Experiences for English Language Teaching

Author: Martin Sketchley (Page 2 of 26)

My Experience of Online Japanese Learning: Week 1

I have decided to start a remote language course to learn more about what my online students face

I decided, after teaching the summer remotely during a pre-sessional course, to undertake an online language course with my institute. The reason for this was that I had been teaching and delivering course content over the summer months but I had never undertaken an online language course and had no experience of being a student. Thus, I decided to start an online language course and registered for Beginner Japanese. At this point, I should state that I have never studied Japanese, have no knowledge of the alphabet, understand the grammar is similar to Korean, yet am very new to this language. I have taught many Japanese students in the past and I thought this would be a chance to enhance my linguistic awareness while also experiencing what my students experienced, within an online context.

I started by ordering the recommended coursebooks from Amazon: “Japanese for Busy People I: Kana Version”, “Japanese for Busy People I: Kana Workbook”, and “Japanese for Busy People I: The Workbook”. At this point, I had no awareness of what I was embarking upon but as soon as the books arrived I realised that there was a lot more to Japanese than just remembering grammar and vocabulary – I had to learn a completely new alphabet and practise writing individual words. Not one to give up, I decided to download the Duo Lingo app to help me learn the Japanese alphabet and memorise Hiragana. Naturally, comparison between the Korean alphabet (Hangeul) and the Japanese alphabet arose, as did much frustration. Yet, I had the online lesson to look forward to.

I also had to download and print off the vocabulary before the first lesson. I used this to refer to during the lesson but there was vocabulary sheet which included different countries and nationalities, jobs as well as honorifics. I started to notice similar patterns to Korean with the suffix with countries to create the nationality, honorifics, and job titles. This made understanding the culture of the language a lot easier but I stumbled with the Kana (Hiragana and Katakana). I am sure with continued study, I will improve my Japanese reading.

That is a lot to learn but I believe that I have the patience to learn Kana

I arrived to the online class five minutes before it was due to start. I remember myself starting lessons around twenty to thirty minutes before the start of the class to allow students to have a chat before starting the class as scheduled. Nevertheless, the teacher was present with her mic and webcam off, and there were a few more students that had already arrived. What was interesting was that there were different nationalities that had decided to learn Japanese – these included students from India, Chile as well as students from the UK. The teacher also used the breakout rooms quite a bit for students to get to know each other – I was placed in the room with the most animated and enthusiastic (I would say loudest) student. We introduced each other and why we decided to study Japanese before returning back to the main Zoom session to report back (in English).

After a short while of drilling and introducing new Japanese vocabulary and grammatical structures, we had a chance to practise this in breakout rooms again. I was so keen to try out this new linguistic knowledge with my students but my favourite and enthusiastic student took over AGAIN. I had to step up a little and allow the quieter student to speak up a little. I wonder whether I was starting to act more like a teacher again. The more enthusiastic student was so keen that he had difficulty remembering what we were doing and had to go through the phrases twice as long as the less vocal students. This got me thinking about allowing space for acquisition to occur rather than trying to produce the language immediately. As much as one wishes for language to be acquired as quickly as possible, you cannot hurry the process.

Even my main coursebook has no Romanisation to help me with the pronunciation so I must learn Kana

Anyhow, I had a short while to practice the phrases with the other students and before we realised, we all returned to the main room again before being introduced to questions and basic negative verb conjugations by the teacher. The teacher decided to ask me a question in Japanese and fortunately I was able to understand: “Are you Japanese?” (日本人ですか) and I replied “I am not Japanese” (私は日本人ではありません). I felt a sense of achievement. Not only had a learnt basic grammatical constructs in Japanese but I also was able to respond to basic questions in either the affirmative or negative. I heard the teacher use Japanese vocabulary with other students such as ‘student’, ‘teacher’, ‘lawyer’, ‘secretary’, etc – all from the word list that we were provided before the class.

The class finished after an hour and a half, with the time flying by. Everybody said thank you and goodbye, before the lesson finished. There are a few things that I have to undertake before the start of the lesson next week and these include learning Japanese numbers (0-10). If Japanese numbers are anything like Korean numbers, it will be quite easy to acquire. I also have to introduce myself to the class Padlet using the Roma-ji (Romanisation of Japanese phrases/grammar) which I completed immediately. There are also a few personal things that I would like to complete before the end of this week: learning Kana completely (I don’t want to be constrained by the Roma-ji and wish to read and pronounce Kana naturally), learning basic phrases, understanding simple verb forms and learning the grammar. Actually, that is quite a bit to complete but I think it is possible if I decide to study a few hours each day. I certainly have time at the moment to study as there are not many English lessons that I am teaching. And you never know, it would be really interesting to see how far I can push my Japanese language skills in three months.

I would like to share my progress of learning a language remotely to see if it is possible and also learn more about best practice for online language learning and teaching. And what better way to review this by undertaking an online language course. It would be interesting to hear whether other teachers have undertaken an online language course, and if they have the challenges that they have encountered. One thing that I have enjoyed with my first lesson is the opportunity to have a place to practice the pronunciation of Japanese within a supportive and encouraging environment.

See you in an update soon, where I share my online/remote learning journey.

Culture and the Language Classroom

Teaching and culture tend to go hand in hand with each other. Without culture, language would not exist and vice versa. I remember one of my tutors telling me that if you ever wish to learn about the culture of a country, you must eat their food. It is true, traditional cuisine is an important element of any culture and is the first step of understanding a culture. Nevertheless, if you wish to develop rapport with learners, wherever they are from, you must attempt to understand their culture and way of doing this is understanding important events.

Weekly videos on Wednesdays & Fridays at Noon (UK time)

One important event that is celebrated and is considered integral for Koreans is their Thanksgiving. If I wish to develop rapport with Koreans, whether they are my students or possible contacts, I would share my understanding when important events occur. As such, if there is an important event in China, with the Mid-Autumn Festival being celebrated at the same time as Korean Thanksgiving, I would be sure to wish my students or contacts a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival.

Culture is such an important element of understanding the people, functions and events of a country, that to withdraw culture from a language is impossible. From next Monday, I shall be starting my first ever online language course with my University: Beginner Japanese. One thing that I will consider to incorporate is understanding the culture of Japan. I have very little awareness of Japanese as a language and also little knowledge of their culture but I am keen to learn. I am looking forward to this course as this will give me the insight of the challenges that my online learners face when studying online.

I will be sharing my insight of online language learning in a future article and I can’t wait to share this with you. I hope my Korean readers are having a wonderful Korean Thanksgiving.

How do you incorporate culture with your language teaching? What do you consider important when learning more about a culture? Let me know in the comments.

Reblogged: Free Access to Twinkl | ELT Planning

My previous post was a contribution by Miranda from Twinkl and now they are offering free access to anyone based in South America, due to the school closures in these countries. Below is an original blog post by ELT Planning about the free access to Twinkl.

Just a quick one! Twinkl ESL are currently offering free access to users in South America in response to school closures. Miranda’s doing a great job at Twinkl and offering loads of awesome resources, many of which can be adapted for (or are even best suited to) online learning.

I found Twinkl really useful during online learning. I made various guided reading sequences on Seesaw using their resources and my learners responded well to these. I’ve since found other Twinkl resources useful for EAL classes with my Year 4 students (fronted adverbials for the win!).

Here are the access codes:

Colombia: educarjuntosCO

Mexico: educarjuntosMX

Peru: educarjuntosPE

Brazil: educarjuntosBR

Argentina: educarjuntosAR

For other locations just get in touch with Miranda via the Facebook group or via Twitter @Mirandacrowhur1

Hope you find it useful!

Here’s a recent post from Miranda at Twinkl on ELT Planning.

ELT Planning 30 September 2020

13 Strategies and Games for Teaching Writing

There’s no wright way to right.

A blank page. Just a question and a word count at the top. You stumble your way through an answer, sheepishly hand it in (with a funny feeling it’s not what your teacher wanted) and have it handed back to you later full of little red lines. Did you really make so many mistakes?

It’s no wonder that some students dislike writing. It’s boring or scary, and sometimes both – like a homemade horror film. But it doesn’t have to be! I actually promise this. There are so many ways to help students think creatively and love writing.

What activities are there to help you and your students get the most out of writing, I hear you cry silently at the computer screen. Weeeelllll … don’t you know it, I have some ideas.

Hang on in there and check out number 11 – it’s a method that will completely transform your students’ writing skills.

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“How To Write Grammar Presentations and Practice”: Book Review

I received a review copy of “How To Write Grammar Presentations and Practice” by Diane Hall and Graham Burton from ELT Teacher 2 Writer. This has been the first time that I have reviewed a book published by ELT Teacher 2 Writer and was very keen to share my thoughts and opinions. Looking at the blurb at the back of the book, it is aimed for teachers who wish to receive a theoretical overview of grammar, considerations towards good grammar presentations and practice, as well as practical tips for writing rules, explanations, and rubrics.

Watch a video review
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How To Teach Writing and Correction Techniques

There is an expectation from some students for the teacher to provide as much feedback as possible, whether it is related to one of the skills speaking, reading, pronunciation, writing, etc. In fact, when students produce some written work in their L2, teachers usually go through the writing and provide some feedback. In today’s article, I will look at how to proceed with errors in writing. There have three main approaches to correcting student written work – there is a forth but I will not go into this in this post.

The first approach to providing correction and feedback on student writing is correcting everything that the student has submitted to the teacher. This is quite a traditional approach to writing, but it may impact on student confidence towards writing in their second language. The second approach to written correction is providing feedback on selected parts of a student’s writing. This will not overwhelm a student, and usually a teacher will choose a paragraph to analyse with some feedback. The final approach to providing feedback or correction for writing, is with the use of symbols or a coding system. The coding system relates to the particular error, with the teacher drawing student attention towards the error in the hopes that awareness of the issues.

Don’t forget that I share videos every Wednesday and Friday at 12pm (UK time)

In this article, I share ten common codings that teachers can incorporate with their written feedback for students. Obviously, before attempting to incorporate a coding system, I would recommend that teachers introduce this system to students in the classroom before immediately handing back any written work. Students will need to become accustomed to this style of feedback and it is more learner-centred, with students having to discover the problems with their text. Therefore, learner training and tutoring is a valuable and necessary part when including this style of error correction and feedback.

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The Impact of COVID-19 to TEFL

In the context of COVID, we are sure that you are curious about where the English Language Teaching world is from a teaching perspective? This is a year that has affected all of our lives in so many ways and the effects of COVID have obviously had a major impact on the ELT markets around the world. In short, the ELT industry is still coming to terms with all that has happened this year.

To truly understand where ELT is at the moment, The TEFL Academy went about conducting an in-depth study of the industry as a whole. It is clear from their findings that many people are considering teaching English for the very first time. This is due to the increase in online English teaching English work that is now available, coupled with the emergence of ‘working from home’ being the norm for so many people around the world. Ultimately the closure of in-classroom schools did not cause a decrease in demand for teachers but indeed an increase with schools switching to online learning methods.

The TEFL Academy learned that many of their students and TEFL teachers’ original plans and ambitions have been altered this year. Perhaps your own teaching plans have been changed too? If this is the case, the following 6 findings from the recent survey will be of interest to you and may even surprise you somewhat!

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Is There A Difference Between ‘Remote’ and ‘Online’ Teaching?

I was watching a recent YouTube video by Cambridge University Press ELT about the ‘great reset’ with regards to online teaching. What struck me was the fact that more credence is being given towards ‘online teaching’ now, rather than before the pandemic. I remember chatting to some other English teachers and teacher trainers about ‘online teaching’ and enquiring why there could not be an input session about online teaching and language learning during an initial teacher certificate, such as the CELTA or the equivalent. Some reasons that were made included online teaching not being a true form of teaching or it being more a fad, with the majority of organisations – prior to the pandemic – being located in South East Asia. You only have to scroll through the various online teaching companies to notice that the vast majority are located in China, Taiwan or Korea.

A few years later, a number of physical institutions and organisations are having to catch up and compete with online institutions. As well as companies and institutes having to incorporate a change to redress the current emergency, many teachers, who were teaching face-to-face, now find themselves in the position to teach within an online environment. It is my assumption that the vast majority of English teachers and practitioners have had limited experience of teaching within an online environment, let alone learning online. This raises the question: “How can English teachers be qualified to teach English online if they have not been trained?”. Teachers who have completed various qualifications (CELTA, DELTA, etc.) have all focused within a physical classroom environment. Teachers themselves have also not develop the softskills to deliver lesson content online for students and those teachers who have years of experience of teaching synchronously for numerous organisations based in South East Asia, usually unqualified without a CELTA or equivalent, have not been consulted. I should point out now that I am not disregarding how organisations, institutes and professional teachers have responded to the emergency form of teaching, but I am merely wondering whether more can be done.

A difference between ‘remote’ and ‘online’

Nevertheless, the video that I watch (please see above), raised an important point about the difference between ‘remote teaching’ and ‘online teaching’. Ben Goldstein highlighted that there was a clear division both forms which is a good step forwards. However, I disagree with the division of terms above. Personally, ‘remote teaching’ is associated with the location, while ‘online teaching’ is related to the tools to deliver the lesson. You are ‘remote’ from the classroom yet using ‘online’ tools to teach the students. When you teach ‘online’, you are using a variety of both ‘synchronous’ and ‘asynchronous’ tools to deliver content – not everything is delivered synchronously when teaching ‘online’. When you teach remotely, you can be located anywhere – at home, in an institute or at a cafe. You are not restricted to teaching, unless you have a stable internet connection and suitable equipment. What I find Ben is describing above is how the industry is dealing with the pandemic (“Remote”) and what online organisations were operating prior to the pandemic (“Online”).

Anyhow, the video is well worth watching as it does raise important questions as well as opportunities that are available for educational institutes.

WordPress Website Tutorial for English Language Teachers

I have always believed that setting up your own English teaching website is a useful activity, as teachers can reflect on their lessons by keeping a diary and share their experiences with others online. I first created my own blog – as it was back then – on Blogger, before transferring my website to WordPress. I initially set up my website to document my experiences of undertaking an MA in English Language Teaching, yet soon realised that it could be used for so much more.

Since starting, I have been keen to get other teachers involved in developing their own website so that they can document their own practice and share with other English teachers around the world. One other professional English teacher that I was able to persuade to join the ‘WordPress cult’ was Peter who created ELT Planning. In this post/video, I share the process that you have to follow when creating your very own WordPress website.

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How To Become An Independent Online English Teacher

Becoming a freelance online English teacher is the aim for many educators, especially as we currently are in the middle of a pandemic. It has highlighted the importance of becoming more independent, building up a client base and supporting students who wish to continue their English studies. In fact, last week, I reviewed a book which had been sent to me: “Become an Online English Teacher” and also included a review on YouTube. I was asked a question on YouTube by one fellow Subscriber about the best online English teaching companies to consider working for and this got me thinking whether there was a ‘good company’ to work for, especially as most online English companies are based in South East Asia and I decided to make a video talking about this.

In the video, I started thinking about two ways to deliver online English education: the first was with an online English education company (usually based in South East Asia) and the other was to establish yourself as an online English teacher. However, what are the benefits for working for a online English company?

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