Click here to read. This story is part of my Learn Something New Everyday Challenge.
No matter what language you speak or want to learn, your goal is to become good at communicating. Good communication requires the art of simplicity. Express your message in the simplest way possible. This does not mean to use simple terms or easy language, although those can be very beneficial. It means using the language appropriate for your audience to ensure they get your message.
The same is true with teaching. Whether you are teaching an elementary subject or a complex, theoretical concept, you want to use the language that teaches your students as easily as possible.
I'm learning to teach part-time at one of the many online ESL schools that teach Chinese children English. The classes are taught in English only. How do you give instructions to a 5-year-old child who speaks very little English? You demonstrate or model. If you want your student to draw a line between a word and its matching picture, you do it first. If you want your student to stand, you stand.
Total physical response (TPR) is another method. TPR simply associates an action with a word or command. For example, if you want your student to repeat a word, say the word and then cup your ear or point to your mouth.
When you teach your student new words, associate an action with each word. For example, when you say airplane, move your hand as if you were throwing a paper airplane. For car, move you hands as if you were turning a steering wheel. Studies confirm that associating multiple actions with what you want to memorize, helps you remember. A warm apple pie may recall memories of your grandmother. You hear a song and it reminds you of a wedding, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. It is a common technique to associate another word or object when you need to remember someone's name.
When you make a presentation or teach a class, be energetic. Move your hands or use a gestures when explaining important items. Speakers hold up fingers when explaining a list of steps. Be a bit of an actor. When you need to express urgency, walk fast, and mime like you are doing many things quickly. When something important is completed and you want your audience to know that the remaining steps or lecture is easier or more relaxed, wipe your hand across your forehead as if you were sweating.
The next time you need to communicate, imagine you are talking to a kindergarten student. Don't actually speak like a kindergarten student, just use that image to keep your message as simple as necessary.
Journaling is a useful learning tool. It lets you keep track of your thoughts, ideas, what you learned, what you need to learn, etc. Students and self-learners can share their opinions about their learning, the problems they encounter, and their progress. For example, I am learning how to teach children English as a Second Language. My teaching experience is with adults. I need to learn new concepts. My journal provides me with a record of what I am doing right and what still challenges me. Reading the entries reminds me of the progress I've made and the journey I still need to travel.
A journal can also be a nice alternative to a Knowledge, Wonder, and Learned (KWL) chart. A KWL chart lets you use words, images, links, audio, and video to reflect what you need to do to complete a new subject, process, or project. It's a nice way to reflect and learn. However, some may enjoy recording their thoughts using pen and paper.
Teachers use journaling to help students improve their writing. Students write whatever they want and the teacher provides guidance. These journals are usually private between the teacher and student unless the student chooses to share his or her writing with the class.
I use journaling as a way to think and relax. When I am tense or nervous, I write about what bothers me. Once my thoughts are on paper, I don't have to worry about them and I can reread and resolve them later.
I also love philosophy and found two interesting philosophy-related journals. The Daily Stoic Journal by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman provides daily prompts to write about. Some prompts include:
The Philosopher's Notebook by Mark Stephens offers philosophical essays for you to reflect on. Some of these essays include:
These are more intellectual and the reflections are longer. I enjoy them because it gives me time to think in length in contrast to our 140 character text messages.
In a traditional grammar class, the teacher explains the grammatical concept. However, students learn more when they are actively engaged. The following dialogue illustrates how a teacher may explain the present perfect tense.
“Today, we are going to learn the present perfect tense. Joachim, please read the sentence on the slide.”
“Lisa has taught English as a Second Language for 15 years.”
“Joachim, is Lisa still teaching English as a Second Language?”
“The verb taught is in the past tense.”
“Maria, read these two sentences.”
“Lisa taught English as a Second Language for 15 years. Lisa has taught English as a Second Language for 15 years.”
“What is the difference between the two sentences?”
“I’m not sure. Is the word has used for emphasis?”
“Victoria, how many years have you studied English?”
“I studied English for three years.”
“So you are no longer studying English?”
"No, I'm still studying English."
“I’ll repeat my question. Listen to the words I emphasize.”
“Victoria, for how many years have you studied English.”
Victoria thought for a moment. “I have studied English for 3 years.”
“Very good. Class, what is the difference between the simple past and the present perfect?”
“The simple past describes an action that happened and ended in the past. The present perfect describes an action that started in the past and continues to the present.”
So, what is going on here?
The teacher elicited the grammar point instead of providing the students a definition. She did this by asking Joachim if Lisa was still teaching English as a Second Language. She then involved other students in the discussion.
Eliciting grammar is a better way to teach students instead of having the teacher lecture. It engages the students in the process and they learn through discovery.
In a previous post, I wrote about 3 useful tools for teaching, SpeakPipe, Quizlet, and Padlet. They are great tools and I decided to experiment with two of them, SpeakPipe and Quizlet. I'll explore Quizlet and write about it in a future post.
I decided to use SpeakPipe to record a simple message asking students to tell me about their countries.
Click here to record your answer. Click here to email the link of your recording.
This gives students an opportunity to practice their speaking. To practice their writing, I created a Padlet asking them to describe their countries.
Click the plus sign in the pink circle to write your answer.
Take a moment and explore these links. I'd appreciate your thoughts and the different ways that I can use these tools.
Using technology in education is useful when it provides a benefit or solves a problem. Education is like any other business, sometimes the technology helps, and other times it becomes a hindrance. SpeakPipe, Quizlet, and Padlet are three, easy to use tools, that help with voice communication, quizzes, and collaboration.
SpeakPipe lets you record audio, free of charge, and share the recording with others. It's simple to use. Click the Start recording button, speak, and click the Save on server button. You can email or share the link to your recording. Your recorded message can be up to 5 minutes in length, and your message is accessible for three months. SpeakPipe also offers monthly subscription plans.
SpeakPipe is perfect for language learners and teachers. Students can practice their pronunciation, send the teacher a link, and the teacher can review it. For students preparing to take the TOEFL, IELTS, or other test that has a speaking component, they can use SpeakPipe to practice their speaking ability.
Quizlet makes it easy and fun to test your knowledge of a subject. It uses the flashcard paradigm. You can use it in a traditional manner, a flashcard appears with a word, phrase, image, etc. and you click on the card to flip it to the other side. Quizlet also provides other ways to test your knowledge, for example, you can display both the front and back of all your cards and then drag and drop the matching pairs together.
Flashcards can display text, image, and audio. Your flashcards are public so anyone can use them. You can upgrade to a teacher's account if you need additional functionality.
Since a lot of people use the free version, there are many sets of flashcards that you may find useful. For language learners, there are French, German, and Spanish flashcards. There are also flashcards for English language learners. Other flashcards include: orchestral instruments, stomach anatomy, tectonic plates, London boroughs, etc.
Padlet is a post it board like Pinterest. You create topic-based boards and post relevant information. There are templates you can choose from when you create a board. One of my favorites is the Question and Answer board. This is a nice way to gather information and have others not only share their answers but express their opinions about the other posted answers. Some other templates include: a story board, a Kan-Ban board to track the progress of a project, and a KWL chart - What I know, What I Wonder, What I Learned. Some of the topic padlets include: Which fast food chain has the best burgers?, Whiteboard: to rebrand or not?, Podcasts, Setting Goals, Best Restaurants in San Francisco, etc.
There are upgrade plans for schools, businesses, and individuals.
Have fun playing with these tools. I hope you find them useful.
My primary job is technical writing and I teach English as a Second Language part-time. I enjoy both jobs. As a technical writer, I get to learn how things work and to explain how they work to others. I enjoy this and I like the challenge of determining the best way to explain how something works. Text, images, and video. Print or web-based?
For many years, being proficient with Microsoft Word or Office was all that you needed to know. Today, you need to be proficient with HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Extended Markup Language (XML), markup languages, and other technologies.
A friend of mine asked me if I'd teach him the basics of technical writing. Why not? It would give me a chance to apply my teaching skills to another subject and I get to help a friend. Technical writing is also teaching. When it is web-based, you use some of the same technologies that a web-based course uses - HTML, CSS, XML, video, images, text, etc. You may also includes graded questions and answers, if for example, you are writing documentation to help people become certified with a product or technology.
Classrooms Without Walls will host this course and I will provide a link when I begin creating the course. I will blog about the different technologies I use and how I implement therm. Please feel free to take part in this course.
English is a global language. It is the language of international business, and students across the globe learn it to study in an English-speaking country. American English is the most popular flavor of English due to the popularity of American culture - music, movies, TV shows, etc. However, American English is not the only English. Canadian, British, and Australian English are also part of English family.
Each flavor has its own personality. Shared words have different spellings, and some have different pronunciations. Each also has different words for common items.
Teaching English as a Second Language is a lot of fun. It has taught me the value of being able to speak English. Students around the world want to study English so they can study at a good university in an English-speaking country whether it be the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia. Business people study English to conduct international business. Being able to speak English gives you an advantage.
As a teacher, I have learned different cultures and customs. For me, this is the fun part of teaching. I've always found customs interesting because it provides insight to life here in the United States. For example, when I was teaching at a language school in Harvard Square, I asked my students what was most different about Cambridge and the city from where they were from. They told me seeing people eating as they were walking to their destination. I was a bit surprised by this. I assumed that this was common in large cities. My Asian students told me seeing people from different cultures was what was most different. I was not surprised by this, but it did make me think how lucky we are to have people from across the globe here in the United States.
I teach college age students and adults. However, this does not mean that I don't have to discipline students from time to time. When I do, I try to use humor to discipline them.
About 15 years ago, I was teaching at a community center in Brockton, MA. A student of mine was more interested in being a lady's man than learning English. He found grammar boring but a particular lady interesting. Unfortunately for him, she found grammar more interesting. However, he was persistent and would send her notes in class. I warned him to stop but he wouldn't. He passed a note to this lady and since she wasn't interested, I took the note and copied it on to the whiteboard. The class corrected his grammar mistakes and then we had a short discussion on how to write a better love note. He never wrote another love note in class.
Teaching ESL also reminds me of the benefits and quality of life that I have in the United States. I was teaching on an online language learning site called Edufire, now defunct. My student was from Vietnam. Throughout the lesson, I heard this loud machine noise. I asked him about the noise. He told me it was a generator so he could have electricity to take this lesson.
As you get to know your students, you have the opportunity to learn about their families. I was teaching at a community center in Chelsea, MA. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving. One of my students told me she wanted to tell me a funny story. She told me that last week while she was in class, a telemarketer called. Her young daughter answered the phone. When the telemarketer asked to speak with her mother, the daughter replied that her mother was in school learning how to speak English. He should call back in a year when she would be able to converse in English.
A Liberian student taught me a most important lesson. This occurred at the community center in Brockton. My students emigrated from other countries and were beginning their new lives here. They had jobs and were not planning to return to their countries of birth.
It was a presidential election year and since this was where their new lives were, I thought it would be useful for them to share their views about the upcoming election. Everyone spoke except for my Liberian student. This was odd because he was like the class president, always helping other students and encouraging them to speak. However, he would not utter a word. Finally, with some friendly prodding, I got him to talk. I've never forget his words. He said, "In my country, when you criticize a candidate, there is a knock on the door in the middle of the night, and you are never seen again."
He taught me a valuable lesson. You can relocate to a democratic nation, but it takes time to heal from the scars of your past and be part of democracy.