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Preparing ESL classes in advance

I currently spend about 6 hours per week preparing and planning my English classes. This is time for which I am not paid, and it’s not strictly necessary, since I teach from books and I have all the material ready to use.

So why do I do it?

Because it makes all the difference in the student’s experience: whether class is fun, interactive, and educational or dry, monotonous, and frustrating.

If I taught straight from the textbook, class would consist of the following cycle repeated five or six times per class, 34 classes per semester:

1. I give instructions
2. Students do the exercise in the book
3. We check our answers
4. I clarify any questions or doubts.

Booooring.

During my prep time I “massage” the book material, usually in the following ways: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in ESL methodology

 

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Improvised English class

Ever had that terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad feeling when it’s 15 minutes before class and you have absolutely no material or lesson plan or idea what you’re going to do?

That happened to me on Tuesday. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Classroom stories

 

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Why English is hard to learn

Two words: phrasal verbs. 

Phrasal verbs are combinations of a verb plus one or more prepositions, and they are nightmares for my students because the meaning of the same verb changes based on what preposition(s) and objects come after it. Here’s a small sampling based on the word take

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Reflections

 

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Group vs. Individual Classes

Currently, I split my schedule between individual classes and small group classes (from 2-8 students) and people often ask me which one I prefer. Here are three advantages of each type of teaching format: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Reflections

 

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Return of the Difficult Student

My Difficult Student was absent on the date the midterm test was administered. The following week, I had the corrected exams ready to hand back to the other students, so I had to ask him to leave the room while I did so.

Me: Okay, it’s time for our 15-minute break. I have your corrected tests here. DS, since you haven’t taken the test yet, can you please wait in the lobby?

DS: No problem! I won’t pishing!

Me: …what?

DS: I’m not pishing.

Me: I don’t understand. What is ‘pishing’? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Classroom stories

 

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The Difficult Student

Most group classes have what I like to call the Difficult Student. It’s the one who’s always playing with their cell phone in class, or who is chronically 30 minutes late, or who thinks they know better than the teacher, or is in some other way disruptive of the class dynamic.

I knew my Difficult Student (hereafter referred to as DS) would be a problem from the first day of the semester, when I was calling on individual students for answers to an exercise:

Me: Carolina, do you have the answer to number 3?

DS (Not Carolina): Number 3 is “he was running”! Past continuous!

I suppressed an impulse to say, “Is your name Carolina?” to DS… it seemed childish, and DS is in his 50s. Taking a deep breath, I moved on: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2011 in Classroom stories

 

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Teaching English in Brazil

I wrote this article for the website of Teaching House New York, where I got my CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults).

I teach in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil. This tropical city is home to over three million people and has a rich, unique culture. If all you know about Brazil is soccer and Carnaval, then take another look! In Bahia you can eat moqueca, a fish and vegetable stew with palm oil; learn forró, a traditional dance from the countryside; and try capoeira, a mix of martial arts and dance.

Ten days after finishing my CELTA in June 2010, I took a leap of faith and flew to Brazil without any contacts or job offers. As soon as I arrived, I Googled the addresses of twenty-five English schools in Salvador, mailed a resume and cover letter to each, and was hired at two. I currently split my time between them for a total of 15 hours per week. It’s a mix of group and individual classes, and students are mostly professionals working at multinational companies. The schools provide coursebooks and a rough syllabus, but thankfully I also have the freedom to modify and supplement the material. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Reflections

 

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