Teaching ESL

Textbooks and more
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Author:  Morton [ Thu Jan 05, 2006 2:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Textbooks and more

Just stumbled upon your site, really quite impressive.

I also teach privately and am happy doing so but I have some eternal problems that I never seem to get rid of year after year. I was wondering what ideas you, or anyone else, has.

1. How do you cope with the different speeds of learning? I really try to teach but this results in massive gaps between students who can and students who can't (yet).

2. I have never found a textbook that I have been happy with, especially for adult classes. What books would you recommend?

3. How do you deal with unrealistic parental expectations? I am now at the stage where I can spot a problem parent 95% of the time but sometimes one slips by me.

Any thoughts would be appreciated

Author:  mesmark [ Thu Jan 05, 2006 6:47 pm ]
Post subject: 

Morton welcome to the forums! It's great to have you.

As to your post...

1. I work with smaller classes (4-5 people,) so when I have a slower students or a students I'm just not reaching and the rpoblem continues, it really causes a big problem.

The best and truest solution is to pull the student out and put them in a lower level class or a new beginner class. Hopefully that will give them confidence and you can turn that confidence into motivation. If children are good at something they usually enjoy it. If they aren't good at something they will do their best not to be any part of it.

That would be a perfect solution but you must worry about crushing self esteem and making the child feel like a failure. They may also have friends in the class and may not want to change instilling resentment. Last obstacle is timing or structure, moving the child may not be possible or times don't match up.

When the child is stuck in the class I really try to work on what I said above. Give them some confidence and try to turn that into motivation. I have one student now who is struggling while the rest of the class is flurishing. He really dropped out of the class (not paying attention, not trying) for about a year before I finally hit the mark. He really enjoyed learning new words and was good at that. He hated phonics and reading. He also had a very difficult time with sentences, questions or anything conversational. I had really been focusing on phonics and conversation and drove this boy out of the class, during that period.

I started focusing more on vocabulary. That is to say I made learning vocabulary an important part of games or activities. I played more games where vocabulary knowledge played a big part and this student really began to come alive. He was doing well and gaining confidence at times in the lessons and I made sure to praise him and report his progress as well as how proud I was of him to his mother, right in front of him.

He began studying vocabulary at home!

He still dropped out of phonics sections and had a hard time with conversational activities but his attitude was better and I think he gained some confidence and he obviously gained motivation. And the whole class is better and progressing better.

So, to answer your question I would say try to find something the child is good at and try to work that in. It doesn't even have to be English really. Just praise the child and try to lift them up. Give them the Congressional Medal of English (for most improvement?) and see if they'll rise to the challenge (but don't set the bar to high.)

Even if this means the class moves slower for a while or in a different direction, I think in the long run it will be better for everyone.

I'm off to class now and get back to you about 2 and 3

- Mark

Author:  mesmark [ Thu Jan 12, 2006 12:31 pm ]
Post subject: 

OK. 2.

MES-English.com is my response to the same kind of dissatisfaction with ESL/EFL textbooks. I found there just wasn't enough practice allowed for and jumps from one grammar point to another where large and incomplete. So, I just decided to go about it on my own.

I teach using a speaking first method. I use the materials you see here and have students practice speaking and using the language. As time passes I have a phonics and reading curriculum that I use side by side with the speaking curriculum. When their reading is up to par, we start into a textbook and add that as out 3rd curriculum to follow. The textbook is generally way beneath them, but I don't use the textbook to teach. I use the textbook to solidify and textually practice the language they already know. So the students are learning spelling, sentence structure, crossing the Ts and dotting the Is using the textbook, but they already understand and can use the language (hopefully.)

I continue with the three curriculums advancing little by little in all three (actually 4 because I have a TPR curriculum as well) and the students seem to be making good well-rounded progress in my opinion. The textbook is important and helps to solidify some of the things they've been saying and why they're saying it like that.

A complete textbook would probably be impossible to make or it would be so big and burdened with materials that it would cost a fortune to buy. I think that's really the problem. In my opinion, you need to get together a lot of supplementary materials to fill in those inevitable gaps.

So, for children I recommend any series really, but don't use the textbook to teach or expect that the textbook alone will be enough. (I'm using Let's Go right now.)

For adults there are so many books out there but the ones I've found that work pretty well are the New Interchange series. They have well rounded units that are pretty interesting and pertinent. But again, I pre-teach all language verbally before we cover it in the book, not to the extent I do with children but that's just my style.

What are you currently using for children's and adult classes?

I've got another essay for question 3, I'll try to get up soon.

- Mark

Author:  Morton [ Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:27 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for the replies.

I have been teaching privately for eight years and I have never used a textbook for the kids' classes. I have been making all the lessons myself and am about 90% content with the first 2 years or so but, I'm always tinkering and changing.

After about 4 or 5 years the kids I hit a kind of stumbling block where I feel the kids should, knowledge-wise, be about ready to have actual conversations but mentally they are not. So recently I've been using pictures of say a sushi bar. I start with easy questions about the actual picture like How many people are there? What color is the boy's cap? etc. The questions gradually become more abstract and personal like What is your favorite food? and then more difficult qustions like Are you allergic to any food?

For adult classes I do the same but make it more topical.

Have to rush to class.

Author:  mesmark [ Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:19 pm ]
Post subject: 

3. unrealistic expectations (of the parents)

I have really thought about writing this out and putting it in the new student's package. I tell most adult students and children's parents right in the first lesson that learning English is just like learning a musical instrument. It takes a long time and a lot of practice! I generally make a reference to learning the piano, because most parents can relate to this. I say it takes 4-5 years to become an average piano player (assuming you're taking lessons and practicing regularly.) The same is true of English (assuming you're studying at home regularly.) If students don't study at home or have no exposure to the language other than English class once a week progress will obviously be slower.

That's a quick analogy that pretty much gets everybody in the mind state that I'm not a magician and I can't teach their children to be great English speakers in a year or a couple years.

I do have a couple files filled with my materials, a short outline and time line that gives parents an idea of what their children should be able to do in the first three years and what I will cover. I also add that we're looking to build speakers, not test takers. (They are different.) If they want their children to be excellent test takers, my school is not the place for them and I won't teach children in order to pass a test. I teach them to speak, read and write English. (When they get older usually they do great on school test, because they already understand and can use the grammar being shoved down their throats.)

Given most of that information in a short 10 minute discussion at the end of trial lesson and letting them look through the files during the class seems to set a pretty good foundation. I haven't had any parents complain or ask more of me or their children. I also let parents sit in on lessons whenever they want and they are pretty pleased with what their children are doing.

So, I would say lay it out right in the beginning and give everyone an idea of what to expect. This hopefully will set everyone straight as too what will be done in class and what they can expect from you.

I generally try to convey that information, but have been meaning to write all that out and translate it for about 3 years now. Maybe 2006 will be the year.

I have had that problem with mother of very young children (2-4 year olds.) Children of this age generally speak when they are ready and I have no problem with that. They may need to hear something a hundred times before they are ready to try and say it themselves and that's fine. They are listening! I do hand out a sheet explaining that if parents want to start their children that young, they should be aware that we're only working on listening and comprehension, not conversation. Also, we want to instill the idea that speaking and learning English is fun and build positive learners with strong backgrounds for the future. And again most parents understand this and we have a great time in toddler classes and they make for excellent K-6 classes when they get there.

However, there's always the SAY IT! SAY IT!! SAY IT!!!! parents and I have had 2 children to date quit probably hating English and definitely not feeling comfortable around me. Luckily the parents don't blame me and they are oblivious to the fact that I blame them.

So, again just set the stage from the beginning and that's really the best you can do. I understand the love, hopes and expectations behind over-zealous parents and I don't think you can change that but if you can help the parents get a grip maybe you'll be able to teach the child.

Where are you teaching BTW?

- Mark

Author:  adam [ Mon Jun 26, 2006 9:21 am ]
Post subject: 

I like the cutting edge textbook for adult learners. In my private lessons I found the students seemed to want or need a textbook. It worked well for me and I used it to supplement my lessons.

Author:  adam [ Mon Jun 26, 2006 9:23 am ]
Post subject: 

sorry the cutting edge is from longman and it also has a work book students book and teachers book for each level.

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