life, but they share com- INPUT AND FEELINGS will, or over-niceness (as the control
mon characteristics, which follow. freak might herself imply), but rather
Because control freaks are so strong the control freak just being who she is

in their conviction that they are right
TAKES LEADERSHIP AUTO- and engaging in behavior customary
and that certain calamity will ensue if
MATICALLY their orders are not followed exactly,
to her. Recognizing this will help you
pinpoint and then address the control
The first sign that you are dealing with they dont hear others input, such as freaks inappropriate behavior, rather
a control freak is theres an apparent that youd really rather not dwell on than internalizing it as something de-
assumption on her part that she will be whether or not the postures are hung ficient in your own.
in charge. Some students, classroom correctly on the wall and in fact dont

care very much.
volunteers, instructional assistants, REMAIN PROFESSIONAL
and parents will enter a classroom or
school committee and automatically
assume, or try to assume, a leader-
ship role. They will use tactics such
Control freaks are unsettled and
often stymied by a cool, professional
response to their behavior. It can be
as correcting students and teachers, The control freak doesnt respond to very difficult to respond to the objective
bringing in material such as books and subtle signs that her behavior isnt ap- verbal or written observation that We
pictures from home--without mention- propriate and that her orders will not have standard curriculum we need to
ing it to the instructor or committee be followed: unreturned phone calls, address today, so your cooperation is
chair-- and then take up time showing unread emails, and simply ignoring greatly appreciated. However, if you
it off. These methods bring attention to her orders and plans dont register snap at her to shut up and sit down,

this is the response the control freak addition, this provides needed feed-
is often looking for, resulting in an back to the control freak of the effect
argument over who is ruder, right, or of her behavior on others.
wrong, and so forth.


Because she is so used to taking
If you had envisioned a shared leader- power and not sharing leadership, the
ship in your curriculum committee, for control freak may be angered when
example, dont yield to her assump- she understands that isnt happening.
tion that she is going to be the leader And then because she is can be eas-
but proceed with assigning leadership ily offended and doesnt know another
roles within the group. Again, this can means of dealing with her anger, she
be hard for the control freak to ad- will may as a last resort throw an adult
dress because it would require her tantrum and threaten to quit the proj-
actually coming out and demanding ect, leave the class, or resort to name
to be in charge, which may not be well calling and other ad hominem attacks.
received by the rest of the group. Dont be swayed by these tactics. Re-
main firm, express regrets about her


anger, but let her know that her anger
is hers to own and that threats will not
change matters.

Be courteous, but if she doesnt know IS A MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGE.
of a major author in an area of study, HOWEVER, THEIR BEHAVIOR MUST
for example, feel free to share it your- BE ADDRESSED IN ORDER TO MAIN-
self. Educate on her on the standard TAIN PEACE OF MIND AND A PRO-
use of punctuation or the different cul- DUCTIVE ENVIRONMENT.
tural groups that may be called Asian.
Again, remain courteous and profes-
sional, but dont let the incorrect or in-
complete information stand. Consider
this one more opportunity in your role
as teacher to educate someone.

Point out the areas of symbolism, for
example, or of inference, that go be-
yond the literal interpretation or sur-
face features of the text she wants you
to focus on. Instead of getting hung
up on how the books should or should
not be stacked, discuss with her the
value of group work/peer learning.
Again, consider this an opportunity to
educate someone in a field she has
taken apparent interest in, for what-
ever reason.


A simple interpersonal technique is
to use I-- statements. So instead of
saying Youre being really pushy,
which she will probably heatedly
deny, say I feel disrespected/frustrat-
ed when you interrupt me, which she
cant really argue and say that no, she
doesnt think you do feel that way. In

Poor Retention And 4 Great Ac-
tivities You Need To Fight Back
give some thought to what they are
doing. What happens very often is
that we assign exercises that are pro-
vided in their workbook and although
Write vocabulary on pieces of
paper and put them in a bag. Write
THAT THIS ONE IN PARTICULAR most of those might work out well, the name of the structures they have
WILL RING A BELL. others might not. Some workbook ex- been practicing on pieces of paper, as
Imagine this situation: you spend ercises may not be targeting real stu- well. They need to choose one word
more than enough time on a specific dent needs or may not even be chal- about of the vocabulary bag and one
language goal making sure your stu- lenging enough. paper with a structure. Then have
dents understand and practice every- them think of a question using them.

thing as they should. You are certain
your choice and use of techniques
is perfect for your students and they Provide texts where students THE SECRET TO LEARNING LAN-
truly seem to be grasping everything need to skim and identify structures GUAGES IS EXPOSURE.
the way they should. Of course, you or vocabulary they have learned. See- The more you hear it, read it, see it
are boasting with pride and even think ing how they are used in texts can re- and use it in general, the faster you
it is a good time to give yourself a well ally help them understand how to use will learn and retain. Dont simply
earned pat on the back. The class them. You can also mix it up and use a move on after something has been
ends, and you say good-bye. The viewing activity instead of reading. In covered. Remember to always go
following class you consider it might this case provide links where they can back after a certain number of goals
be a good idea to get the ball rolling watch short videos and do the same have been covered. Keep things fresh
with a few questions about the points thing. in their minds because as Lord Byron
covered in the last lesson, and this said It is singular how soon we lose

is where the horror begins. They re- CHOOSE AND USE the impression of what ceases to be
member nothing! Question after ques- constantly before us.
tion is met with surprised looks and After identifying structures and
wrong answers. The bitter realization vocabulary in the previous exercise,
is too much to bear and you start to they can start using them. Ask them
wonder what went wrong. If this has to choose a handful of words and a
happened to you, the first thing you structure and have them write a short
should bear in mind is that you prob- text. It can be an email, a report, a
ably did nothing wrong. Students all story or whatever they want.
over the world have problems retain-
ing what they learn. Many teachers
blame themselves and in reality most DO IT IN CLASS
of the time it has to do with something
our students are not doing. However, Always start your class with some sort
though this may be true, we are not of exercise to review what was prac-
simply going to put the blame on the ticed the previous lesson. Im sure
students because in the end, it is our a lot of you already do this but what
responsibility to explain how to im- happens often is that we end up sim-
prove retention and to provide a plan. ply asking questions. Lets face it, not
And, lucky for you, thats exactly what the best way to start a class. Make it
Im going to give you. So, are you fun and challenging, play games or
ready for duty, soldier? If your answer have them interact.
is Yes sir! ,take a look at the following
tips and activities.


Write a list of words and/or ex-
TO DO IT AT HOME amples with the structure/s you have
been practicing. Lets imagine they
Most of us provide exercises for our have gone through the past tense,
students to do at home. Good ol with a bit of mystery, tell them some-
homework can give your students thing happened to me last night.
some great opportunities to keep They will feel curious, so encourage
what they have learned fresh on their them to guess what happened using
minds. What you should do is simply the vocabulary and structure/s.

A 5-Minute Guide To Building
Your Students General Knowledge
Wikipedia is a great source for quick second most practiced religion in the
THE ESL CLASSROOM IS AS GREAT A cheat sheets of such information -- I world?
PLACE FOR NEW KNOWLEDGE ABOUT recently found it very useful for my Busi- Students: Yeah / Sounds right.
THE WORLD AS IT IS FOR PRACTICING ness English class to have at hand a list
LANGUAGE. of the worlds top 20 companies by mar-
Teacher: Thats true. Tell me
I find that almost every topic we cover about the holy places of Islam.
ket share and number of employees, for
has a factual element, and that often, example, or the biggest producers of oil Student 3: What is holy places?
students are missing some important and electricity. Students respond well Teacher: [Open gesture to the
background information. Facts, figures, to these facts, and Ive noticed repeat- class.] Help me out, guys?
names and dates can all be covered in edly how they feel a sense of progress, Student 4: Important places, like
a fun way which doesnt feel like an aca- measured not only by improvements in churches or the mos... how we say?
demic exercise. language ability, but more simply and
Student 5: Mosque. Like mask
immediately by knowing something at
Often, this information isnt taught, but but with o.
10:30 which they did not know at 9:00.
checked. A good reason to check the Students: [Laughter]
names of the countries, people, eth- Teacher to Student 3: So, what about
nicities and languages we encounter CONSIDER BUILDING IN Islams holy places?
in the classroom is that the students FACT-CHECKING Student 3: In Arabia, right?
own L1 word may be very different from
the word in English. There are excep- There are limitless opportunities to Student 1: Mecca!
tions: in Bahasa Indonesia, for example, quickly quiz your students on the facts Student 2: Every Muslim must go
words for countries are transliterated of the modern world. Here are some one time in the life.
so that theyre very close to the English genuine examples from my own class- Teacher: Good! And who are the
word. However, in Chinese, such trans- room, where fact-checking has become important people in Islam. Is there a
literation obscures the English word by so routine that the students arrive armed God?
assembling Chinese characters to pro- with the facts of an issue, whether or not Students: Yes!
duce a sound which only roughly ap- they believe Ill call on them.
Student 3: Is Allah.
proximates the original name.
EXAMPLE 1: PREPARING FOR A Student 5: But Allah... God...
The same can be true for the names READING ON THE HISTORY OF ISLAM Same same?
of movies, famous people, historical Teacher: I think youre on the
Teacher: So, who can tell me
events, oceans and mountains, planets right track there.
some countries where most people are
and moons, and almost any other lexi-
cal group which connects to our knowl- ***
edge of the facts of the world. Ensuring Students: Saudi Arabia / Afghani- Short brainstorms like this produce a lot
that our students both know these facts, stan / Iraq / Indonesia of vocabulary, in this case, the names
and can pronounce the relevant words, Teacher: Good, those are all cor- of Muslim countries. The other facts are
leads to an expanded general knowl- rect. What about Africa? checked as a group, so that the stu-
edge and also a greater confidence in Student 1: Nigeria? dents effectively teach each other the
self-expression. material.
Teacher: Yes, I think about half of
Nigerians are Muslim... and?
Teacher: Good job! Now, if I told INVENTION
Teachers build up a repository of useful you that Christianity was the worlds
Teacher: OK, youve told me the
facts as their careers progress, and Id most commonly practiced religion,
Internet is the most important invention
like to encourage you to keep this infor- where on the list would you say Islam
of the 20th century, but you still havent
mation handy in a file which you regular- might be?
told me who invented it.
ly review. It really engenders confidence Students: [pondering, some que-
in a teacher if theyre able to produce Student 1: It wasnt invented. It
rying of each other]
relevant facts capitals, the names of just is.
Teacher: Well, what about Bud-
inventors, the winner of an important Teacher: What, it just appeared
dhism? Could that be second on the
sports championship, the leaders of by magic, one day?
major countries or companies and Students: [Laughter]
students focus and discipline improves Student 3: No enough Buddhist.
Maybe is Islam? Student 1: It wasnt just one per-
when they perceive their teacher to be
son. Everyone created it.
well-prepared and knowledgeable. Teacher: You think Islam is the

Teacher: Interesting! What do
you think of that, gang?
Student 2: Its the idea of the
In which century did this event
internet which was invented. All the happen? Was this event before or af-
websites and everything, we made ter that one?
that. But the idea was an invention.
Student 3:
I agree! But whose?
How do you mean,
Which is the tallest / fastest /
oldest / most valuable, etc.?
Student 3: Was maybe an army
invent. For communicating.
Teacher: You may be onto
How long ago did this happen?
How long did this project take?
something there. Guys, do me a favor

Google this word. [Writes DARPA
on the whiteboard.] Anyone heard of CULTURE
it before?
Names of artists, writers, Oscar
Student 4: Is like CIA. winners etc., artistic controversies, fa-
Teacher: A little bit, I guess. mous works.
What kind of work do they do?
Student 1: Defense research. I BELIEVE THAT ITS HEALTHY
Did they invent Internet? AND NOT SCARY OR INTIMIDATING
Student 2: [Quotes part of the TO BOUNCE FACTS AND FIGURES
Wikipedia article, establishing DAR- AROUND THE CLASSROOM AS A
Student 4: But that was the mili- MATERIAL.
tary internet. Not for EBay or Face- Once made routine, the pinning down
book. of facts becomes an agent of learn-
Students: [Laughter] ing -- everyones interested in gain-
ing new information, and by doing so,
Teacher: Thats right. So, I ask
students think through and produce a
again... Who invented the Internet?
greater volume of language.
Check out who invented HTML, and
that might help. [Writes HTML on the
Student 3: [After a pause for re-
search]. Tim Berners-Lee?
Student 2: Who?
Teacher: You got it! Write down
this mans name, guys. He deserves
to be much more famous.

The students have produced vocab-
ulary relating to modern computer
inventions, and equally importantly,
have the chance to metabolize a dif-
ficult but important name.


Countries, capitals, neighboring
countries, as well as products a coun-
try is famous for.

10 Easy Activities You Can Do
with a Picture Dictionary
Are you looking for a writing
How much vocabulary do your
prompt for your students that also re- students already know about a subject
CLASSROOM? lates to your current vocabulary unit? area? Using a page in the picture dic-
Did your students purchase a picture If so, try using a scene from your pic- tionary might help you find the answer
dictionary for your class but havent ture dictionary as inspiration. Have to your question. Have students cover
used it much? Or do you have a class your students turn to a particular page the words at the bottom of a page and
set in your classroom that you want to and ask them to write about some- just look at the picture. What items
put to good use? If you answered yes thing they see in the picture. They can they identify? Are they using the
to any of these questions, you might might write about what a person is do- same words listed at the bottom of the
want to try one or more of the follow- ing, or they may want to write about page, or are they giving synonyms?
ing simple activities you can do with a the place in the picture. No matter Once you know what prior knowledge
picture dictionary. what on the page inspires them, you your students have, you will know
can encourage your students to use where to focus your time and energy
TRY THESE 10 EASY the vocabulary on the page as they as you teach a vocabulary unit on that
ACTIVITIES YOU CAN write. theme.


If you are looking for an easy
VOCABULARY FAMILIES game for beginning students, pull If you want to challenge your students
out your picture dictionary. A simple or evaluate just how much they know
If you have a picture dictionary in game of I Spy can be too challenging about thematic vocabulary, grab your
your ESL class like The New Oxford for student with little to no knowledge picture dictionary and get in line at the
Picture Dictionary, you might want to of English. Limiting I Spy choices to Xerox machine. Take a photocopy of
use it as a resource for your next the- what your students can see on a page a page in your dictionary making sure
matic vocabulary unit. Have students of their picture dictionaries, however, to cover or cut out the words at the
turn to a particular page and introduce can not only simplify the game but can bottom of the page. Give a photocopy
the vocabulary in logical groups. By also help teach your students new to each of your students or set a stack
teaching your students several re- vocabulary. Tell your students which at an independent learning center.
lated vocabulary words at one time page you are on, and then teach Then challenge your students to label
and through one picture, they will not them the rules for playing I Spy. (I spy all the identified words on the page.
only learn the words themselves but with my little eye something _insert This exercise will challenge their vo-
will also make connections between color_.) This might also be a good op- cabulary recall and spelling. If your
the English words as they learn them, portunity to review color words with students are doing this activity at a
which will ultimately increase their flu- your beginning students. learning center, make sure you leave
ency. them a complete copy of the original


If your students are ready for
page to see if their answers are cor-

more of a challenge and want to get
Though many beginning ESL students some question asking practice in as
already have some knowledge of the well, try playing 20 Questions with VOCABULARY CHECK
language, some classes may contain your picture dictionary. Have every- How much vocabulary does your
student with no English knowledge one in class turn to the same page. class already understand? Use a pic-
whatsoever. For students who have Then you or a student chooses an ob- ture dictionary to check. Retype the
extreme trouble in communicating ject on that page. The rest of the class list of words on a given page, and
their ideas, a picture dictionary can takes turns asking Yes/No questions arrange them in alphabetical order.
help them their meanings across and (20 is the limit) trying to determine the Have your students cover the words
decrease their stress. As they point to object you have chosen. If they can at the bottom of the page in their dic-
items in the dictionary, they will also correctly guess the object in 20 or tionaries and see how many words
learn the words they are looking up. fewer questions, they win. If not, the from your list they can match with the
win goes to you. correct number or letter in the picture

You can use your picture dic-
tionary for a great listening activity in
class provided everyone in your class
has the same book. Choose a ran-
dom page in the book, and describe to
your students what you see there. You
might want to use the vocabulary sup-
plied at the bottom of the page, or you
may want to keep your descriptions
more general. (E.g. I see two men.
One man is wearing a hat. He has on
blue clothes.) Your students will have
to listen to your description and then
determine which page in the diction-
ary you are describing. The first per-
son to get the correct answer scores
a point. This activity will test your stu-
dents listening comprehension, their
memory recall, and their ability to mul-
titask while they listen.

If you teach advanced students who
think they no longer have a use for
the picture dictionary, this activity may
just prove them wrong. Divide your
class into two teams. Have two stu-
dents, one from each team, come to
the front of the room for this vocabu-
lary show off challenge. Let the two
students study the same page from
the dictionary for two to five minutes
and then close the book. Students
then take turns bidding on how many
vocabulary words they can remember
from the page by saying, I can name
_____ words. Each turn, the player
must outbid his opponent by at least
one word every time they bid. Once a
student thinks he cannot top his oppo-
nents bid, he says, Name them. The
student must then name at least as
many objects as he bid. For example,
if a student said he could name 10
words on a given page, he will have to
put his money where his mouth is and
name at least that many words with-
out making a mistake. If he can, his
team scores one point. If he cannot,
the other team scores a point.


Dont let this resource go to waste.

Mind-What? 6 Simply Awesome
Ways You Can Use Mind Maps
Take a look.
Lesson content
Meetings with parents or even
Sadly for all of us, problems are
other teachers just about everywhere. As teachers,
Why? Well, because they are sim- there are many issues we need to deal
ply awesome. They can be used in Parent teacher interviews with in any and almost every class.
a bunch of different ways and most Class Projects Mind maps can be very useful in see-
teachers use them in their ESL les- ing all the issues and how they relate

sons. And, why wouldnt they? Mind FOR REMEMBERING to one other. They are also amazing
maps are an amazing way to present when we need to get an overview of
new material, to dip into students cre- Im quite sure all of you have different aspects of the difficult situa-
ativity, and even help them remember plenty of things to remember, right? tion. They can help us:
things they have learned previously Teaching is just packed with details Find solutions to class behavior
and need to refresh. Great, right? and information that needs to be re- problems
Now, believe it or not, thats not only called. Also, for those of us who are
what they are useful for. In addition to busy, forgetting is always a risk. Mind Find alternatives to teaching tech-
using them with students, ESL teach- mapping can also help out in this area niques
ers can also benefit greatly from using since it enables us to associate ideas Create better and more efficient
mind maps from the professional point to other ideas. Also, theres no need lesson plans
of view. How, you might ask? Take a to write full sentences. Jotting down
look at these great tips for how to use
mind mapping outside the lesson.
words and linking them can go a long
way toward helping us review and re-
call in an efficient and organized way.
Using mind maps to take notes
HOW TO USE Here are but a few examples of things is becoming more and more popular
MIND MAPS that might need remembering: among those who regularly attend
FOR TEACHING ESL Events meetings or lectures. It is an amaz-
ing way to map out the information

Lesson plan for that day or week
FOR PLANNING you hear without the need to write full
Special student/class needs sentences quickly. However not only
Mind maps are one of the ESL those who attend meetings find it use-
teachers best allies for any and all
planning tasks, since they provide
a clear and visual overview of what
Being a teacher requires a great
ful. Take a look.
needs to be planned. Whenever you deal of creativity. A lot of what we do
are planning something, mind maps with our students doesnt come from Lectures
help you get all the relevant informa- a book but out of our heads. And, lets Courses
tion down in one place and organize it be real, there are times being cre-
easily. They can be used for planning ative is not such an easy task. This ANY WAY YOU LOOK AT IT, MIND
any piece of writing. Here are some is where mind maps come in handy, MAPS ARE SIMPLY AMAZING TOOLS.
examples of what can be planned us- because they liberate the mind from No matter what you use them for, your
ing mind maps. linear thinking and allow fresh ideas lessons will only benefit. They will be
Lessons to flow easily. If you consider every more organized, efficient and even
item in a mind map as the center of fun!
Assignment time lines
another mind map the possibilities are
Class curriculum for the school endless. Lets look at some examples
year where creativity can come in handy:
Class Projects Creating or improving the curricu-

For ESL teachers, organization
Creating games or other fun ac-
Creating tests of assessment
is essential. After all, simply planning
what you are going to do is not enough activities
if it isnt organized. Mind maps are the
perfect tool to create a clear structure
of what you have planned. So what
can we organize using mind maps?

What Can I Even Do with That?
Great Uses for Smartboard
the board. Once the projector is turned images and film clips from some of the
on, hooked to, and set to communicate war protests or civil rights marches can
with the laptop, and the laptop turned give more of a feel for the era of 1960s
on, you are ready to go. and 1970s and its advances in social
justice than any lecture. Just as cultural
This is in part because, electronic revo-
lution or no, our classrooms dont look DISCOVER PRACTICAL concepts can be more vividly portrayed
much different, in most cases, than the IDEAS FOR USING with the smart board, so can history be
one Socrates lectured in: four walls, a A SMARTBOARD IN made more real.
place for the students to sit, a place
for the instructor to stand, and a place MAKING THE ABSTRACT
for her to write. However, sometimes
money comes our way: the budget
gods smile on us, or someone writes
Have you ever tried to define uni-
On a related topic, the instructor can
make the abstract tangible with a
for a grant, and it gets accepted. Then corn to an ESL student? Believe it or
we might be blessed with new technol- not, sometimes these things come up smartboard. Instead of talking in gen-
ogy, such as laptops and PCs. Many in class spontaneously or are included eral terms about the Cold War, the
schools recently in such a situation in a reading, such as the classic James teacher can pull an image of an atomic
of unexpected financial largess have Thurber short story, The Unicorn in bomb explosion or of the Berlin War or
equipped the classrooms with smart- the Garden. Or how about trying to of maps that depict the divide between
boards: an electronic device that in define the circus to someone who is Western and Eastern nations during
some ways looks like a traditional from a culture where people dont go the Cold War.
whiteboard (I confess to have written to the circus and have no real concept
with a marker on one, a real no-no),
but it does so much more than a white-
board. Still, many instructors teach
of it? Before the smartboard, I would
have struggled to define and commu-
nicate these concepts verbally, or with
Numerous images and film clips
around the smartboard, giving it a wide pictures drawn on the board: Uh, the can be pulled up on the smartboard for
birth, perhaps afraid to damage it. unicorn is a mythic, a not real, creature, writing prompts. For example, pictures
However, there is no reason to fear the like a horse with one horn... and then of some of the worlds great master-
smartboard, and it has so many more tried to draw a picture. Or I would have pieces can be shown, and students
uses than a traditional whiteboard that tried to communicate the concept of can write a description and critique of
youll soon wonder how you ever taught circus by drawing a picture of a clown them. Or a clip can be shown from a re-
without one. (and still getting blank looks because cent TV series, movie, or the news for a
someone who has no prior understand- written response analyzing it and what
DEFINITION ing of the circus probably wont con- it says about contemporary culture.
OF A SMARTBOARD nect a clown to it). Now, however, I can
Smart has come to mean elec-
tronic in contemporary vernacular, or
high tech, or latest tech (e.g., smart
just bring the internet up on the smart
board, search unicorn, hit images,
and dozens of artistic renditions far su-
Sometimes a picture is not worth
perior to mine will come up. Similarly, a thousand words. Sometime we still
phone). So a smart board is simply need words to communicate a specific
with smartboard I can pull out images
an electronic whiteboard, and which idea or diagram a sentence or other-
of an actual circus, or a circuss web-
may also be thought of as an interac- wise discuss grammar. In this case, the
site. This can also lead to some course
tive overhead projector. It can combine smart board can function much like a
discussion that promotes language and
websites, video, and images and proj- traditional overhead by not turning on
critical thinking growth: what is so com-
ect them on a screen as well as being the commuter and using an electronic
pelling about the unicorn myth that it
used as a more traditional tool for the pen or stylus, or even your finger, to
would be found across cultures, both
instructor to write on. So what can an write. Your notes can even be saved
Eastern and Western? What are the
instructor do with this electronic over- in the Smart Notebook by touching the
ethics of the circus: can it be said to be
head or whiteboard? There are actually board and selecting Save Ink.
inhumane in its treatment of animals?
many uses.


Its one thing, for example, to
discuss the power of a musician or VALUABLE DEVICE THAT HAS MANY
A smart board consists of a projector other performer from another era, but FUNCTIONS IN ASSISTING IN STUDENT
and a touch screen, -- the projector its another to actually play the music COMPREHENSION AND LANGUAGE
is typically connected to a computer, of Ray Charles. To be able to see the ACQUISITION.
which can then display an image on

Think Outside the Box: 3 Things
You Can Teach With Logic Puzzles
consider completing a simple logic puz-
PUZZLES ARE ALWAYS A GOOD TIME. INCORPORATE zle as a class in one lesson and then
OK, not always, but most of the time, LOGIC PUZZLES having the groups do their own logic
and logic puzzles are a great way to INTO LESSONS puzzles in another lesson.
challenge your students. You can find SUCCESSFULLY
various logic puzzles on the internet or For example, in the first lesson divide
can make your own. Making your own
logic puzzles can be a very time con-
suming and difficult process, especially
Logic puzzles are fantastic for get-
the students into their groups and give
each group an even number of the
clues. The teacher can then call on
if you are not overly familiar with how ting students to really concentrate on each group in turn to read out one of
these usually work. Modelling them after what they are reading. Obviously, teach- their clues. After each clue is read, so-
the Einstein Puzzle is probably the best ers must ensure that the students have licit conditional clauses from the class at
method. It is also usually best to sup- been taught the necessary vocabulary large. To help keep all the clues in front
ply your students with a grid style work- and sentence structures to understand of the class, teachers may want to print
sheet so they can work though the an- the clues, but having to apply it in a log- very large copies that can be put up on
swers piece by piece as well as a table ic puzzle situation forces them to really the board once they have been read out
where they can write their final answer. pay attention to the implications of each by the group. This requires a very sim-
This helps students keep track of their word and sentence. When explaining ple puzzle as the process of reading the
reasoning and remember what ques- the project, encourage the students to clues and then composing conditional
tions they are actually trying to answer. read through all the clues first, then go sentences will be very time consuming.
back and mark off all the obvious infor-
When you are having your students mation on their answer sheet. Suggest In the second class, give each group
complete these puzzles, remember that that on the third read through they pause their own, more complex logic puzzle
this is partially about how your mind after each clue and discuss with their to solve. Follow the same process as in
works. Even native speakers can find group exactly what the full meaning and the close reading explanation and then
these difficult so it is probably best to let implications of the sentence might be. allow the students to work through and
them discuss the clues in their own lan- Does it have underlying implied mean- solve the puzzle. It may be necessary to
guage. They will have to keep coming ing beyond what is stated in the actual assign it as homework if the students are
back to reading and understanding the sentence? Once they have milked each not finished by the end of class. Alterna-
English clues to actually make headway individual clue for what it can tell them, tively, the teacher can, while circulating,
on solving the puzzle. Be aware that they need to start comparing the differ- help keep all the groups at roughly the
these are not primarily speaking activi- ent clues and see what they reveal when same level by assisting those who get
ties. Also, these are not activities that used together. It is probably worth sug- stuck. The following class, have the stu-
you complete in the last twenty minutes gesting, either at the beginning of class dents work in their groups and compose
of class. In my experience, even my or partway through that they try group- at least one conditional sentence for ev-
highest level classes needed the full ing clues that all discuss the same cat- ery conclusion they have reached. So,
forty minutes for one or two groups to egory of information (ie. height) together lets say the students have concluded
finish a low/mid-level logic puzzle. This and see what information that reveals. that Janet is the shortest person. They
is a best done as a group project so the would then create a conditional sen-
high level students can help the others Ultimately, completing a logic puzzle is tence referencing at least one clue they
fully understand the clues. about reading and fully understanding used to draw their conclusions. Depend-
each clue in its own right, how it relates ing on the complexity of the puzzle this
If you want to incorporate some speak- to the other clues that are given, and may take a large portion of the class.
ing into this you can give each group what the final, cumulative meaning of all To practice speaking, have the groups
only some of the clues they need. Then this writing might be. Logic puzzles use take turns reading their conditional sen-
some group members must go to the all the important elements of close read- tences.
other groups, ask for a clue, listen care- ing comprehension.

fully, write it down, and take it back to
their own group. Depending on the level
and behaviour of your students you can
insist they ask specific questions (ie. do
At its heart, solving a logic puzzle
Many logic puzzles rely on distin-
guishing characteristics of the people in-
you have any clues about Stephanie) relies completely on conditional reason- volved in the situations to resolve them.
and that only one member from each ing. If x then y. If Jamie is taller than Kel- Clues such as the girl with blonde hair
group can be standing at any one time. ly, Jamie cannot be the shortest person is taller than the boy with black hair are
and Kelly cannot be the tallest person. very common. Tied into physical ap-
Teachers who are using logic puzzles pearance is the use of comparatives
to practice the conditional may want to

and superlatives. Again, these are a
key part of most logic puzzle clues in-
volving people, races, houses, pets,
etc. Distinguishing between them
requires knowing which are bigger,
taller, faster, smallest, etc. Depend-
ing on what material you taught your
students, you may want to make your
own logic puzzle for this application.
Making your own would enable you
to ensure that all the phrases and vo-
cabulary you taught are actually used
in the clues.

As the final activity, you can require

that each group create a pictorial rep-
resentation of the solution with each
persons defining characteristics. This
allows you to touch on the various as-
pects of physical appearance as well
as test their knowledge of compara-
tives and superlatives. And lets face
it, students love activities that allow
them to make posters.


Indeed, they dont necessarily need
to be tied to a single teaching point.
They are great activities for those
weeks between final exams and the
end of the school year. Students stay
interested, there is almost no teacher-
talk-time, and you can offer up prizes
for the first to get the correct answer,
the best conditional sentence, or the
best pictorial representation of the so-
lution. Basically, logic puzzles, while
educational, are also fun for all!

10 Twists on Bingo Perfect
For the ESL Classroom
a list of unrelated words. If you teach you called the problem I lost my dog
BINGO IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE this way, and even if you dont, syn- a student might choose to cover I
GAMES TO PLAY IN ESL CLASSES. onym Bingo is a good way to review would call the police. His sentence
It is versatile, simple, and fun. I have related vocabulary words. Students would be, If I lost my dog, I would call
played many different versions of fill in their Bingo boards with various the police. Let the class decide if the
Bingo depending on what I happen vocabulary words in random order. winning player has chosen legitimate
to be teaching, and Bingo is flexible You choose synonyms for each of advice for each problem.
enough that I can tailor it to just about the words. To play, announce one of

anything. Here are ten twists on the the words you have selected to your COLOR BINGO
classic game that you can include in students. If a student has a synonym
your ESL class, too. of the word you have chosen, she Beginning level students will
can mark it on her board. She cannot enjoy this game that reviews colors.
USE A VARIETY mark the actual words you show the Have students write the names of col-
OF BINGO IDEAS class. Once she gets five synonyms ors to fill in their Bingo boards. (Note:
FOR A CHANGE in a row, she calls out Bingo. Depending on how many colors your
IN YOUR CLASSROOM students are reviewing, you might
4 ANTONYM BINGO want to use a three by three or four by
four board rather than the traditional

Antonym Bingo plays in much
the same way as synonym Bingo ex-
cept that you choose antonyms rather
five by five.) Either show students a
picture of the color and have them
mark the color on their board or call
This version of the game tests your than synonyms for the words on your out an object that is usually associat-
students ability to listen to a word and students cards. To check after a stu- ed with a particular color (e.g. sky for
choose the correct picture on their dent calls Bingo, have them read the blue, grass for green), and have stu-
bingo board. It works best with vo- words they marked along with the ant- dents mark the correct color on their
cabulary that is easily illustrated. Start onyms you called out to the class. board.
by having students create their bingo
boards using pictures of the vocabu-
lary you will use during the game. At
the start of play, choose a word and
This is a challenging review
read it to your students. Do not let When I am teaching conditionals, I like of the verb tenses in English for ad-
them see the word or a picture of it. to play problem and advice Bingo with vanced students. Have students
Your students will have to use their lis- my students. It not only challenges choose two or three verbs and write
tening skills to identify the correct pic- them to put together conditional sen- the conjugation for those verbs in all
ture on their boards. As always, five in tences, it makes them think logically twelve English verb tenses in random
a row wins. about what to do in a given situation. order on their boards. Tell students
To play, students fill their boards with they must include at least one conju-

advice they might give a friend. These
advice phrases should start with I
would... (Hint: the more general the
gation in each of the twelve tenses.
You should have ready sentences
that clearly call for each of the twelve
Similar to Listening Comprehension advice, the more likely your students conjugations of each verb. Read them
Bingo, Reading Comprehension Bin- will be able to match them to a prob- in random order leaving out the verb.
go starts with students selecting pic- lem.) Your part is to call out problems If students have the correct verb form
tures to fill the squares on their Bingo that a person could have. They can on their Bingo board to complete your
boards. During play, you choose one be realistic or ridiculous, depending sentence, they mark it off. Remind stu-
word at a time and this time show the on the personality of your class. To dents not to clear their boards when
written word to your students. The play, you read the problem and your someone calls Bingo until that per-
class reads the word and marks the students choose the advice on their sons answers have been checked.
correct picture on their Bingo boards. board that best addresses the situa-

tion. Once someone calls Bingo, post
the problems that you have called on
the board so your students can see
No matter what holiday is com-
I love teaching vocabulary words them. Then, when the winner reads ing up, you can probably find a set
in groups, that is, teaching three or off his winning answers, he must put of Bingo cards online. Review the
four words with similar meanings at them into a complete sentence using holiday specific vocabulary with your
the same time rather than teaching the conditional form. For example, if students and then either play listen-
ing comprehension or reading com-

prehension Bingo with the seasonal
words. This is a good way to bring
vocabulary into your classroom that
you might not cover in traditional ESL


If you want your students to be
on the lookout for vocabulary they
learned for a specific field trip, you
might want to try field trip Bingo. Stu-
dents prepare their boards by filling
in spaces with vocabulary they learn
specifically for the trip. Students bring
their cards with them on the field trip
and mark off words as they encounter
them. Rather than calling out when
they have five in a row, students bring
their boards over to you secretly. You
check to see if their marks are correct.
Students should continue to mark
words throughout the field trip. When
you return to school, award points
for each Bingo a student was able to
make (traditional, four corners, cross,
X, outline the board, etc.) The student
with the most points wins a prize
perhaps something you purchased on
the field trip.

While variations on the
game are great, dont forget the value
that traditional Bingo has to offer. It is
great for reviewing numbers with your
students, and ESL students can al-
ways use practice with numbers.


To do this, print a blank Bingo board
and laminate it. Students can then use
dry erase markers to fill in the boxes.
You can also make boards from card-
board or cardstock (slip them in plastic
sleeves if you like) and put Velcro dots
on each square. When students make
their own boards, they select from pic-
tures and words that have Velcro on
the back and simply stick them on the
Velcro areas on the blank board.

Great Uses for Your Class Online
Learning Management System
Another major advantage of the course
learning management system is the Another great advantage of the
ability to post announcements on the course shell is the ability to set up an
homepage. I used to run copies and online threaded discussion in which
pass out the weekly schedule Monday students can post to a course topic
morning, -- now students are habitu- such as gun control. Some excellent
These course shells generally feature
ated to checking the site Sunday night discussions have come out of thread-
a place to post announcements and
for that weeks activities, saving paper ed discussion, especially if each stu-
documents, a way to email the entire
and better preparing students so that dent is required to post at least once
class or individual students, and an
they know which materials to bring to in response to the topic and once to a
online gradebook where the instruc-
class. I also copy and paste important peers response--substantial posts of
tor can record grades for students to
emails to the announcements page as at least several lines that go beyond I
view their individual progress. While
a kind of permanent record. Students agree, good idea to actually advanc-
some instructors may scoff at these
who miss class are therefore able to ing the discussion. Most students opt
websites, especially if they meet face-
just check the homepage rather than to post more than required because
to-face with their students daily or
call the instructor or classmates. of the level of interest they develop in
several times a week, there are nu-
the topic and each others responses

merous advantages to such a system.
The overarching advantage is that POSTING OF DOCUMENTS during the course of the dialogue. The
the learning management system in- threaded discussions are also usually
Tired (and feeling guilty) about more organized than a face-to-face
creases student self-responsibility for
the expense and wasted trees in run- class discussion because there is no
their learning by eliminating a lot of the
ning off all of those multiple-page doc- concern about turn taking, and rules
I didnt know and I lost/didnt get the
uments for class? Back really aching of etiquette are more easily enforced.
papers excuses and in general adds
from carrying them around? Now just That is, the teacher cant always, in
an extra method to communicate and
post them on the course shell for stu- rapid, face-to-face interchange, re-
connect with students.
dents to download or refer to as nec- spond to something inappropriate, but
essary. This also creates a permanent
USE YOUR CLASS database of all of your courses most
such inappropriate remarks are imme-
LEARNING important documents, in case of con-
diately apparent and invite response,
MANAGEMENT tingencies such as students losing
from both the instructor and other stu-
SYSTEM EFFECTIVELY them or not getting them due to an
dents, in writing. In addition, research
shows that quieter students are more

absence. responsive and likely to contribute to
online discussions due to the need of
An obvious primary advantage
of the course shell is the ability to
send out email blasts/reminders to
more time to reflect before entering a
conversation than their more outgoing
students Sunday if youve forgotten
to announce something important,
such as the meeting in the library for
a tour Monday morning. An equal dis-
Another major advantage of the
course shell is the ability to keep the
course gradebook online, so students
advantage is the students who claim can view progress whenever they
that they didnt get the email, mainly choose and come to you with any I still like the energy that comes out
because their student account is not concerns. This somewhat eliminates of a face-to-face peer review when
the main account they check (I just students claims of ignorance of their students bring their writing into class
got a snippy email from a colleague progress (and my failure to advise and share with peer(s). However,
on this very issue, of sending out an them) in the ending weeks of class there are definite advantages of doing
email to what was not her main ac- when little can be done to improve the it online: again, the main advantages
count.) A proactive method of dealing grade. If students are advised to regu- are avoiding paper waste as well as
with this is to advise -- and remind as larly check the gradebook, then they more insightful comments/responses
necessary -- students that it is their re- become more responsible for their because there is more time to read
sponsibility to have their student email own progress. and reflect. Rather than several peers
forwarded to whatever account they offering responses that may be some-
check regularly. what ill-thought out and abbreviated

in a face-to-face unplanned response, at the beginning of the semester: Set
students now get responses from up your student email to forward to
their peers that are given after the your main account (just as you would
other students have had time to read, notify the post office if you changed
reflect, and response to the writing. your domicile), check the website at
least a couple of times weekly, show
FURTHER basic courtesy and dont post anything
CONSIDERATIONS deliberately inflammatory to the dis-
cussion threads, etc. Because these
ground rules should be obvious to re-
There are also a few cautions to keep
sponsible students, that is the context
students on track in use of the course
I use to introduce them: This will be
obvious to most of you, but -- etc.

There are few things worse than a WILL THERE STILL BE THOSE STU-
disorganized website. Because the DENTS WHO CRY BUT I DIDNT
context is reduced, and the designer KNOW, NO ONE TOLD ME, OR I
is not there to explain it, a website DIDNT GET THE HANDOUT?
must be intuitive and user friendly. Of course. Just this semester, for
Ive recently stopped visiting a writers example, I had one student who,
website I belong to simply because plagued by a variety of technical mis-
every time I sign on, I have to spend haps, never was able to sign onto the
ten minutes or so reorienting myself course site and whose children some-
to the site and remembering what to how spirited away her thumb drive
do, and Im fairly experienced with with all of her course materials stored
computers. Most course learning on it to another city. There will always
management systems are these days be those students who cant or refuse
set up so that its different features- to navigate a system, no matter how
-announcement section, discussion foolproof it is. However, with some
threads, gradebook, and so forth -- proactiveness from the teacher, the
are clearly labeled for the novice user. course website/learning management
Use them accordingly: if they are not system is an excellent learning tool.
clearly labeled, make sure the docu-
ments you post are: e.g., Schedule
for Week of December 16, and try to
group documents together, all of the
assignments, announcements, etc.

Teachers often assume their students
are computer literate, more so than
the teacher himself. This is often cor-
rect, but not always -- older students
and economically disadvantaged
students, for example, sometimes
have little computer experience. They
would therefore benefit from an orien-
tation to the website: set aside part of
a course period to bring in your lap-
top, if necessarily, to go to the website
and introduce students to its various


Although often the ground rules
should seem obvious, it is still neces-
sary to introduce them. I usually post a
few major rules regarding website use

Where Do I Start With PBL?
5 Steps To Building Killer Projects
I mean they can be a lot of work,
but they are a great time for the kids
be pretty tricky. So, the concepts for
your project based lesson (PBL) must
fit the language points and topics you
are trying to teach. This leads to some
Often overlooked, this can result in
and usually result in some laughs, or pretty clear pairings as well as imme- teacher frantically buying materials
at least warm and fuzzy feelings, for diately letting certain topics out. with their own funds the night be-
the teachers. Of course part of why
fore. Not that there is anything wrong
they are so awesome is the fact that Start by asking yourself when you with teachers buying a few things
students learn so much more from would use the language in the course for school, but it should really be by
applying what they have learned in of everyday life. Is it possible to repli- choice rather than necessity. A big part
a different setting. It helps them get cate those circumstances in the class- of this question is space. If you are
comfortable with the language, as well room? Probably not, but is there a way planning a puppet show as the PBL
as to learn to use it in new or creative to approximate those conditions in the for your personalities and physical de-
ways rather than the same old forms. classroom? Barring that, what is a fun scriptions unit, do you have space to
Furthermore, it lets them realize that way can they use in the language in put up the stage? Where will you store
learning can be fun. the classroom setting? the puppets without them being de-
stroyed? All these sorts of questions
Having said all that, planning projects Here are some examples of concepts are pretty important to sort out well be-
can be a lot of work. It can be hard that pair well with certain topics: fore deciding to go forward with a PBL.
to decide where to start. One thing is
Pen pals for introductions (Best

clear. It would be best if the planning
could take place before the neces-
case scenarios these are with DEVELOP
people in the teachers home
sary language is taught in regular les- A PROJECT OUTLINE
country, but if that is not possible
sons. That gives the teacher time to
it can be done between classes). This can be very simple. How many
add in any vocabulary or key phrases
necessary for the project itself. If the Market activities for shopping days do you plan to allocate? What
project is added as an afterthought units. is the main project they will create?
it must either stay within the existing Presentations that must use cer- What materials do you need? What is
parameters or start with a vocabulary/ tain idioms taught in class. a rough timetable? Below is a sample
key phrases lesson to fill in any gaps table that I have found useful in creat-
Make up a sport for comparatives
in the students knowledge. Before ing a PBL outline. It is partially com-
and superlatives.
we launch into the discussion of how, pleted as an example. In the primary

make sure you actually have time to outline area you can include notes
WHAT DO THEY LOVE? about extensions, where you need to
complete a project based lesson.
Many of these projects will take two be (computer lab vs. classroom), or if
Considering student interest and
to four classes to see through. That there are materials that you need for
project concepts should probably hap-
seems like a lot, but no worries! Here only one day. Using this table, you can
pen around the same time. What do
are 5 steps to building killer projects to see at a glance, what you need, what
your students care about? What gets
help sum up a unit. you are doing that day, and where your
them interested? What do they talk
students should be in their progress.
about when you bump into them in the
hallways? If you dont have the an-
FRESH IDEAS swers to any of the questions you can BUILD IT UP
FOR END OF UNIT ask some of your colleagues, espe-
FABULOUS PROJECTS cially those with kids (you should also
PBLs are fun, but if they are pre-
sented to the class in the wrong light
get to know your students better). If at

they can just look like a lot of work.
CONCEPTS all possible, try to incorporate some
What do you mean we have to cre-
of these interests into your projects.
The concept is the bedrock of the ate an entire travel itinerary? We just
Student enthusiasm will skyrocket and
project. What will they produce over spent three weeks talking about travel
you will have a better chance of draw-
the course of the project? What will language. We have all heard those
ing quiet students out of their shells.
the students actually enjoy (see point complaints. Its not another activity, its
Something to note is that in certain
2)? What material was taught and how a cool project that we get to do instead
age groups and certain cultures, male
will it be applied in the project? Its of more lectures, vocabulary work-
and female students have very differ-
not beneficial to do a super fun sports sheets, and phrase practice! Its gon-
ent interests. Make sure you are not
project when the topic is on ordering na be super fun, theres posters, and
alienating one to please the other.
food in a restaurant. Fun, yes, but not presentations, all kinds of cool stuff. I
effective. This process can actually am sure we are also familiar with the

appropriate language so I wont beat it to death.

The only other thing I would note is that it can be helpful to tie PBLs into your classroom rewards system in some big


Yes it still requires a fair bit of creativity to come up with fun and/or realistic ways for the students to use the language,
but I can assure you it is worth it. If you follow these steps, the process starts to simplify itself and before you know it you
will be knee deep in projects. Enjoy!

Get Those Juices Flowing: 4 Steps
Toward a Wealth of Learning
5. Students spend a lot of time com- should intervene as little as possible at
DO YOU FEEL YOUVE FALLEN INTO A municating during tasks and since this stage and offer corrections later on.
RUT WITH YOUR ESL CLASS? most, if not all students, need to This is why it is advisable for the teach-
Are you and your students simply going learn to communicate, it is a great er to take notes on what needs to be
through the motions? Well, if you want way to achieve this goal. corrected while students are working,
to spice things up and get their minds which will be useful for the feedback
working, tasks are the way to go. Let 6. Students have control over what phase.
me tell you why. Tasks offer ESL teach- language they want to use and they

ers an amazing alternative. When using have a wealth of language resourc- CONGRATULATE
tasks for learning the lesson is based es to choose from.
around the completion of a task with a AND CORRECT
real-world goal and the language the 7. Students develop thinking skills Now that the task has finished, you
students learn comes from this. With like: planning, comparing, listing, need to praise and correct. First con-
tasks, students learn by being forced analyzing, ranking, ordering, sort- gratulate your students on a job well
to communicate with other students ing, deducing, comparing, classify- done. Tell them what they did well and
to solve problems. Tasks provide the ing, problem solving and explain- ask them how they felt. After this, make
learner with an opportunity to use the ing. all the necessary corrections. Highlight
language they need for genuine com- what things were not correct for the stu-
munication, increasing student motiva- So, how do we use tasks in our class- dents to analyze. Ask them how they
tion and encouraging more speaking. room. Do we simply pick one and throw would say things differently.
Tasks involve thinking skills we use in it at our students. Of course the answer

our real lives. They are a success- is no. Though they are in fact easy to
ful way of teaching language since
implement, tasks should be done as a
they bring meaningful communication step by step process. Lets take a look Finally, you need to select lan-
into the classroom, as students work at these steps. guage areas to practice based on your
towards the goals of the task. It is im- students needs and also what emerged
portant to include activities that prompt from the corrections. The students then
students to work towards achieving CHECK THE PROPER practice using activities to increase
specific goals using thinking skills. They PROCEDURE their confidence and use the language
learn to use the target language mean- FOR ANY TASK they have learned.
ingfully as they communicate with each
other and the instructor in achieving the
goals of the task. Using tasks has some
great advantages.
You should never jump into any-
thing without some type of warm up. Prepare them for the real world and
1. Tasks make lessons more fun. Believe me, we all need warm ups and help boost their confidence bu using
They provide an awesome change your students are not the exception. tasks.
of pace. Here you need to introduce the topic,
and give your students clear instruc-
2. Tasks provide a natural context for tions on what they will have to do. If you
using language, and they promote wish, you could do a brainstorming ac-
the use of language that is person- tivity with your students to recall some
alized and relevant to the students. language that may be useful. Some
teachers even like to provide their stu-
3. The exposure to language is great- dents with a model of what will be ex-
er and more varied. The students pected of them. They can take notes
are exposed to a whole range of and spend a few minutes getting ready
phrases, vocabulary and structures for the task.
in a natural context.

4. The language used during tasks

comes from the students needs.
At this stage students complete
The decision of what language is the task they prepared individually, in
covered is not made by the teacher pairs or groups. They have to use the
or the course book but by the stu- language resources available to them,
dents. and the teacher acts as a monitor and
offers encouragement. Ideally you

6 Strategies to Get Advanced
Students to Practice with You
struggle to use the troubling phrases/ squeeze it in, but at a time when they
words because they will want to tell will be alert, open, and unoccupied.
you all about themselves. This is hu-
BLY, AND, AS A RESULT, THEY OFTEN Early Sunday night is a great time
man nature. If you are practicing gram-
VIEW THEMSELVES AS EXPERTS. if your schedule is flexible enough.
mar, give them writing assignments They probably have not been
Also, they have enough language in
that focus on their past experiences working all day, and they can be
their toolkit that they circumvent Eng-
and future desires. more available to learn.
lish concepts that are tricky for them.
They obviously know they do not speak Have them write 500 words about Lunch time one day during the
perfectly because they have contract- an experience in their youth that week could also work, as it pro-
ed you, a native or more skilled speak- first taught them the value of mon- vides a break in their work sched-
er, to help them with their trouble spots ey. That could be a good conversa- ule and they can easily enough re-
and fix the nuances that will make their tion topic as well. ceive permission to participate as
grammar better, their syntax sharper, it it a normal rest hour.
and their pronunciation spotless. It
can be hard though, to get non-native
speakers to really practice what they
need to practice! Here are some strat- Students that have managed to get
egies that might help. this far in a foreign language and want Some teachers like boundaries and do
to practice further are most likely over not want to be friends and peers with
HOW TO GET achievers. They prefer to be the lead- students. Skip this strategy if you are
ADVANCED ESL/ ers, the ones teaching you. Create one of those! If you are uncomfortable,
EFL STUDENTS TO problem activities where they have to it does not work. Consider though that
PRACTICE WITH YOU explain something to you using trouble advanced students probably do not
language or difficult grammar. need discipline and boundaries. They

It is important, with non-native
For example: Create an activity
where they have to explain the nu-
anced difference between mean-
will benefit more from a release of those
boundaries. Try to look at them not as
students, but as people like yourself
speakers, and especially if they have ings by comparing two different that want to perfect a language. They
hired you to practice one-on-one, to ways of saying something. I prob- will feel more comfortable with you and
put yourself on their level. If you appear ably would want to go to college worry less about making the mistakes
better or smarter than your student, one day vs. I maybe could go to that they need to make in order to get
you will intimidate her and dissuade college one day. their language to the next level!
her from practicing trouble spots. You
Open up your class asking them

need to create an open, friendly en-
TITLE THE CLASS personal questions about school,
vironment where mistakes are made,
and one of the best ways to do this is to SOMETHING ELSE their kids, what they did on Satur-
day, etc.
make mistakes yourself or talk yourself Do not call the class Advanced Gram-
down! Two applications: Tell them what you did on Satur-
mar and Pronunciation. Call the class day and about your children or
When she gets frustrated because something like Technical Aspects of boyfriend.
she is having trouble pronounc- Conversation for English Experts, or,
ing these, tell her it took you five Aim to be just a little bit personal if
Lose Your Accent in 2 Months. These
years to pronounce a certain word this is uncomfortable, and you might
titles will appeal more to students that
in your foreign language. be amazed how much further you can
are advanced but not on a perfect flu-
take your students!
If she is frustrated about a word ency level yet and help encourage par-
or phrase, ask her how they say it ticipation. They probably have already
in her native tongue. Tell her how taken advanced English and want to ADVANCED STUDENTS CAN BE THE
much more intuitive her peoples think they are learning something new MOST FUN AND THE MOST REWARD-
method is. Then mistakenly pro- or value-added. ING STUDENTS, AND THEY WILL
nounce it a few times and show SCRATCH YOUR ITCH TO USE ENGLISH
how hard it is for you to learn.

They can also be frustrating though
MAKE IT ABOUT THEM and difficult to teach and get to the next
These students are usually really busy.
If you are practicing conversa- level of English mastery. Try applying a
They probably have jobs and families,
tion, only ask your students questions. few of these strategies if you are hav-
are young over achievers, or are more
Design the questions so they have to ing a hard time!
than full time students. Make sure to
practice their trouble spots. They will have class not just when they can

4 Ways to Challenge Advanced
Learners with the Present Simple
basics of the present simple, but do At first theyll be trying to think of re-
THE PRESENT SIMPLE IS THE MOST they know their uses? Like native ally complicated connections and
BASIC TENSE IN ANY LANGUAGE speakers they know how to use the looking more at the meaning of the
AND IT IS THE FIRST TENSE THAT tense, but rarely understand why they sentences rather than the connection
LEARNERS OF ENGLISH WILL LEARN are using it. Refrain from telling the between the structures. This activity
AND USE, STARTING WITH THE VERB learners that youre having a gram- is a perfect way of exercising the left
TO BE. mar review, it will surely be met with side of the brain with logic and deduc-
Curiously, however, no matter how moans. tive reasoning. When they come to the
advanced the learner is, there are of- conclusion, ask your learners then to
ten basic mistakes such as formation Instead begin you lesson by writing produce the uses/rules of each exam-
that are continuously made. In every example sentences under each other ple sentence by making reference to
single ESL course book for learners showing all the different uses of the the examples. This activity will benefit
ranging from starters to advanced present simple (if you have access your more advanced learners as its a
ones, the present tenses always pop to powerpoint, it would be quicker to form of discovery learning which helps
up and theyre always the first tense have this pre-prepared). Sentence to further build on your students prior
to get covered. As learners advance, uses should include: present simple knowledge and as its more challeng-
they naturally begin to roll their eyes for a fact (e.g. The cheetah is the ing for them, they wont grow bored so
and tire of the present simple tense of- fastest animal in the world), present quickly.
ten complaining that they know it and simple for routine (e.g. Every morn-

its too easy. But without realizing it, ing Jenny wakes up at before her GET COOKING
the present simple is used in so many brother), present simple for timetable
different scenarios in the English lan- (e.g. Flight 451 to Manchester leaves A fun and engaging way to re-
guage and to master the language the on the hour every two hours), present view the present simple is through us-
basics must be mastered first. simple for declaration (e.g. I love you), ing a cooking video. I prefer to use a
present simple with stative verbs (e.g. clip with a more famous chef that ev-
While they probably know it deep I know what to do), present simple eryone is familiar with such as Jamie
down, ESL learners often forget that for quoting someone (e.g. Maria says Oliver. Firstly, write the words present
to know a language well there needs shes ready), present simple for a plot simple on the board without speak-
to be constant revision, even of the (e.g. Ophelia tragically drowns in a ing and then instruct your learners to
basics. stream), present simple for a head- watch and listen carefully. Play a short
line (e.g. Five die in city house fire), segment of the beginning of a cook-
However, its not surprising that ad- present simple for jokes (e.g. A snail ing show and pause the video. Ask
vanced students groan and grumble walks into a bar and the barman tells the students why they believe youve
at the mere sight of the present simple him theres a strict policy about having written the term present simple on the
as they feel theyre not challenged, snails in the bar and so kicks him out. board and showing a cooking clip.
which in some cases with less experi- A year later the same snail re-enters If theyre really advanced students
enced teachers this could be the case. the bar and asks the barman What theyll pick it up almost immediately.
There are many ways that we as lan- did you do that for?), present simple Explain that youre going to watch Ja-
guage educators can challenge and for sports commentary (e.g. Messi mie Oliver or whoever else cook lasa-
push our learners more, even with the dribbles the ball up the centre field, he gna for example. It is the task of the
basics like the present simple tense. shoots, he scores, what a wonderful learners to write down the notes of the
What we need to bear in mind all the goal from Lionel Messi), present sim- steps involved in cooking the lasagna.
time is that theyre not learning the ple for the future (e.g. My flight leaves Stress the importance of taking good
language at this stage, but merely re- at 10 oclock tomorrow morning), and relevant notes as theyll be ex-
vising it, therefore more autonomous present simple for instruction (e.g. pected to produce a recipe using the
and discovery learning needs to be Finely chop the shallots and add them present simple and the exact steps
encouraged to keep the learners stim- to the skillet) and present simple for taken at the end of the show. This is a
ulated. a theoretical or planned situation (e.g. great way to incorporate both listening
according to the CEOs idea, I help and writing skills while reviewing basic
PUSH YOUR seat all the guests and give a formal grammar points. As the learners have
ADVANCED welcome). to be more active in the lesson with
STUDENTS MORE the reviewing of the present simple,
WITH PRESENT SIMPLE After your example sentences have theyll forget their usual complaints of
been listed or projected on the board the tense being too basic for them and

At this stage learners know the
ask your students to draw the connec-
tion between the different examples.
focus on the task at hand.

This kind of activity can work with any to get stuck with what to do with ad-
how to or instructional video, how- vanced learners. Over the years of
ever, I find it works best with cook- them learning English theyve broken
ing and recipes as more learners can down their daily routines time and
relate to this and its more realistic in time again which not only gets mo-
the terms of most people will cook at notonous for the learner but also the
some stage in their lives. teacher. Creative thinking is a great
way to get learners to think outside

Its been said that to know a lan-
the square as quite often they are
stuck on specific ideas after repeat-
ing them so often in the ESL class-
guage completely you need to be able room. Have your learners name a list
to understand its humor. Integrating of everyday household appliances.
jokes in the English classroom when After listing the appliances such as
reviewing the present simple with ad- vacuum cleaner and dishwasher, ask
vanced learners is fun and it will re- your learners to choose one. Explain
ally test their comprehension. Start to your learners that they are no lon-
the lesson by asking if the students ger human and for this lesson theyre
know any jokes in English. If they do, their chosen appliance. With their ap-
encourage them to share them with pliance in mind, they must brainstorm
the class. Scour the internet and find a number of different activities that the
some age and content appropriate said appliance does. This is a great
jokes (one-liners are great for this) time to introduce the idea of personi-
that use the present simple tense. fication and giving inanimate objects
Split the group of collected jokes in human characteristics. After the lists
half. Project one or two of the first half have been drawn up ask your learn-
of the jokes on the board and explain ers to write sentences using the pres-
that the segments are part of an Eng- ent simple tense showing the daily
lish joke. Ask your learners to try and routine of the household appliance
guess the second part of the joke or and to make this activity even more
encourage them to come with their fun and challenging each sentence
own endings. On a worksheet have could be read without naming the ap-
all of your split jokes in two jumbled pliance and it could be treated as a
up columns and ask the students to riddle for the other participants of the
match the two halves to form the com- class to guess what it is.
plete joke. Model retelling one of the
completed jokes using your voice to
exaggerate the necessary parts and
take pauses in the right places. Work
your way around the class having the
students do the same for the remain-
der of the jokes. The most challenging
part of this is the last exercise where
Theyre right in the sense that re-
learners are encouraged to write their
petitive lessons and grammar points
own one-liner jokes based on the
get boring when theyre not mentally
structure of the jokes they can see
stimulated. Challenge your more ad-
on their worksheet using the present
vanced learners to keep them moti-
simple tense. Working with jokes is
vated and help them understand that
not only fun, it helps to practice and
even though it is only the present
review one of the uses of everyday
simple theres still a lot to learn and
English and of course it gives your ad-
review when it comes to working to-
vanced learners a review of the pres-
wards fluency in English.
ent simple tense without them even
realizing it. The use of jokes is also
beneficial for advanced learners as it
can be very relevant to life as jokes
and storytelling plays a huge role in
everyday life.

If you wish to review the present sim-
ple tense and more specifically rou-
tine and habitual activities it is easy

Tested Out: 5 Alternative Assess-
ments for Your ESL Classroom
NOT EVERY STUDENT PERFORMS ings and speech bubbles. Provide them you want them to use a certain amount
BEST WITH A TRADITIONAL PAPER with a blank comic strip with four to six of them in their argument. You may ei-
AND PENCIL TEST. frames. Have them sketch it out on that ther let each student choose their side
How can you get those low-performing first one. After you have reviewed their of the argument, or assign sides. If you
students to show what they really know? sketch and speech bubbles, they may allow them to choose, make sure that
Here are five alternative assessments make a final draft on a new comic strip. the sides are fairly even. Allow them to
that you can use in your classroom to They may present it to the class. This debate each other respectfully. Many
help all students reach their potential. activity can be used to demonstrate students thrive when they feel there is
knowledge of specific content, such some competition involved, and this
TAKE A DIFFERENT as a time in history, or to demonstrate may just do the trick. Having a debate
PERSPECTIVE ON understanding of a specific verb tense. in class is a fun way for students to
ASSESSMENT The possibilities are endless with this
demonstrate their knowledge.

When you are done with a unit 3 ITS ALL
on animals, for example, you can have Another fun way for students to show
your students make a diorama to dem- Some students may have some read- what they have learned is to act it out
onstrate their understanding of the ing, writing, and even computer skills, for the class. This can definitely work for
topic. A diorama is a shoebox filled with but may still lack in speaking ability. any ability. If your students are begin-
small figures and scenery representing These students may like to prepare a ners, they can act out their vocabulary
what has been learned. If your students brochure to demonstrate what they words. This can be played as a game
have studied the rainforest, they can have learned. Make sure they under- of charades, as one group of students
make a scene using small trees and stand that a brochure is usually used selects a vocabulary word, and then si-
animals found in the rainforest. They to sell a product, so they will be sell- lently acts it out, which gives the other
can either make them out of paper or ing whatever they have learned to the team a chance to guess the word in the
clay, or in some situations you may class. If they have access to comput- target language. Another opportunity
have supplies in your classroom. Then, ers at school, they may even be able would be for more advanced students
depending on their level, they can pres- to make the brochure there. You should to create a skit about the topic they
ent this to the class. A beginner can just give clear instructions as to how much have studied in the target language,
point and label the different parts, and information and how many pictures you such as an historical event. This would
a more advanced student can explain would like for each section. You defi- give them some reading and writing
the different parts and how they work nitely should provide a good example practice as they create the skit and then
together. Afterwards, students may ask of what you would like the brochure some speaking practice as they act it
questions of the student presenter if that to look like. If they prefer to do it by out. Many students enjoy acting as a
is appropriate for their level. Displaying hand, drawing on the page and writ- way to show what they have learned.
the dioramas for some time in the class- ing it would be fine as well. Once they
room can also foster more conversation have completed the brochure, you have MANY STUDENTS WILL FIND THESE
among the students. Dioramas are a the option of having them just hand it ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENTS A
great, creative way for students to dem- in for a grade, having them read it to WELCOME CHANGE TO THE TRADI-
onstrate their knowledge. the class, or reading it to the class your- TIONAL PAPER-AND-PENCIL TEST.
self in order to share some information. For many, it gives them a chance to

Some students may enjoy using
A brochure is a great way for students
to communicate their understanding to
show their strengths. Using alternative
assessments also lowers anxiety for
many students who worry about their
a comic strip as a demonstration of performance excessively. These cre-
their understanding. This works very
well with a how-to or persuasive writing
piece. It allows students to use their ar-
A fun way to assess students on
ative outlets or being able to prepare
their information ahead of time helps
those students. They give our students
tistic skills along with a minimal amount a topic for which they can choose sides a chance to reach their potential. Of
of writing. Many students may already is to have a debate. This would be ap- course, in every classroom, there will
be familiar with a comic strip format propriate for students who already have be a time where pencil-and-paper tests
which makes it even more user-friendly. some speaking skills. Your topic would have their place and will have to be
Show the students some comic strips as need to be something that is arguable, used. It is refreshing to know that when
examples, if possible. Explain that they such as whether there should be school we are not required to use them, we
will need to decide on their topic and uniforms in public school. If you are have these alternative assessments at
plan out their strip, complete with draw- studying present tense or adjectives, for our fingertips.
example, you can tell your students that
How Colleagues Might Be Your
Best Untapped Teaching Resource
teach on that subject, take a look at the teacher. For new teachers, the class-
AS TEACHERS, WE FREQUENTLY resource bank and see what materi- room can be a bit overwhelming. That
THINK ABOUT PROFESSIONAL DEVEL- als others have already created. Youll is where an experienced teacher comes
OPMENT AND ONGOING EDUCATION, save yourself time and effort while also in. Not only can that person help with
BUT HOW OFTEN DO WE LOOK TO THE encouraging and helping your fellow classroom management tips, curricu-
ROOM NEXT DOOR? teachers with the materials you share. lum guidance, and answer questions,
While conferences and classes are they can also be a social support to

great, and you should go to one when-
BECOME new teachers coming into an unfamiliar
ever you get the chance, sometimes school and sometimes a new country. A
the best untapped resource you have A REGULAR VISITOR
mentor teacher is great for introducing
as a teacher are the other people in the Classroom observations can be really a new teacher around to the rest of the
building standing at the front of their stressful, but its a lot easier to have a staff and being a first step for a novice
classroom. Here are several ways your friend and coworker sit in on your class teacher making school a second home.
fellow teachers can be an encourage- before the principal or formal evaluator If you dont already have a mentoring
ment and resource to you as a teacher does. By inviting a colleague into class, program at your school, think about
(and you can be to them). you get a chance to pick their brain starting one. Talk to the administration
about your strengths and weaknesses about a formal program, or just take the
6 SIMPLE WAYS TO TAP as a teacher. Take turns sitting in on schools newest staff member under
INTO THE RESOURCES a lesson or two, and give each other your wing and show them around. It just
IN YOUR VERY OWN feedback on how well the information takes one person to start a mentoring
HALLWAY was presented, how the students re- program, and one person can make a
huge difference in one persons life as

sponded, how you interacted with the
JOIN FORCES students, the materials you used, and well as the life of their school.
any other items that catch their atten-

Working with another teacher in
your school might actually help your
tion. When you have another set of CHAT ABOUT IT
eyes on your teaching, you can learn
ESL students become better speakers How much time does a teacher
more about yourself as a teacher, and
of the language even if that person really have for additional meetings and
when you watch others teach, you will
doesnt teach English. ESL teachers get together? If the answer is less than
naturally find elements they use that
have a problem we make ourselves youd like it to be, think about starting
you will want to incorporate into your
easy to understand. Its natural, and a private chat room for the teachers in
own teaching.
our students are probably pretty happy your school or community. Allow mem-

that we do. It doesnt take long for an bers by invitation only, and use your
ESL teacher to modify the vocabulary GET TOGETHER
blog as a platform to share successes
they use, their pronunciation, and their and struggles, questions and insights. If
Your fellow teachers dont just
choice of grammar to help students you make it a habit to peruse the board
have to be a resource for ideas and
understand what they are saying. And every few days (even if its late at night,
teaching skills. Try just getting together
most of the time we dont even realize very early in the morning or even during
to talk about what is going on. If you
we are doing it. Its good, therefore, to a free class period) you will find yourself
make a regular habit of hanging out,
get another teacher in your classroom able to help and encourage your fellow
you will find an audience who can listen
to expose your students to another per- teachers as well as get help and en-
to your teaching woes and accomplish-
sons style of speaking, someone who couragement from them.
ments and react with support and en-
hasnt simplified their language for the
couragement. If you like, set up a time
sake of classroom communication.
to go out for drinks, have a potluck lunch YOU MAY BE THE ONLY TEACHER

once a month, stay after school once a
CREATE A RESOURCE BANK week, and use that time to share ideas MEAN YOU HAVE TO TACKLE TEACH-
and stories. If you do, you may find the ING ON YOUR OWN.
Theres no need to recreate the Your fellow teachers are a great resource
community that comes from your time
wheel, right? But thats just what a lot and can offer valuable knowledge and
together helps all of you steer clear of
of teachers do when they feel the need experience to you. In addition, you have
burnout and helps you release some of
to create resources for every lesson experiences and knowledge they will
your frustrations in a healthy way.
they teach. If you have other English benefit from learning. So before you

teachers in your school, pool together sign up for that conference, think about
your resources. Make files any teacher GET MENTORING what your coworkers have to offer and
can use, and include worksheets, tests, what you can offer them. You just might
One of the biggest encourage-
and other materials. Sort them by topic find that you all have a lot to offer one
ments to a new teacher can be the help
or by class. Then when its your turn to another.
and guidance that comes from a mentor

5 Important Things I Have
Learned Through Experience
questions. Actually, let me rephrase
that. I learned how little I knew how to
explain about the English language.
Because English is my first language,
Id like to say every one of my
SCHOOL? ARE YOU WORRIED THAT questions was easily answered by
YOU ARENT GIVING YOUR STU- I could tell students if what they said my fellow teachers, but that wasnt
DENTS EVERYTHING THEY NEED IN or wrote was right or wrong, but too the case. Though they shared infinite
THE WAY OF LANGUAGE INSTRUC- often I couldnt tell them why! Though knowledge with me, sometimes I or
TION? ARE YOU HAUNTED BY THE I could use grammar very well, I didnt my students came up with a question
FEAR THAT YOU MAY HAVE MADE know how to break it down into rules that none of us could readily answer.
A MISTAKE IN TAKING THIS JOB OR and patterns. During those moments, I learned
CHOOSING THIS CAREER? something else. Its okay to tell a stu-
Im here to tell you that your worries
are perfectly normal. 2 WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN
dent you dont know the answer but
that you will find it and get back to him
or her. Teachers are the ones with all
Teaching ESL isnt like teaching al- One of my greatest resources dur- the answers, true? False. Even the
gebra or geometry. ESL teachers ing these first weeks and months of best teachers cannot answer every
(and students) face challenges that teaching were my fellow tutors. Many question every student will ever ask,
are unique to the second language of them had been working in the tu- but the answers are out there. Some-
classroom challenges like cultural toring center for years, and they were times it takes some digging or some
conflicts, translating instinct into in- well versed when it came to the whats research or some serious thought
struction, or communication barriers and the whys of the English language. about why we do what we do when we
that are nearly impossible to over- At first, I was timid about asking them speak. When you encounter a situa-
come. Add to that ESL teachers are questions about grammar. Wasnt I tion like this, be honest. Tell your stu-
often teaching overseas, in a culture supposed to know this stuff already? dent that you dont have the answer
not their own, with their closest sup- But I asked anyway, feeling that my right now, but dont stop there. Look
ports a world away (or at least several students deserved complete and it up. Find out the answer. Then get
time zones). Its okay to struggle. Its practical answers to their questions back to your student with the right an-
okay to doubt. As long as you dont even if I wasnt the one giving them. swer. Like a child whose parent says,
let those fears stop you. What Ive I learned something important though Because I said so, your students will
learned in my years teaching is ex- these conversations. My fellow tutors not be satisfied with a pat answer void
perience makes a lot of those fears (and teachers) were the best resource of information. Taking time to dig up
distant or nonexistent. Here are some I had when it came to understanding the meat of the answer will be more
things that I have learned through ex- my own language. They didnt mind valuable to your students and will gar-
perience that Id like to share with you. answering my questions, and they ner you more respect in the long run,
could point me to resources in the so do it. You wont lose face by saying
WORDS tutoring center that would further ex- you have to check on that before you
OF ENCOURAGEMENT plain their answers. I learned so much can answer their question.
FOR ESL TEACHERS practical instruction from them that it

rivaled what I was learning in my mas-
ters program. 4 BLESSED ARE
I write this to say that you have re- It may not be an official proverb, but
VERSUS INSTRUCTION sources, too. You may not teach in this saying helped me more on my
a tutoring center like I did, but many first trip overseas than any other
My first job working with ESL students
of you have fellow teachers at your snippet of training I had received up
was in a tutoring lab at a university
school who can help you through the until that point: blessed are the flex-
language center. It was a great pro-
early days of language instruction ible for they shall not be bent out of
gram where one-on-one tutoring was
struggle. Some of you may feel alone, shape. My ESL teaching career has
built into every students schedule
the only English speaker at an over- been nothing if not unpredictable. My
and tuition. Four afternoons each
seas school. Youre not. Many web- first overseas teaching assignment
week I met with students in a large
sites offer chat rooms and boards to was one of the biggest surprises in
room filled with tables, resources,
help and encourage new ESL teach- my life. I found out just days before
and other tutoring matchups. Though
ers. Use them. Youll learn as much travelling to the other side of the world
I had a background in linguistics and
from fellow teachers as you did from to teach that I would not be teaching
writing, I found out just how little I
all the books in your teaching pro- grades 7-12 as I had been told but
knew about the English language
gram! ages 7-12. Big difference! Needless
when my students started asking
to say my first classroom brought new

challenges to me every day. At that
time, I reminded myself that flexibility
is one of the greatest virtues of the
ESL teacher. My classroom struggles
often centered around the difference
between teaching children and ado-
lescents, but flexibility is a trait that all
ESL teachers should seek to develop
in themselves.

When you are teaching ESL, you are

teaching people from other cultures,
other areas of the world. There is no
shortage of cultural issues that come
up in the ESL classroom. Sometimes
they are simple to get past dont
point with your middle finger, I have
told many a student. Point with your
first finger instead. Other cultural is-
sues that touch on deep personal
values are not as easy to clarify or
resolve. And if you are teaching a
class full of internationals, you have
even more opportunities for cultures
to clash. Be flexible. Its okay to put
aside your lesson plan for the day
to address cultural issues when you
need to. In fact, being flexible about
schedule, lesson plans, and activities
will do nothing but help you as an ESL
teacher. The sooner you learn that,
the easier a time you will have.

Its also okay to put aside your
advanced lesson to reteach the ba-
sics that your students should already
know but dont. Its okay to take your
students out of the classroom on a
beautiful day and do some on the spot
vocabulary development. Its okay to
change things up, be creative, play
games, and have fun. You have to.
Language learning is stressful, and
your students will be looking to you
for comfort, guidance, and direction.
Sometimes the best thing you can do
for your ESL students is to close the
lesson planner and just take the day
and its questions as they come.


Take heart. We have all struggled.
You are not the only one. And you
will make it over these hurdles just
like the rest of us did. Be flexible, be
teachable, and be honest with your
students and with yourself. When you
do, you will find that things become
easier each day, each week, each
year. Before long, youll be the one
sharing your bits of wisdom with the
new teachers in your school!