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ESL Teacher Blog
The teacher's point of view: thoughts, observations and ideas about ESL teaching.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Context Clues

Standard dictionaries aren’t always up-to-date with new words that are being used by English speakers and this can be very frustrating for ESL students. 
Students sometimes struggle to understand new words that they’ve read in newspapers or heard in movies, but are unable to find in the dictionary.  It’s important to point out to students that many of these words are new to native speakers as well.  We rely on context clues in order to understand new expressions. 
Using context clues is an important skill that students need to develop instead of running to a dictionary to check all unfamiliar vocabulary.  Demonstrate to students how they can determine the meaning of the expression “mouse-potato”, using context clues in the following sentences:
Child obesity is becoming a serious problem.  It’s difficult to convince many young couch-potatoes and mouse-potatoes to turn off their TVs and computers and play outside.
Point out all the clues in these sentences that will help learners understand the expression mouse-potato
a) Mouse-potato and coach-potato sound alike and are being grouped together.  

b) We understand that coach-potatoes want to continue watching television and that mouse-potatoes want to continue using their computers. 

c) We’ve read in the first sentence that obesity is a very real issue. 
Those clues allow us to make an educated guess that “mouse-potato” probably means a person who spends most of their time on a computer.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 1:51 PM   1 Comments  Add Comment

Thursday, August 16, 2007


As an ESL teacher do you sometimes feel like a stand-up comedian? 
Many teachers of non-academic English classes feel that they are part educator, and part entertainer.  Students who study English in conversation schools frequently state they are studying English as a hobby.  They are expecting “edutainment” - a combination of education and entertainment.  Although they’d like to learn English, they also expect to be entertained while studying. 
You shouldn’t feel discouraged as a teacher, if sometimes your role in the classroom is part performer.    Remember, if people are relaxed and enjoying themselves, they are more likely to participate actively in the lesson you are teaching.  The more involved they are, the more they’ll immerse themselves in the language.  So it’s important to create a fun environment, balancing education and entertainment, in the classroom in order to encourage learning.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 3:41 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Commercial's On!

Many students watch television as a way to help improve their English.  But what about the commercials? 
In many ways commercials are a better way to learn new vocabulary and cultural nuances.  Commercials offer great visuals, simple yet expressive vocabulary, and discuss familiar topics in a cultural context. 
Some educators feel commercials allow language learners to develop critical thinking skills such as evaluating information, assessing abstract ideas, and interpreting and inferring.  Commercials are aired frequently; allowing viewers time to see them repeatedly. 
Students should try watching a commercial and listening for new expressions, then see if they can determine the meaning of the expressions by looking at the visuals used in the ad.  Then the next time the commercial is on, they should watch it again to see if they’ve guessed the new vocabulary correctly.  They can look up any new expressions, or verify them with a native speaker of English, if needed.  Then every time the commercial is on again, they can watch it and enjoy understanding it!
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 5:27 PM   2 Comments  Add Comment

top Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Top Ten

Teachers, why not have your class compile a list of your city’s “Top Ten” interesting experiences? 
As residents, we sometimes overlook and forget the vibrancy or our own homes, and it’s always interesting to see our cities through our students’ eyes.  They often remind us of many things that we take for granted. 
Have students work in groups or pairs, depending on the class size and make a “Top Ten” list, describing the city’s most appealing attractions.  Encourage students to include experiences not usually found in guidebooks.  They can incorporate their own adventures, such as swimming in a local lake, or lining up outside an electronics store early on Boxing Day morning. 
This activity is also fun to do if you are teaching overseas.  In that situation, the students are given the opportunity to make you aware of the many experiences that wait for you in their home countries!
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 2:50 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Context Clues
The Commercial's On!
Top Ten

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