Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Basic and Easy Lesson Planning

I have been in many different types of classrooms. Classes for young learners, special needs, adults, teenagers, reading intervention, Literature, teaching method, test prep and more. All lessons follow the same formula:


1) Warmer--

Something that starts to engage the class. Usually a review of the last lesson mixed with a tie-in to the day's lesson. (Example: If the last lesson was about present simple and today's lesson is about transportation, put a sentence fill on the board about travelling. Have students discuss the verb that will complete the sentence most correctly. Or if you taught modal verbs last time and you want to teach past perfect, have a disaster situations on the board and have students come up with advice to stop it from happening again.)


The key here is to get your students talking about what has happened and will soon be happening. It peaks interest, no matter how minimal. Also it gives you insight into what they have learned, what they still need extra practice with and what they already know about the subject.


2)Modelling or the 'I do' stage---

This is where the teacher/instructor modals an example of what to do in the next activity. Whether the activity has students asking questions or looking for information in a reading, you need to demonstrate the process and point out the result. You could do the first question in the practice or throw out the first statement in a picture description. Whatever. As long as you show what your expectations are. This eliminates confusion and sets up the aim of the activity and lesson. Students need to know why they are doing something. They have to catalogue it in their minds to related it to a learning that sooner or later they will use for a test or a social interaction. [A student's mind: 'The conversation is about personal descriptions. Wait. Dud...dud..(computer brain noise). Yes, in class we did descriptions with funny photographs then I said a few things about myself. I can us that'.] This, of course, would happen faster in your student's head, but you get it.


3) Students work or the 'We do' stage--

Students work in a group or pairs to complete the task. You walk around the room listening to conversations, jutting down common/major errors, correcting the execution, and/or maintaining classroom management.


End the activity by getting answers from students then giving feedback on what you saw and heard that worked as well as what didn't.


4) Closing: Have a quick activity that re-enforces what the students have learned. And make it fun. You want them remembering an enjoyable class where they learned something too!


Example: The lesson was about present perfect then have students do 'I've Never' or 'Grammar Musical Chairs' [See Toolbox and Warmers page]


5) The 'You do' stage--

Can be homework or an Exit Ticket. Just something to individually test what the students have learned, provide more practice and see who is still struggling.


A basic lesson plan for any class follows these simple steps. Warmer, modelling, group/pair task, correction, closing, and you do. Follow the formula for any class setting. It will become easier the more you do it and you will see results in faster time.


The Honeymoon Is Over, 37 More Weeks to Go. What Do I Do Now?

So now you are getting a better assessment of your students. You know your strong ones, your weak ones, your clowns and your closed off ones. You know how long each class takes to get through parts of the book. You are familiar with the class' textbook and material. Now what?
Pace YourselfFrustrated_man_at_a_desk_(cropped)
Don't get blogged down by test prep and textbook completion frustration.
Some schools want you to complete the course book before the end of the semester or by a certain date in the academic calendar. Few could care less as long as you have the students warming their seats. Some need a portion of the book to be completed but not all of it. When you find out which circumstance is suitable for your class, you can make a plan.
If you fall under the category of who could care less, jump ahead. If not, keep this in mind: planned pacing is important. If you have an idea of where you need to  be that week as well as where you need to be next month, it will make planning easier and you will not be stressed at the end of the year as you try to cram the last 10 units down your students throats. Believe me, it's not pretty for anyone. Students are confused and missing the lesson objectives aka they learn nothing. And you are stressed out and running thin on patience.
So on to the less stressful path. First, get yourself a calendar that has all your school holidays marked on it. This way you know what days certain classes will not be in session and you can plan how to make up those missed days. Next, count out the days you have with your students then divide them by the number of pages you have to get through. If it turns out to be an impossible number say you have to get through 3 or more pages per class, then you might want to consider giving out homework for certain pages or skimming past material you are confident your students know well enough to skip.
After that the hard parts done. Just check before planning that you are on the right track then plan away. At the latest, you'll be a planning pro by winter break.
I Went Through The Book Too Fast
Oh no, I still have two months left and I'm done with the book. What happened? Well, you messed up, son. You didn't accurately calculate your pacing guide or barely glanced at it. Or you just didn't do one. Don't worry you're not screwed just yet.
Go back and look at material which you feel your students have not quite mastered. Make a list of them then factor in how much time you have left. Then make a new pace guide. Unfortunately, you now have to come up with material for your students to do. If you have a computer and a projector in your class, scan or download extra exercises for your students to complete in class. Homework can be given by telling them what webpage to visit to complete their practice of the selected skill or grammar point.  There are loads of places on the internet that have practices needed for most ESL learning objectives.
You could also incorporate projects. Projects are great speaking opportunities that get students showing off their skills and interests.
Check here to see what resources you can use to effectively fill the rest of the school year. Trust me, movie days are not an option you want to do and most language school directors would not be happy about that.
T06/04/07 - Telepresence World, conference at the University of San Diego

Remember use the book but present the material in a way that will engage and help your students. Anyone can buy a textbook and fill it out at home. ESL student are in class to (a) be motivated to learn a new language; (b) practice listening and speaking in that new language with a native speaker; and (c) immediate error correction. How you plan your lesson can satisfy all these needs in an engaging way.
Have fun with it without the stress!
What do you do to get through the rest of the year? What is your planning process like?

Teaching Kids Under 6

More and more language schools are opening classes available for 3 year olds. There are many mixed opinions about this new idea. Personally, I think it is insane to try to teach a student that young weekly English classes, and then, expect these kids have learned something. Especially, teaching them for only an hour per week. An hour can be a long time for a 3-year-old. Exposure is good at any age but parents who put their children in an hour class to learn a language when they barely have a grasp on their own can be wasteful. Imagine trying to learn a language by watching TV in that new language an hour a week for a little over half a year. You may pick up a word here or there, but nothing really sticks. I'm not saying ESL teachers are watching tv with a class of 3 year olds but pretty similar. You have young teachers entertaining your 3-year-old with music, games, stories and crafts. It's an interactive Mickey Mouse Club (or Mister Robinson, depending on your age) TV show.
And it can be exhausting! There is an idea that kids' attention spans are the equivalent to half of their age. So if the student is 12, then 6 minutes of focused attention is the limit. Meaning teachers need to have smooth transitions into another activity by the time 6 minutes have been and gone. Otherwise, your class will start going off its tracks. Inexperienced teachers usually don't have the skills to get students back on the rails. They just watch in horror as everything goes horrible wrong.
This can be a nightmare when teaching kids under 6! So inexperienced or not, the best way to get around classroom train wrecks is prevention. That means preparing your activities that last only for the attention span time. Not to say that some activities are so awesome and exciting that kids will go for a long time. This can happen. However, always have something for that fast finisher or hyperactive or even 'I don't want to do anything because I'm  miserable' student(s).

Basic plan for a class of 3 year olds:
-Activities that are no longer than a minute and a half. (One long activity can be broken into minute and a half intervals. Example: When reading a story, add breaks where you act out a scene, ask a question about what is happening, or a vocabulary drill. Or just have a sequence of activities.)
-The key is theme. (Songs, story, activities all should refer to the key vocabulary you want to expose them to. Repetition and patterns stick.)
-Repetition and patterns stick but don't make it dull. (Mix it up a bit you can always repeat activities later in class.)
Basic rule of thumb when teaching the youngins:
Song with key vocabulary
Vocabulary drill
Story with key vocabulary
Songs while coloring/doing a simple craft
End with Exit Ticket

See toolbox page for details on these particular activities.

Further Assistance
Most textbooks for ages 6 and under have lessons designed for 15 minutes per lesson. With very few lessons in the text and 45 minutes left to fill, teachers need lots of supplement material.
Here are a couple of books I like to use for this age group.

Here are some helpful links by subject.
Check out the "Connect to TEFL Resources" page for lesson plan material.

It's Time For Halloween

The start of a new academic year brings the fall. Shorter days, warmer clothing and the arrival of the holidays! Halloween is branded as a child's day. Dressing up and trick or treating is designated for the young. However, the theme and fun spirit of this fright holiday can be used in an ESL classroom for any age or level.

For young learners: Granted this group is the easiest one to use Halloween lesson plans. After learning and playing with the Halloween vocabulary, there are a bunch of activities to do that will fill one or two classes. Check out some fun printable ideas for  young learners here. Set it up for your youngins and jam out to some haunted, fun Halloween songs playing in the background.

For the pre-teens and teens: The hardest group to please. Most teachers ignore this day(if not all of them). But I love festivities, so here is a few things you can try if you are like me.
  1. The ghost of Halloween past, present and future. Now this Charles Dickens' spin on Halloween can be used to talk about personal lives of your students or the world/country in general. (Provide a summary copy for the 'I don't know' drones that roam into your class). Pair students up. Be sure to switch pairs at least twice. Students choose a ghost to represent and speak about the holiday in the correct grammar for 1-2 minutes, depending on the level. Students ask questions or give comments after the time is up. Students vote on the best ghost for each period in time. Winners get a sweet. Great talking and moving around warmer.
  2. Halloween team names. I love doing competitive games with this group. So this time around teams get to choose a Halloween name.
  3. Fright write. Give students prompts to choose from or they can choose their own. Work individually, pairs, or groups. Give time to write a paragraph or two scary story. Then have them do a dramatic reading in class. Bring a flashlight, eerie music and turn off the classroom lights for extra fun.
  4. 'Thriller' song fill in the blank. Show parts of the video and dare students to do their best MJ impression.
  5. Fun computer game. Do a textbook exercise for each answer a student gets right, they get to play this cool zombie game:  http://www.kongregate.com/games/AtomicCicada/i-remain
  6. How to crave a pumpkin listening activity-  http://www.myenglishclub.com/profiles/blogs/how-to-carve-a-pumpkin-audio

For the older teens and adults: Here are great places to get that Halloween spirit going.
Enjoy! Happy Halloween!

Keys to Teaching Misbehaving ESL Kids

Teaching kids' classes can be straining at times. ESL young learners and teens are placed into 2 or more extracurricular activities outside of school. They are tired and at the root of it, just kids! They want to play, watch TV, hang out with friends. Instead they are with you, forced to speak, listen, read, and write in a different language. Fun!
Because of this, you will get a few misbehaving youngsters who are just rebelling out of boredom and forced education. Here are the type of ESL kids you may come across and keys to handling them:
      1. The I'm Too Cool and Old for Games Student: This student ranges between just started puberty to full in the midst of puberty stage. Every thing is boring and not important. And when announcing a game or an activity where you have to stand up, cue the eye rolls.
Possible Solutions: (a)Before mentioning a game, brag about how you used it with older students. Tell them it was difficult for the others but you want to try it with this class. Sweeten the deal by stating that the maturity level of this class reminds you of the older class, which makes you confident that this class can handle the game. And include that even though the older class found it difficult, they still had fun with it.(b) You could also try to play the bad cop card. Tell students that they have two options either they sit quietly writing in exercises or they can do a speaking activity to learn the same thing. (These students are so lazy. They rather speak then write or do anything somewhat physical.) If some students are not buying it. Have them do the written exercises while others have fun in the game. Don't show you are bothered or upset by their non-involvement. You can always invite them later to join another game or the last half of the current game. (c) If you still get resistance, cue the bribery card. Offer an exclusion from a future activity or get the non-student to lead the game as you stand in for them. Give encouragement and cues to how to conduct the game. Or say it is a competition game, the ESL student can be a judge.
2. Refuse to Speak in English Student: This student usually has a low-level of English and doesn't care. A student like this isn't benefiting from your class. They will not want to do anything to make their level improve and they are taking out their frustration of having to be here on to you and the class. If talking to parents and your director has not worked, and removing the student is not an option, maybe a few techniques can make the class a bit more bearable.
Possible Solutions: (a) Anytime the student wants anything from you, i.e. a pencil, the restroom, etc. Make it known that he/she must ask for it in English. Offer help with the desired phrase but the student must say it almost perfectly before getting anything from anyone. (b)Isolate the student. Do not let them be involved in a game or speaking activity, once they speak in another language other than English. One slip up is fine, but not continuously.(c) Copy out dictionary words while the class is doing something else. Assign missed exercises for homework. (d) Remind the class why they are here and why speaking in English is going to help them learn it faster. Have your students imagine how impress their parents will be if they learn English quickly. Well, they wouldn't need these classes anymore, would they?
3. The Crier Student: Now, this sensitive student is not misbehaving but can be an annoying distraction when teaching your class. He/she may be missing a parent or intimidated by not understanding or being understood by the teacher. Either way, they are crying and those tears are hard to stop others from noticing.
Possible Solutions: (a) Give the distressed student a friendly pat. Then revert the class' attention by starting an activity that needs very little supervision. Next take the student aside and ask what was wrong. Use that private moment to console and get the child laughing (use a silly voice/story/etc.). (b) If the crying gets worse, ask for the director/ a co-worker who knows the student's language to help. They may be able to understand the problem so you can help give a solution. (c) Distraction is key. Bribe, cajole, give busy work, whatever to stop the crying.
  4. Never Do Homework Student: This student has a million other things happening in their lives and English homework is never going to be the priority. Don't take offense. Sometimes life is like that. The student isn't bothered, so don't get bothered.
Possible Solution: (a) Document this is happening and notify your director and parents. That way when parents start asking about why the grades are low on exams. You have the proof for them. (b) Use class time to make sure this student understands the vocabulary and grammar. If he/she is struggling, point out that the homework would help him/her remember it. Tell the student that it is okay to come to class early to get some of the homework done/turned in late so that they have some practice. Make a few speaking activities a blend of old class objectives with new class objectives. That will help give all your students more practice.(c) Bribery , our favorite tactic, if the student completes a week or so amount of homework they get a treat. Or if the class goes a month with every student doing their assigned homework, offer a movie day. Chart it for them so they can see their progress. Peep Pressure can motive others when the teacher is unable to.
Whatever the type of student it is important that you don't get upset. They will ruin your mood, which will wreak havoc on the rest of your classes. You don't have to keep upbeat but you shouldn't soak or give dirty looks. You are just making those bad students happy for making you miserable. Instead, handle the incident, then concentrate on the students who are respectful enough want to get on with the lesson. They actual care about how their time is being used in class and want to have fun with the language.
What other misbehaving students have you come across in teaching ESL? What has or hasn't worked for you in the past when dealing with their bad behavior?

Get Your Beginners Speaking Immediately!

Students become more confident learning a new language when they can say and understand it at a fast pace. Getting rid of uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy or inability is an important role for ESL teachers to play. You want students comfortable, and of course, having fun with their new language. Drilling a few common key expressions set your students into the right direction and build up their confidence in learning English. Here are a few phrases to get them started:

Start with classroom expressions to help them feel comfortable in class:
How do you say______ in English?
How do you write _______?
Can you help me?
I don’t understand.
Can you repeat that, please?
May I go to the toilets, please?
Here is a game to help practice these specific phrases.
Expressions for social greetings:
How's it going?/What's up?
Are you alright? (British form of What's up?)
I´m crushing it! ( looking good, feeling good, being better than others, doing well, or having relations with other attractive people)
I can't complain. (=I have no worries or problems. I'm fine.)
I'm good. (I'm fine.)
I'm just chillĂ­n. (Easy-going, relaxed)
I'm so amped. (Excited.)
Bless up (= goodbye/hello)
I'm gonna dip. (I'm leaving.)
Random Expressions:
Sweet! (Awesome, really like it.)
I'm hooked on...(really interested in something)
I can't believe you got to do that I'm well jeal (I'm so jealous.)
I love your swag. Or Swag. (= being or having something cool)
OMG! That's cray-cray. (Short for crazy)
Rude Expressions:
Kick rocks. (Get lost! Leave.)
How rachet! (Someone being rude, loud, or obnoxious.)
Bye, Felicia. (you say to someone who is leaving that you don't like or care about. Calling them Felicia means you don't care to know their name. They are unimportant.)

A  Lesson to Improve Listening Skills

Speaking and listening are the biggest focus in an ESL class. Students can read and write on their own time. Also most English Learners only are exposed to English in the classroom. Here they can get answers to their questions, get feedback on what they need to improve, and check their understanding of the English being used in class. Therefore, the best way to effectively teach an ESL class is by using class time to facilitate their students' speaking skills and sharpen their listening comprehension.

But the process of getting students to improve their listening does not only happen through exposure. How do you know if they really understood what they heard or are just going with what the class had said? How do you know you are improving their understanding?

There are a few techniques you can use. One very effective one is to teach students what to listen for. In a listening exercise, have students take time to read the questions that are asked. Students should underline key ideas (= what topic is the question asking about?). Take time to make sure students understand the vocabulary and what is being asked by going over the questions orally, then doing a group think aloud. This is where you explain your thinking process with a presented problem or question. It's a process to show students the connections that help you solve the question or problem. (Example: Teacher reads out the question: "You hear a man talking about a film. What did he dislike about the film?" The key words I need to listen out for are film and his dislike. So as I listen I will try to focus on words that talk about dislikes and reasons for not liking the film.")

For lower levels, try the summary approach. This technique helps students narrow in on words they recognize and not get spooked by the language they are yet to understand. When you are listening to another language and hear words you don't know, most people shut off and dismiss the speaker. Automatically, people think I only hear gibberish. All because of one word has thrown them off. Don't let this happen to your students. Train them to focus on known vocabulary and getting the gist of the conversation. They don't need to know what every word means. But if they understand the overall content and can response to the specific information, the students will be able to hold an adequate conversation in English.

So how to teach the gist? Summaries are all about the main idea and main points to support that idea. Have students listen to a short excerpt. Then have them discuss what title they would give that excerpt. After a few titles are suggested, point out that a title usually hints at or tells  the main point of the piece of information. Ask what is the main point. Have students listen to the piece again for three details that support the main idea. You may need to model and support this a few times before students are comfortable with doing it individually. After you think they have it, play a listening exercise. Point out what they need to be listening for, then start the exercise. Pair-share their results before going over the answers. You'll see results in a couple of exercises over a short period of time.

Websites for listening exercises: