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Sneaky micro-writing activities for students who hate writing

I’m so happy to announce my first-ever guest post on Ms.ESL. This one is by Stuart Price, a fantastic ESL teacher with about eight years teaching experience, who also happens to be my husband! Without further ado…

I love writing and I love teaching writing but since coming to Saudi Arabia, I have found it a tough task. When it comes to writing, Saudi students have a unique set of problems, apart from the ones that plague nearly all ESL students:

  • the whole Roman script thing
  • no vowels in Arabic which leads to astonishing spelling problems
  • writing from left to right and
  • a lack of ideas to put into a paragraph of short piece of writing

As well as the usual paragraph structure / ideas flow issues, this makes writing a particularly demotivating task for students here. But as I said I love writing and like a moth drawn to a flame, with the inevitable frazzled end, I can’t but try to pass on, if not my love, then at least a glimmer that it is possible to write 150 words about your last holiday or to cobble together a story from a picture board.

So I sat down and gave it some thought. And after some serious mulling I figured I would need a two-pronged approach to 1) address their structural / compositional needs and 2) increase the amount they wrote (to give them practice) but in a way that wouldn’t seem labourious, or like ‘oh-no-not-more-writing!’. (more…)

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CELTA: What will you learn?

Whether you have zero experience teaching or a few years’ worth, if you are considering the CELTA, you have probably wondered what you will learn from it? There is a reason the CELTA is the world’s leading TEFL certification and even though the intensive course is only four weeks long, the CELTA certificate is globally recognized as one of excellence. So what tools can the CELTA give you which you will need as an ESL teacher? Or if you already have some experience, what new tricks can a four-week course teach you.

As a CELTA trainee back in 2009, I was one of only four people in my group of twelve that had no prior teaching experience. As I struggled to keep my head above water planning lessons, writing assignments (you can download my CELTA assignments here), and dealing with a two hour commute everyday (yeah, I lived in San Jose and drove to the BART, then took the train to San Francisco to attend the course.. I honestly don’t know how I ever managed to pass the course!).

Anyway, as a trainee all those years ago, all I knew at the time was that there was a very steep learning curve for me. Last year, after I did the CELTA Trainer-in-Training, I realized exactly how steep that learning curve is. (more…)

CELTA Assignment: Lessons from the Classroom

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I decided to take the CELTA because it seemed like a fairly easy way to make some money while I traveling. However, a mere month’s exposure to teaching has given me the confidence to pursue teaching English as a serious career alternative, should I ever get sick of political antics and swindlers’ conspiracies. All through my life, people told me I would make a decent teacher. Now, I believe it. I believe it because I have braved the utterly nerve-racking schedule of assignment submissions and lesson planning and teaching without falling apart. Though I learned a lot from our wonderful trainers (full credits to Gabbi and Maureen) and my absolutely wonderful classmates, I really have miles to go before I sleep (literally).

A month is a very short time to learn something but it is admirable that all of us have had such a tremendous growth curve. Personally, I know I have become much more confident about standing in front of a classroom full of students and talking about the finer points of the English language. (more…)

CELTA Assignment 4: The story

Written sometime in mid-2009:

The last of the four assignments we did during CELTA was a piece of cake. The only horrid part about it was that we had to do it in the last week, when we also had to present our hour-long lesson plan, which had us all in a frenzy! In the midst of all the excitement, the end of the course and all, we also had to deal with the Fart Machine madness.. hahaha. Fernanda, the crazy Brazilian teacher doing the CELTA with us, was intensely fascinated by all things nubile. She bought a fart machine to use on her students back in Americana (near Sao Paolo) but used it in class with us first! hahaha…. I have to admit, it was fuuuuunny, and I was her partner in crime 😉

Anyway, so in the midst of the madness, we had to do this assignment on lessons we’ve learnt during the CELTA. Again, there were all kinds of arbit guidelines we had to follow.. it was intensely stupid, but the only way to ensure my $2500 did not go in vain was to follow the guidelines. Sigh.. bureaucratic paperwork! (more…)

CELTA Assignment: Language Skills

Most of the students in my elementary teaching group are students who have come to San Francisco for a few weeks or months to study English at St. Giles. Many students eat out regularly at cafes and restaurants. It can be a challenge to find a good place to eat everyday – a place that is inexpensive and in the neighborhood.

Yelp.com can be a useful resource for students to help them decide where to get the next meal. To develop their reading and comprehension skills, I chose to introduce students to reviews on Yelp.com. I chose the reviews of a neighborhood restaurant that all students will be familiar with. An authentic text will help students develop and practice their receptive skills while exposing them to written English used by native speakers.

With the chosen text, students will be able to practice skills such as skimming for gist, reading for comprehension and scanning for information. (more…)

CELTA Assignment 3: The story

The third assignment we did during CELTA was also fun. We had the choice of doing the assignment on either Reading Skills or Listening Skills. Since we also needed to reproduce the materials for the assignment, everyone obviously chose to do it on Reading Skills. Much easier to just copy, paste text from somewhere than get listening material. I wonder why they even give us a choice.. haha!

We also had the choice of picking reading material straight from the book or choosing an authentic text (text that has actually been published – online or on paper – and not been graded to the reading level of the ESL students). I definitely wanted to an authentic text.. I was bored to death with the awfully boring stuff in the ESL textbooks, and I thought students must find authentic texts more interesting, even though it can be more challenging and may contain words they haven’t come across. (more…)

CELTA Assignment: Focus on the Learner

PART A

For the purpose of this assignment, I interviewed Maryanne Yamamoto, a 28-year-old Japanese student in the Elementary English class. Maryanne works in a trading company in Japan. Her job requires her to read documents written in English and speak in English with clients. She wants to improve her spoken English and receptive skills so that she can communicate effectively.

Maryanne began studying English in school at the age of 13. She studied English literature for four years in college but says she didn’t learn much. “We study Shakespeare but not full book, only short (extracts),” she says.

Maryanne said she likes to learn English by speaking, writing, looking at pictures and working with friends. With the help of a Multiple Intelligence questionnaire (Multiple Intelligences and Language Learning, 2005 Alta Book Publishers), I determined that she has high linguistic intelligence, visual/spatial intelligence and interpersonal intelligence. This proves that she learns best by seeing, speaking, visualizing and hearing the language, and working in groups with other students. (more…)