Tag Archives: engaging students

One of the Worst Mistakes Conversation Teachers Make

race competition

For some strange reason, some ESL instructors think they can improve any activity by making it as some kind of competition between students or between groups.  Unfortunately, doing this can be counterproductive and actually discourage the most serious students.

To illustrate, consider an information-gap activity like the one from the March 1st posting Another Conversation Activity: Listen to Partner and Ask Questions to Complete Information-Gap Chart .  In this, pairs of students fill in missing information in a schedule by talking, asking questions, and using clarification strategies.

Imagine the teacher tells the students that he will give a prize to the pair who finishes the schedule first.  This is what will happen and how students will miss out on the skills that the activity is meant to develop.

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Most Important Motivator of Students: How You Can Use It

autonomy

This posting includes sample lessons that give students a lot of autonomy.

The most important ingredient for motivating students is autonomy. 1 The sense of being autonomous can produce a very positive effect on students’ attitude, focus and their performance.  Best of all, it’s very effective and quite easy to include this in ESL classes.

Having autonomy doesn’t mean that students decide what is taught in a lesson.  Instead, students can experience autonomy if the lesson is set up so that they can individually choose which exercise to do first, second etc., how fast to work, when to ask the teacher a question or for help and even when to take a break.

A lesson plan template that gives students autonomy (Writing Workshop)

Teachers can organize their lesson in a Writing Workshop using many different types of materials, but it works best when using inductive exercises.  That is because inductive exercises require little or no time taken up with teacher lectures.

These are General Steps for a Writing Workshop and Sample Specific Lesson with handouts

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Teaching Gerunds (a discussion from LINCS)

                                  SOME COMMON PROBLEMS

                                              Run is good exercise.
                                          I finished read that book.
                               He made some money by work hard
                                Eating in restaurants are expensive.
                                      They enjoyed to do their work

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

I was invited to participate in a discussion about how to teach gerunds.  You can read the discussion at this linkLINCS discussion of gerunds

I’ll summarize here some exercises that I’ve used to help students at all levels and include a links to handouts that you can use with your students.  Also, below you’ll find brief samples of those exercises.

First handout: Inductive exercises to introduce gerunds to students.
See brief samples of these below.
Here is the link to the complete exercises. Gerunds inductive intro
For more inductive grammar exercises like these, see The Grammar Review Book

Second handout: Listening and writing exercises to help students learn when to use a gerund and when to use an infinitive.   One purpose of the listening exercise is to internalize what sounds right.
See brief samples of these below.
Here is the link to the complete exercises. Gerunds vs Infinitives listening and writing exercise
For more listening/writing exercises like these, see Write after Input

Third handout: Exercises for more advanced students who know what gerunds are.  These will help them understand how to use them as subjects of sentences and to contrast gerunds and participles.
See brief samples of these below.
Here is the link to the complete exercises. Gerunds vs Participles Exercises
For more advanced grammar exercises like these, see Writing Strategies Book 2

Brief sample exercises

Inductive exercises to introduce the concept of gerunds, especially good for ear-learners.

Exercise 1: Circle the nouns. Ignore pronouns such as he. (There are 8 nouns, including candy.)

  1. He likes candy.
  2. He likes eating.
  3. We enjoy music.
  4. We enjoy singing.

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Taking TPR to Another Level of Engagement: Two Fun Lower-Level Activities (Part 2: Movie Directors)

Excerpt from directors’ script:

Movie Director script

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

This activity is not only great for skill building, but also offers an opportunity for students to be creative.  It’s also very entertaining and a complete change from other activities that students usually do in class.

After students have done the TPR (Total Physical Response) activity which I had describe in Part 1 , Taking TPR to Another Level of Involvement: Two Fun Lower-Level Activities (Part 1: Triads) they’ll be prepared for this one, “Movie Directors.”

In brief, these are the steps and the handout.

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Taking TPR to Another Level of Involvement: Two Fun Lower-Level Activities (Part 1: Triads)

Excerpt from Student A’s paper:

Image St A soup

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

This activity will show how TPR (Total Physical Response) can be more student-centered than the traditional teacher-directed approach.  Also, it is a pre-step to the TPR activity “Movie Directors,” which I’ll share in the next posting .

In this activity, students are put in groups of three (Students A, B, C).  Each member is given a paper with different “commands.”  They read their commands to their partners, who listen and do the actions.

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Most Stimulating and Engaging but Often Over-Looked Essay Mode

Definition Essay Korean

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

A frequent type comment by teachers, “I always look forward to reading these essays.  They often give me new insights into my students and their cultures.”

A frequent type comment by students, “When I heard that we would write a complete essay about one word, I thought it would be impossible.  But after I chose a good word, I really enjoyed writing this.”

Another frequent type comment by students, “This was the most challenging essay for me, but in the end, it was the most rewarding.”

Many ESL Writing books and instructors overlook this essay mode because they don’t realize its secret potential.  It’s the Definition Essay.  The potential lies in the type of words that the students write about.

Traditional Definition essays can be very unstimulating for the students to write and for the teachers to read.  There are two major reasons for this:

(1) The category of topics from which to choose provides little opportunity for ESL students to feel truly invested in it.
(2) The students are given few specific or poorly designed techniques which they can use.

The Dynamic Definition Essay: Category of Topics and Specific Techniques

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Personalized Vocabulary Exercise

  • What is the incentive that makes you study hard in school?
  • Who do you think had the greatest impact on what you like to do: your mother, father, a relative, a friend, or a teacher?
  • In this class, is there someone who has a distinct characteristic, for example, a way of talking, a hairstyle, a tattoo, a type of clothing, or a habit? Explain.
  • Think about your life. Tell about a time when your life seemed unstable.
  • Let’s say that you are a parent. What rule do you think that you would impose on your teenage children?
  • Name a person whom you know that has an expertise in something? __________ What does that person have an expertise in?

Which of these two sentences below would be more fun for you to answer?

1) What is one significant event that happened in the world this past year?

2) What is one significant event that happened to you this past year?

Which of those two sentences would be more fun for you to hear your friend answer?

Which of those two sentences would be more likely to help you internalize the word “significant”?

It seems that the second one tends to be much more stimulating for students to answer.  And, on top of that, it seems be the type of question which will help students retain the meaning of the word.

A few years ago, I started to add an additional vocabulary exercise titled “Applied Vocabulary” to the more traditional ones that I was assigning my students.  In this, each new vocabulary word is embedded in a personal question about the students’ lives and experiences.  For example:

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