Well-motivated students learn better. This fact has been well-established for years and has compelled educators to develop different motivational techniques to improve learning outcomes in classrooms. If this is the case in a typical classroom dynamic, it is the same or even more so in the teaching of English as a second or foreign language. As it is, learner motivation is a crucial component in the success of any given ESL/TFL course–whether basic, intermediate, or advanced–because the learning curve that is needed to be hurdled is usually steeper, especially in basic level classes wherein the teacher has very minimal or no proficiency in students’ primary language. Without the linguistic connection with their teachers, learners with low motivation will have very low success rates in developing acceptable proficiencies in spoken or written English.
In many countries, the objectives for learning English are clear. Following the tacit acceptance of English as the default language in global discourse, governments around the world have already mandated the teaching of English in early-school curricula. But even beyond this mandate, private citizens and organizations are unilaterally employing native English speakers to further develop the English skills of students, artists, scientists, diplomats, professionals and other segments of the population to keep it abreast with global developments. It is the responsibility of ESL/EFL teachers to identify the learning objectives in each of their classes and discern their students’ level of motivation in relation to these objectives. For example, business professionals in Asia and Continental/Eastern Europe would want to learn English because it allows them to collaborate on a global scale, effectively giving them an edge over language-restricted colleagues in the corporate ladder. On the other hand, world travelers need a rich sampling of English conversational phrases in addition to the local language to be able to effectively engage native populations
Knowing the students’ purpose in studying English as a second or foreign language is the first step in developing the appropriate strategies for motivating them to achieve their goals. Without the proper motivation, language students will just waste money, time, and other resources without really developing the linguistic skills they are aiming at.
If you are an English language teacher or tutor who want to succeed in the field, you need to generate value by engaging both driven and under-motivated students. Self-driven, well-motivated students learn fast and often under their own volition. On the other hand, under-motivated learners intermittently encounter cognitive blocks that prevent them from fully appreciating the lesson concepts, much less apply these concepts in everyday communication. It is therefore, the responsibility of ESL/EFL educators to make their lessons sufficiently interesting in order to draw in as much involvement from all learners as possible.
Here are some commonly given industry advice that helps ESL/TFL educators infuse energy into their lessons.
1. Conduct a self-assessment. As an ESL/EFL educator, are you motivated yourself? Have you responded to the call because you sincerely believe that teaching English is the right and most fulfilling career path to take, or have you decided to teach abroad for other reasons? Have you brought with you the commitment to succeed in the field or are just hitching a ride to do something else? Remember, your own level of motivation affects the attitude of your students and their receptiveness to the linguistic concepts you are expounding in your lessons. Without commitment and motivation, you will likely deliver a mediocre job that leaves your employer, your students, and yourself feeling shortchanged.
Regardless of your reason for becoming an EFL or TFL educator, motivating yourself is crucial to the success of your teaching endeavor. To help motivate yourself, you may want to recall the classes, lessons, or learning encounters you liked best when you were an English student yourself. You may also need to modify your lesson plans so that your lessons and teaching methodologies excite you as well. If you are not personally interested in a particular lesson plan yourself, nothing’s preventing you from replacing it with something that positively enlivens your senses. By doing so, your own excitement will reflect on your students and they will more likely reciprocate the interest. If you clinch it, the overall experience will be favorable to all, with you generating value as an effective educator while your students developing the linguistic proficiencies for which they are taking your lessons in the first place.
2. Assist your learners in appreciating the value of English. This may seem basic to most teachers and students given the real demand for English learning. However, you can still translate its value in relevant, meaningful, creative, or surprising ways. For example, helping students understand the meaning of a compelling song, an advertisement or a short film in English that can strongly be associated with the local context can get them more excited to learn.
As a rule, students–especially more mature ones–would want to know if the course they are taking has a practical, real world benefit. If they are just taking it because it is mandated in their curriculum, you can still enliven your learning sessions by setting clear course expectations and helping your students see the course as a life-enhancing journey. The more they understand the nature and benefits of your course, the more they are likely to be receptive to the lessons.
3. Use Positive Reinforcement. Use this learning technique whenever possible but with reasonable restraint. Shift your students’ focus on successful encounters or achievements by giving honest phrases or rewards. Inform students whenever they are wrong but showcase and buttress any sign of progress along the way. Encouragement is an effective teaching aid, and it will help you steer the class towards your learning objectives. It would help significantly if you also get to know your learners by name and share interests, hobbies and other personal information with them. Discern their own purposes for taking the course and align some lessons to help them attain their own goals. You can also develop mutual empathy by asking them light, personal questions about what they are wearing or bringing to class, for example. This way, they get to communicate about things that are relevant to them.
4. Practice Variety. Doing things the same way every learning session is a sure way of making your classes boring. Bored students will have a harder time learning lesson concepts than students whose body and mind are actively involved in and focused on learning. Playing games, conducting contests, doing vocabulary work, telling stories, watching short films, and listening to music are just some of the activities that you can use to enliven your ESL/TFL classes. There are a lot more and you can design each lesson according to the needs or disposition of your students. Field trips are great for both teachers and students since places and objects of interest are great conversation pieces.
Introducing the element of surprise or changing the lesson pace once in a while will prevent learners from being too accustomed to a teaching routine that they eventually lose their enthusiasm to learn more concepts.
Motivating students should be among the primary goals of English language teachers simply because doing so will make their jobs a lot easier. That is, well-motivated students learn more quickly and with better appreciation of lesson concepts compared with students who are disinterested. In addition, adequate motivation will likely make the learning process itself more enjoyable to both teacher and student, creating an environment that is highly conducive to learning.
Michael G. Hines is an educator living in Thailand and the Founder of Icon Group – Educating the Future (IconGroupThailand):
Total ESL – TEFL Jobs Overseas
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Teaching English as a Second Language gives you the opportunity to live and work in a multitude of different cultures and cities. The country and city you live in play as important a role in your teaching experience as the school you work for. The sights and sounds series aims to give an insight into life in these possible TEFL destinations usually from local residents and film makers.
Opportunities to teach in South East Asia are growing. Salaries for teachers are rising and that extra disposable income could be used to see some of the breathtaking sights that this beautiful part of the world has too offer.
This video feature time lapse photography from Bangkok, Ko Samui, Mu Ko Ang Thong, Phuket Island, Phi Phi Islands in Thailand, Singapore, Bali – Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and Angkor in Cambodia.
The classroom is a social construct that is designed to facilitate learning. While learning can occur even when the only active participant is the student–as is the case when a person is reading a user manual–the most effective learning scenarios are those that involve the proactive involvement of both instructors and students. The fundamental benefit of a personal student-teacher type of interaction is that the feedback and control mechanism is firmly established and can always be invoked to maintain the learning direction towards pre-set objectives. Moreover, the learning process is essentially affected by peer-group relationships within the classroom environment. That is, the interactions between teachers and students as well as among students constitute the learning network within which lesson concepts are shared, affirmed, and built upon.
In a classroom environment, the teacher’s primary role is to impart information and orchestrate experiences that enable students to develop new skills or improve existing competencies. Additionally, teachers also have the responsibility to assess whether students are learning as intended based on lesson objectives, and make the necessary adjustments whenever challenges that hinder the attainment of these objectives are encountered. On the other hand, students are tasked to absorb new information, participate in new experiences and to take different types of assessment tests that determine whether they have correctly appreciated the lesson concepts. Without their active involvement in the learning interaction, students will find it difficult to learn new concepts even when their teachers are competent subject matter experts.
When a disconnect occurs between teachers and students, the class dynamic becomes ineffective. Learning ceases to take place. In an ESL or EFL classroom, the lack of adequate student involvement almost certainly spells cognitive failure, especially when the opportunities to learn and practice English outside the classroom are rare or isolated.
Group or collaborative interactions are critical in the success of contemporary learning engagements. Effective teaching always adopts innovative techniques that encourage feedback, teamwork, and the creation of a highly conducive classroom climate. This means that open, empathic communication between teachers and students should be established as early in the learning engagement as possible. In addition, students’ interpersonal skills and attitudes should be developed in a way that makes the learning process more compelling, collaborative, fun, and effective.
As it is, one of the most common challenges encountered by ESL/SFL educators are students who are unresponsive and who always tend to avoid any interaction with their teachers. Such a passive scenario can cause considerable frustration and disappointment among both teachers and students. For example, a teacher initiating a dialog in English may inadvertently be performing a monologue instead as students refrain from sharing their inputs. The reasons for the students’ hesitation or aversion to participate are many, including the fear of being wrong and subsequent ridicule from their peers. The reason can also be as fundamental as students not knowing what the teacher expects simply because the objectives are not clear or that a linguistic break in communication occurred. However, there are instances when students still choose not to participate even when they clearly appreciate the objectives, understand the question, and know the answer. The chance of drawing questions from this type of students, much less constructive feedback, is almost always nil.
ESL/EFL teachers who experience minimal, poor, or zero student involvement in their classroom interactions should immediately deploy various measures that encourage student participation and develop strong motivation for learning. Otherwise, the investment put into the classroom interaction by all its stakeholders will just go to waste. In many cases, the time, effort, planning, and money infused by teachers, students, and institutions to establish the learning environment are considerable such that simply proceeding with a flawed student-teacher interaction is almost criminal.
If you are a native-English speaker who have decided to teach ESL or EFL classes, the following tips will help establish an open classroom atmosphere, which will allow you not only to generate strong class participation but will also make it easier to draw in constructive feedback from your students. Based on several research conducted by educators around the world, these practical methods were demonstrated to have improved the level of student involvement in ESL/EFL classes.
1. Develop and demonstrate your own enthusiasm and motivation. There is only one thing that is more contagious than having a strong, positive attitude towards language learning: the lack of it. If your students discern that you are not excited about what you teach, what will make them be interested in it? At the onset, radiate your positive attitude about English learning. Think of why your students need to know what you are teaching them. Speak to students about how learning English can tangibly enrich their lives. Research about anecdotes and news reports that showcase the value of language learning and then enthusiastically share this information with your class.
2. Build positive, nurturing relationships with your students. Never give them a reason to fear you or be intimidated in any way. Natural shyness and the fear of saying something wrong are already obstacles your students are dealing with. Adding an intimidating teacher image into the brew will further discourage your students from opening up, thereby lessening their chances of attaining your lesson objectives. Speak to them using their names and learn their customs, hobbies, and interests. Nothing shatters language barriers better than common interests.
If there are unusually unresponsive students in your class, take time to engage them individually. Use email or other means to encourage them to communicate.
3. Hold students accountable for their learning progress. To get this properly accomplished, you may need to give occasional home works, assignments, quizzes, and exams. Make the process more exciting and enjoyable by integrating games and interesting group activities that require their full involvement.
4. Adopt different activities that are highly relevant to their own socio-cultural contexts. Remember that the more knowledgeable a student is about a subject, the more things they can communicate about it.
5. Encourage collaborative dynamics inside your classroom. Whenever possible, form students into pairs or groups wherein a balance between active and passive learners is maintained. This way, passive students may be encouraged to participate more.
6. Use humor whenever possible. Humorous situations generally reduce the level of inhibition among people, and feeling light about the seriousness of the lesson can draw more positive feedback.
7. Give your own objective but positive feedback. Promptly correct students when they commit mistakes but never in a way that embarrasses them. Give due credit or praise whenever possible in order to develop confidence and reinforce learning.
8. Practice variety in your teaching approaches. Nothing builds boredom than doing the same thing over and over in the same way. Games, contests, group projects, film viewing, art and music appreciation, and other activities should be used to enrich your class’ learning experience,
Due to their very nature, ESL and EFL classes strongly require active student participation. As language proficiency is highly dependent on practice and reinforcement, encouraging students to be more involved in the learning dynamics is critical in meeting all course objectives. The bottom line is for teachers to project a positive but unintimidating image and to design lesson plans that clearly establish the benefits of participation to students.
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All ESL teachers–regardless of training, experience, or competency–need a carefully drawn lesson plan in order to assist their students in attaining learning objectives, both on a daily basis as well as the long-term. Having a lesson plan is like having a complete and clear visualization of how a learning session is to take place and how students are able to grasp and retain lesson concepts. Numerous research indicate that pre-visualizing success in athletic competitions as well as business endeavors is a concrete step in the process of actually achieving it. The same is true with classroom engagements. Without a lesson plan, this visualization process is blurred at best and the learning outcomes that will be generated will be far from ideal.
That said, the importance of lesson plans in ESL/EFL education is difficult to overstate. ESL educators simply need to visualize daily lessons in advance and build the most appropriate teaching strategies into a comprehensive lesson plan. Otherwise, going to class without adequate preparation will most likely be detrimental to both the teachers and their students. Unprepared teachers will become mediocre at the job and will be viewed as unprofessional by their peers, superiors, and students. On the other hand, students under inadequately prepared language teachers will enjoy less-than optimum knowledge inputs and will generally have a low quality learning and appreciation of lesson concepts, compared with students under highly competent and prepared educators.
Given the substantial resources pooled into the learning session by students and education providers, an unprofessionally managed class is a terrible waste of time, money and effort. Moreover, students and teachers under this scenario generally have very low motivation to improve. Having a lesson plan and effectively using it as a guide for daily teaching will reflect your professionalism and reliability. You also present yourself as a good role model for your students who will come to appreciate the value of coming to class prepared and primed to achieve the lesson targets.
Lesson Plan 101
If you are new to teaching, a lesson plan is basically just a step-by-step guide on how the teacher intends to present a lesson and the ways by which students are expected to learn and appreciate the various lesson concepts. An excellent lesson plan is one that can be easily and effectively used by another educator in your place. This means that the ideal lesson plan is both clear and comprehensive. The details and elements of lesson plans vary, depending on the specific format mandated by the school or organization. However, the common components of good lesson plan include the following:
1. Lesson Title
2. The period of time (in minutes, hours, days, or weeks) necessary to complete the lesson
3. Class details (class name or section, age, skill level, etc.)
4. The lesson objectives
5. Instructional approach(es) to be used (this section describes the sequence of learning events as well as the techniques the teacher will use in helping students achieve the lesson objectives)
6. Instructional materials (such as a film, an image gallery, a music video, etc.)
7. Summary of and derived conclusions from the lesson
8. Methods for practicing the lesson concepts
9. Evaluation and testing methods to be used
10. Contingency plans or elements (This section describes subsidiary topics or additional techniques and materials that can be used to either fortify the learning gains generated during the session or productively fill up excess time. Fun and engaging, seat work, dialogues, and other activities are ideal for this section)
Unless a specific lesson plan format is required by the learning institution, most ESL practitioners tailor their lesson plans according to the teaching philosophies or techniques they believe in or are most comfortable with. In general, however, excellent ESL lesson plans have common characteristics that you should integrate in your own teaching strategies:
· Ideal lesson plans have a concise summary that fits on a single page. The detailed plan proper may–and often–exceeds this number, but the idea is to allow anyone to have a quick overview of the lesson.
· Great lesson plans are organized in a way that is easy and a delight to follow.
· Lesson plans should be strongly aligned with the needs and learning competencies of their intended audience.
· Each individual lesson plan should adhere to a continuity of lesson concepts and should not only fit in the curriculum but also reflect the overall vision of the subject.
· ESL Lesson plans should establish platforms for students to apply language learning to real-world situations.
In ESL education, lesson plans are crucial even in purely conversational classes. In order to establish an environment that encourages high quality learning and draws non-native speakers to articulate themselves extensively, adequate preparation is of paramount importance. Having a haphazardly designed plan is also inexcusable.
Types of ESL Lesson Plans
There are literally dozens of lesson plan types depending on the teaching philosophy followed by an educator or specific mandated by learning institutions. In ESL and EFL education, the most common lesson plans are those based on three main instructional approaches:
A. PPP (Presentation, Practice and Production)
B. TTT (Test, Teach and Test)
C. TBA (Task-based Approach)
Presentation, Practice and Production. PPP is a recommended lesson approach for many educators of ESL/EFL and is commonly taught in institutions that provide TESOL and TEFL certifications. Most English language educators believe that PPP is the root approach from which other approaches have evolved.
In a nutshell, PPP facilitates the presentation (teacher-centric) of new language concepts, the practice (joint participation of teacher and students) of the new language concepts, and the production (student-centric) of new language concepts. During the presentation phase, up to 80 percent of the period may be appropriated for a lecture or a teacher-led explanation of lesson concepts. During this time, the teacher may discuss grammatical issues, spelling, and common use of the new language concept. The teacher also raises concept appreciation checks to verify the students’ understanding of the new concepts. When students clearly understand the new concepts, the teacher may then proceed to the next phase. Otherwise a brief recap of the subject matter should be conducted.
In the practice phase, the teacher encourages students to participate more through orchestrated conversation graded recitation. Ideally, this phase should allow students to articulate 60 to 70 percent of the time, with the teacher assuming a secondary role as moderator. Written and verbal activities and drills should both be used, with varying intensities depending on the new language concept.
Lastly, students should be encouraged to dominate (90 percent participation) the production phase. The teacher only monitors the class dynamics and just give feedback as the lesson ends. By this time, students should be adequately comfortable with the new language concepts that they can accurately and fluently use it to communicate.
Test, Teach and Test. TTT is a frequently used alternative to the PPP method, wherein the production phase is sequentially moved to the first part of the lesson. During the (first) test phase that corresponds to the production phase in the PPP approach, students are more or less abruptly asked to communicatively produce a language concept based on their existing knowledge and without any prior guidance from the teacher. The teacher will then asses the students’ level of competency in the particular language area, determine their needs, and proceed with the teach phase (which corresponds to the presentation phase in the PPP approach) based on an overall assessment. The teach phase allows educators to discuss problem areas and guide students towards the correct use of the language concept.
The final stage of the TTT approach is the second test that aims to check how students have absorbed the new inputs from the teacher. The logic of this sequencing is for students to learn the new language concepts better by differentiating its invalid uses (most likely to be committed during the first test phase) from correct usage (likely to be accomplished after the teacher presented the language concept during the teach phase).
In general, the TTT approach is a good way for teachers to determine the specific needs of students in different language areas. With this knowledge, educators can optimize their teaching strategies to produce optimum learning outcomes. It is best used in intermediate and higher competency levels, as well as in classes where the students have mixed language proficiencies. However, one consistent criticism about the TTT approach is that it has an element of randomness since several, unexpected student needs may arise that is beyond the scope of the intended lesson. Despite this disruptive possibility, the TTT approach is still being adopted by many educators because it is very “economical” and “focused” in the sense that valuable time need not be wasted on teaching language areas students are already proficient with.
Task based Approach. TBA is a good alternative to either the PPP approach or the TTT method. In TBA-structured classes, teachers do not pre-determine the language specifics to study but base their lesson strategies on how a central task is completed by the students. Similar to the other two approaches, TBA follows a sequential progression: 1) a pre-task introduction to be conducted by the teacher; 2) the students’ completion of a central task involving a particular language aspect; 3) reporting, analysis and feedback to be performed by the teacher concerning how the students accomplished the central task; and 4) practice sessions to hone student proficiencies in the language area.
The task-based approach is advocated by many educators because of several clear advantages. For one thing, TBA allows students to employ all their language resources towards the completion of a task and not just pre-selected language areas as in the case of PPP. In addition, TBA utilizes natural, real-life language contexts that are highly relevant to students. Hence, language exploration and learning directly arises from students’ actual needs and not as suggested in textbooks. TBA is also based on the premise that a holistic exposure to language–as opposed to incremental exposures common to PPP–is a better way of learning a new language.
Based on the profusion of online materials, each approach enjoys strong support from their respective proponents. It would not hurt to try out each one depending on your classes’ learning environments. Remember, there is no written rule restricting anyone from modifying, combining, or optimizing any of the three approaches. At least in designing lesson plans, flexibility is a more preferred option than dogmatic rigidity. The bottom line is to customize the lesson plan that will help every one attain the learning objectives and deliver the best value for your students.
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When a school searches for a new teacher for an open teaching position, they already have an image of the teacher they want. Every school has certain qualities they feel a teacher must have to be successful. Those qualities can be many things depending on the needs and location of the school. While the qualities that each school considers important may vary, there are usually shared qualities that all schools would consider important to the job.
The experience or background of a teacher is the most important quality a school looks for so your resume should highlight the qualities they are looking for. If they are looking for an ESL TEFL TESOL teacher for kindergarten students, it may be best to highlight lessons that contain activities that you have initiated and prepared at your previous schools with regards to language acquisition. In addition, if you are looking at a position for a content subject such as science or math, highlight your knowledge and education (i.e. degree) in that area. This is especially important if you are a new teacher with little or no experience. Regardless, you should also have all academic qualifications available for the school to preview before you go for an interview. Most schools want to review the qualifications prior to hiring or considering applicants for a teaching position and will sometimes pass on teachers who don’t submit these items for review when applying. This is especially true of TESL TEFL TESOL training which is a requirement for obtaining a visa and work permit in most countries, regardless of the subject taught. Each school is unique so the best thing would be to have a cover letter that speaks to that school and the teaching job they are looking to fill. Don’t just have a blanket letter and teacher resume that you mass mail to any potential school looking for a teacher in the hopes of gaining employment. It may be beneficial to have a list of professional highlights that you can copy and paste into a cover letter based on the requirements of the position.
Another important consideration for schools is the personal qualities of a teacher. Most schools are looking for a long term commitment from a teacher so they want to make sure that teacher will fit within their school. The obvious qualities that come to mind are personable, positive and flexible/patient because these qualities will carry over into the classroom and interaction with your future students. In addition, the school will look at a teacher’s qualities with regards to their professionalism because there is much that is required outside of the classroom such as preparing lessons, creating worksheets and tests and the always popular grading of assignments. In other words, they will want a teacher that is organized and committed. If they feel that the teacher can’t be depended on, they may not consider them a viable candidate. One of the things that may highlight a teacher’s lack of commitment is a resume that shows numerous teaching positions over a short period of time. Remember that you will not be judged strictly by your qualifications but on the sum of who you are as an individual.
The factors that go into a school’s decision to accept a teacher are varied and many so it is impossible to cover them all. Regardless, cover the basics looked for in any teacher for any teaching job and then identify the unique characteristics or qualifications of particular teaching jobs. Remember that looking for a teaching job, like many other employment searches, is about selling yourself and the best way to do this is by identifying what the employer (i.e the school) wants.
The following is an abbreviated list of characteristics posted by a teacher in response to a UNICEF request to “What makes a Good Teacher?”:
Positive – Thinks positively and enthusiastically about people and what they are capable of becoming. Sees the good in any situation and can move forward to make the most of difficult situations when confronted with obstacles. Encourages others to also be positive.
Dependable – Honest and authentic in working with others. Consistently lives up to commitments to students and others. Works with them in an open, honest, and forthright manner.
Organized – Makes efficient use of time and moves in a planned and systematic direction. Knows where he or she is heading and is able to help students in their own organization and planning. Can think in terms of how organization can be beneficial to those served.
Committed – Demonstrates commitment to students and the profession and is self-confident, poised and personally in control of situations. Has a healthy self-image. Encourages students to look at themselves in a positive manner, careful to honor the self-respect of the students, while encouraging them to develop a positive self-concept.
Motivational – Enthusiastic with standards and expectations for students and self. Understands the intrinsic motivations of individuals, and knows what it is that motivates students. Takes action in constructive ways.
Compassionate – Caring, empathetic and able to respond to people at a feeling level. Open with personal thoughts and feelings, encouraging others to do likewise. Knows and understands the feelings of students.
Flexible – Willing to alter plans and directions in a manner which assists people in moving toward their goals. Seeks to reason out situations with students and staff in a manner that allows all people to move forward in a positive direction.
Knowledgeable – Is in a constant quest for knowledge. Keeps up in his or her specialty areas, and has the insight to integrate new knowledge. Takes knowledge and translates it to students in a way which is comprehensible to them, yet retains its originality.
Creative – Versatile, innovative, and open to new ideas. Strives to incorporate techniques and activities that enable students to have unique and meaningful new growth experiences.
Patient – Is deliberate in coming to conclusions. Strives to look at all aspects of the situation and remains highly fair and objective under most difficult circumstances. Believes that problems can be resolved if enough input and attention is given by people who are affected.
You can also practice answers to typical teacher interview questions like the ones on the following sites:
Virginia Polytechnic Institute: career.vt.edu/JOBSEARC/interview/TEACHER.htm
Resumes for Teachers: resumes-for-teachers.com/interview-questions.htm
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