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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A Wandering of Websites 2: Useful On-line Resources for English Teachers

It's polling time! With elections coming up (aren't there always elections 'coming up') in many countries, we thought we'd do a little polling of our own.

As we discovered one of our great teaching resources below we thought it would be fun to show you some of the functionality, sorry, I mean what you can do with it, ourselves. We'll publish the results in another posting on this blog once a few of you have had a go at filling it in. So go and have a look now - it's fun, interesting, and should give you some great ideas on how to use this cool tool with your students.

Of course, the Survey Monkey is just one of the five great new teaching resources we have found for you this time. Check out the rest below and be sure to let us know what you think... and to recommend your own favourites!

NEW This offers a series of short This is one of those sites where you can type in some text and get the computer to say it. I must admit I'm wondering exactly how useful this could be for language learners, but there's a definite schoolboy thrill, along the lines of looking up naughty words in the dictionary when you were a kid, in getting Heather from the US, or indeed Rachel from the UK in her lovely 'proper' English accent to tell you to... oh well, let's not go into details, I'm sure you can amuse yourself no end with your inventive phrases and I defy you to keep a smile off your face as you listen to the results. I just hope they don't display a link of past requests anywhere...

'The world's most popular web-based survey tool', they claim, and it's true that this is a great site to incite interaction with your users. It's free, and allows you to easily bang up questionnaires in a jiffy. Fast, that is. Look, I've created one just for you, to show you some of the question types available...!

The image here shows an attempt I had at 'branding' the survey with the Hotch Potch English colours, but it was just at the end of the process that I realised this was part of the 'pro' option. Shucks, but you are probably thinking 'Thank god for the Pro Option, judging by those colours'... I chose their 'Purple Passion' standard option in the end. It ain't Hotch Potch English, but it's better than nothing.

I wanted to give you access to the results of the survey without giving you my account login but... it's a Pro Option! So I'll content myself (and you?) by posting a brief summary of the results here once a few of you have done the survey - watch this space... and let us know if you have had fun using the site - why not create a survey and send us the link in the comments section below?

And as it says on the box... (or the home page, at least) this site is all about 'funny and weird news about stupid crimes, ignorant politicians, heroic toddlers and much, much more' and it certainly delivers.

Current headlines include: Will love songs put sharks in the mood to shag? / Prison van carrying convicted bank robbers crashes into security van, thousands missing / Man auctions permanent advertising tattoo on back of neck...

Current fun facts include: Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts / American Airlines saved $40,000 in 1987 by eliminating one olive from each salad in first class / 200 million people in China live on less than $1 a day...

Fascinating stuff, and clearly exploitable in class by the innovative English teacher, n'est-ce pas?!

I was just about to recommend the authoritative yet amusing daily word e-mail posting from Your Dictionary, one of the best of these things out there in my opinion, when I realise I haven't been getting them for the last few days. Searching frantically through my inbox finally turns up a message soberly announcing the last word of the day e-mail from Your Dictionary! This is a shame, as it was one of the few which managed to inject a bit of humour into these po-faced thing, but never mind. Apparently this is so they can concentrate on making Your Dictionary even better blah blah blah, but anyway, do have a look at the site as it does, in fact, provide a LOT of interesting language content, including a large resource section for teachers which is worth browsing.

OK, I'd better get this one out of the way! If you type '' into your browser you immediately get a rather nasty page from a weary-sounding company called 'Audacity, Inc' and a curt black message telling us in no uncertain terms: 'We DO NOT make audio software'. It is some indication of the success of the company which does make the excellent free audio software known as Audacity that the company which owns '' have to devote their prestigious home page to telling people who they are not!

Well, whatever the story, if you follow the link above you'll get to the Audacity which does make audio software, and a fine product it is too, especially regarding it's free. It does take a while to get to know, and I would certainly recommend getting a knowledgeable colleague (look for someone with thick glasses and spots and sticking out teeth wearing a 'Kiss a Geek Today' T-shirt...) to get you started. Oh, sorry, Audacity allows you to record stuff in lots of formats and do some fancy stuff too. I use it to take the hiss out of my dodgy podcasts and free weekly English lesson recordings.

I must admit, I've seen worthy educators giving valiant presentations to enthusiastic souls on how to use Audacity to make their lessons the next best thing to being there, but I can never convince myself that your average teacher actually goes straight home and starts using the thing. Like a lot of the amazing technology out there, I have a feeling that many teachers, even if IT-ready, still prefer reading about it than actually using it just yet, or - same old story - simply don't have the time. Tell me if I'm right. OK, or wrong...!


© 2010 Sab Will / Hotch Potch EnglishWill Power English : A Wandering of Websites 2: Useful On-line Resources for English Teachers
Sab Will is Course Director at TEFL Paris, a TEFL Certificate Teacher Training Centre validated by IATQUO

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

One-to-One English Teaching: Top 10 Tips for Great Lessons!

Share Share Us!
Although some professional language schools here in Paris tell us that up to 70% of all professional language teaching is on a one-to-one basis, not all TEFL Certificate courses actually prepare you for this.

So here is my first attempt at a list of ten key points to bear in mind when it's just you... and... him (or her of course)! Let me know what you think and feel free to add some more, thanks.

Great One-to-One English Lessons: Top 10 Tips List

1) Ask Them What They Want
And give it to them! It's their lesson - their private lesson - and everything should be directly relevant to them.

2) Keep Your Shareholders Happy
You often have to keep several people happy: the student in front of you, the student's training department who chose your language school, your language school's director of studies, without forgetting yourself! So be aware of what all of them are looking for - often not the same thing - and try to give them all something to make their lives better.

3) Variety, Variety, Variety
Provide lots of varied activities for the student - it's more intense in a one-to-one situation so you need to keep changing the exercises regularly or you will both get bored.

4) Get Personal
Prepare highly personalised topics for your student based on his or her interests or needs - there's no excuse for not doing so. (but see No.7 below)

5) Personality Counts
So let's hope you've got one, eh?! If normal group teaching is a highly personal experience, for one-to-one teaching we need to replace 'highly' with 'intensely'! Personality clash? No-where to run. Boring, unmotivated student? No-where to hide. The fun, fast-moving lesson buck stops with you. So do your best to establish a friendly, professional approach from the start so that any problems down the line will be seen as being the exception rather than the rule and you should be able to work them out.

6) Perform Regular Rain Checks
Just because you get on well with them and they still smile quite often doesn't mean that they are totally satistied. Indeed, exactly because you have built up a friendly atmosphere may make it more difficult for them to let you know that they're not as happy as before. So ask them regularly if they are still getting what they want, if not why not, and change to rectify the situation.

7) Stay Professional
As long as money is changing hands, you ain't friends. You can never be friends. As long as money is changing hands. That's an important thing to remember. As long as they are the client and you the service provider they will be expecting you to bend over backwards to improve their English and if they don't feel that is the case, and you don't address it because you think you have become 'friends' and can get away with any old stuff, problems WILL arise.

8) Provide Structure, Not Content
The teacher provides the structure to the lesson but it is the student who will provide the content - the actual topics they want to study. Of course, the teacher may end up providing most of the materials, articles, etc., but in a one-to-one these should be closely linked to what the students has said they want or need.

9) Have Different Hats
At one moment you have to be interested in the student's son's soccer game at the weekend, the next firmly getting the student down to work and finally reassuring them that they really are making progress when they can't see it. If only we got paid in relation to the number of skills the average teacher needs!

10) Follow The LTP Approach
This is my own invention, what I call the Three Pillars of Being a Great Teacher, and is applicable, in my opinion, to any kind of teaching. LTP stands for Language Teaching People, and the idea is that to be a great teacher you need to love all of them. You need a love of Language (your chosen subject), a love of Teaching (the competences needed to help your students learn) and a love of People (the fundamental requirement to lead a happy life in our society). Read more here.
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Comments, as ever, are very welcome.
Sab Will is Course Director at TEFL Paris, a TEFL Certificate Teacher Training Centre validated by IATQUO


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