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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

ESL Teacher Blog: Using Subway Maps

In our constant pursuit of finding useful authentic resources for our classes, we sometimes overlook the ones that are within our reach at all times. Available at most subway collector booths or easily ordered through public transportation offices in your city (just mention: these are for educational purposes), subway maps are a great tool to introduce, review and practice various language points throughout the lessons.
I use the maps to:

• teach directions (of course!). Whereas phrases like ‘turn right/left’, ‘walk up/down the street to’ are still useful, students have to use expressions such as ‘take a southbound train to’ and ‘get off two stops west of _____ station’. I always follow up with an exercise ‘tell me how I get to _____ station from _____’.

• acquaint students with the subway stations names so they can pronounce them well. Reading proper names isn’t an easy task as these sometimes don’t obey common reading rules. Often connected to the city’s history (named after famous people or places), names are difficult to look up for a transcription.

• help students to navigate through the city. As newcomers or international students, students often wish to know which stations are in the vicinity of major attractions or places of interest.

• teach how to read a map. Whereas most useful for literacy students, this is still beneficial to beginners and low intermediate levels as well, as the task is performed in English (and not their first language). We look at the legend, identify what different symbols, colors and contractions mean.

• teach/review comparative/superlative forms of adjectives. Which line is longer/the longest? Which way is shorter/the shortest to go to _____ station?
I then provide some more info about the local subway and ask students compare it to the subway of their home city or the one they’ve used before.
Which one is older/the oldest, deeper/the deepest, cleaner/the cleanest, cheaper/the cheapest, more reliable/the most reliable?

I find that taking time to carefully read the information available on the map can even create a special bond between the students and teacher. After all, we all take subway from time to time and sharing the same knowledge and information helps bridge the gap between the locals and the ones overwhelmed with their new life.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 1:15 AM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ESL Teacher Blog: First Day Mood

Most ESL classes start the term with a relaxed first day.  Generally, a proper lesson isn’t taught and students aren’t expected to do much work.  The day does allow the teacher to take care of a number of administrative matters.  The teacher has the opportunity to ensure that students have found the school and are in the right class, books are handed out and course syllabuses are distributed. 
The first day also allows both the teacher and the students to “check each other out.”  First impressions may influence the future performance and outcomes of the class.
I like to start on a friendly, but firm tone.  I recognize that the first day is the time when I should clearly state rules and policies for the class.  I want the students to relax and feel comfortable in the classroom environment.  Yet, I also want students to understand what the classroom expectations are and the consequences of not following rules and policies. 
I also like to play a simple game on the first day.  The game itself isn’t important.  It doesn’t have to be viewed as a learning opportunity.  The game is being played for another reason.  It’s being played as an icebreaker.  Playing a simple game really lets students relax, gives them the opportunity to use some English, but doesn’t require a great deal of mental concentration.  It also gives them the opportunity to interact with their classmates. 
The game will depend on the level of the class itself.  The interaction of the students is vitally important, and will set the tone for the rest of the course.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 10:09 PM   1 Comments  Add Comment

top Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Back to School Madness

If you live in North America, you’re probably familiar with the back-to-school season that begins every year around mid-August. 
Retail stores offer amazing promotions on everything that students might possibly need in order to be ready for the coming school year.  It’s not just the usual pens, notebooks, and erasers that are being sold at competitive prices.  A wide range of electronic items from laptops to calculators is being offered.  In addition, fall clothes, shoes and knapsacks are also being advertised at wonderful prices.
It’s almost overwhelming for students and/or their parents.  What do students really need to succeed and what is just being marketed so businesses can increase their profits?  The stores are crowded with shoppers buying bags of supplies!
As a teacher, I think it’s helpful to give students a list of supplies you expect them to have in class.  Think about what items your students will need to complete work in your course.  It’s better to give students one list at the beginning of the year/term/class.  That way you’ll eliminate the need for them to make numerous trips to the mall throughout the next few weeks every time it occurs to you that students will need something.  Giving them a list will prevent them from buying items that they won’t use. 
Do your students really need large bulky binders or will lighter folders work in your class?  Also, if there are any specifications on the items they require tell them now.  If, for example, you’d like everyone in the class to have yellow highlighters for one course, but blue for a separate course, tell them before they go and purchase highlighter in various colours.
Whether it’s notebooks, highlighters, dividers, dictionaries, binders, markers, pencils that you want your students to have, tell them at the beginning of the class.  Help make their back-to-school shopping experience a little easier.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 10:44 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment


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