3 great teaching ideas from Gaétane, our ESL teacher of the month!
April 04, 2019
Meet Gaétane, who teaches in 3 different schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the Commission scolaire de la Riveraine. This year, she has a multi-level class, so she has the extra challenge of finding material accessible for both levels and cycles. Luckily, she’s full of ideas and practical tips. As our april teacher of the month, she’s shared 3 of her best practices for a non-traditional ESL classroom.
1. Use English as much as possible.
Gaétane knows how important it is to get students speaking English, no matter what grade they are in. She also knows this is a big challenge for most ESL teachers, as running from class to class and school to school is commonplace. Gaétane uses authentic models from stories and songs to help her make English the language spoken in the classroom. For example, she has students learn songs–which they love–and focuses on the functional language in them. Students repeat these words and expressions in each class. Students may not always know what they are saying, but teaching a language in a fun way helps reduce stress. When an activity is fun for everyone students will engage and follow along. She also uses children’s stories to show students whole language in context. Again, these stories use repetition of words and expressions. By doing this as a class, students are reassured because they see vibrant images and simple language that is accessible to them. All this allows students to more naturally speak English. It also helps Gaétane use English as well. The content she uses does it for her! Poptropica English simplifies her life as there are many model dialogues and many opportunities for oral interaction in each unit. There are chants that help students learn and practise functional language with grammar structures built in.The Island Adventure stories are broken down into comic strip panels and each story is also available in audio and video format. Along with her own material, all of these make it easy to speak English in all her classes!
2. Use visual clues to engage students in English.
A ‘travelling’ ESL teacher has a lot of things to manage. Changing classes every period takes creativity and organization on the part of the teacher. Since language teaching needs to be creative and fun, Gaétane uses visual clues to help her students learn vocabulary and functional language. She has flashcards on hand to get the lessons started. She creates her own, and takes them out at the beginning of each class. She posts them up around the classroom to help students interact and learn. Visual clues are an attractive way to help students recognize things they already know. Gaétane also has students create their own flashcards, which reinvests functional language such as colours, vocabulary related to her units and classroom routines. Making personalized flashcards puts students in action, which helps them learn more easily. Students often play games which require them to find the correct flashcard when Gaétane says the words. Students can also say the words to other classmates. It’s a great way to end a lesson, or even start one. Poptropica English helps Gaétane take this one step further. After she has introduced the Poptropicans, she has students create their own–from a template–to add to the storyline and therefore feel like ‘part’ of the story. There are also colourful flashcards for each unit’s vocabulary that can be projected or printed out. These get and keep students’ attention, so when students get to class, they want to learn!
3. Find ways to engage parents to help their children at home.
Every teacher has heard this on parent-teacher night: “Madame, I don’t speak English. How can I possibly help my child at home?” English happens in the classroom, but outside, let’s be honest. It is not part of most people’s reality. Parents want their children to do well, but lack the know-how to do it. Since Gaétane uses visual clues in her class to help students learn new vocabulary and classroom routines, these can be followed up on at home. Students can do a ‘show and tell’ with their parents, and are usually quite proud of their efforts. Gaétane’s students love learning English so much, they often want to share their learning with their parents. She doesn’t give vocabulary lists with just words; students have drawings and images that illustrate vocabulary and functional language. Parents often tell her they learn new things too! Gaétane’s students create simple things in English class. For example, they draw vocabulary words and colour them. At home, the children can tell their parents the colours they learned. Learning becomes a collaborative effort. Poptropica English has a Study Buddy for each level. This is a resource book that includes dynamic illustrations of all vocabulary words, functional language, strategies and grammar structures. Students can prepare for their upcoming class by reviewing new vocabulary words, or by reviewing them with their parents. The Study Buddy helps parents follow their child’s learning, with no prep-time needed, especially in busy households.
If you, like Gaétane, have great ESL teaching tips of your own, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and take part in creating a vibrant knowledge pool for ESL teachers!