3 awesome teaching tips from Laura, our ESL teacher of the month!
28 janvier 2019
Meet Laura, who is a 3rd cycle ESL teacher at the Commission Scolaire de Montréal. This year, she’s teaching Grade 6. She is fortunate to see her students one full day each week, so her creativity and ideas have lots of time to materialize. As our January teacher of the month, she’s shared 3 of her best practices for an ESL classroom.
1. Keep students involved by allowing them to personalize their learning environment.
From the beginning of the school year, Laura gets her students interested by engaging them in what they are learning. She knows how important it is for students to stay motivated. This is her main priority as a teacher, and it works! She uses activities that allow her students to personalize their learning such as through drawing and projects. The Poptropica English series helps her keep her students motivated. She has her students draw themselves as a Poptropican or create their own avatar, based on the Poptropican characters. They then describe the character in the 3rd person. The students love it so much - especially since the Poptropicans have no necks or noses (great teaching moment here as it puts essential language in context!). Laura uses the Grade 6 Poptropicans and the avatars her students create as a springboard for their year-long adventure. This personalized approach motivates them to continue their learning. She hopes, by year’s end, to find a special role in the Island Adventure for the students’ avatars.
2. Use students’ prior knowledge to build on learning.
Laura is a firm believer in the transfer of learning, whether it be what students already know in English, or what they’ve learned in other subjects. Transfer of knowledge is an easy way to build on learning in general, and it is especially helpful in learning English. This can easily be done by asking students simple questions about what they already know, or their prior knowledge, which is a common strategy used in language learning. For example, Grade 6 students already know a lot about animals. In Poptropica English one of the themes is wild or exotic animals. This is not something students may have seen in English before, but they may already be familiar with it. Laura starts her class by asking what animals they already know and fun facts about them. She writes students’ answers on the board. The activities include statistics about the animals’ length, weight and other interesting facts. Students are also asked to compare these exotic animals in English, so that their prior knowledge learned in other subjects such as French and social science helps them feel more confident when learning ESL. It also gives students an extra push to go a step further in their second language.
3. Provide authentic models for oral interaction.
This is not always easy. Sure, the teacher is one, but speaking in English is challenging for any second-language learner. Teachers want students to gain confidence in order to do that. Providing accessible and authentic dialogue really helps. Laura uses herself as a model to show correct pronunciation, and also uses strong students to do this. Ideally, exposing students to as many native speakers as possible helps them improve. Laura deals with this challenge by using short model dialogues in context. Students first read or listen to them, then have time to practise. Authentic models (from the teacher, students or native speakers) are a great way to help ESL students improve. Using in-context model dialogue for each speaking activity is a great way to go. Doing this reduces stress as students do not always possess the vocabulary or grammar structures to have a real conversation. Sometimes they do, but may not be inspired by the subject. Model dialogues are generally short, simple and reinvest grammar and functional language. They can also be used for pronunciation and intonation practice. Poptropica English includes many model dialogues.Laura’s students sometimes pretend to be a Poptropican and even change their voices to match the characters’ personalities! Since students hear audio versions of the Poptropicans in action they are easy to imitate. All this means fun, fun, fun! Students become interested in practising their oral interaction skills and have lots of fun doing it!
If you, like Laura, have great ESL teaching tips of your own, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and take part in creating a vibrant knowledge pool for ESL teachers!