Hello. This is a short blog post to provide an update with regards to my what has been happening recently and to thank all those that have subscribed to my YouTube Channel.
Over the past month, I have been rather quiet and took a short break from producing video content for my YouTube Channel – there has been quite a bit on my mind and I have had to process much. I shall share this in the future but for now I am happier and more content. One reason for this was being asked to teach a short week course for a group of Spanish teenagers for a local language school – you can read more about it in this blog post. This really got me out the house and put me back where I enjoy – the classroom!
Anyhow, there is a video below where I provide a bit of an update. I am planning to release more content on YouTube in the coming weeks and it would be wonderful if you could subscribe (if you haven’t already).
I told you this was a short blog post! Anyhow, that is it for me today and I hope you have a good rest of the week. Stay safe and happy teaching all!
The past couple of years have really caused havoc for the English language sector in the UK, with many language schools closing completely down over the past two years. Only recently, in the UK, have we started to feel a sense of normalcy returning with some schools private English language schools opening up to international students once again. Only the past few weeks, have I noticed more students locally, wandering around my hometown – something which was once considered the norm a few years ago. On a personal level, I know a handful of people who have travelled from abroad to the UK with nominal checks before and after arriving. So in terms of English language teaching, the UK is open for business with international students having the opportunity to visit and experience what was lost the past few years, so much so that I was asked to teach a small group of teenage Spanish learners over the Easter break, for a week.
I popped into the school the week before to reacquaint myself with the various material available and to pencil down a possible weekly plan. It took a few hours to get everything together but I was quite happy and then I was asked to cover an adult class for an hour while my ex-Director of Studies undertook some tutorials with his students. It was quite an interesting lesson and I thought about focusing on pronunciation and vowel sounds as this would help these Elementary / Pre-Intermediate adult learners develop their skills with listening and generating appropriate awareness of British pronunciation. It included a listening task with some comprehension questions and the students done a good work picking out all the necessary answers from the listening. Personally, it was a good chance to be lowered softly into the private English teaching industry post-pandemic.
Before I knew it, the lesson was over and I was registering as an employee for the school for the week ahead. All was submitted and I was out the door, returning to the school to teach a new group of young Spanish teenagers, and this was when the butterflies and nerves started to grip. I guess some experienced teachers and tutors not mention the amount gravity of such apprehension when dealing with new students. First lessons always provide a healthy balance of nerves and keen me on my toes. Anyhow, I had a few days to relax before returning to the school to teach a full week with new students.
The weekend seemed to whizz by, and I was back in the school around 8am to get my material photocopied in preparation for the 9am start of class. I met all students, who were divided into three classes. I took my students into their classroom, where I decided to start what had been the usual get to know you activities with the true and false statements, with students having to predict which were true or false, but this ended up finishing far too quickly. I then realised that the students were not provided with any books or pens, so I had to incorporate some engaging yet ‘material light’ activities in class for the 45 minutes. I then rushed to the DoS’s room to collect said pens and materials for the students. I returned to class and most of the week, I attempted to connect both the morning lessons with the students social activities in the afternoon. I even used LinguaHouse’s material which was received adequately with the students. Interestingly, I have only used LinguaHouse’s material within an online environment and the students seemed appreciative of the tasks – one advantage of this material is it is topic-based and hopefully more engaging for students. The only time that I decided to focus on my own source of material was when I was introducing the learners to the phonemic chart and British pronunciation – I discovered early on that the Spanish group of learners had difficulty with ‘-ed’ verb endings, often mixing up the pronunciation from /t/ to /id/.
One thing the students reminded me to use in class was Kahoot! I had used this with face-to-face course in the past and it was so refreshing to use this application again in the last ten minutes of class. It engaged the learners and they were the ones requesting that we use it in class.
Before I knew it, I was now on Friday, having taught the students for the week. I asked the school if I were to be paid time and a half due it being Good Friday, but I was told this wasn’t the case. I was slightly miffed by this as another adult teacher was contracted to be paid time and a half, so my feathers were a little ruffled, which prompted me to share a poll on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of participants indicated that being paid time and a half should be the case.
However, I should mention that there is no UK law in place where employees should be entitled to time and a half when working on public holidays. One thing that I used to do a few years ago was to work public holidays and then take the time off in lieu and combining with holiday entitlement, usually with a holiday to Korea or elsewhere. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to teach a group of young learners as it had been over three years – even before the pandemic – since I had last taught a closed group. Naturally, I was nervous to begin with but over the coming days, I rediscovered my passion for teaching, particularly face-to-face, and regained my confidence once again.
How do I feel moving on with teaching face-to-face? Well, I feel more comfortable and happy to teach groups of learners, whether adults or young learners. I am also aware that I hold a great deal of flexibility when it comes down to teaching either for a University, a local language school or independently as a freelance online tutor. As students regain their confidence to return to learning in-class or on-campus, I feel more confidence with my employability. It has certainly, without a doubt, been a challenging few years with many suffering from economically from the pandemic. I know some great EFL teachers who have moved on to other more stable forms of income, with some working within the NHS or within different industries. Personally, I am fascinated by languages, cultures, and travelling, with the opportunities to be exposed to varied cultures and individuals continues my fascination so it is unimaginable to think that I side-step General, Academic English teaching or exam preparation such as IELTS.
I hope you found my ramblings of some use and that it struck a chord. Here’s to a better 2022 for the English teaching industry.
For the past month, I have been supplementing my English teaching income by working as a Teaching Assistant within the mainstream education system in the UK, especially with those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Having spent this time developing an awareness of the issues surrounding SEND and the all encompassing yet broad stroke applied to any students having difficulty with learning in an educational setting, I thought it would be nice to share my experiences and strategies that I have incorporated to deal with SEND students, particularly for those English language teachers finding themselves having to supplement their earnings who have minimal experience within this area of employment.
Before continuing the reading of this post, I would highly recommend the following TED Talk to give you an idea about living with autism.
Today’s blog follows on eight hours of online lessons over the course of a day – probably one of the longest stretches of teaching remotely – so apologies for the lack of readability or stating the obvious. Anyhow, in this post, I thought that it would be best to focus on the aspects of feedback provision within an online environment, after previous posts on dealing with first lessons with private students and another with online activities to get students speaking.
When one is not within the constraints of a physical classroom, an English teacher may find the online distance further enhances the separation to provide feedback in a prompt and candid manner. Most students that book private lessons, explain that they have received little feedback from previous teachers, and the main reason for finding another tutor is due to this. Thus, it is crucial for all online private tutors to provide a level of feedback that is expected by students.
Teaching individual students can be a challenge to be honest, especially when learners expect their teachers to contribute more during online lessons. After teaching privately to individual students, especially for those that are preparing for IELTS, I wanted to share some of my favourite speaking activities that I tend to incorporate during online lessons to get my students speaking and communicating more.
Activity 1: Wheel of Words
Wheel of Words is a great tool which I tend to use for a variety of purposes – one of which is to randomise conversation questions. Essentially, you write in your conversation questions or copy and paste them into the text box on the right of the website.
I tend to share my screen when spinning the wheel, and once a question is chosen, confetti shoots up and the question is displayed fully. Students find this rather engaging and entertaining, then proceed to answer their question. The best thing about this is you can save questions in Word and then import them into Wheel of Words, or refer to the Internet TESL Journal website for inspiration on questions to ask on particular topics. Otherwise, you can choose a variety of common questions which may arise on certain topics within the IELTS exam and randomise the choice of them by using this website.
Activity 2: Tell Me Why / Give Three Reasons
A huge thanks to David Sweetham for sharing this activity with me on Twitter (refer to his Tweet below), but I have found this a joy to incorporate into most of my conversational lessons.
Based on the activity that was shared, you choose one card for student(s) to talk about for a few minutes. As David mentioned, you can attempt intentionally wacky topics or ideas to get students thinking outside the box. It takes minimal preparation – always a bonus for me based on my Dogme-esque approach – which can then be used effectively with online IELTS conversational lessons. Here are some example conversational prompts to give you an idea of how this task runs.
Give three reasons why everyone should learn another language.
Tell me why rabbits make better pets than hamsters.
Present three reasons in favour for national service.
Give three reasons outlining why social media is harmful.
As you can see, being as creative and wacky as possible is a bonus. Students are forced to reason or justify their thoughts. This will help students gain greater confidence with dealing those challenging questions in the IELTS exam.
Activity 3: Odd One Out
A popular speaking activity in the physical classroom is getting students to reason why a particular object or word is the odd one out compared to the others. There is not a correct answer, as long as the reason is valid. I used to incorporate this activity in lessons and students found this task engaging and motivating, often allowing learners to develop their fluency.
You can either provide each group of words one at a time, by using Wheel of Words or by some other tool, or all at once as a document. Whatever approach you decide, you can give your individual student a short while to prepare and then allow students a short time to explain their reasoning. This task is engaging and motivating, and can be adapted for groups of students if needed. It is also a suitable activity for those learners preparing for the IELTS examination.
Activity 4: Picture This
The final activity that I enjoy incorporating into my individual IELTS preparation online lessons is getting students to respond to pictures on similar topics. It is very quick to prepare a selection of images within PowerPoint, Word or Jamboard, and then share the screen to students asking them to talk between 2 to 3 minutes explaining the similarities or differences about the pictures.
It is a task which naturally focuses on the use of comparative forms but getting students to draw similarities will require a bit of practice and creativity, especially once you have sourced rather random images for the activity. Again, it is a task which lends itself well in preparing students for speaking in English, as well as developing their confidence in communicating and expressing ideas or opinions.
What are your favourite individual speaking activities to get your online learners developing their fluency? Have you tried any of the activities shared in this post? If so, how did learners respond to them? As ever, please share in the comments.
Teaching trial or demonstration lessons are part and parcel of teaching privately to students, in which teachers and students should meet to ensure both parties are happy to continue lessons with each achieving that much needed rapport in the initial of online. As such, online private English tutors need to make a good impression in that first hour. If not, the tutor will have a challenge to convert the learner into a paying student – this is the crux of the matter.
So what should private tutors do to make a valuable first impression and how best to achieve this? In this post, we will review this and I will share my tips and tricks for establishing a good relationship with potential students.
Last week, on the Twitter sphere, Tyson Seburn was polling to see how many tutors were using emojis with their general communication with students – either in email or via class pages (such as Canvas or Blackboard).
This got me thinking about the pedagogical benefit of using emojis within a teaching context, and I had used emojis to teach basic vocabulary to beginner online students. For example, for learners who has very little to no English, this difficulty is alleviated with the use of images or pictures, and thus emojis are a quick and easy solution. If I wanted to ask students if they liked or dislike apples, I would use the following emojis to help express the question.
As you can see, for lower levels of learners, teachers have a quick and easy way to use emojis within an online environment. However, you don’t have to stop there with regards to using emojis with beginner students. You could use emojis in a more creative manner. I have created a free emoji worksheet for teachers to use with their face-to-face or online lessons. It is probably best suited for the general English classroom, possibly younger learners, with an emphasis on adjectives and general feelings (i.e. exhausted, well off, etc.).
Lesson Material for Teachers
The first task is for learners to match emojis to their corresponding adjectives – the first one is done. The next is for learners to guess the possible translation, before learners check with their translating tools.
There is a brief discussion for learners which could be used as a prompt to discuss the use of emojis within their context. Next, there is a story, with gaps and emojis to help, which students are to complete before sharing with their fellow students. The final part of this lesson is for students to retell the story without referring to the script. I hope you enjoy this lesson activity, and a huge thanks to Tyson for the Tweet which got me inspired to create a lesson using emojis. I may even use emojis with my EAP students!
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