Warmers for Online ESL Classes

In our new-to-many online learning environments, icebreakers, getting-to-know-you activities, and other warmers are perhaps more important than ever. Starting a class off on the right foot is a great way to help students feel comfortable and safe. So, I’d like to share some of my favorite online warmers. There’s a getting-to-know-you activity, a get-to-know-the-teacher activity, a set-the-tone activity, and a way to do the syllabus or class rules interactively online! Some of these work best on the first day of a new class or new term. 3-2-1 Introductions This is an activity I learned from Shelly Terrell and it’s […]

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The Art of Exams

There’s a lot of takeaways in Sharon Hartle’s new blog post, THE ART OF GATHERING… EVEN FOR EXAMS. I think assessment and examinations are a neglected topic in TESOL/EFL circles. Particularly in a world where examinations are necessary, there’s rarely much reflection on what exams mean and their purpose. As Sharon writes, too often we think of exams as a form of assessment. The goal seems to be to judge. We take it for granted that some people will fail. We assume exams should be stressful and unpleasant. However, this (unconscious) attitude to examination does little to help our students […]

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Back to School Tips

This is one of my most popular posts, so I like to repost it every August as we get ready for back to school time. Of course, this tips here are applicable to any classroom, not just school. I collected most of these ideas as I was working on my book 50 Activities for the First Day of School. I always love learning from others, so please do feel free to add your own advice, tips, tricks or first day hacks in the comments! Back to School with Style Write your name and your students’ names down. Fast-paced activities […]

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How to Pronounce Your Students’ Names

You’ll never be able to pronounce my name,” the student from Uzbekistan said. Little did she know I had lived in Kazakhstan for several years and the two languages are very similar. Nor was her name really all that difficult, just long. “Is it Zulfizar Abduraimova (not her real name)?”I pronounced her name fairly well, I think. She was floored. It was a small thing, pronouncing a student’s name correctly. It had extra impact because you don’t see a lot of Uzbek students in the US and it’s not a popular destination for Americans, either. Of all the English […]

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Creating a Classroom Community Builder

Here’s a nice article with a good set of questions for choosing and implementing classroom community builders or other icebreakers. I’m a big proponent of using these kinds of getting to know you activities. But I know you should definitely do them mindfully. This article is a great guide to choosing and using an icebreaker thoughtfully. Or if you’re like me, you love to create my own activities. In that case, this article is a great guide to creating a classroom community builder of your own. Questions to Consider Among the things to consider when creating a classroom community […]

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Technology in the ESL Classroom

I’ve just gotten back from the TESOL Convention and I learned quite a bit and met quite a few interesting people. One topic that kept coming up again and again was the question of technology in the ESL Classroom. Every year, it seems like there’s a new app or website for teaching English. And there’s always a new online tutoring company-the newest one this year had some kind of rabbit mascot that I only saw when they were filming promotional videos. In fact, with TESOL down and IATEFL still to go, there’s been quite a bit of chatter about […]

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What Do They Know About You?

Why do I recommend a Get-to-Know-the-Teacher activity on the first day of class? I remember the first time I was grilled by a new class. I was teaching middle-schoolers in a public school in Kazakhstan and many of them had never seen an American before. I started the class off with a little orientation speech about class expectations and so on. A hand went up. I called on the student who asked, “What’s your favorite NBA team?” I said I wasn’t a big basketball fan, and the class exploded. “I thought you were American. All Americans love basketball.” “We watch […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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