Despite doing the CELTA course over 13 years ago, at the British Council Seoul, I can still remember my first day. I had just travelled over 2 hours from a small town outside of Seoul to get there and was very keen to become a fully certified English language teacher to foreign language students. What I hadn’t anticipated was the intensity of the course, coupled with the two-hour commute to Seoul and a two-hour commute back home. However, it was not going to be anything like my undergraduate degree (travelling to Southampton, from Eastbourne a few days a week for 2 years – a total of 4.5 hours).
I arrived at the Centre, along with eleven other trainees, and we were ushered into a classroom for a brief introduction and to undertake a get to know you (GTKY) activity. During the GTKY task which demonstrated the CELTA methodology for first day activities, we learned more about all the trainers, with their comparative experience, and the other trainees. After introductions were finished, a welcome talk was prepared and the Director of the British Council Seoul entered the room where he spoke about the CELTA course and it being recognised of the ‘boot camp’ of training English language teachers. A wonderful analogy, but one where I failed to mention that I had also been in a military ‘boot camp’ for the Royal Air Force eight year prior to the course. Once the Director of the Centre had said his words of encouragement and wished us all luck, one of the trainers prepared to deliver a foreign language course.
I was approached by Chris Rush, Content Marketing, from Off2Class to see if I would be able to review their website. I felt that this would not do their website justice, so we agreed to an interview. However, before we dive into the interview, I thought I would take this time to introduce Off2Class.
Looking at their website, they offer online teaching as well as student self-study materials. This is very similar to BreakingNewsEnglish or other teacher or student study material. Perhaps the difference between BreakingNewsEnglish and Off2Class is that the former website is free while the latter is accessible for a small fee. Obviously, I am unable ascertain whether the small monthly fee is value for money as I have been unable to review lessons that are incorporated for online or face-to-face lesson provision. Off2Class also upload English study and teaching related videos on their YouTube Channel but the number of subscribers are hidden from view. Nevertheless, when you visit their website, they offer a free account. Hopefully, this free account offered when registering helps guide possible readers on whether it is a suitable service.
Notwithstanding, the opportunity of online language learning and synchronous lesson provision has grown exponentially this year and some inexperienced teachers may feel more secure with the services that Off2Class is able to offer. I do hope that readers are able to make an informed decision with Off2Class and if you have used their lessons and service, then it would great to let other readers know in the comments.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a talk for the Korea TESOL Association about action research which I conducted over the summer months in relation to the challenges of teaching remotely. The talk included an overview and results of the research as well as practical tips for teaching different skills or functions remotely. A huge thanks to the KOTESOL Association for their support for the webinar and the recording is now available to watch in case you wish to learn more.
If you wish for me to provide a webinar in relation to teaching remotely, then please get in touch with the form below. I am also considering doing a weekly live webinar training session for teachers, so let me know if there is any interest with this.
What I found most difficult of learning a language remotely is the isolation that one is faced during self-study. I must try to learn the alphabet but as I encounter it, I am unable to complete the first activity in the main coursebook. I am still having to deal with a completely foreign alphabet and my go-to second language is Korean. Obviously I see some similarities to Korean but I still feel very much a baby in Japanese.
I was hoping to learn some basic grammar constructs independently but I feel that this is a very slow process. Hopefully, as the weeks progress, I will start to achieve more in my (own) language learning journey with minimal sessions online. So far, the online sessions have been great but I still feel very motivated to achieve more.
Games in the language classroom are a must, but there are a few things that teachers need to be aware when they decide to incorporate them for students.
The first tip that I recommend for teachers is to keep the game simple. If the rules are complicated and it takes more than 30 seconds to explain the rules, it will confuse the students. There are suggested ways to explain games to students but I will cover this in a future post/video.
The second tip that I suggest is to involve everyone in the classroom. If you don’t include all students in the classroom or online environment, then they will feel isolated and unhappy.
The final tip for incorporating games in the classroom is to ensure that there is more than just one winner. Try to give credit where necessary: “Best contribution”, “The strangest answer”, “The quietest student”, etc. If you give points to contributions based on the student and what they brought to the game or activity, it will increase interest.
Many thanks for watching the video above – a huge thanks from Twinkl for your support – and don’t forget to Subscribe to their YouTube Channel.
A huge thanks to Jo for writing a contribution about creating lessons for an online context. There are some very clear and logical processes involved in preparing and delivering lessons within an online context. One thing that perhaps needs to be considered is online teaching pedagogy and suitability for nationalities.
Jo has been teaching business, general and academic English for more than 10 years in Hungary, Poland, and in the UK. Having finished her DELTA, she became actively involved in teacher training, and is a regular presenter at TEFL conferences, an external lecturer of methodology and education technology at a Hungarian university, and a contents writer for several English teaching websites and video channels. In her free time, Jo just loves going downhill and jumping around in foreign forests on her mountain bike. You can follow her on Twitter and also visit Short and Simple English.
Hands up if you’re also trying to make the best out of the current COVID-stricken situation! Even though I can’t see you now as you’re reading this post, I’m sure many of you have raised an imaginary hand, or at least smirked a little. Every country and every school seems to have a different approach to dealing with the second wave of the virus; some prefer face-to-face lessons with masks and social distancing, others went fully online, and some decided to pick hybrid teaching. In this post, I’d like to show you how you can make an online course work well!
0. You’ll need a place where everything comes together
I could say that any shared drive will do, but in these post-first wave times I think we can all agree that using a VLE (virtual learning environment) makes our lives much easier. Not only does it keep everything organised, it can also be used for day-to-day communication, assignment submission and feedback, so I would suggest setting up one as your step zero. But which one? My go-to solution is Google Classroom, and not because I’m sponsoring them 🙂 I like its clean, minimalistic design, and even though I miss some small features, it does everything that I need it for.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).