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…)

Top Mobile Apps for English students

In class, we ask our students to put their them away but not surprisingly, smartphones become the most powerful tools for students to continue their language learning outside the classroom.

In recent times, more and more students have approached me to ask for app recommendations. There are hundreds of apps in the market and while it is true that not all provide good quality instruction, it is also worth keeping in mind that different apps cater to different learners and learning styles. Therefore, it is important to make students familiar with a variety of apps so they can choose the one that works for them.

One way to do this is to design a simple task on the first day of the course. Divide students into small groups of 3-4. Give each group a list of 3-4 apps to download, play with, and rate according to a set of defined criteria. Ask students to make a list of 3 pros and cons of each app. Then reshuffle students and in their new groups, students present all of their apps, the pros and cons, and the one they liked best. (more…)

Moodle: Little magic, more misery

An ESL school has recently been trying to use Moodle as a learning platform. I say ‘trying’ because so far, it has been a resounding failure. And to most people, it comes as a huge surprise because Moodle has been hailed as the best LMS for online learning. It comes in at #12 on the list of top 100 tools for learning.

But it’s not surprising. While Moodle is a very powerful and customizable learning platform, there aren’t many people that take the time to understand how to unleash its power, properly.

In the case of this particular school, no training has been provided so far, teachers don’t even know whether they should log in or not, and students have shown little to zero interest. The design of the school’s Moodle site is neither captivating nor intuitive. The content is repetitive and redundant – the administrators are using course book listening activities which the teacher will do in class, uploading them to Moodle, and adding gap-fills and true-false questions to supplement classroom learning. While an online platform should encourage everyone to go paperless, students are given paper worksheets to answer questions found on Moodle. The future of Moodle in this school appears to be bleak. (more…)