Top Five Tips to Start Online ESL Teaching

Online English teaching is becoming more and more popular with many students and teachers communicating and learning through the medium of technology. It is now a growing business with many teachers opting to teach online. I have been teaching English for over a year now with one organisation and usually teach at the weekend. It is different to teaching in the classroom and there is greater flexibility for teachers as well as students. If you want to consider a career teaching English to students then there are some great opportunities available. In this blog post, Daniel offers readers five important tips to consider when starting your online ESL teacher career.

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Top 10 Tips for Teaching in South Korea

Our last blog contribution was from Kim Ooi about teaching in China, but in this blog post we are now looking at teaching in South Korea. Jackie Bolen has taught English in South Korea and she is offering 10 top tips for surviving as a teacher in this country. She offers advice with regards to understanding the culture more and also provides some invaluable insights to living and working in this wonderful country. So, if you are considering teaching in South Korea, look no further and read more about it here.

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How To Survive as an English Teacher in China by Kim Ooi

Teaching in China is becoming more and more of a popular destination for teachers of English who are keen to earn a decent salary and developing their career in English language teaching. Looking at recent job posts on this website, the majority of the job submissions are from China. So, what is the best way to survive as an English teacher in China? In this blog contribution, Kim Ooi attempts to answer this question.

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Classroom Community Builders: Book Review

Introduction

I was kindly asked a few weeks ago by Alphabet Publishing to review a recent publication, “Classroom Community Builders: Activities for the First Day & Beyond“, written by Walton Burns. After a few weeks of waiting, the book finally arrived along with a personalised letter from the publisher.

The publisher, Alphabet Publishing, is one of those small independent organisations which specialise with practical ideas for teaching and lesson ideas. The first book that I reviewed for them was “50 Activities for the First Day of School” as a video book review. You can watch the video below or find out a bit more from a previous blog post.

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Twenty Ideas to Make Your Lessons More Exciting

A teacher training session looked at 20 ways to make your lessons more exciting and engaging. Please find below a video of the training session, the PowerPoint slides as well as a Handout which was provided to each of the attendees.

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Teaching Ideas for Word Stress

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Pronunciation Practice Activities” by Martin Hewings

So the past few months, I have been focusing more and more on pronunciation for all levels of learners, no matter whether they are young learners or adult learners of English. Anyhow, I tried out a new lesson idea today which was partly inspired from the wonderful book, “Pronunciation Practice Activities“, written by Martin Hewings. I would recommend any teacher worth their salt to purchase this book, as it offers some great pronunciation lesson ideas which could be incorporated into class immediately.

Most teachers would identify word stress with the teaching of new vocabulary or as a technique to support pronunciation for problematic lexical items. This is all well and good but it reminds me of a teacher reacting to issues rather than proactively focusing on areas of language learning. Personally, if a teacher is able to develop a lesson based around pronunciation and developing learners’ awareness of pronunciation, so much the better. There is by no means anything wrong by reacting to pronunciation issues as they arise but I think it would be a nice change of focus when we remind learners that there are some basic principles that they can learn no matter how large or small the lexical item. Nevertheless, lets look at one lesson idea which is published in “Pronunciation Practice Activities“.

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Real English Lesson: Functional Language

I recorded this lesson at my work of a fellow teacher preparing learners with functional language for debates and expressing points of view. It was a great lesson and I was so grateful being able to observe and record such a valuable lesson. I now thought that I will share this lesson with you all to see how my colleague is able to engage, motivate and support learners during a lesson. Enjoy!

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Five Practical Ideas to Incorporate Pronunciation During Lessons

On 8 October 2016, I gave a workshop at the University of Brighton as part of the IATEFL PronSIG event. It was a great event and there were some wonderful talks. Unfortunately, I had to leave at 3pm. As has been requested, I have shared my slides for my talk. I hope that these are useful and I will be uploading a video of the workshop in the next few days. Many thanks for the kind words and don’t forget to ask any questions below.

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10 Websites for English Language Students

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about 10 Websites for English Language Teachers. At the time it seemed to be quite popular with readers but it suddenly dawned that I did not write about any websites which would be best suited for learners of English. So read on to find out the 10 websites which I recommend for learners of English.

1. ESOL Courses

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This wonderful self-study website, ESOL Courses, is great for students as all lessons are available online, there is no registration so lessons are free and they cover a range of areas as well as levels. I was first introduced to this website when I met Sue Lyon-Jones and she was referring to this website. I would definitely recommend students to look at this website and do some of the lessons in their spare time.

2. BBC Learning English

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I have been using the BBC Learning English website since I first started English language teaching in South Korea. I always used to refer my students to it so that they could develop their own listening and vocabulary skills in their own time. The website has obviously developed and improved over time and there are now videos and activities.

3. Five Minute English

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This website, Five Minute English, was one that I came across by accident and it contains quite a number of lessons which focus on listening, grammar, vocabulary as well as a range of other skills. It is fantastic and students can look at this website in their free time. The website is basic but content is good for students to study a little bit more after lessons and is invaluable for those students who have very little time for self-study.

4. ESL Podcast

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This website, ESL Podcast, has small listening lessons for students to learn vocabulary and idiomatic expressions related to a particular theme. When students look at the lesson, there is a script. There are not any activities but it is just an additional opportunity for learners to improve their listening skills in their own time.

5. English Page

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English Page is an engaging learner focused website which offers areas of study with grammar, vocabulary as well as weekly lessons. It is a useful website with exercises within the website so students do not have to download or print activities. This can reinforce what is being studied during lessons.

6. Flo-Joe

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Flo-Joe has been around for years and I was introduced to it when I was working in Korea as it was the go-to website as lessons were associated with Cambridge ESOL Examinations and it still is. It is still an invaluable website for those learners that are preparing for examinations such as the PET, KET, FCE or any other Cambridge ESOL focused examination. Students will develop a lot of exam skills and they will be able to use this in their free time.

7. English at Home

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English at Home is a great website for students as there is a focus on spoken English, vocabulary and grammar. There are lessons available but most of the activities are basic ‘choose the correct answer’. However, it is a useful website that students could use to refer to during their selfstudy.

8. DuoLingo

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You cannot write a blog post for learners of any language who wishes to study in their own time without mentioning the great DuoLingo website/application. I have this on my phone whenever I feel inspired to study French or German. However, there are courses for students whose first language is not English but wish to selfstudy English. For example, a South Korean student can access DuoLingo and learn English with the ease of using their L1. You should definitely recommend your learners to access this website on their smartphones or on their laptop.

9. Breaking News English

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This is a wonderful website for students who wish to learn more about what is happening around the world, with regular updates to Breaking News English by Sean Banville. Students have free access to all lessons and activities as well as the audio. Students may need some support and introduction to the website but you could always get learners to complete a listening activity as part of their homework and then share their experiences of learning through this website.

10. University of Victoria Study Zone

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The University of Victoria has free access to a Study Zone and learners may benefit from the numerous online lessons. It is primarily aimed for students from the University of Victoria. This website has a lot of resources available for students with a focus on grammar, vocabulary and reading. It does require a bit of learner training but once students have developed confidence with the website, it could supplement lessons quite nicely. Lessons are organised into levels and there is also a grammar index.


As an idea for getting students to become more aware of online content to complement their studies, I try to show the websites in class with a class set of laptops or Chromebooks, students then choose a lesson, from one of the websites, to complete during the lesson. After they have completed a lesson, they then chat to their partner about the website and for homework I organise students to write about their thoughts of the self-study content and a review with a Google Drive document, which can then be shared to all other learners when they return to class another day.

What are your favourite websites to get students to learn English outside of the classroom? Do you recommend any that have not been mentioned here? Do you have any activities that you incorporate in class to supplement learner autonomy and training?

*An update to this post and to all my readers. I was nominated and successfully won the delightful Teaching English Blog of the Month Award. A huge thanks to everyone at the British Council for their support and massive thanks to all my readers, colleagues and friends for their help. To receive recognition for the work that I do and the blog that I maintain is fantastic, so a big thank you to everyone.

5 Fantastic Ways to Pair Students

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You know what it’s like, the students are sitting down in their predictable places and you say “Right! We are going to move you around. Listen to your number!”. You give a number to each student and you pair them up with their corresponding number. In essence, you just move the students – which is meant to be their new – partner but the same person that they are with for the remainder of their course. Why not pair up students or groups of learners in a different way? Mix it up a bit and add some variety to the class layout where students are expected to sit! In this post, we look at five exciting and innovative ways to pair up students together.

1. Reaching New Heights

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A simple and useful way to match learners together in pairs or small groups is to get them lined up and then ask them to go in order of height (from smallest to tallest – a good way to review superlatives). You can then put them together with the student next to them or reorganise them into small groups. It is quick, simple and affective. In fact, this was something which I was introduced to when I first enlisted in the Royal Air Force and they had all new recruits standing in a line from shortest to tallest. We were then divided into three with our flight being placed either at the front (shortest), middle (mid-height) or  the rear (the tallest). It is nothing new when you do this in your classroom and want to make the pairing up of students unpredictable and spontaneous.

2. Binomial Pairs

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This is possibly my favourite activity for pairing up learners together. I am unsure where I learnt this from but I think it may be from the wonderful time when I worked with Peter Clements (ELT Planning). He has some great ideas and highly recommend his blog. It is quite an easy activity to prepare. All you do is write down one half of binomials on a slip of paper and the corresponding half of the other binomial on another slip of paper. If you have ten students, you will be using five binomials split in half, such as:

  • Safe and Sound
  • Sausage and Mash
  • Sick and Tired
  • Give and Take
  • Peace and Quiet

You could demonstrate the activity first by writing up examples of binomials with half of them at random on one side of the board and their corresponding halves randomly on the other side of the board. Ask students to match each halves before handing out the binomial slips of paper. You will then hand out ten words and ask students to find their partner with the corresponding word. For example, if a student has the words “Safe and” then they must find their partner “Sound“. It is a great activity to pair up students and you could change it slightly if you want to use collocations or other related words.

3. Vocabulary Pairing

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This is another take from the activity above. Instead of using binomial pairs to match students up with another student, you could change it slightly by preparing vocabulary written on one slip of paper and their definitions written on another piece of paper. Essentially, students holding key vocabulary in their hand have to find a partner who is holding a corresponding definition. To make it slightly more complicated, you could get students to keep their vocabulary or definitions secret and those with the key vocabulary must describe it in their own words or the person with the definition must guess the vocabulary and say it. Once students find their partner, then they can sit with them and continue with the lesson. It is a great matching exercise for learners and a wonderful way to review language which had emerged from previous lessons.

4. Sentence Halves

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As with the previous activity, what better way to review grammar structures than using this as a way to pair up students together. For example, if your previous lesson focused on conditionals, you could prepare a number of sentences split in half (i.e. on the second clause) and get students to guess what would start or finish the sentence that they are holding in their hand. Get students to move around and find their partner. You could use some of the conditionals below to help you get started:

  • I will take an umbrella if it rains later today.
  • I am not going to work tomorrow if I don’t feel well.
  • I’ll arrive on Sunday if I can get a flight.
  • You’ll be cold if you don’t wear a coat.
  • He’ll be hungry later if he doesn’t eat now.

If a student is holding a piece of paper with “I will take an umbrella …” then that person must find a student who has a corresponding sentence to match with it such as “… if it rains later today.“.

5. Random Names

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For the last experimental way to make random pairs or small groups of learners, you could use a very simple way which requires a lighter approach to preparation is by getting students to write their names on a piece of paper which you give them. You place all the names in a bag or box and mix them all up. Make sure you don’t look at the pieces of paper and you pull out each slip of paper with a name and then tell students to be matched with another name. It is a simple and quick activity to pair learners up together but it ensures that you have no way to engineer the pairing up of students. This will leave learners with the reassurance that whoever they are placed with, they will not blame the teacher as it is much to do with luck than anything.

If you have the name of the learners to hand on a register, you could type the names out and laminate them for future use as well. You could also use the laminated names placed at particular desks so students have to sit at this location.


These are five ideas that I have used from time-to-time to pair up learners together but have you got any favourite activities for pairing learners up together? Do you simply count across the classroom and then get corresponding numbers matched together? I hope you try out some of these ideas and experiment in the classroom a bit more – your students will love it!


Further reading: