Start the School Year with Teaching Students These Four Skills

I recommend teachers help their students develop the following four skills from the very beginning of the school year as they set the tone for powerful, engaging and self-directed learning.

  1. Researching

Tell your students that your main job nowadays is not to give them the information but it is to teach them how to find the information.

  1. Contribution

Encourage students to make meaningful contributions to their surrounding environment. Teach them how to do so. When they have the opportunities to make such contributions they will be motivated and working hard.

  1. Working on projects

Let and help students determine projects that they are passionate about to work on during a certain period of time. Teach them how to plan their projects and provide them with useful resources.

  1. Working together

Help your students build teams or groups. Teach them the rules of teamwork.

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20 Tips to Develop Thinking in the Classroom

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If you want to increase your effectiveness at teaching, the first thing you should do is to encourage your students to think, and then develop their thinking skills. Here, I would like to share with you some actions to do in the classroom to encourage students’ thinking and develop their thinking skills.

  1. Act the role of a facilitator or a guide not a lecturer or a preacher.
  2. Show enthusiasm for challenges and complex tasks that require students to think.
  3. Present your lessons in a logical and organized sequence.
  4. Use the kind of language that invites students to think (e.g. compare, classify, predict, suppose that, etc)
  5. Ask open-ended questions, wh-questions, why do you think so?, what if? and other kinds of questions of higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy that require students to think.
  6. Create problematic situations and encourage students to find creative solutions for them.
  7. Encourage students to ask and answer each other’s questions that provoke thinking.
  8. Encourage students to apply their past knowledge and experience to new situations.
  9. Move around the class and encourage students’ mobility.
  10. Encourage students to interact and cooperate in doing certain projects.
  11. Organize your class in various and different ways for different activities (e.g. pairs, groups, individuals and whole class)
  12. Value thinking and show creative works of students around the class.
  13. Use a variety of visual media to facilitate learning and encourage thinking (e.g. charts, wall sheets, videos, maps, pictures, flash cards, body language, etc)
  14. Encourage students to respond in any way without fearing of making mistakes and give supportive comments on incorrect responses.
  15. Create various and different evaluation activities.
  16. Always ask students to clarify and justify their answers.
  17. Always ask for alternatives or different points of view.
  18. Ask students to expand their answers adding more points.
  19. Encourage students to reflect on their thoughts or points of view.
  20. Ask students for clear and realistic ideas and asking about how to apply them to everyday life.

20 Questions to Ask yourself Before Printing your Test

Ask and answer the following questions before printing any test. Improve the test, then go ahead to print it.

1. Is the purpose of the test clear?

Is it a unit, month or end of term test? Is it to test what?

2. Does the test match the test specifications?

Are number and types of questions, distribution of marks, length of the reading text and time allowed as in the specifications?

3. Does the test content match the syllabus content?

Are the vocabulary, structures, functions, reading and writing questions in the test included in the syllabus?

4. Do the test questions match the objectives of the syllabus?

Do the test items measure to what extent the objectives are achieved?

5. Do the test items cover the cognitive levels?

Do the test items encourage students to show understanding, apply what they’ve learned, analyze, combine and evaluate?

6. Is the total time allowed clearly mentioned?

7. Are the marks for each question clearly written beside the question?

8. Are instructions clear on what exactly students have to do?

9. Are instructions grammatically correct, spelled correctly and written  in simple, clear language?

10. Are the format and layout clear and easy to follow?

Regarding to format:

  • Are the pages and all the questions numbered?
  • Is the font familiar and easy to read?
  • Are the texts and spaces well distributed?
  • Are the pictures and tables clear?

Regarding to layout:

  • Are the instructions clearly distinguished from the questions?
  • Are all relevant questions on one page?
  • Is there enough space for students to write their answers?

11. Are the questions organized in appropriate order from easy to difficult?

12. Are questions independent of each other? (students should not answer one question depending on another)

13. Are the questions in the right level according to the students’ level?  

14. Is the answer key available in a separate paper, correct and complete?

15. Is there only one correct answer for each MCQ?

16. Are all acceptable answers included in the answer key?

17. Is there a clear rating scale for marking writing question?

18. Are the marks easy to compute?

19. Are all questions free of bias in any way?

20. Is the test as a whole free of any offensive language?    

The First Five Things to do to Manage a Classroom

For teachers who return to teaching in the schools, I know that the most difficult thing to do is to master classroom management. But, you know, classroom management is not to be strict but it is simply to be organized. If you want to have a classroom run smoothly, you should set up a structured learning environment where certain behaviors are praised and others are discouraged.

I think the following five procedures will help you teach in a quiet classroom with students attentive and observant to you.

  1. Create a friendly but respectful relationship with your students.

This kind of relationship is very important to create learning opportunities. Start at the door with a smile, greet your students and shake hands with some of them. Use your students’ names and actively praise them. Know them and their needs and use this knowledge to adjust your teaching methods. If you have a good relationship with your students, you will be able to push them harder and further to learn because they will trust you.

  1. Train your students on how to understand and learn in the classroom.

You should have a learning philosophy that guides your teaching methods in the classroom; tell it to your students. Tell them that you don’t expect them to be at the same level in learning but add that you have some steps if they follow they will learn. Write these steps on the board in the first period or spread over a printed copy of them. Don’t forget at the end of each period to summarize what students should learn to give each student the opportunity to practice self-evaluation.

  1. Prepare your mind and materials well.

Managing the classroom includes managing the time minimizing lost time in activities like handing out papers, taking attendance and announcements. You should protect your time and increase the time spent on learning. You will not be able to do so unless you are well mentally prepared. You should know how to transition students from one activity to another without wasting time in order not to give them any time for side talks.

  1. Anticipate your students’ behavioral problems.

Anticipation is not enough, but you should put in your mind the solutions. Don’t go ahead directly to punishment but build activities or ask questions that can lead students to return to the lesson and attention.

  1. Establish behavioral standards from the first day.

These standards should hit the main points regarding showing respect, communicating correctly and coming prepared to learn. Explain the standards of performance, as well as the limits of behavior.

Practicing classroom management should begin at the start of school and throughout the year.  It needs to be flexible, tolerant and smiling to manage your students. These are my priorities for managing classrooms, what are yours?

Eight Back-to-School Tips for ELT Supervisors

The supervisor should concern for creating a successful relationship with the teachers from the first day of the school year. This will make teachers enthusiastic, respectful and admirable of their work and their supervisor. Considering that, the supervisor should:

  1. Explain what he can offer to the teachers clarifying that his goal is to collaborate with them to develop their and the students’ four language skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing.
  2. Ask to observe a class declaring that his goal is not to watch how the teacher teaches but in order to learn along with the teacher.
  3. Give suggestions and ideas that can be put into use and be ready to collaborate with the teachers to implement them.
  4. Provide teachers with basic teaching resources that can be used and adapted for the students creatively.
  5. Role model some teaching practices getting the class engaged and motivated.
  6. Guide teachers to write focused and meaningful objectives to lessons.
  7. Help teachers to reflect on their teaching by providing them with the time to contemplate on the day’s lesson.
  8. Convey encouragement and support along with professional respect and personal interest.

In closing, supervisors should be eager and excited of teaching and learning and share these positive feelings with their teachers. Being active listener and giving the feeling of partnership are responsible to give teachers a head start along the school year.

Hard but not impossible

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Learning a new language is not easy. It is hard for adults and busy people to learn a new language that sounds differently from their mother tongue and that they don’t use outside the classroom.

It is really hard, but not impossible. Recent studies suggest that you can get better at a foreign language simply by listening to it, without speaking it yourself.

In other words, if you listen regularly to podcasts in the language you’re trying to learn, you will learn it at the end.

One hour listening practice a day following with some simple tasks is a good start to improve your listening comprehension and increase your ability to distinguish sounds.

Also, it is recommended to watch TV shows or short video clips and read material written in the language you are learning.

The goal is to be surrounded by the target language at all times and immerse yourself in it. Still, you should be both passive and active when you learn a foreign language, that is to listen and speak, read and write. In other words you should receive and produce something in the language you are learning EVERY DAY.

 

Best MOOCs for EFL teachers

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There are so many MOOCs for EFL teachers. I selected the following courses as I think they’re the best ones for EFL teachers to get the basic professional development. If EFL teachers take these courses, they will acquire the theoretical background of language teaching approaches and they will develop their teaching practices in the classroom as well.

* Teaching for Success: Practices for English Language Teaching

https://www.futurelearn.com/programs/english-language-teaching

1. Lessons and Teaching.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/english-language-teaching

2. Learning and Learners

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/english-language-teaching-learning

3. The Classroom and the World.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/english-language-teaching-classroom

* Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/understanding-language

* Teach English Now! Second Language Listening, Speaking, and Pronunciation

https://www.coursera.org/learn/tesol-speaking

* Teach English Now! Second Language Reading, Writing, and Grammar

https://www.coursera.org/learn/tesol-writing

* Teach English Now! Lesson Design and Assessment

https://www.coursera.org/learn/lesson-design

* Introduction to Teaching English as a Second Language

https://alison.com/courses/Teaching-English-as-a-Second-Language