Using Video to Teach Natural Conversation

Video is a powerful resource to teach natural conversation to students. Students can benefit from listening to conversations between fluent speakers. In particular, natural, fluent speech provides models of pronunciation and intonation, and how we use our voices to express emotion and emphasize important words. Rhetorical markers such as “uh” can be pronounced a variety of ways depending on whether we are pausing to think, indicating we disagree, interrupting someone else, or showing disapproval. So audio can do a lot of things a written script can’t. Nonverbal Communication in Natural Conversation However, videos of conversations provide all the benefits […]

Read More

An Interactive Way to Review the Syllabus

On the first day of class, we often need to review the syllabus. Students do need to know the rules, how their grades will be calculated, and the outline of the course. But if you lecture at them, they tend to get bored, get distracted, and forget. If you pep up your syllabus review with jokes and personal stories, they remember those stories forever. Not so much the important stuff. I don’t think anything engages the brain and helps students memorize more than making them do the work, and making it fun. That’s why I’m a big proponent of […]

Read More

How to Structure Online Chats for Better Participation

Blended learning has gone mainstream. Once upon a time, classes that were conducted both online and face-to-face were taught by professors with IT experience. However, it seems that all teachers are expected to be able to teach with technology now. This expectation doesn’t always meet reality as face-to-face teaching techniques don’t always translate to your online teaching platform, Internet forums, social media, or chats and messaging. In fact, as Sharon Hartle, author of Keeping the Essence in Sight and experienced online teacher says, we really should call it blended teaching, not blended learning. It’s really the teacher’s job to adjust […]

Read More

Ways to Make Me Laugh

Humor can be a powerful tool in the classroom. As I’ve written elsewhere before,  Humor plays a large role in my teaching. I use jokes to lighten the mood and make learning fun. I use self-deprecating humor so that students feel comfortable challenging me and so that they understand that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. I use humorous stories to establish rapport. And I make silly skits and demonstrations of words or grammar points so that students will remember them. But humor is also different from culture to culture and from person to person. And while they […]

Read More

Intonation Sensation: Using Emphasis in Speaking

English speakers use intonation to express meaning. We can emphasize a word to show that it is important. This may not be true of the other languages your students speak. In some languages, intonation is only applied at the sentence level. In some languages tone is linked to the meaning of the word itself. Students need a chance to practice using emphasis in speaking to make their meaning clear. This quick and easy activity comes from Rising Water. Students can listen to the audio recording or get the podcast of the play to hear where those actors chose to put […]

Read More

Scripted Dramas to Teach Pragmatics

I’m excited to be exhibiting and presenting at the WATESOL Fall 2018 Conference in DC in a few days. I’ll be featuring some of our books about drama including Fortune and the Integrated Skills Through Drama series. I’ll be putting the whole presentation up along with handouts at some point but I’m proud of this activity idea from the Fortune series. When I talk about using a dramatic videos to teach pragmatics, I hear the same question from teachers a lot. Aren’t scripted dramas too artificial to teach authentic communication skills? After all, studying pragmatics is supposed to help students learn […]

Read More

I Don’t Know an Interesting Fact About Myself

A while back, I did a workshop for teachers from the former Soviet Union and as a very quick icebreaker, I just asked everyone to say one interesting fact about themselves. The first teacher said, “My name is Elena and my interesting fact is that I am from Karaganda, Kazakhstan.” After that, the second teacher got up, said her name and told us where she was from. And so it continued. One teacher tried to say something fun about himself. I believe he said he liked going riding. However, the crowd quickly corrected him: “We’re saying where we are […]

Read More

Icebreakers on the Second Day, Teaching Today

I just want to pass along this great point about icebreakers from the book Voices of Experience: How Teachers Manage Student-Centered ESL Classes by Janet Giannotti: It should also be noted that some teachers do not use an icebreaker in the first class. Some icebreakers may seem like games, and we don’t want our students to think they enrolled in our class to play games. Instead many teachers use the first class for diagnostic testing and save an icebreaker for the second day. Interestingly, I also got a similar piece of feedback from a well-known author who kindly gave […]

Read More