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10 ESL websites that will save you a ton of time

10 ESL websites that will save you a ton of time

Teachers are very busy people, and it’s always a struggle to find enough time to put together high-quality content for lessons. The problem is perhaps more acute for online language teachers, who often deal with learners of very different ages, needs and levels of ability. Factor in unsociable working hours and the effort of turning print resources into digital resources and you’ll understand why teachers need all the help they can get! 

That’s why I’ve decided to throw together a list of some of the websites I’ve turned to over the years. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but I wanted to cover as many types of learners as possible, from young to old, beginner to advanced. I’ve provided a brief explanation of what to expect on each site, but my advice is dive in and take a look for yourself. Hopefully you’ll find something that makes life easier when the time comes to throw together a last minute lesson. Read More »

Should language teachers correct their learners?

Should language teachers correct their learners?

To correct, or not to correct? That is the question…

Actually, no. When it comes to teaching languages, it is much more nuanced than that. Rather the question is how, when (and when not) to correct in order to achieve the maximum benefit to learners in terms of language development and motivation. 

Investigate the subject and you will soon discover that there is a spectrum of opinions concerning the role of corrective feedback in language learning. Some say that uncorrected errors become habits with negative consequences that can persist for years. Others insist that errors are a vital part of learning and that excessive correction from the teacher negatively affects motivation and self-perception as a language learner. Occasionally, these beliefs are tied to the teacher’s own preferences as a language learner, but more often they come from the broader educational context and the expectations placed on students and teachers. Read More »

Transcription for Language Learners: Is what you’re saying the same as what I’m hearing?

Transcription for Language Learners: Is what you’re saying the same as what I’m hearing?

I’ve been teaching English language learners in Japan for more than a decade, and in that time I’ve developed a keen sense of their strengths and weaknesses in the language. Not all learners are the same, of course, but there are patterns that I know will reliably surface with each new batch of learners. For a long time, however, there was a particular problem that I was reluctant to take on in my classes, pronunciation. 

Not to make excuses for myself, but because I’ve been teaching homogeneous groups for so long, I’ve grown accustomed to the first language interference that affects Japanese speakers’ pronunciation of English. In other words, I’ve stopped noticing the systematic flaws in the pronunciation of my students. 

A lot of those I teach end up studying overseas in America or the United Kingdom. Students returning from these experiences often reported some kind of failure to communicate that stemmed from poor pronunciation. Most recently, a student told me of how his attempt to order a soft drink, “Coke, please”, resulted in him being handed a cookie by the staff at the counter of a fast food restaurant.  Read More »

Video Recording: a great way to reach out to remote learners

Video Recording: a great way to reach out to remote learners

As teachers, the COVID-19 crisis has forced a great many changes in the way we do our jobs. Not all of these have been easy or comfortable. Personally, I’ve had to transition from blended learning to being completely online. Although my classes have always featured a lot of online tasks and activities, the change has brought significant challenges. Truth be told, it’s been exhausting.

With all the effort of preparing my online lessons, it was only recently that I found the time to wonder how the learners were being affected by all of this? For students whom I’ve never met face-to-face, it’s hard to know. However, I was able to reach out to some of my former students who are still studying to ask them how they’re making out. Read More »

Voice Shadowing: What is it, and can it help you to learn a language?

Voice Shadowing: What is it, and can it help you to learn a language?

Voice shadowing is a language learning technique in which a learner listens to a recording of native speech and repeats the words aloud along with the speaker. The requirements for voice shadowing are simple. All that students need are a pair of headphones and a level-appropriate audio recording in the target language.

Choosing the Right Recording

The length, speed, and complexity of the text are all factors to consider when choosing a recording. At lower levels of proficiency, it can be difficult to find something appropriate, and it is often better (and easier) for teachers to make the recordings themselves. In years gone by, teachers supplied their learners with cassette tapes or CDs, but these days it is much easier to record and distribute audio to students online using a free service such as Record MP3 Online Read More »

Enhancing Structured Output Activities with Recording

Enhancing Structured Output Activities with Recording

As any good language teacher knows, learners cannot improve their speaking without abundant opportunities to practice. One-on-one, unrehearsed conversation is the best method for improving speaking across all levels of proficiency. However, most learners have limited opportunities for this. One-on-one instruction may take place once or twice a week (if at all), and so other methods are needed if learners are to improve fluency and accuracy in the new language. 

Structured output activities are designed to encourage learners to use newly acquired vocabulary and sentence patterns productively (i.e., through speaking or writing). For the purposes of this article, we will focus on speaking. Structured output activities have two distinguishing characteristics: Read More »

10 Fun Ideas for Using Recording in Your Lessons

10 Fun Ideas for Using Recording in Your Lessons

Recording is a great way to help language learners focus on their speaking, reading, and pronunciation skills. Listening to themselves speaking is a great reflective practice for students of all levels which helps create awareness of strengths and weaknesses in the new language. Here are 10 fun ideas using recording that you can incorporate into your lessons. Read More »

5 Strategies to Improve Pronunciation

5 Strategies to Improve Pronunciation

One of the most difficult aspects of learning a new language is mastering the pronunciation. Sometimes the new language contains sounds (phonemes) that don’t exist in the learner’s native tongue. Sometimes patterns of intonation are unfamiliar and difficult to imitate. Sometimes the learner transposes features of pronunciation from their first language to the new language. Whatever the challenge, these five strategies can help your learners to dramatically improve pronunciation. Read More »