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Listening to Stories While You Read Them: Supporting ELL’s

17 Mar

Supporting English Language Learners through their comprehension and engagement in a text is vital if they are to come to a love of reading in English.betty white

In preparing for a presentation on Supporting the ELL’s in our Ontario Classrooms, I was looking for current Canadian resources teachers can easily incorporate into their language arts curriculum for ESL students.  One such resource I wanted to share right away was StorylineOnline.   Storyline Online is a fabulous website that has popular English children’s picture books being read aloud by celebrities!  How interesting.  Not only can children experience a range of pronunciations by listening to books read aloud, they can increase their engagement in a text either in the class on the computer or at home.

I recommend choosing a text with a student and doing a “picture walk” with them through the book.  Discussing the pictures helps students to make predictions, and it activates the schema they already have for the topic making learning more meaningful.  You may want to ask them to share any experiences they have with the topic either orally or in writing.  Go over any challenging or new vocabulary, idioms, slang, and cultural references in the book.  Next, read it along with the student and let them have some time alone to read through it at their own pace if they’re able to do this.  You can then pull up this resource Storyline Online and have them listen to the book alongside reading it.  They may wish to do this a few times.  Finally, choose a consolidation activity you feel will best match their learning goals and needs.  This could be drawing pictures and describing their favourite part.  Identifying parts of the story such as the main characters, plot, setting, etc.  And one of my favourites is to have them change one of these parts and re-tell the story aloud.

Definitely check out this free online resource and let me know your thoughts! 🙂

One of my favourites?  Harry the Dirty Dog ready by Betty White

Advice for Learning How to Give Advice

5 Dec

Knowing how to politely give advice is not only an excellent tool for making small talk, but helps ESL students establish friendships with native English speakers, engaging with them in a meaningful, friendly way.

I could probably conjecture that most Koreans are eager to make friends with an English-speaking foreigner so they can practice their English, share cultures, have an interesting time, and from my experience, perhaps because they genuinely want to show you “their Korea.”  And from my experience meeting new Korean friends, there is always a lot of advice sharing.  I hadn’t realized how often we native English speakers offer our thoughts and suggestions to others, especially to co-workers or friends.

I always make sure to include a good lesson or three on how ESL students can give advice.

A few of the difficulties I’ve noticed when teaching “Giving Advice”:

  • Advice is cultural and may not always be polite or practical when transferred to the listener’s culture.  Real life example:  Me – My stomach hurts today. Friend:  You should try making a big dung. 
  • It’s better to give advice that is closer to neutral rather than politically, emotionally or otherwise “fired up.”   In other words, suggesting solutions that are too strange can feel awkward and create distance between the speaker and listener. Real life example: Person 1 – I am tired of riding the bus.  Person 2 – Well, riding the bus saves the environment, so you should be happy about doing it.  
  • Being polite is not easy in a second language, even with the best intentions.  Native English speakers can often take offense easily (and here I’m speaking as a polite, “I’m sorry” loving Canadian).  Real life example:  Me – I’m feeling sick.  Co-workers – You ought to come to work anyways like other Koreans do.
Some resources for getting starting in planning your lesson on giving advice or for learning how to give advice:
Boggles ESL – Giving Advice printable and problem cards for Adult ESL learners.
MyEnglishPages – Asking for and giving advice.
ESLhq – Giving advice board game.
AuthorStream – Here’s a Powerpoint presentation that can be used in the classroom.
Try my Giving Advice Flashcards (pdf) – which can be downloaded and used in your ESL Classroom freely!  (FYI – the “star” symbol represents VERB with my students and I). Enjoy^^

26 Fresh ESL Conversation Starters to Get Students Talking!

10 Oct

I love teaching conversation in the ESL classroom.  Part of it must be that because the students able to “converse” in English are

better able to demonstrate their personalities, preferences, thoughts… and therefore, I get to know them better.  Often it is simply hilarious to see the range of answers students feel free to share in a comfortable environment.

If you’re a conversation teacher in an English as a Second Language classroom, there may be times when you feel as though you want fresh ideas, a change in routine or some way to remain slightly unpredictable so your students remain curious as to what tricks you have up your sleeves.
Always remember to keep in mind your students’ unique personalities and language learning journey, and never underestimate how engaged they can become with the right activity!
Here is a list of 26 fresh ESL Conversation Starters to move your class!
  • Me, Only Better – Have each student name one thing they would love to change about themselves – either physical “I want a nose job”; a personality trait “I want to be more patient.”; or any other thing they concoct.
  • Top Chef – Give your students a list of 3-5 ingredients, from tame to strange, and ask them what they would cook with them, using all the ingredients.  How would they prepare it?  Who do you think in the class would win top chef?
  • Time Capsule – What would you want the people in the year 2200 to know about life on Earth right now? What objects best represent who we are as people, our accomplishments, our joys and sorrows?  What would your students include?  A good group activity where everyone has to make a suggestion and then explain their reasons why they feel it is important.   If they found a time capsule from 1900, what do they think would be in it?  Change the year to see how the contents of the time capsule change. 
  • Horoscopes – Print out the horoscopes from the day’s newspaper and everyone takes turns reading their horoscope.  Does it seem to match what is happening in their life?  Perhaps you could then have them write the horoscope they would love to see printed!
  • What colour are you?  – Everyone has to write down which colour best represents them and take turns describing why.  Go around the circle naming things that are that colour until the group gets stuck.  Change colours.
  • If I won the lottery… – They should write down two of the things they would do first if they won the lottery.  What does this tell us about who they are, if anything?  A good intro for teaching conditionals.
  • What is your dream job?  – People take turns describing their dream job.  Why don’t they take the steps to achieve it?  How would their life be different if they were in their dream job?
  • Biggest Fear – People share the thing they’re most afraid of.  This can be fun and superficial, or can get quite serious and personal.
  • Genie in a Bottle – Three wishes granted!  What would they choose?
  • Numerology – If you’re born on September 21, 1983, your number would be calculated as follows: 9 (Sept) + 2 +1 +1 +9 +8 +3 =33 … 3+3 = 6.  Your number would be 6.  Print out the numerology meanings of the different numbers and have the students see if they feel they’re a match to their number.
  • “The worst thing I NEVER did” – People love to feel they did the right thing, so have your students talk about a time when they were tempted to do a bad thing but in the end remained virtuous.  Can be quite funny, and range from tame to outrageous.
  • Call me Pharaoh – If you were going to be buried like a pharaoh, what would you want included in your tomb?  Depending on the size of your group, you may need to limit the items to 5 or less.
  • Bucket List – A list of things they want to do before “kicking the bucket,” or in other words, before they die.  Again, you may need to have everyone go around and start with the first thing, then second round the second thing… keeps people talking. Engage listeners to raise their hand if they would do it, touch their nose if they wouldn’t, etc.
  • Ask me a Question – Everyone gets to ask the teacher one question that should be answered honestly (well, as honestly as you feel you should professionally).  Be prepared, students love this!
  • Name three things in your Bedroom/Bathroom/On your desk – Make it even harder by not allowing them to repeat something that another person has already said.
  • Going on a Picnic – What would you bring to our imaginary picnic?  One of my favourite answers ever received for this one.. “a string quartet” Yes!  You’re invited! 🙂
  • What is your favourite _________?  – This blank can be filled in by almost anything!  …movie, actor/actress, hobby, thing to do before going to bed, subject in school, food, thing to share…  And don’t forget to give reasons.
  • What was your last purchase?  What was the last thing each student bought before class started?  Have every student ask a question about each other’s purchases.
  • Maestro, If You Please – Play a piece of classical or world music, without words preferably so students can concentrate on how the music moves them.  Have them write down answers to the 5 W’s – Who, What, When, Where, Why. For example: Where is this music taking place?  Students share and discuss their answers.  It’s really interesting to see the diversity of answers.
  • Guilty Pleasure – Have your students “fess up” and share one of their guilty pleasures… Okay, mine is eating raw cookie dough!  I just can’t help it!
  • Desert Island – If you were to become stranded on a desert island in the middle of the ocean, what would you want to have with you?  Have students try to narrow down the items to 6 and then 3 and then only 1!  Interesting to see who chooses for comfort and who chooses for survival – or is this the same thing? 🙂  If there were only one other person they could bring on the island with them, who would it be?
  • Grandma’s Words – Your students should pretend they’re giving their best piece of advice for a younger generation.  Have each person share their own personal wisdom and then perhaps share it as a group.
  • “You should have been there!” – Have students describe the best, most fun day of their life and tell us why we should have been there!  Who would have liked to share in that day and why? Who wouldn’t?
  • I Never – A game that never gets tiring.  Students take turns saying something they’ve never done, for example “I’ve never ridden a horse” or “I’ve never driven a bus,” and anyone who has actually done these things has to tell a story about it.
  • Whodunnit?  – Everyone writes down one amazing thing they’ve done that seems outrageous or surprising.  All the ideas go into a hat and people take turns pulling ideas out and guessing who has done the amazing thing.
  • Things – I love this game!  Who has played it?  Choose a topic…such as “Things you shouldn’t say to your mailman” or “Things you should eat while driving” and have students write down answers on slips of paper.  Put them in a hat and take turns drawing answers (make sure to have them hide their pens!) Who wrote which answer?  This is a favourite cottage game with my friends and I…
And if that’s not enough, The Internet TESOL Journal has about a thousand additional questions to get your conversation class started!
Enjoy!

Learning to speak like an English Canadian

20 Jul

Hello, eh!  Native English speaking Canadians may have the best pronunciation amongst ESL Teachers worldwide.  Whether or not you agree, Canadians do have a crisp, clear way of speaking and can often be good listeners, a skill ever so important in conversation.

So how does an aspiring student of English learn to speak like a Canadian?

  1. Seek out a Canadian conversation tutor who you can spend time talking with, picking up their style of speech, idiomatic expressions and pronunciation.
  2. Listen to CBC Radio Podcasts on your mp3 player when walking through town or riding the bus.  Try to imitate how they’re speaking.  They have quite a selection of available podcasts, but the Radio 1 is my favourite.
  3. Watch Canadian films and TV programs – yes, we make movies and TV shows, too.
  4. Find a pen pal that you can have Skype conversations with!  If you’re interested in this opportunity, please let me know.
If you have experience with Canadian ESL teachers, tutors or friends – please leave a comment below and tell us what you think of their English!

What are the best ways to increase vocabulary?

4 Jul

From my experience as an ESL Teacher as well as a learner of a second language myself (Korean), I know that increasing your vocabulary can be a challenge.  You may have some solid sentence structures in your disposal, but lack the vocabulary to use them beyond a few simple sentences.

Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to increase vocabulary:

  • Use an iPhone app that allows you to practice on the bus or subway, or when you have a few minutes
  • Write words on sticky notes on everyday items in your home (works best for nouns, but try adding verbs or adjectives, too)
  • Repetition in context – sitting down and writing the words over and over doesn’t seem to help many people retain the words over a period of time.  Instead, try repeating a list once a day for a week.  For examples, try colours one week and see how many you can write down.
  • Practice speaking with native English speakers.  Nothing motivates you to increase your vocabulary more than the need to express yourself.
  • Keep a page in your journal that you add to each day and review.
  • Use an index card stack on a ring (stationary stores have them) and add a few words on one side with the translation on the other.
  • Watch tv shows with subtitles.
Hope this helps you increase your English vocabulary use and retention.  Please share your comments below on how you best study vocabulary! ^^

Learn English Quickly using a “Triple Threat” Approach

2 Jul

For those serious about learning English I suggest using what I’ve coined the “triple threat” learning approach to language studies. A stool needs three legs before you can sit on it, and learning a language requires a multi-disciplined approach.

Take an academic English program/course.   Finding a reputable school or academy with a program that matches your learning objectives is the first step to language learning success.  They should be able to provide quality learning materials, samples of student’s work before and after their program, an itinerary and ample opportunity to put the material your learning into action.  Looked for TESOL based education programs that understand the process of how people learn second languages.

Work with a Tutor to target problem areas.  The next step is finding a tutor who can meet with you one-on-one to target the areas you’re having problems with at the academy.  They should be able to guide you to the point where you do the homework yourself, clarify any lessons you didn’t understand, polish your grammar, and hone your communication skills.   Before going with anyone advertising themselves as a tutor, be sure to ask for their teaching credentials and experience, and references.  If they can’t give you a quality reference, keep looking!
Find a language exchange partner, preferably a native speaker whom you can practice with.  Practice makes perfect is especially true with language learning.  They help you with pronunciation, gently correct your mistakes, teach you natural spoken English, slang and expressions.  Try to find a language exchange partner that will either help you out of the kindness of their heart or one that you actually have to pay.  To find a suitable companion who you can engage as a language exchange partner, consider: joining church groups, finding free language programs offered by immigration and government services, joining sports teams and other social groups; as well as placing ads in local newspapers and online.  (When using the online approach, make sure to always meet in a coffee shop or other busy setting and never give away your address or personal information!)

For students in Seoul, South Korea, please see my schedules or contact me for available classes, tutoring and language exchange opportunities.

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