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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

ESL Teacher Blog: Student Attendance at School Parties and Other Social Events

Rarely do school social events attract the same turnout as regular classes throughout the year (well, maybe Christmas party excluded).

When my students ask me for advice on how best to proceed with learning English, I always tell them to try and make a friend/acquaintance with a native speaker. I encourage them to participate in social events and school outings and connect with the staff. Many are skeptical about being ever able to connect and yet they all agree that this sort of social interaction is the ultimate goal of learning the language.

So why a drop in attendance as soon as students and teachers get together in a less formal setting? Isn’t this what most students would like to experience: casual talk in an informal setting?

It’s true some people are shy by nature and avoid being the centre of attention, especially  if conversing in a foreign language. Yet, the main reasons why social events are under-attended may also be the following:

-spontaneity: the conversation topics that come up may change unexpectedly and make students grasp for words

-fear of unknown: new games or activities may deter participation (what if I don’t understand the rules and look foolish?)

-being unfamiliar with cultural routines and peculiarities: uncertainty of what’s appropriate to say and when, how behave at a table, take pictures, etc.

Prep talk with the students before a party or other social event is important. Acknowledging student fears and lack of cultural knowledge will lower inhibitions. Telling a funny story about your own “cultural failure” (e.g.: I still can’t learn how to use chopsticks properly) will help put everyone at ease. Going over the planned activities ahead of time may be a good idea for lower levels.
Most importantly, show support throughout - teacher attitude is often to determine student willingness to come.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 11:50 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Friday, June 19, 2009

ESL Teacher Blog: Does Your Employer Care About Your Students Feedback?

Margaret Wente’s article in The Globe and Mail was as usual thought-provoking. She talked about the quality of teaching being superior to the other factors in education (such as class size and school funding). Indeed I thought, throughout my school years I was in a class that neared 40 students (not to mention the 45 minute bus ride to school each way) and yet each and every parent wanted their child to be with that particular teacher. She was just known for delivering good results.

Many ESL teachers work for unionized institutions where the volume of their work is by and large determined by their seniority. Senior teachers are entitled to more hours regardless of their performance. But does seniority automatically suggest a more knowledgeable and caring teacher? So why are there closing classes and declining attendance?

Measuring results in an ESL class isn’t easy. The adult students may not show immediate progress right away. Yet, collecting and analyzing their feedback is simple and attainable. Why wouldn’t this data be considered as a pre-condition for the next assignment a teacher is given? After all, there is no equality of opportunity if our differences are not recognized and valued.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 12:26 AM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Tuesday, June 02, 2009

ESL Teacher Blog: Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs - How to Tell Apart

When a preposition follows a verb, does it automatically make it a phrasal verb? Do you sometimes get asked this type of question? What is the difference between:

(1) Come to me. vs.: (2) It comes to $49.90?

The first one is a prepositional verb with a preposition ‘to’ commonly following the verb ‘come’ pointing to a particular direction. The preposition doesn’t change the meaning of the verb.

The second one is a phrasal verb consisting of a verb ‘come’ and particle ‘to’ (not really a preposition; see the note below in #3) which completely changes the meaning of the verb ‘come’. ‘Come to’ means ‘be total of’.

There are a few additional tests that can be done to differentiate between the two structures and clear the doubts of how to treat the verbs followed by prepositions.

1. Stress: in a prepositional verb structure it’s the verb that receives the major stress ‘cóme to me’; in a phrasal verb structure it’s the preposition that sounds louder ‘comes tó $49.90’.

2. Adverb insertion: an adverb can be inserted between a verb and preposition in a prepositional verb combination, but is impossible to insert into a phrasal verb:

The cat went quickly under the deck (prepositional verb). The ship quickly went under (phrasal verb meaning ‘sank’). not: The ship went quickly under.

3. Mobility: the particle of a transitive phrasal verb (that takes a direct object) can be placed before or after the direct object. A preposition in a prepositional verb combination cannot be moved after its object. Compare:

Carry the digit over to the next digit place to the left. or Carry over the digit to the next digit place to the left. (phrasal verb) He carried the bride over the threshold. (prepositional verb)

Note: a preposition always precedes its object. In case of phrasal verbs, since a preposition/adverb can precede or follow an object, it’s called a particle (rather than a preposition)

Have students analyze the prepositional and phrasal verbs by discussing plenty of other examples, e.g.:

The bullet went through the wall. vs.: The lawyer went through the files.

I bumped into a wall. vs. I bumped into a classmate.

He stepped down two more stairs. vs. He stepped down as CEO of the company.

It fell on the floor. The suspicion fell on him.

They ran around the field. She’s been running around all day long in the office.

He came back two hours later. Platform shoes are coming back.

I live with my mom. I’ll have to live with this feeling for the rest of my life.

It’s hard to pull clothes over a baby’s head. She got pulled over for speeding.

POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 2:35 PM   2 Comments  Add Comment


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