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Thursday, April 27, 2017

How to be an effective ESL student

ESL students, it’s not easy learning a new language, culture, and in some cases living in a new country. First thing you want to do is to take a deep breath, and remind yourself why you are learning English. Remembering your purpose in learning English will help you cope through the process.

Keep an open mind
Try not to have too many expectations. Instead, keep an open mind. Being “open-minded,” allows someone to not expect anything and to go with the flow. You will not know how your teacher will be or your classmates. You won’t know if you will like your class. You don’t know if you will understand all the lessons. In the beginning, all you know is you are a new student in an English language class. If you keep an open mind, you will be more open to the learning process.

Be prepared and ask questions
Always be prepared before class. Bring a notebook and pen or pencil to class. If you have a textbook, bring that to class as well. You will be taking notes in class whether you are writing down what the teacher is saying, or what he/she writes on the board. Taking notes helps you to remember what you are learning. It’s also a good way to help you study for an exam. Always ask questions. Asking questions is a great way to reinforce what you’re learning, and it helps you to improve your communication skills.

Study
For most students, studying is something that’s unfavorable. In other words, they don’t like to do it. Even when I was in school, I didn’t like to study. However, studying is very important. The only way to really remember several English skills, such as, grammar, you have to study. Your notes will help you in studying. If you don’t like studying alone, creating a study group can be effective. You and some of your classmates can meet at a library or a local cafĂ© to study together. Studying over coffee can be a fun experience.

Students tend to be shy when their teacher practices a conversation with them
Being relatable
In general, I believe people like to feel they can relate to others. This applies to both teachers and students. You will be communicating with your teacher and other students. Even if you are a shy person, you will be talking to people. The best way to handle the shyness is to be relatable. This is true for even the most outgoing person (like me). Being relatable means to be able to understand other people’s opinions, feelings, and attitudes. It also means to be okay to admit, and understand your and other people’s mistakes. You will not always be right and mistakes will happen. It’s apart of learning. If you can be okay with making a mistake, you can relate to someone who does the same. As students, this helps make everyone feel comfortable.

Take your time
Every student learns differently and at a different pace. You want to take your time with yourself. You don’t want to be too hard on yourself for not understanding everything at once. Remind yourself that you are LEARNING and are not expected to KNOW EVERYTHING in a day. Pace yourself and continue to try your best.

For more tips and advice, check out my latest video from my ESL video series here.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How to be an effective ESL teacher

This post will focus on ESL teachers and students, but some of the advice I give can be applied to all teachers and students.

ESL teachers, we have a tough job. At times, we are taken for granted or not taken seriously. Sometimes from our counterparts or from people who don’t work in our profession. Everyone has an opinion. I feel your frustration. One thing I've learned over time is to maintain your true self. When you are true to yourself, you can be true to your craft. In my opinion, that’s what makes you an effective teacher.

Be Confident
Being confident in yourself is important in anything you do in life. It also helps to be an effective teacher. Having good posture, a clear speaking voice, and giving eye contact are sure ways to show confidence. It also helps draw the attention of your students. Being energetic is also a plus. Sometimes this is debatable, because it depends on the willingness and personality of the individual. I am not suggesting you have to be “bubbly,” but you want to show interest in your teaching to gain students’ interest.

Being confident doesn’t mean being conceited. There is a difference between feeling confident in yourself and thinking your better than people. Being conceited is a turn off and shouldn’t be expressed in the ESL (or any) classroom or working environment.

Being relatable
I love drinking coffee while teaching :) This picture was taken in 2007.
In general, I believe people like to feel they can relate to others. As a teacher, when students feel they can relate to their teacher, it helps them to feel more comfortable. Being relatable is expressing yourself in a way that students can agree, such as, admitting to making mistakes, showing more of your personality, or showing empathy. This also applies to way of dress.
Dressing in professional attire or business casual attire is a sure way gain respect from students. You don’t want to dress too fashionable or expensive. Be considerate of the economic demographic of the population of students you are teaching. Depending on the culture of the class, dressing like a fashion model can make students feel bad if they are not able to dress the same.

Take your time
As teachers, we are on strict schedules and have to get through the lesson in a timely manner. However, you don’t want to rush or go too slow in teaching your lessons. You want to make sure students are learning from you. What’s the point in getting through five lessons in a week if only ten percent of the class actually learned, understood, or grasped the material? Pace yourself and ask for student feedback. This will help you to find the balance.

Be honest
If you don’t know how to explain or answer a student’s question, state that. Oftentimes, teachers don’t like to admit they don’t know something. I’ve had this happen to me a lot. I found it easier to say, “I’m not sure, but will get back to you with answer,” than pretend I know the answer. Students respect honesty from their teachers. Like our students, we don’t know everything. It’s okay to admit that to your students. Be mindful not to act like you know everything in the beginning of your class semester. If you do and later you admit you don’t know something, students won’t take kindly to your admission. I know from personal experience.

These are just some ways to be an effective teacher. Every teacher and teaching style is different. If you take your time, be honest, and be humble, you will have a successful experience teaching your students.

For more tips and advice, check out my latest video from my ESL video series here.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

“No, I don’t want to say…” How can ESL students encourage each other to talk in class?

Teacher: “Do you know the answer, student A?”
Student A: “Um…I don’t know.”
Teacher: “Who can help student A?”

Students: *silence*

Has this happened to you? Sometimes, teachers will ask for other students to help their classmate in answering a question. Most times, no one will respond to the teacher. Then this may happen…

Student B to Student A: “It’s okay. Try.”
Student A: “No, I don’t want to say.”
Student B: “You can do it.”
Student A: “Well…okay.”

When students are asked questions from the teacher, they can feel intimidated, embarrassed, or shy. One way to help students feel more comfortable is when their classmates encourage them to speak in class.

In my classes, I used to tell students, “Try your best,” or “Take your time, you can do it.” I would encourage students to say this to their classmates when someone felt uncomfortable to speak.

From my ESL video series: How to encourage your students

Body language is another great way for students to encourage each other. Saying “good job,” or showing it by giving a thumbs up, can be motivating.

Here’s an example

Student A: “I don’t know.”
Student B: “It’s okay, try your best.”
Student A: “Okay, I think the answer is…”
Teacher: “That is correct!”
Student B: [giving a thumbs up] “Yay, good job!”
Student A: “Thank you.”

Encouragement is important for anyone who is learning something or trying to understand something new. It’s something both ESL teachers and students should do in class. This allows the shy student to feel a part of the class, build their confidence, and motivate him/her to try their best.


Please check out my video on how ESL teachers can encourage students here.