Teaching English is undeniably a challenging task; taking out the tactility of the classroom and replacing it with a computer screen presents even more of a challenge. The age of the students and the level of prior English skills that they have in store will certainly make huge differences to the online environment. As such, there really isn’t an all-encompassing formula to use when teaching English online. There are so many different areas of English language to study and innumerable teaching methods, so it’s crucial to suss out what will work best for your particular students through trial and error. However, there are a few general tips that are applicable across the spectrum of online teaching, and adding them to your teaching repertoire will only increase your successes as an online ESL instructor.
Teaching English to Beginners may seem like a challenge at the start, but these tips can help. You may find (like me) that this is your favourite level to work with!
1) Keep it Simple
Pay careful attention to your language in class. Use simple sentence structure, and avoid long explanations. Try to use materials that are visually uncluttered, too. This will help learners focus on the key information.
Having a clear objective is the most important element to consider when developing an ESL lesson plan. Having a clear objective is the first building block to the planning and development process. It’s the thing (or things) that you want your students to learn and take-away from the lesson. Having a clear objective will guide the rest of your planning process. The objective can be expressed in a variety of ways, but, for organizational purposes, it’s easiest to use the same template for most lessons. For example, you could start your lesson plan with the following phrase: “Students will be able to…” and finish with the objective(s) for the day. A good rule of thumb to have is that if an activity doesn’t bring your students to (or closer to) your end goal, modify it or nix it altogether.
First, don’t assume that you are an expert on the language just because you speak it. Even if English is your native language, that doesn’t mean that you know all of the grammatical intricacies that come with it. For most of us, learning our mother tongue was an entirely organic process. Learning in such a way is great when you are constantly surrounded by it and can put things into context without even thinking twice. However, this is not the case for those who are learning English as a second language. Don’t give answers to students if you do not know the answer. Making up something that sounds good to you can confuse them beyond the point of no return, and it just makes you look silly. To avoid this situation, be sure to brush up on the grammar points that you are scheduled to teach before creating your lesson plans and before each lesson itself. Better yet, take a TESOL course and get the ultimate refresher on how to properly use and teach grammar and syntax. Below you will find 5 ways you may be teaching English all wrong.
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Whether they’re sitting for the academic or the general format of the IELTS test, your candidates will have to write a 250-word essay on an everyday topic (i.e. task 2). One key to performing well in task 2 is devoting five to ten minutes brainstorming ideas and mapping out how they will be discussed before starting the essay. Even for upper-band candidates, jumping into their essay without planning beforehand risks them getting lost along the way, resulting in writing in which the main ideas and supporting details may be confused and difficult to follow. During the actual test, with time ticking away, it can be frustrating and stressful when the candidate realizes what has happened but doesn’t know how to right the ship in the time remaining. For this reason, IELTS instructors should train their candidates how to plan before starting their essay. Here are some strategies to consider.
Like the other tests of the IELTS exam, academic task 1 of the IELTS writing test requires knowledge and skills that are generally developed in secondary school, which is why the exam is not recommended for candidates below the age of 16. Firstly, candidates need to have basic visual literacy skills in order to correctly identify and understand the key features of a range of charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, maps, etc. Additionally, they need a reasonable capacity to analyze and evaluate the relationships between these key features and then synthesize this thinking into a summary supported by the details provided. Lastly, they need the language skills with which to articulate their understanding. Depending on where and whom you’re teaching, you may find it necessary to develop your candidates’ visual literacy and critical thinking skills in addition to their language proficiency. This is what I discovered when I began teaching the IELTS exam with secondary students in the UAE. Here are some strategies I’ve used to help my candidates.
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Just as there are many reasons to use authentic texts when teaching IELTS, there are an equal number of considerations when choosing which texts to use. The most important consideration is whether the text is suitable for your candidates’ proficiency level. Reading requires a lot of energy, especially when dealing with unfamiliar vocabulary and structures. The greater the gap between your candidates’ level and the level required means the greater the chance they will lose motivation and focus, which is why sourcing authentic texts can be so challenging—maybe you find the perfect article but the text’s language is too sophisticated. The time it takes to source a text that ticks all the boxes might ultimately put you off using authentic texts altogether. Before giving up, consider modifying a text to achieve your target level, which may ultimately take less time than finding that perfect text. In this TESOL article I will share the process I have used for vetting and developing the texts for candidates targeting an IELTS band 5.0:
It’s an old saying that an image is worth a thousand words. In English language teaching we can take that saying and adapt it: ‘Every image can help learners speak a thousand words.’ Images can be our greatest allies! Instead of worrying about trying to form grammatically correct sentences in a course book activity, learners always react positively when asked to discuss an image instead.
Images are great language learning tools for so many reasons. Firstly, images are open to varying interpretations. This inherent ambiguity enables your learners to be creative and invent all manner of sentences based on what they see. Secondly, an image provides a natural talking point. Shy and introvert learners often feel less anxiety about discussing an image than they do when doing a course book speaking activity. Furthermore, images help to practice sub-skills like prediction, telling stories and recognizing main ideas. Finally, images are just a bit more fun to work with. The following simple activities will help you take advantage of all that images have to offer:
There are many reasons to develop your own listening resources, whether for assessment or instructional purposes, to teach the IELTS listening test. Last year I worked as an assessment developer for a secondary technical school in the UAE. The goal of the EFL curriculum was for each student to achieve at least an IELTS band 5.0 upon completion of the program, which would satisfy the requirement for university admissions or direct employment in many local industries. Our grade 12 EFL course was based on an IELTS curriculum, so course content centered on mastering the skills for achieving the target band score. For this reason, the various tests the assessment team created were modeled on the official IELTS exam. There are ample free resources online; however, to ensure the integrity of our assessments we could not use existing resources in case our students had already been exposed to them. For this reason, our materials had to be developed in house, including our listening tests, which we scripted and wrote the questions for as well as recorded and edited ourselves using GarageBand. In this article you will learn how to teach the IELTS listening test using your own resources.
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