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Category Archives: teaching

>By Amanda N. Parmley – Fortune Institute of Technology, Taiwan

In my business English class, when we do the phoning unit, my students are assigned to call me and make an appointment with “Bob Jones.” I pretend to be Mr. Jones’ assistant. Then I call them right back, and they have to role-play being an assistant for “Susan Smith” who is out of the office.

While conversing with them on the phone, I fill out a chart giving them feedback on what I heard (so they can see if I heard is what they said), tips for what they can improve on, and things they did well. They also record in their “listening logs” (a written account of listening outside of class) what they heard (ie phone number I left with them, my message, and role-played name).

One teacher asked about getting calls at all hours of the day. What I do to prevent this is I tell them what time is ok to call. For example, I tell them I only answer the phone for my fake business on Wednesday and Thursday from 6-8 pm. They can use Skype, my cell number, or home number to reach me.

After this activity, for the remainder of the unit they have to make calls to each other and record them in their “listening logs.”

At the end of course evaluations, hands down this is their favorite homework / assignment. And, they always ask if we can do it again.

I enjoy giving them the opportunity to practice their phone skills actually on the phone. But I only do it twice a semester since it is so time consuming.

For my pronunciation and public speaking courses, they submit recordings as mp3 files of different things throughout the semester to my email. I listen and then comment by Email on their recordings. I have tried using cassette tapes and “oral dialogue journals,” but I found tapes to be way too time consuming and a logsitical problem in carrying them around.

I am always looking for ways to improve, so I would love to hear what others are doing this area.


>By Jennifer Wallace – Anhui University of Technology, China

I treat the monitor as the class manager/administrator, and expect them to work FOR me. I’ve only been teaching here a year but see great potential for using this person in the class! We also have a study monitor (university classes) who I appreciate having doing the running round chasing up people who’re not handing in work on time. I think as ever, it would have been wonderful if someone could have pointed this out a year ago!

My native-speaker-more-experienced-colleague regularly takes his monitors out for meals to get feedback, and as the relationship’s got established it’s worked productively – both ways.

And in the UK student feedback on teacher performance is routinely included in the monitoring of courses – so it is not so different.

>By Marina Malesevic-Petrovic, City College, Novi Sad, Serbia

This is what I have noticed both as a teacher and a teacher trainer:

  1. Different teachers stick to different approaches, depending on their own learning experience, their TEFL /TESL education, influences and experience
  2. Different students learn in different ways, depending on their age, monolingual or bilingual environment, and myriad of other factors.

Observing teachers and assessing students, I was amazed at how much was being learned under all kinds of teaching and this is the common denominator of this discussion the fact that our students are learning – no matter which approach they are being exposed to. Therefore, we, as teachers, feel confident in taking sides, depending on our own experience.

One’s viewpoint on other teachers’ approaches can only be the reflection of one’s own capability to accept the relativism of teaching. Because of that I would like to invite each and everyone to write his/her own 10 commandments of teaching, so we can learn while teaching.

> By Mert – Dr.M.L.Bland, Arlington, VA, USA

One thing I often do is to draw a chalk line on the doorsill of the classroom and announce, “out there you can speak anything you want, but in here only English is allowed.”

The simple act of creating an oasis of the target language in their lives goes a long way toward providing the immersion conditions which help crack the chains holding the two languages together. And if you can get them to use the target language to communicate (the essence of the CA), you destroy the illusion that the theirs is the only “real” language and all other languages have simply been created by their teachers to make life difficult for them.

And stock your oasis with as much authentic material as you can find: comic books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, paperbacks….. And drag in the occasional foreign visitor and let the students eavesdrop on your conversation.

>By Maria Spelleri, Manatee Community College, USA

Every semester I mess around with my scoring systems, trying to find “something better.” I’m not happy patrolling for homework, nor do I like points for attendance because I find myself making all kinds of exceptions for people. I teach in a community college, so, I cannot just assume behavior and habits conducive to college learning; therefore, it seems that part of my grading needs to be for rewarding the development of successful student behavior like completing homework and showing up to class. Yet, I loathe the time-swallowing nickel and dime approach to grading: daily collection of points spread out over many different categories so that no one category seems more important than another, or perhaps in our students’ eyes, all categories seem equally unimportant.

Just as an observation as I mulled my own grading problems, I realized that we give points/ grades for behaviors we want to encourage (attendance, homework, completing a paper according to format), points for amount of effort put into something (bigger tasks get more points, we may reward a quantity of something or a completion of something, quality of research, or we take off points for late submissions), and points for demonstrating achievement (tests, quizzes, essays, presentations). I believe that if students develop certain behaviors and if a certain effort is expended, then the last point, a demonstration of achievement, will almost always occur.

To get away from 2-4 mini-categories of grading (attendance 10%, HW 15%, etc.), I am trying a catch-all category for a larger percentage of the grade called “Specified in-class and out-of class assignments and activities.” My idea is that this category encourages the behavior I want and the amount of effort going into studies, which will then lead to success in the class. This category does not include tests or major class projects like major essays in a writing class or major presentations in a speech class.

As I see fit, I will pre-announce that a specific homework assignment will be for points, that a particular class discussion will receive points for quality of participation, a pair activity writing an introduction will be given points, or a quiz will be for points. Not only do I get a larger, and I believe, more meaningful percentage value, but I also don’t have the daily grind of remembering who participated and to what extent, nor do I have to go around with a grade book like a third grade teacher checking for homework. (Well, I do that, but maybe only once every 4 classes!) My quiz category is enveloped into this mega-category as well. (I don’t care about quiz grades as a measure of evaluation — I leave that for the tests. I give quizzes to keep students on their toes studying and to find areas of weakness.)

I’m almost half way through the semester using this method in 5 courses. I certainly have been less frustrated than when I have to be overly strict, tediously marking every lousy point, or when I am too lax and students walk all over me. We’ll see how it goes. Some class examples: in my high intermediate grammar class, the scoring for the class is Tests- 60% and “specified in-class and out of class assignments and activities”- 40%. My high intermediate writing class does six major papers for 70% of grade, and “specified in-class..” for 30%.

>By Laura Waters

Over the last 2 months, I have been ‘chatting’ using Skype computer to computer calling. I have had 7 such sessions.

The purpose of using this technology is to give the EFL language learner practice in listening and speaking to a native speaker of English. The chats are schedules for 1/ 2 hour twice a week. The primary tool we use is the verbal, but often the learner will type a word that she feels I can’t understand, or she’s not sure how to pronounce, using the text chat feature.

I find that I need/use the text chat option of SKYPE to describe phonetically, (though not IPA) pronunciations – long ‘e’, I”ll type as eeee, for example. I’ve had good success with the connection- clear audio – only a couple of times have I had to terminate and place the call again – the line seems to clear up. Once, the text was slow to appear. I’ve not had a line dropped.

We don’t use a web cam. I had a previous experience (social) with one and it really slowed down the response time. I use a headphone/mic headset – inexpensive brand – works well – we both have hi-speed service.

I would like to have a whiteboard and have heard from somewhere (TESL-L perhaps?) that some are using Yahoo. I checked recently MSN and see they have whiteboard and audio, though I haven’t tried using it for any purpose.

I know she uses a bilingual dictionary while online. I just sent a couple of websites, asking her to explore/use on her own. I don’t know how that has worked for the learner because we are on a hiatus – work/vacation schedules and will resume next month. I think we could use and visit them while on SKYPE, and I”ll try that. I have sent clip art and notes a day or two prior to the chat, to the learner’s e-mail address in a WORD document to help with vocab.

I have also sent her WORD files of text and dialogues ahead of the next chat- I don’t mean her to practice it, but to use as a visual while we practice – stress, intonation, rhythm etc. Then I have sent .wmv files after the chat with my voice recorded to be used as a model in the event she wants to practice/listen. I have sent WORD documents to her through SKYPE,during the chat, and that worked well – not too long to receive or open, but prefer to do it ahead of time, as during the chat the waiting/anticipation is kind of a distraction.

Hope this is helpful to some. I’d love to hear of others’ experiences and ideas for use.