Most teachers would agree that ideally only English should be spoken in English class. However, in practice this is often more easily said than done. It’s easy to see why students struggle – young minds whir away 24/7 in their native language, so suddenly changing into English mode is somewhat akin to a right hander being told to only use their left hand for an hour a week! For me, mastering this aspect of classroom management is still a work in progress, and one that I have to re-deal with periodically. First year students are the most challenging, but there are plenty of “hard nuts” with ingrained bad habits that will unconsciously chatter away in their native tongue seemingly no matter what you try! Looking back, I became much more effective at managing classroom chatter over the years and these days it is rarely a problem. I would like to share a few insights gleaned through my own experiences, trial and error, study and conversations with other teachers. (more…)
Stuff All EFL Teachers Should Know
Pronunciation is like an art to me, and I’ve always enjoyed it. It is like learning how to play guitar, where we have to figure out when to use different picking strategies or strumming patterns to produce the desired sounds. In pronunciation, we also need to use many different techniques and tongue positions in our mouth to produce the right sounds. Another similarity is that we’ve got to know when to change how hard or softly we should hit the guitar strings when playing a song. The same thing happens when we have to figure out how hard or how soft we should stress certain syllables in words, or some words in sentences when speaking. Finally, there’s the use of rhythm as the main component that shapes the flow of the song, just as it also shapes the flow of the speech in pronunciation.
It’s become something of a cliché, but every teaching situation presents its own unique set of challenges. However, my challenge wasn’t all that unique – in fact, it was pretty well-worn itself. My students were falling asleep as I tried to guide them through science readings and lectures in preparation for the TOEFL.
What I’d like to offer you here is a brief review of a class project that seemed to catch my students’ interest and got them deeply involved with academic material. This one simple exercise opened a wide door into helping students interact with abstract material and getting them to build a set of experiential and critical thinking tools that they could call on later when trying to understand and appreciate other technical topics in English.
On the first day of school in Busan, South Korea, I stood at the front of my class five minutes before the bell rang waiting to greet my new middle school students. After seven minutes had passed, I was about to go and search for my class when I heard a loud rumble coming from the floor above. Suddenly, three dozen pairs of feet came running into the classroom attached to three dozen pairs of flailing arms and three dozen shouting mouths. Stupefied, I stood frozen and looked on, wide-eyed, as my classroom was ripped apart by thirty-six wild monkeys.
“Daddy, play it again!” my four-year-old daughter said.
“The same song? Again?” (We’d already listened to it nine times in a row.)
Later that night, we would read the same storybook three times straight.
Young children want us to repeat songs and stories. They like to point at things, like pumpkins, and tell us, “I know what that is. It’s a pumpkin,” when they know that we know that they know what it is.
Note from Barb: Patrick first wrote this for Teaching Village in 2011, but it’s such a great post for St. Patrick’s Day that I decided it was worth sharing again
The real St. Patrick is shrouded in a deep mist (like many of his followers). Legend has it that he brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle while simultaneously banishing snakes. Both these are clearly true. We still have some Christians and no snakes in Ireland. But what can language teachers learn from this Fifth Century Zero to Hero?
Note from Barb: 25 years ago, John F. Fanselow published Breaking Rules, encouraging teachers to really see what was happening in their classrooms, and then considering alternatives. John’s work had a powerful, positive influence on my own teaching, and I’m thrilled that iTDi is working with John to offer a truly unique five-week course starting in November: Breaking Rules Live. It’s a rare opportunity to work interactively with someone who is certain to challenge your thinking, revitalize your teaching, and inspire you as an educator. (more…)
In her previous post, Teaching Songs and Chants in the Classroom, Marsha Goren shared a set of worksheets she had created to accompany the songs on the first GiggleBellies CD. This morning, Marsha sent me a message and attached a new set of worksheets to go along with the second GiggleBellies CD. (more…)