• Creating Positive Tension during Group Work

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 I’ve gained important perspectives from students over the years. The following insight was shared with me by a student after a group-work activity, and it altered how I organized groups.

Typically, during my first year of teaching ESL, when I wanted students to get with a partner or form groups of three or four, I instructed them to do that and let them choose whomever they wanted to work with. However, early in my second year, this happened.

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• Small Steps for Students Who Are Feeling Discouraged

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A boy wanted to ask a girl to the school dance, but he was too shy to talk to girls. To help him start to overcome his shyness, one day in a store together, his mom told him to walk up to a female clerk and ask where he could find the toothpaste. If he did that, he’d prove to himself that he could interact successfully with a female who was a total stranger, and he’d be able to see himself moving toward his goal. (From Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.)

I realized that I could apply the principle behind this story to a category of students who seem to be in many of the ESL class that I’ve taught. They are the ones who are feeling discouraged about their seemingly inability to progress in their language-skill development. Many of them have failed the course, and in some cases, more than once.

Some of these learners don’t feel like trying any more.

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• IMPROVING Six Popular ESL Activities: Making Them More Than Just Talking PART 2

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In this Part 2 of IMPROVING Six Popular ESL Activities, I’ll discuss how three popular activities are traditionally used and ways that they can be made more stimulating and conducive to conversation-skills development. Here is the link to Part 1. How to IMPROVE Six Popular ESL Activities: Making Them More Than Just Talking PART 1

 Activity 4: Desert Island

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RECOMMENDATION: It’s helpful to tell students a day or two in advance that they will be doing this activity so that they have time to think about the items that they would want to take in their cars.

Her is a link to a short video where you can see a demonstration of how this “better” activity works and more explanation about its many improvements over traditional Desert Island: A Better Way to do Desert Island

Activity 5: Ask a Partner Questions

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• How to IMPROVE Six Popular ESL Activities: Making Them More Than Just Talking PART 1

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You’ve probably seen some of these activities demonstrated at ESL teaching conferences or on some internet sites or on YouTube videos with titles like: “The 10 Best Speaking Activities.” The activities are usually promoted as a way to get students to talk. However, professional teachers don’t assign activities just to get students talking. They try to make sure that students are developing some specific technique or conversational strategy during the activity. There are ways to make these activities more than just talking, and there are ways to alter them to facilitate conversational skill-building, and there are ways to format them to be more stimulating for the students.

In this posting (Part 1), I’ll discuss three of the six activities, and in (Part 2), IMPROVING Six Popular ESL Activities: Making Them More Than Just Talking PART 2  I discuss the other three.

The postings will have two sections:
 Section 1: I’ll describe the activities
 Section 2: I’ll describe conversational skills that students could apply during the  activities and three different ways that you can model the conversational techniques which they should use during the activity.

Section 1: Activities

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Her is a link to a short video where you can see a demonstration of how this activity works and more explanations about its many improvements over traditional 20 Questions: Video A Better Way to do 20 Questions

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