The Teacher’s Role During Student-Centered Conversation Activities (on YouTube)

Cover t-role Blog wt Youtube logo shot

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Here is the link to the YouTube video: The Teacher’s Role During Student-Centered Conversation Activities

In this video, I discuss how teachers can provide valuable feedback to students about how they are carrying out pair/small-group activities. I explain how the teacher can be observing students and keeping brief (realistic) notes for each student, even in large classes.  I also share some user-friendly feedback forms which teachers can fill out and give to each student.  See link below.  This process can provide students with specific information about how they can improve their conversation skills when working in pairs/small groups.

Here is the link to the feedback forms that I had discussed in the video which you can download for free to use you’re your students: Feedback forms for Conversation Classes 3

For more video discussions about teacher ESL, visit my YouTube channel: . Student-Centered Teaching ESL by David Kehe

David Kehe

Announcing My New YouTube Channel “Student-Centered Teaching ESL by David Kehe”

 

Cover Blog Announicng YouTube

I recently downloaded my first five videos to my YouTube channel: “Student-Centered Teaching ESL by David Kehe”. These videos provide me the opportunity to discuss some of the background and to explain with a bit more details some of the teaching techniques and materials that I’ve posted on this blog, Common Sense ESL.

Here are the links to the first five videos.

 Here is the link to the channel: YouTube Channel: Student-Centered Teaching ESL by David Kehe

David Kehe

Conversation Technique for Lighting Up the Pleasure Centers in Your Students’ Brains

Maybe this is why students tend to love their ESL classes.

We can actually include something in our lessons that will fire up the reward brain circuits in our students’ brains.  However, there can be a downside to this.

Neuroscientists at Harvard found that people’s brain reward circuits lit up when they were talking about themselves.  Amazingly, doing this can trigger the same sensations of pleasure in the brain as food, money or sex.

In other words, talking about ourselves feels good.  In fact, it feels so good that participants in a study were willing to accept 25% less money if it meant that they could talk about themselves rather than talk about someone else.

This research has interesting implications for our ESL classes.

We now know how to help our students enjoy conversation activities, and that’s good.  However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Apparently, some students like the brain pleasure they feel so much that they can’t stop themselves from dominating conversations talking about themselves.

Techniques to encourage conversations/discussions but that keep students from dominating the activities.

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Recommendation: Ask these important questions when you are interviewing for an ESL teaching position.  (Spoiler alert: these are not about logistics and pay.)

Ask

 I once interviewed for an ESL teaching position at a school in Switzerland. I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic place to live and teach for a couple of years. The type of courses and the type of students that I would teach seemed like a good fit for me.  On top of that, it included free housing.

Fortunately, during the interview, I asked a question, and after hearing their response, I immediately knew that teaching there would have been a disaster for me.

During the interview, I answered the typical questions that they asked.  Then near the end of it, the interviewer (director) asked me if I had any questions, so I asked, “What are you most proud of about your program?”

The interviewer answered, “We believe that one of the greatest features of our program is how much time students get to spend with their teachers.  The teachers’ housing is right next to the student dorms, so there are lots of chances for students to interact with teachers outside class and in their homes. The housing location also makes it easier for teachers to supervise students outside class.”

I enjoy interacting with my students in class and when I run into them outside of it, but I was certain that I would quickly burn out under those conditions. The next day, I withdrew my name for consideration.

A positive impression I got after hearing the answer to that same question

During an interview at a different program at a college, I asked the same question, “What are you most proud of about your program?” That time, I was very impressed by the response.  The interviewer said that ESL program is considered an integral part of the college.  In other words, unlike ESL programs on many other campuses, this one is not separate from the rest of the campus.  In fact, the ESL instructors are even encouraged to serve on college committees.” That clinched my decision to accept the position when it was offered to me.

Two more important questions to ask when you are being interviewed

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“What would you say if you were interviewing for an ESL teaching position?” (A question from a reader)

job interview

When I’m on a search committee, while we are interviewing an applicant, I can’t help but start thinking about how I would answer the interview questions myself.  It’s actually a good values clarification exercise (although perhaps best not to mentally practice it while interviewing someone).  So I appreciate Kevin’s question.

Instead of writing out a script of what I would say, I’ll explain what I would include, in general, in my response to some of the more commonly asked interview questions.

Question 1: What is your philosophy of language teaching and learning?

Everything that I do in my classroom is based on the premise that language learning is about skill development. Speaking, writing and reading a second language involve using skills. And just like learning other skills, for example, driving a car, playing tennis, or learning a musical instrument, ESL students need focused practice to develop their language skills.

The teacher’s role in helping students develop their skills is to find or produce activities that will engage students and that are at the right level of challenge for them.  The teacher is like a coach, setting up and introducing the practice session and then stepping back and being ready to offer support and guidance.

Also, just like when developing any skill, when learning a language, students should be given opportunities to make mistakes and to learn from them in a non-threatening environment.  This means that the teacher needs to relinquish being the center of attention.
(For more about this, see Introduction to Teaching ESL: Student-Centered Approach)

Question 2: What do you think are some of the greatest challenges facing ESL teachers?

I think ESL teachers often have an image problem.  Their image of a teacher is someone who stands in front of the class talking to the students and conducting the lesson with all the students’ eyes on him or her.  In fact, I recently heard a teacher say that she felt like she wasn’t earning her pay if she wasn’t in front conducting the class.  So the challenge is to break this image and realize that our job is to engage students in developing their language skills and for this to happen, the teacher has to stop being the center of attention.  Teachers are doing their jobs when their students are learning how to write better by actually writing in Writing class, or read better by reading in Reading class and by speaking in Conversation class. Students will actually progress faster when the teachers are on the sidelines giving support.

This doesn’t mean that teachers should never talk to the class as a whole. But we should realize that we are still good teachers even when, or especially when, we are not talking and when students are engaged in an activity.

Question 3A: Let’s talk about how you teach conversation skills.  What is your approach?

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Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 5: Who Affects Us More: Parents or Peers?

Discussion triads

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Some reasons why students seemed stimulated by this discussion:

1) Before reading this article, many students just assumed that parents affected us more than peers.

2) They seemed interested to hear about the relationship their classmates had with their parents and peers when they were younger.

3) They were surprised by the findings of the research in the article about how peers affect each other.

4) They enjoyed comparing, agreeing and disagreeing with their classmates about this controversial topic.

Here is the basis for this discussion: psychologist Judith Harris, in her book The Nurturing Assumption, discusses research which she believes shows that our actions, beliefs and preferences are influenced more by our peer than by our parents.

This and future discussion activities include four parts:

1) A one-page article usually including a brief summary of a high-interest research study.

2) Ten true-false comprehension questions.

3) Pre-Discussion Exercise in which students read and think about several questions about their own experiences about the topic.

4) Small-group discussions of the article in which each student is given a paper with different questions in the form of Student A, B or C.

About Discussion Activity 5: Who Affects Us More: Parents or Peers? (and the handout).

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Common Grammar Mistake: “She hopes him to get a haircut.” 

Questions

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

I recently put my students in small groups, gave them a list of sentences and asked them to identify which were incorrect and to correct those. Several of the groups either thought that this sentence was correct or believed that there was something wrong with it but couldn’t correct it:

  • She doubted him to go to the party on Friday.

Surprisingly, these were advanced-level students who were stymied by this. In fact, when they asked me to explain the problem, some of them asked me, “Are you sure it’s wrong? It sounds right to me.” I imagine that the reason for their confusion is because they are familiar with the pattern of Subject + Verb + Object:

Actually, this is not a difficult grammar structure for students to learn, even lower level students. Basically, I tell them that after certain verbs, they should write “that” + subject + verb.  (Technically, the word “that” is optional, but to keep it simple, I tell them to write “that.”)  Although the formal term of this structure is “noun clauses,” I don’t expect them to remember that. If they can remember which verbs are followed by this structure, they’ll be fine.

These are some examples of this kind of mistake:

Mistake: She doubted him to go to the party on Friday.
Correct: She doubted that he would go to the party on Friday.

Mistake: His parents worry their kids to get into an accident.
Correct: His parents worry that their kids will get into an accident.

Avoiding unnecessarily complicated explanations (and handout exercises)

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