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Tips, lesson plans and advice for novice English teachers

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Tips, lesson plans and advice for novice English teachers

Postby zboy1 » Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:37 am

I want to make a thread where people with teaching experience can help out novice English teachers (like me), with lesson plans, tips, activities, grammar lessons, and other things...Book recommendations would also be pretty helpful too. This thread would be a good resource for those who are planning to teach English overseas, and would like to receive some tips and advice from the more experienced teachers...
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Postby Ghost » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:44 pm

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Postby zboy1 » Thu Jul 18, 2013 5:10 pm

Ghost wrote:Well, I'm not exactly experienced yet, but I've been here almost a month! :)

Most of it will depend on if your school gives you teaching assistants and textbooks. My school is a very large chain, so they do, but the downside and one of my few frustrations is that I'm teaching boring stuff out of a textbook most of the time. Just oral practice, vocabulary is easy of course, and the TA translates when needed. Some of my students are decently developed in English. Others struggle with even simple words and phrases, even older kids since the school doesn't require starting there at a young age.

I play some games some, but not many yet since we're supposed to teach the textbooks.

I play Hangman a lot, which is always easy and fun. Another one I play is ALPHABET: I split the class into 2 teams and have one from each team come to the board and race to write a word that starts with A. Then with the letter L, and so on until we get through ALPHABET. It's a decent class opener.

Are you in China yet Zboy?


Thanks for the tip, Ghost. I'll be in China in September.
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Postby Ghost » Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:16 pm

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Postby Cornfed » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:11 am

Here is an example of a lesson I did in China. It is more teacher-centered than current language teaching methodology advocates, but this is necessary when teaching classes or 50+ students you see once a week, as I imagine you will be doing, and in any case Asian students like the teacher to be very active in class.

The topic was "Sport". I announced this, divided the class into groups of 4 (gesturing with open hand "1,2,3,4, group…"). I got them to discuss the questions of what sports China was best at and what sports were most popular. This was also written on a Powerpoint slide. You learn to reinforce these instructions by asking "concept check" questions - "So are we writing or talking? On our own or in group…" and try to act out what you say. (If acting stuff out doesn't aid understanding, at least it will amuse the students). After their discussion we had a class discussion where I talked with the whole class as well as asking particular groups. (The reason for this is that with monolingual groups of school students there is no way to stop them from talking to each other in their native language, but if they know I might put them on the spot later they will feel the need to produce some English and so may actually learn something).

After this I announced the most popular sport of the region I come from, which none of them had heard of, and then played an mpeg of the local team kicking ass, which all the classes really enjoyed. I then went through some common vocabulary associated with the game, following the usual recommended elicit-concept check-drill-write scheme. I had actually brought a ball along with me, and I would pick a boy to stand in the isle to pass it back and forth to. This caused some hilarity given the close confines and the fact that they didn't know how to pass anything other than a basketball, so it worked well, but in hindsight I am lucky no-one was injured.

Next I had a bunch of Powerpoint slides of pictures of different sports that are common in the West being played and on the next slide the same picture with the name of the sport. Students would compete to name the sport (I would sometimes give out candy). Then when we had gone through them all (with me demonstrating unfamiliar sports and pointing out that "football" means different things in different places) we went through a couple of times, with the students chanting the sport names.

Next I got the students to do a writing task on their own, saying in a few words what was their favorite sport and why. (Stuff like this was criticized on the grounds that I was, shock! horror! making the students do stuff, whereas the white monkey's classes were supposed to be for entertainment. You might like to play a game instead of this). While they were doing this, I walked round the class reading and correcting them. I got them to check each other's writing in pairs and then got volunteers to read to the class. When they had finished I led the class in clapping and sometimes gave them candy. (They were very good at writing for some reason).

To finish we played a game where in groups of 4, one of the group would mime a sport and the rest would guess what it was. I did this in front of the class a few times first, got them to do it in groups and then we did it as a class. This was quite popular.

So that was a reasonably successful 45 minute lesson. You could build similar lessons around various themes.
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Postby zboy1 » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:11 am

That sounds like a fun list of activities, Cornfed. I will make sure to incorporate some of what you wrote into one of my classes in China. I'm sure even High School students would enjoy a class like that....
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Postby Cornfed » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:38 am

zboy1 wrote: I'm sure even High School students would enjoy a class like that....

It was for high school students. Asian students seem more childlike than their Western counterparts in a lot of ways, and as stated they don't welcome really hard academic activities from their foreign English teachers. You really are expected to be a kind of curiosity and performing monkey. The other foreign teacher at the school was a 65 year old American ex career army guy. He spent his lessons doing role-plays teaching slang phrases like "chillax" and "I'm down with the kid". To me this is kind of an embarrassment to the profession, but no doubt he was more popular than I was. I guess you have to lean towards giving the people what they want and not take yourself too seriously.
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Postby Ghost » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:54 pm

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Postby kai1275 » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:21 pm

My best advice for anyone teaching in China is to please not take your job too seriously. As Cornfed said, its all a dog and pony show. Unless you find yourself in an intensive English training center, please do not rock the boat and be a tough teacher. Your students might be lazy or cheat, but leave them be. You do not know which kid has "guanxi" in high places. Don't want to end up beat up or in some crazy shit? Keep your head down, your mouth shut, play along, get what you want, and leave when you are ready to do so.

Playing hero or high morals guy in China can get you in serious trouble in various ways.
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Re: Tips, lesson plans and advice for novice English teacher

Postby rudder » Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:38 am

zboy1 wrote:I want to make a thread where people with teaching experience can help out novice English teachers (like me), with lesson plans, tips, activities, grammar lessons, and other things...Book recommendations would also be pretty helpful too. This thread would be a good resource for those who are planning to teach English overseas, and would like to receive some tips and advice from the more experienced teachers...


Great idea, zboy. I'm doing a TESOL course now, and I need to come up with a 20-30 minute grammar lesson for Saturday to give to the other gringo students who I must pretend are foreigners.

This is a three-weekend course I'm taking, and I must say, if it weren't for the little certificate you get at the end, it would seem to be mostly a waste of time. The teacher is boring and uninspiring, and after the first weekend, I still feel rather clueless about how to make a fun class.

I understand the whole 80/20 students work to teacher lectures ratio. I get it. Yet, the assignment for this weekend illustrates what I don't get:

I have to start every class with a warm-up/icebreaker. What the heck are you supposed to do for that? I'm really not that creative when it comes to this sort of thing.

I'm thinking of doing a grammar lesson to introduce the present progressive, and will do some short examples on the whiteboard, and then arrange the students in groups to tell the students to pretend they are at the beach, mountains or city park and explain what is happening around them at this location. E.g. At the beach, "the women are sunbathing. The dude is surfing. Surf's up, dude!"
The students will brainstorm different sentences, and I will have them write the sentences down, and then each group will share their sentences to the whole class after I stop the activity. Of course, since I'm not teaching real foreigners, they will understand me. Yet, I'm concerned that when I'm really teaching foreigners they won't comprehend my instructions. Are your students ever clueless about the activity that you want them to do?

That's basically the formula for every lesson, right? Warm-up, Grammar lecture, Grammar group activity (teacher walks around and answers any individual questions at this time), students share their group work with the rest of the class, teacher assigns relevant homework, end of lesson.

So what should I prepare ahead of time for this lesson? Lists of beach, mountain, park, etc. vocabulary? A handout that explains the present progressive grammar (this is what I will use to structure my lecture).

Am I on the right track here? I still don't get what I'm supposed to do for an icebreaker at the beginning of class. It has to be relevant to the day's lesson, but it's supposed to be fun and get the students talking in English in a low-anxiety situation.
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Postby rudder » Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:42 am

Ghost wrote:Another one I play is ALPHABET: I split the class into 2 teams and have one from each team come to the board and race to write a word that starts with A. Then with the letter L, and so on until we get through ALPHABET. It's a decent class opener.


Great icebreaker! How did you come up with that?
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Re: Tips, lesson plans and advice for novice English teacher

Postby Cornfed » Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:41 am

rudder wrote:I'm doing a TESOL course now, and I need to come up with a 20-30 minute grammar lesson for Saturday to give to the other gringo students who I must pretend are foreigners.

That seems lame. Why don't they use real foreigners?

That's basically the formula for every lesson, right? Warm-up, Grammar lecture, Grammar group activity (teacher walks around and answers any individual questions at this time), students share their group work with the rest of the class, teacher assigns relevant homework, end of lesson.

In a standard lesson you would first do a warm up exercise to get the students thinking about what you were going to teach them. It could be as simple as asking them to discuss a particular question and getting feedback from them, as in the lesson I posted above. Then you would introduce new vocabulary and then do activities, generally going from more restricted activities to more open activities. Generally lessons would fall into the categories of reading, writing, speaking or listening lessons. You wouldn't necessarily teach a grammar point every lesson. In some contexts like Asian public schools, teaching grammar is probably best left to local teachers.

Of course, since I'm not teaching real foreigners, they will understand me. Yet, I'm concerned that when I'm really teaching foreigners they won't comprehend my instructions. Are your students ever clueless about the activity that you want them to do?

The way you deal with this (assuming your students are at a level where they can read and speak a little English) is to both speak and write your instructions in short sentences, and then use "concept check" questions to make sure they have got the message; e.g. "Are we writing or talking?" "Are we working on our own or in a group?"
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Postby Taco » Thu Sep 19, 2013 8:33 am

Here's some ESL games from a crazy white chick that won't be getting a boyfriend any time soon.

English Language Games
http://www.youtube.com/user/englishlang ... ture=watch
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Re: Tips, lesson plans and advice for novice English teacher

Postby Cornfed » Thu Sep 19, 2013 8:49 am

rudder wrote:So what should I prepare ahead of time for this lesson? Lists of beach, mountain, park, etc. vocabulary? A handout that explains the present progressive grammar (this is what I will use to structure my lecture).

BTW, explaining things or providing written explanations is usually thought to be the wrong way to go. As in modern fiction writing, the mantra is "Show, don't tell". Hand-outs in ESL classes should be about helping students participate in class activities, not in explaining anything to them. Providing lists of vocabulary for memorizing out of context would also be thought of as a bit old-fashioned now.
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Postby Ghost » Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:34 am

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