Thursday, February 24, 2011

My student is a low beginner. Where and how do I start?

One way or another, we have or perhaps will experience teaching a student who is a low beginner. Generally, low beginners are described as having limited comprehension skills, communication, and vocabulary. They have difficulty understanding sentences despite repeating and altering the words. And so with this in mind, the question now is where should you start?

Based on my experience, I started the lessons with basic vocabulary. Before your student can understand grammar concepts it is important to familiarize them first with English words. You could follow a book or you could also base it on a theme. For instance, vocabulary words related to clothing, transportation, or occupation can be a good start. Basic English conversations can also be introduced. You could teach them about greetings, introductions or even how to express likes and dislikes. Once you see that your student has shown improvement and is knowledgeable about basic vocabulary words, then you can advance to the first steps of grammar.

Handling low beginners can be challenging because this kind of setting will test your effectiveness as an instructor. This may be a chance to assess yourself to find out how efficient you are in delivering the lessons to your students. Good luck! ^ ^

Helpful resource for ideas on basic English conversation for low beginners: ESLgold

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BBC Learning English

For additional English lesson resources you could use for your classes, here is a website I found that might help. BBC Learning English - For teachers contains teaching ideas and worksheets that are very useful and interesting. They also have a mini-series entitled The Flatmates. What's nice about The Flatmates is that each episode comes with a short grammar and vocabulary lesson. It's like hitting two birds with one stone. Your students are entertained while they learn new lessons at the same time :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Introduction to Pronouns

Here is a very short visual aid you can use for lessons about Pronouns.
As we all know, the English grammar has several types of pronouns but I only included personal pronouns in this lesson because this is only the introduction. I will try to do visual aids for the rest of the pronoun types in the future ^^

Grammar lesson 2


Monday, February 21, 2011


Hi everyone! My blog still doesn't contain much but I'd like to thank each and everyone of you for regularly visiting my blog :))

I am currently working on another visual aid for the topic: Introduction to Pronouns. I'm in the process of researching information and making it sound as simple as possible to make it easy to understand. My area will be having a power interruption the whole day tomorrow so I'd probably be updating my blog on Wednesday. Feel free to send in questions if you have any and I will do my best to find answers to all your queries.

Cheers to us ESL teachers!

Here is the preview to the lesson I'm working on.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Teachers' ideas on ways to avoid boredom in class

I already have a recent post about how to break the monotony in class and it also contained my own ways of handling this common situation. However, I wasn't satisfied with sharing just my thoughts on this, so figured it would be better if fellow ESL teachers could also share their own ideas. I posted this topic on teachers forums and also asked some teachers for their advice and here is what they have to share:

  1. Activity: Story telling
         Provide a short story for your student to read but reveal the ending of the story. Ask your students to re-tell the story in their own words and also challenge them to think of a suitable ending for the story. This activity can help your students develop their creativity and also practice their speaking skills. This is also a good opportunity for your students to learn new vocabulary words along the way.

     2.  Activity: Question and Answer

         When your students are bored, one sure way to get their attention back is to make them talk. For this activity, you need to make a list of questions to ask your students. Try to make questions based on a theme or a topic, like holidays, shopping, environmental problems, etc, or you could also make fun, random, out-of-nowhere questions. Don't be satisfied with yes or no answers. Keep them talking by challenging them to give you an answer in not less than 5 sentences.
         To help you out with this activity, try visiting Conversation Questions for the ESL/EFL Classroom for questions on different topics.

     3. Activity: Spin the Wheel

         For this activity you're going to need a spin wheel just like the image above. You're going to fill each slot with different tasks.  Each of your students will then take turns in spinning the wheel. When it stops check which slot the arrow is pointing to, this is the task your student should do. Make it fun by filling it with missions according to difficulty (easy, average, difficult).
         This would work best with group classes.

      4. Remember:  Warm-Ups and Time-Fillers are essential

        Every ESL teacher must know the importance of having warm-up and time-filler activities for you class. These activities help catch your student's attention and it also helps bring energy to your class on days when your students aren't in the mood or are just plain bored. Warm-ups and time-fillers are also great for filling up time when your lessons run shorter than expected.

      5. Free-talking
         Most of the respondents suggested that free-talking is what gets their students awake on ho-hum classes. Teachers recommend that you find what fancies your students the most and pretty much go from there. Based on their experiences, male students are usually very much into sports, music and movies. Females on the other hand enjoy talking mostly about fashion, celebrities and TV drama series. If in case you aren't familiar with their interests, I suggest reading up about it and sharing what you've read to let them know that you also consider their interests.

-- Thanks to Teachers Harvz, Carmi, Gyan, Teen, Jackielyn and Frances for the input :))

Introduction to Verbs

Thanks to Google Docs, I finally finished creating my first visual aid that you could use for teaching basic grammar lessons. This visual aid can be used for teaching verbs to low beginners. It contains a very short description of what a verb is, examples of a verb and an introduction to the three simple verb tenses. You're all welcome to take a look at it and or use it for your own classes. I hope you find it useful :) Please feel free to comment about it, thank you!

Grammar lesson 1:
           Introduction to Verbs

English Club
INTERLINK Language Centers

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Help! My student's bored!

ESL education here in the Philippines is most commonly done on a one-on-one basis that could last for several months. I hate to admit it but I believe that some of you might agree with me that this kind of set up can sometimes be a wearisome routine. Especially if you meet with your student for an hour a day, five times a week. Monotony could be the culprit in affecting your student's performance and attitude towards class. So how do we deal with this?
What I usually do first off  is to plan the whole month's lessons and activities very well. Aside from following a syllabus, I always try to vary my lessons twice a week. And I declare Fridays to be Free-days. Free days are when we steer away from our workbook and do different activities such as games, listening exercises, sharing and discussing interesting videos (could be movie trailers, funny videos, music videos or sports clips) from Youtube and of course, speaking activities about random topics.
At times when I notice that my student is especially quiet or distracted, I call for a breather and I use up the time to do quick activities or games. I make a list of short activities or games that we can do during times like this, one of them would be a game I call "Give me 10!". This game is very simple and can be played by any level. All you have to do is ask your student to give you a list of 10 things about a certain topic. For instance, ask your student for 10 things he/she did in the last 2 hours, or 10 things you can find in his/her room, or 10 things that didn't exist 50 years ago, or 10 random facts about themselves etc etc.
I'm presently doing a quick survey of tips on how to avoid boredom in class from fellow ESL teachers. I hoping I could get their opinions by tomorrow and I'll definitely share it with you guys :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

9 steps to being a competent ESL teacher

For this post, I spent hours searching the Internet for ESL teacher forums and resources that shared any tips and advice on how to be an effective ESL teacher. The tips I read from different discussion threads and blogs are all from experienced teachers. I want to share with you what I learned and I think it would be nice if we could all take time and read this in order to find out more ways of transforming ourselves into becoming better teachers. There's always room for improvement is what they always say :)

  • Always come to class prepared. Any good teacher knows that reading in advance is essential. This also means that you should have your cue cards or lesson plans ready as you start the class
  • Create a comfortable atmosphere to help your students feel at ease. Smile and be warm and welcoming.
  • Speak clearly and slowly, especially if your student is on a beginner level
  • During discussions, be watchful of your pacing. Always keep in mind your student's level of understanding. Before jumping to a next topic, check first if your students understood what you just said. Do they need more explanation? Do they need more practice?
  • When discussing a lesson, give varied examples to help them see it clearly. This is especially helpful in vocabulary lessons. Always provide many sentence examples for each word, or better yet, include visual aids during class.
  • In each lesson, always give your students a chance to speak, read, listen, write and ask questions
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition. Need I explain more? :)
  • Correct your students' mistakes but in a right manner. How you choose to make corrections is entirely up to you. I usually make them finish the sentence and then point out the mistakes they made and how to correct them.
  • Think positive reinforcement. Make students feel that you care about their progress. When a student shows improvement in learning, point this out by praising and encouraging them.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Books and Resources

There are dozens of ESL books that are available to us tutors. Books we can use for teaching different courses and that are suited for every level. Each book is unique and filled with easy to understand lessons and fun activities for your students. Choosing a book to use in class needs thoughtful consideration because it is one of the most important tasks a tutor needs to do. First of all, evaluate your student. Factors to consider are his age, level and his purpose for learning. Second, based on your evaluation, are you going to teach based on a syllabus or core textbook series with leveled sequencing (from low beginner to advanced), or focusing on a specific skill is your target? And finally, will supplemental texts be necessary?
Some of the books I have used for my lessons are Side by Side series  and Grammar Time for grammar lessons, Interchange series for comprehensive skill activities, and Can You Believe It? for a take on idiomatic expressions and short, interesting stories that facilitates discussion. I have yet to remember the books I used when I taught in an offline academy a few years back :)
What about you? What books have you used or are using now?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Looking for online ESL jobs?

As usual, I spent an hour or so searching the net for interesting sites I could share that has something to do with ESL/EFL. I found a lot of sites where you can find a directory of online institutes who are hiring qualified online and offline ESL teachers. For those of you who are interested in finding online teaching jobs, this could help you. ESL Jobs For Filipinos (***Note: I am not connected to any of the online institutes posted here) contains hundreds of online jobs that could suit you. But just a reminder to everyone, please be wary when applying for online jobs. It would help a lot if you get to know details first about your potential employer/company. Good luck and happy online job hunting 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Things you should know before deciding to become an ESL teacher

While browsing through ESL blogs and resources in efforts of finding relevant information I could include here, I came across an article that you might find appealing and helpful. It contains everything you need to know before deciding to pursue a career in ESL teaching. It shows a guide of what ESL/EFL means, how to format your lesson plans and finding appropriate teaching materials. Here it is: BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO BECOME AN ESL TEACHER

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

First day, first class. What to talk about?

So we've all had our own share of experiences about "first day of classes". For some newbie tutors, this often causes stress and anxiety. Questions like "what should we talk about?", "how do I start?" or "what if he/she really can't understand a word I say?" would be running through your mind.  But the first meeting should be anything but stressful.
When you first meet your student, think of it as meeting a new friend. Introduce yourself and also take time to get to know your student. At times when we feel nervous, we tend to just blabber away so as to avoid any awkward silence. As much as it is tempting to do so, this should be avoided at all times. You are in the position to help your students improve their English communication skills, you're not there for them to just listen to. Conversations should always be a two-way street. Talk and share, and learn to listen too.  
After greetings and introductions are done, what next? Unless you are given instructions to teach a certain sample lesson, you can always choose an interesting topic for discussion. Don't forget that some points should be taken into consideration when choosing a certain topic. First of all find out what your student's level is. Is he/she beginner, intermediate or advanced? Second, how old is your student? And finally, what is your student's nationality? Not all topics can be openly discussed by everyone. Use these as guides for choosing topics in the Internet. Remember, it's as easy as pie to search Google for interesting topics but not all search results can be suitable for your student's age, level and nationality. 
Let me share how I usually handle first meetings. The general questions I ask are: 
  • Can you tell me 10 random things about yourself? (Aside from your age, your school/office and what you do)
  • Why do you want to study English? (This is a very common question, I assume everyone has asked this several times already but it's still a hit)
  • How do you normally spend your free time or what do you usually do during weekends?
  • Do you have any sport?
  • What's your favorite activity?
  • Any recent movie's you've seen/books you've read? How was it?
The list could be endless just don't forget to be creative with your follow-up questions. It would be a big help if you try and find out your student's interests and you can focus on discussing that. One tip I always share with inexperienced ESL tutors is to make a list of general questions to ask or topics to talk about so that you won't run out of things to say. 
I hope I have somehow enlightened newbie tutors everywhere. You are all welcome to comment and share your own first meeting experiences. I'd love to hear from fellow ESL tutors. Cheers to us all!


As a fellow ESL teacher, I know how much effort it takes to prepare lessons for your students every single day. I know what its like when you run out of lessons and activities to offer your students. And so more often than not, we rely on several different ESL resources websites in hopes of finding as many interesting activities and ideas for lessons as we can. That is what led me to doing this. I have created a blog meant for ESL teachers just like me. In here, I will be posting interesting lessons and activities that are already tried and tested as well as links to very reliable ESL resources. You are all welcome to post questions, comment on my posts as well as share your own experiences and foolproof lessons :). My goal is to lend a helping hand to all ESL teachers out there. I hope that we could all learn from each of our own experiences :)