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Preparing to teach EFL for the first time – what should you consider?

Emily McLarenshutterstock_247739401 is an English language teacher and travel blogger who is currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. She has taught English in Thailand and continues to travel and use her TEFL qualification and skills wherever possible. In this post, Emily discusses what a new English language teacher should consider and prepare for before starting their first job.

After earning my TEFL qualification a few years ago, I spent a summer in Thailand for my first English language teaching job. It was one of the most challenging but enjoyable times of my life. I thought I was prepared before I left, but after speaking to some other EFL teachers, it was apparent that we all had different experiences of our first job teaching English abroad. With that in mind, and based on my own personal experiences, here’s a few points that I think are the most important things for new EFL teachers to consider before taking on their first job.

Do as much research as you can before you go. Not just on the country, but for the logistics of the move too. Your passport must be valid for at least 12 months and you’ll likely need a visa to confirm your eligibility to work abroad. Not only that, but you’ll need to consider what items you take with you. In my case, I left large winter coats and boots at home and picked up quite a lot of things after I’d settled in and figured out what I did and didn’t need. It’s much easier than trying to squeeze your whole life into one suitcase!

Something to pay particular attention to is the dress code of your school. Come prepared with formal clothes such as a shirt, smart trousers or skirt, and comfortable and practical shoes (you’re on your feet all day!). Don’t show up for your first day in a baggy t-shirt and sandals – teachers in Thailand, specifically, are held in high respect and as such, you should dress to reflect this. If it turns out that your school is more relaxed with what you wear, then great, but don’t be surprised if you’ll be expected to wear formal clothes.

Bring plenty of classroom essentials. I didn’t think of this and thought I’d have access to coloured pens, paper, stickers, and all the other items we use day-to-day in the classroom – but I didn’t! My school had a few textbooks and that was more or less it. Thankfully, a more experienced EFL teacher had plenty of stationery to share, but if you’re going to be working in a developing country, you’ll need to come prepared with your own supplies.

So you’ve got your stationery covered, but what else should you bring? I had access to a small CD player, so I loaded up a few CDs with songs my students could sing along to. Be sure to choose songs that are sung in a clear accent with minimal use of slang terms – here’s a list if you’re really stuck for ideas, and I found that my students loved to sing (and shout) along to Jingle Bells! I incorporated music into my lessons by playing the song a few times and having my students sing along, which was great for practicing their pronunciation. I also made up worksheets of the lyrics with a few missing words for them to fill in.

Finally, it’s well documented that realia can make your lessons even more memorable. You’re creating a link between the object and word, which is an excellent way of getting your students to remember the new words they’re learning. There’s no limit on what you can use – some soft toys, your favourite food from home, train tickets, or small items of clothing are all safe bets. I brought some sweets and asked my students to describe them to me – some described the taste, some spoke about the shape, and some told me the colour. All of their answers were accurate, and this is another small way of encouraging students to practice their use of adjectives.

Your lessons need to be fun. For the most part, I attended school in the United Kingdom, where lessons were very formal and there wasn’t much time for laughing. However, in Thailand, my students loved jokes and I found it much easier to teach in a classroom that was having fun. Most teachers find it difficult to motivate their students to write, but there’s a huge number of digital resources on offer, such as apps, videos, and social media, which can all be harnessed to reinforce what your students are learning. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone of writing on a board and try out some new things.

As I mentioned before, not only is incorporating realia into your lessons a great way of teaching your students new words and phrases, it’s also a lot of fun! You can use realia to role-play real-life situations and to put words and phrases into practice. I brought some restaurant menus from home with me and some accessories such as a hat, false moustache, and glasses, and would role-play ordering food with my students. They thought the false moustache and glasses were hilarious, and would always wanted to wear them to “look like a waiter”!

Prepare yourself for cultural differences. I think this is one of, if not the, most important thing to consider. You’ve probably already given some consideration to this, but as this post points out, many schools are much less structured than the Western ones. I was taken aback at how relaxed the education environment was and it took a few weeks for me to get to grips with everything, but I enjoyed just being able to teach without the usual bureaucracy. Remember, you’re there to teach, not overhaul the education system. That’s just how it is! Go with the flow and try not to get stressed out over things you can’t control – focus on your students and teaching them as best as you can.

Teaching English abroad can feel overwhelming to begin with, but you will settle in and succeed. Preparation really is key, so although you can get caught up in the excitement of moving, make sure you put aside some time to do as much research as you can before you head off.


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Peer Interaction in Foreign Language Settings

Two friends having a conversationDr Jenefer Philp is a senior lecturer at Lancaster University, and Director of Studies of the MA  in Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching. She is interested in what research on second language acquisition has to say for the classroom. She has recently published two books related to the topic of peer interaction: Focus on Oral Interaction, with Rhonda Oliver and Peer Interaction and Second Language Learning, with Rebecca Adams and Noriko Iwashita. Today, she joins us ahead of her upcoming webinar, Peer Interaction in Foreign Language Settings.

In many language classrooms pair and group work between learners is common. In other settings, especially where numbers are high and seating is fixed, students can spend relatively little or no time learning from their peers: most of the discourse is between the teacher and the whole class. I suggest that in most classrooms peer interaction and teacher-led interaction can be complementary: learners benefit from both, and in different ways.

In this session we will focus on the potential benefits and problems of peers working together in foreign language learning classrooms.

  • How useful is it for learners to work together?
  • Should we try to use pair and group work, or is it a waste of time?
  • What is the role of the teacher?

I will discuss with you some of the research on peer interaction that has been carried out in foreign language classrooms among children, adolescents and adults. We will look at the potential benefits and discuss some of the challenges of peer interaction. By working out what students can gain through talking with one another, and how this complements the work of teachers, we can think about the strengths of peer interaction and how to make the most of peer activities in our classrooms.

Whether you are a teacher, researcher, or student yourself, I hope you’ll bring your stories of your own experiences, concerns and successes to share with us – through a combination of lecture and discussion,  we’ll wrestle with the best ways to use peer interaction in your various classes, and ways to avoid common problems.

Topics we’ll cover:

  • What do we mean by “peer interaction”?
  • What types of peer interaction are there?
  • How can peer interaction support learning?
  • What about correcting errors?
  • What about large classes – the noise, the space, the time?
  • What does really useful peer interaction look like, and how can we get there?

 

For more on this topic do join Jenefer’s webinar, Peer Interaction in the Foreign Language Classroom,which will be held on the 24th and 25th of June. Register to join below.

register-for-webinar


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Let’s celebrate 70 years of ELT Journal

Birmingham LogoThis year Oxford University Press is excited to join IATEFL in the effort to bring more teachers to the 50th annual IATEFL conference in Birmingham through the Scholarship scheme. Sponsoring a scholarship seemed to be the most natural way to celebrate our own anniversary – the 70 years of ELT Journal, a quarterly publication for all those involved in English Language Teaching (ELT), whether as a second, additional, or foreign language, or as an international Lingua Franca. The ELT Journal has long had strong links with IATEFL, and the ELT J Debate has become an eagerly anticipated fixture in the IATEFL conference programme.

We hope that through this scholarship practising teachers will get a chance to take advantage of the IATEFL conference as a professional development opportunity – both in terms of ideas and theory shared at the talks and workshops, but also as a great time to network with fellow teachers from around the world.

The IATEFL annual meeting gives a truly global overview of contexts, experiences and practices, and to many delegates that is most valuable aspect of the conference.

It is not necessary to be a member of IATEFL to apply, and the applications must be submitted to IATEFL by 23 July 2015. Detailed criteria for the scholarship are available on the list of current scholarships.

APPLY FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP:

http://www.iatefl.org/scholarships/scholarships-how-to-apply

The award consists of:

  • Registration for the Pre-Conference event of the winner’s choice
  • Registration for the IATEFL Annual Conference
  • A year’s IATEFL membership
  • GBP 1500 towards conference related costs, including travel, accommodation, and visa costs
  • An annual individual subscription to ELT Journal online
  • An Oxford Teachers’ Academy online course of the winner’s choice

To qualify you must:

  • Be a practising teacher in primary, secondary, tertiary or adult education, state or private
  • Be interested in continuous professional development
  • Agree to submit a blog post about your conference experience by June 2016, to be published on the OUP blog: oupeltglobalblog.com
  • Agree to be interviewed (on video) by OUP about your conference experience, to be published on the OUP ELT global YouTube channel

To be considered for this scholarship you must submit a statement between 400 and 500 words in which you:

  • Outline your teaching context, including a brief description of your teaching community and the part you play in it.
  • Outline the professional development opportunities available to you in your context.
  • Identify key professional challenges NOT addressed by the professional development opportunities available to you in your context.
  • Outline an action plan for how you intend to take the learning gained during the conference to your teaching community.

APPLY FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP:

http://www.iatefl.org/scholarships/scholarships-how-to-apply


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10,000 hours of English – how do you teach yours?

students critical thinkingToday, we feature a post from a guest blogger. Irina Lutsenko is a teacher of English from Saint Petersburg, Russia. Over her 10 years in the profession, Irina has taught teenagers, university students and adults. The courses she has taught include General English, Business English, IELTS preparation and TOEFL preparation. In this post, Irina explores how learning English can be much more than just following a course book, and how to fit ‘extra hours’ of English into the learning practice. 

Being a teacher of English, I deal with piles of course books on a daily basis. Course books are really engaging these days, and I inevitably draw a lot of inspiration from them. Sometimes, a single sentence can start a long train of thought. In this post, I’m exploring one such instance, which led to a surprising realization! Lesson 9A in English File Intermediate (Third Edition) centers around the topic of luck. In this lesson the students read a text called ‘A question of luck?’ which explains why certain people become extraordinarily successful, and what factors contribute to their success.

Have a look at the final paragraph of the text:

10000hours

I don’t know about the specific number – 10,000 hours seems a little excessive! – but the theory behind it makes a lot of sense for language learning.

When deciding to embark on the journey of learning English, many students pin their hopes on the teacher and the course book. Unfortunately, just going to classes and following a course book is not enough. You do need to put in a lot of extra hours to become a successful language learner.

So how can you increase the amount of time you spend on English?

We’ll need to do a little maths here. Let’s say you have English classes twice a week and each class is one and a half hours long. That’s three hours of English a week. If you don’t do anything else – that’s just three for you. However, you can (and should) add the following:

Do your homework. That’s at least one hour per week. I love giving my students ‘enormous’ (in their words) homework. That’s at least one to two hours more. Add: three hours.

Start your day with a TED talk. These are short – 15 minutes on average, which gives you around two hours more per week if you start every day from listening to a TED talk. Add: two hours.

Read or listen to something in English on your way to work / school. Read a book if you go by metro or listen to an audio book if you go by car. Optimistically speaking, your way to work / school takes 30 minutes, multiply it by 2 and then by 5. Add: five hours.

Watch a series and/or a film in English. Most episodes of most series are only 20-30 minutes long. One episode each day multiplied by five working days gives you two and a half hours. At the weekend, watch a film. Add: four and a half hours.

Do some speaking. Find an English-speaking partner online, speak to your friends, join a Speaking Club. Add: one and a half hours.

Let’s throw in an additional hour for times when you check some vocabulary and/or make notes. Add: one hour.

Adding these together comes to seventeen additional hours of English – plus three hours of classes with a teacher. Combined, they total twenty hours of English a week!

It is overwhelmingly obvious that students who put in twenty hours of English a week will be more successful than those who put in just three. The extra hours – tens turning into hundreds, hundreds turning into thousands before you know it – they truly work wonders!


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World Environment Day: Going paper-free in your EFL Classroom

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This Friday, June 5th, marks UN World Environment Day, a day recognised to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the environment. With the theme this year being: ‘Seven Billion Dreams. One planet. Consume with care’, it’s worth looking at our every day practices, particularly in the classroom, and asking where we can conserve and reduce our consumption of resources. With the online resource of our Oxford Teacher’s Club and thousands of digital materials ready for download, we thought this week would be a great time to put together a collection of articles supporting paper-free and digital English language teaching. 

Teaching a lesson with e-books

Teaching with Web 2.0 Tools (Part 1)

Teaching with Web 2.0 Tools (Part 2)

Teaching with Web 2.0 Tools (Part 3)

Flipping and Creating Video Presentations

Getting English language students to practise out of class

How do you use OUP digital resources in your class?

Using Social Media and Smart Devices effectively in your classroom

#EFLproblems – Facing your technology fears

The value of Virtual Learning Environments for Business English

Edmodo: Introducing the virtual classroom

5 Apps Every Teacher Should Have

So you want to teach online?

White paper on Tablets and Apps in School

Adapting online materials to suit your students

Using blogs to create web-based English courses

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