Teaching grammar is a challenge. Making grammar fun is the real challenge, especially when deep questions about existence emerge during a lesson.
One of the things I do as an ESL instructor is to try to find a fun application for a grammatical point I am teaching. Recently, I came up with a great idea for teaching punctuation. After I finish teaching a class on punctuation, I ask the students to imagine that they are a punctuation mark and pick which one best defines them. I prompt them to say: “If I were a punctuation mark, I would be…” This exercise is not only fun (there are a lot of giggles when I introduce this), but helps reinforce the students’ knowledge of the role of punctuation and use of the conditional. Students say things like: “I would be a period because I like things to be clear and definite” or “I would be a question mark because I have a hard time just accepting things. I want to know why.” Although I could usually predict what punctuation mark a student would select, there were times when I was completely flummoxed. Usually, it was Continue reading →
I have recently been trying to include more technology-based activities in class in order to ‘modernize’ the feel of the class and appeal to my tech-savvy EAP students.
One activity that has worked well recently is Kahoot! – a free application which allows teachers to create multiple choice quiz questions that students can answer using any mobile device. This application can be adapted for individual or collaborative work, and is equally useful for reviewing content, introducing new concepts, generating discussion or simply energizing the class with a quick ‘warmer’. Anyone who has previously used ‘clickers’ in class for any reason will appreciate the versatility of the program, which requires only internet access, a shared screen and a mobile device (all of my students used their phones). No player accounts are required, so in-class time is used efficiently. Continue reading →
Early in my ESL teaching career when I had a new class, I found myself asking: “Why don’t my students do what I tell them to do?” They rarely followed up on the advice I gave them, didn’t come back from lunch on time, or even take a break when I said it was break time. I pondered this for some time. It wasn’t until after being in my class for a bit of time, that I noticed them beginning to follow my instructions. But initially they didn’t, so I thought this lag in understanding was due to them misinterpreting my particular pronunciation.
While it is probably true that simple language structures are the easiest thing to teach and learn, we should look very carefully at what we consider to be simple.
Take for example English articles. There are only two of them: definite and indefinite — maybe three, if we count the allophonic variant of the indefinite article ‘an’. Unlike other languages, in English we don’t have to take into account gender or case when deciding which one to use. So, why are these items so difficult for English language learners? The answer to this question relates to the rules that govern articles, which are very complex, thus making their application somewhat difficult.
You can count apples, but you can’t count water, so you say how many apples and how much water. You can count people, but you can’t count sand, so you say fewer people and less sand.
I’d go over and over the lists of nouns that were count and non-count. I could often see the confusion in their eyes. Yet, a simple question from a student changed the way I teach this concept and got rid of most of the puzzled looks.
I have been teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for a little over five years now. Compared to my previous jobs teaching general ESL and Business English, I find it incredibly satisfying; I think this is partly due to the course having a clear objective: preparing students for college and university.
But an important question that arose early on in the course, was
What does it mean to prepare students for college and university?
Are we talking about having their English at an equivalent level to their peers? Or is it more about mentally preparing them with academic skills needed for success? Continue reading →
Today wasn’t a great day in my EAP class. It was very definitely Monday and more than one student had spent the weekend battling non-stop computer games; World of Warcraft is apparently an indefatigable foe.
And, something had convinced my students that grammar class was the best time to catch up on lost sleep. Nothing was going to keep them from their rest, not even the most fascinating facts about the present progressive tense. So, I opened my bag of teacher tricks in hopes that I could lure them from Mr. Sandman. If they engaged, we could all go home content at the end of the day.
I had them write on chalk boards, scribble on the white board, role play, and question each other with today’s vocab. I commiserated over the Raptors’ loss, arranged Continue reading →
We’re always out to find what’s the best way to effectively teach our learners. I don’t know about everyone else, but it’s been my experience that grammar gets the short end of the stick in the sense that everyone dreads teaching it, and most learners dread learning it. Am I the only one who actually enjoys spelling? (Crickets)…
I’m here to tell you that if you turn anything into a game, it’ll be fun. Even grammar! And who said that games are meant only for kids?
A typical student’s thought process is “why do I need to learn how to spell properly? The important thing is to speak properly.” Yes and no. What if you needed to write a note or a statement to your son’s teacher? What about at work? You need to write toyour supervisor about something important. Or you’re a student and obviously grammatical errors are a no-no. Even if a student doesn’t work, go to school, or doesn’t need to write anything for their kids, don’t they still Continue reading →