The role of the language teacher in the classroom

The role of the teacher in the classroom must not be underestimated. So whether you’re still wet behind your ears or have grown prematurely grey due to the many years of teaching, here are some good reminders

  1. Be keen and approachable. Make sure your students know your name. You have an identity. Apologise when necessary.
  2. Avoid too much TTT (Teacher Talking Time). No matter your students’ level they want to be able to speak. A lot of a teacher’s talking time is just lost on the students. It feels very teacher-oriented when one is explaining a lot and spending a lot of time setting up activities, but students still don’t know what’s going on.
  3. Teach the students, not the plan. The teacher must be adaptable and flexible.
  4. Find a balance between allowing students to communicate freely and proper pronunciation correction.
  5. Avoid a deluge of photocopies. It’s very easy to get disorganised. From the very beginning encourage students to create their own book with the copies and a binder.
  6. Don’t expect perfection, and give encouragement. Sometimes the teacher is so eager on perfection that they won’t let students utter anything without it being perfect.
  7. Seek a balance between the grammar, vocab and pronunciation. 

 

The par excellence teaching approach philosophy today is “student-centered” which is all right and good, but then again, perhaps the classroom provides a space in which learners can basically get all the answers that they wouldn’t get if they were just out in the wild west of the real world, where nobody is there to lend a hand and it’s all just a question of survival. That’s where the teacher fits in.

This does require a particularly nimble teacher – one who is able to adapt on the spot and come up with feedback, drills, little practice exercises and questions that identify the specific problem the student has, how to remedy it and how to let the students practise it correctly. It also requires that the learners are able to go with the flow too. teacherprofiles-infographic11

Happy teaching,
Cheers,

Mo

Source: Thanks to the notes on teacher observation provided by Luke Thompson. Teacher Luke’s English Podcast https://teacherluke.co.uk/2018/02/16/512-my-experiences-of-not-learning-french-part-2-learning-language-in-a-classroom-vs-learning-on-your-own/

 

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Parla Usted English? The blended approach

English is a flexible, malleable language. It is constantly changing, maybe even faster than other languages due to the huge influence it has worldwide in addition to the different cultures and languages immigrating into English-speaking countries.

In my case I feel passionate about the English language, the sounds, the complex yet simple grammar. How many books do I have about the English language? Most definitely over 22 – just about the English language – I’m not counting grammar or literature books.

Now many people learn English through their gaming addictions.

As an ESL/ EFL teacher, I try to encourage my students to enjoy the language learning process…. don’t see it as an end in itself but rather as a means towards an end.

One point of contention is that some students want to learn grammar while others just hate the sound of the word.

Grammar apple
Grammar can be presented in an attractive and practical way

Since the inception of the communicative approach, the main trend in teaching grammar has been as an integrated part of the lesson. When teaching the simple past for instance – regular verbs  – many false beginners have already seen them but never learned the proper pronunciation.

They will be fated to fail when trying to say these verbs for instance.

ASKED

PHONED

So the best approach is to integrate grammar into the other skills, they’ll learn the grammar but also the listening and speaking part of the language .

Defenders of teaching grammar as a stand alone part of the class is that it would get lost in the noise of other points – it’ll be explicit teaching. Many times the proper grammar has never been acquired because it’s never been noticed.

So a blending of the two approaches would bring the best of the results. That’s I would call the Blended Approach.

blender
Blending approaches in language teaching yields the best results

Cheers,

Mo

 

Why Brazilians – or Japanese, Koreans, Spaniards, Etc – don’t speak English properly

Ask anybody from Santiago to Shanghai and they’ll answer the same: English is a global language and very important to learn.

So … why is it that after decades of public efforts in several countries to teach students English  as a Foreign Language  success can be so limited and even negligible?

Let’s use Brazil as a reference but (it most certainly applies to many other countries in Latin America, Asia or Europe).

in Brazil (almost) everybody in public and private schools studies English as a foreign language – there are around 57 million students in primary and secondary education but a very little percentage can claim to have a remedial level of English. Why is that?

1. English is taught as another subject not a tool – lack of proper speaking skills and pronunciation and accent reduction in both teachers and students make them embarrassed and afraid of speaking the language.

2. Out-of-dated English course programmes with focus on grammar and rote memorisation. Asking primary and secondary students I could observe that over 60% of those questioned don’t like to study English, but over 80% replied that it would be nice to have an English aptitude level for university entrance exams and / or traveling abroad. IMG_9708

3. The sheer dimension of the country and the prevalence of a monolingual society with lack of incentives towards learning a second language. Brazilians in practical terms miss academic and professional opportunities in other countries because they can’t use English properly.

This scenario will only change if and when foreign language teaching becomes a tool towards a goal and not an end in itself, and the teachers on the front become multipliers of language learning and not barriers.

Keep on learning,

Cheers,

Mo

 

5 easy steps to start thinking in your target language

Quite often I come across students who say they have been studying English for ages but they still can’t think in English. thinkThey spend precious time translating the word or phrase they’re trying to say. They feel discouraged and frustrated with this lack of performance. A couple of weeks ago  I came across these very brief and useful tips on how to fix this problem. Check out Simple English Videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/vickihollettvideo)

Here are the 5 easy steps to help any language learner internalize and start thinking in English, Spanish, Portuguese or any language they’re trying to learn:

1. WORDS – look around you – do you know the names of all the objects surrounding you? Look them up. Expand your vocabulary.

2. SIMPLE SENTENCES – use those words in simple sentences – that painting is on the wall. There’s a stapler on my desk.

3. THOUGHTS – internalize those words and ideas – say them aloud and also just think of them.

4. CONVERSATIONS – try to talk to someone in English – a friend, a co-worker, etc. You have nobody to talk to? Get a little text and read it aloud – listen to your own voice

5. DREAMS – by practicing the 1 through 4 steps daily, pretty soon you’ll be having dreams in English.

Presto – you have overcome the translation barrier – now your language production and reception will be smoother and faster.

Happy thoughts,

Cheers,

Mo

Language-e1444740047506

 

Estudando uma língua estrangeira

Muitas vezes, pessoas me  procuram em busca de um professor para aulas de inglês, espanhol ou francês e sempre perguntam:IMG_8412

Hi 😊
Tudo bem Moacir?!
Então, estou pesquisando sobre aulas de inglês e lembrei de você, por isso entrei em contato com você por insta, pois não sabia entrar em contato.😅
Gostaria de saber qual a frequência de aulas semanais mais apropriada para o aprendizado, se vc tem disponibilidade de noite ou fds e qual seria o valor das aulas 😊

Um contato sempre é bom – se alguém está cogitando fazer aula comigo é porque algum aluno já indicou ou a pessoa já me conhece de algum evento. Claro que o ideal seria fecharmos o contrato e iniciarmos as aulas. Mas já faz um bem danado ao profissional saber que está na mente de alunos/ clientes em perspectiva.

Geralmente minha resposta segue as seguintes linhas:

Hello, X.

Obrigado pelo contato. Olha …,  o número de aulas semanais vai depender dos objetivos que você tenha: viagem a passeio? Trabalho? Desenvolvimento pessoal? Acadêmico? Manter o inglês atualizado pra não enferrujar, etc.

Nisto entra o seu nível de inglês – Beginner? Intermediate? Advanced?

Em média as pessoas fazem 1 ou duas aulas de 60/ 90 minutos por semana. Depende também  da disponibilidade de tempo e dinheiro.

Por que só uma ou duas vezes? Porque o aluno precisa assumir o controle do aprendizado… o aluno tem que passar tempo ouvindo – muito, mas muito mesmo. Tem os vídeos do Ted Talks no YouTube que são muito bons ou documentário do NatGeo ou History Channel. Também pode baixar podcasts e ouvir enquanto vai para o trabalho, por exemplo. São excelentes para praticar o listening. Então o aluno precisa praticar todos os dias – mais tempo, mais progresso. Zero tempo? Zero progresso.

Além disso, o aluno precisa incorporar à sua rotina alguns momentos para ler e pensar na língua que está aprendendo. Claro que não estará compondo poesia,  (pelo menos de início)  Rsrsr, mas estará se familiarizando com a nova estrutura do novo idioma.

No meu caso como professor leciono presencialmente – o aluno vem até o meu office – ou online via Skype ou FaceTime. No momento não tenho horários à noite. Quanto ao fds como Adventista guardo sábados, domingos e feriados. Rsrs 😂😂

Lógico q o preço da “consulta/ aulas” varia com cada profissional mas como valor de referencia cobro R$ X por 4 horas/ mês.

Mas é o q falo para o pessoal – se as pessoas fossem todos os sábados à English Sabbath School Class no UNASP SP e estudassem a lição diariamente nem precisariam de professor.

Cheers,

Mo

Desire to Learn English

This afternoon, my 8th grade niece came home saying that she had received her English coursebook which included an audio CD but she couldn’t understand the instructions or how to use that material.

I said, “Come on, don’t be lazy, that can’t be that hard. Didn’t you pay attention to your teacher explaining how to use it?” But I must confess: it is difficult. The coursebook assumes that students have had 3-4 years of continuous English instruction so they can understand text and oral instructions. Nothing could be further from the truth. The students can’t simply make heads or tails of what they’re supposed to do. To add insult to injury the text is monolingual and just leaves the students hanging in there – sink or swim. coursebook

I’m not just blaming the teachers, who have 30-40 students in a classroom to work with, but I do know many of them are not qualified to teach English as a Foreign Language at all. Some of them not even know how to use the coursebook and no one bothers to explain to their students how to use the CD or to self-study. In some other cases (not just a few – the teacher says to the students: “I’m a teacher of Portuguese and now I’m required to also teach this …. (fill in the blanks) English language”.

Consequence – year after year students finish elementary school and secondary school having learned – hopefully – the verb to be and nothing else.

The government’s initiative to provide quality textbooks is praiseworthy but training on how to use the material is equally essential. That’s the least they can do. I remember my first formal school contact with English was in 6th grade back in 1976. By teacher, very wisely I must say, rejected the use of any textbooks – she developed her own curriculum and used dictations and the blackboard to teach us reading and speaking. I’m telling you this: I learned much more during those 9 months of class than in the next 2 years with another teacher who made us buy the coursebook – which was not bad – we used the same book in the 7th and 8th grade and not even then did we manage to complete the syllabus for the book that was geared to 5th graders.

The problem with the teaching of foreign languages in schools won’t be solved until it ceases being an academic subject and becomes a tool for the teaching of other subjects. My suggestion would be to require more user-friendly textbooks (clear bilingual instructions, transcript of the audio activities) which could be used for self-studying.

Meanwhile, the educational system will continue sending to private language teachers, tutors and language institutes hundreds of thousands of frustrated and scarred students.

My apologies to you, Maria Eduarda – Since I’m sure she can’t understand this in English (Peço-te perdão, Maria Eduarda).

Cheers,

Mo

Why pay a language teacher if I can learn for free?

With the ubiquitous presence of the internet there are tons of resources online for people willing to learn a foreign language to study for free. So why would anyone be willing to pay a teacher for lessons?

There are some people who can really learn on their own – I am one of them.  Regarding how I learned English, I never paid a private teacher or language school. A big factor was money and lack thereof – there simply wasn’t any funding to hire a teacher no matter how low his or her fee.  I compensated that with lots of passion for the language being daily in contact with it by listening to the radio and reading books and magazines. Moreover, some people find it easier to learn a language than others.

But as I developed my career as a teacher I had to attend teaching training courses and programs where I could identify and fix many of my faults and lack of knowledge which had been preventing  my full development.

Here are some reasons why professional help can make the difference in your learning:

  1. A teacher will help you identify your language level and develop strategies to make progress to the next level;
  2. A good teacher (emphasis on good) will equip you with relevant up-to-date material appropriate to your level. A teacher will provide you with quality material and practice. Many online videos and materials are outdated and with a very low quality;
  3. A teacher will highlight some important points you must correct and avoid some mistakes. The teacher will provide a reference for the student on his language intelligibly, pronunciation, vocabulary collocation, etc;
  4. You will be able to find answers to your questions;
  5. Even if you’re dating or married to a native speaker of the language you’re learning quite often they will not be very patient with your learning process. They won’t know how to correct you and even worse they may end up mocking you and dismissing you as a “silly Brazilian“. (Of course, it’s a whole new story if you’re dating your English teacher 😜)

To sum it all up, to have a private instructor will be an invaluable tool, but it will not discard your active role in the learning process.img_7652

Happy learning!

Cheers,

Mo