Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog


13 Comments

How using apps and online resources benefits ESL students with limited resources

Teenage girl using smartphoneIn this post Justin Birch explores how using apps and online resources can benefit ESL students with limited resources.

From spelling to grammar to intonation, learning a new language can be difficult. With its exceptions and broad geographical influence, the English language is no different. However, times are changing. Non-native speakers of English now outnumber native speakers 3 to 1. With the enormous increase in the number of students taking on English as a Second Language (ESL), especially those with limited resources, an array of wallet-friendly apps and online resources have cropped up to make the learning process speedier and less tedious.

Apps and online resources can make learning English fun. Instead of repeating common English phrases in a classroom setting, ESL students can play games and complete exercises while learning the ins and outs of the language, even if they are far away from a real teacher or school. The Internet TESL Journal created a site comprised solely of quizzes, tests, exercises and puzzles for ESL students. With thousands of contributions from teachers, students can take advantage of exercises that suit their needs. Users are allowed to choose their level of difficulty in grammar and vocabulary quizzes, and even crossword puzzles. In addition, the site offers a range of podcasts and YouTube videos, including those that allow students to listen and read along. For the technology savvy, the site is also accessible from the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

Though ESL classes can be extremely beneficial, they can also focus solely on the basics. Online resources and apps can supplement basic skills to allow students to learn slang and idioms. This creates more natural sounding dialogue and allows the student to better understand phrases and terms that aren’t available in a dictionary. Sites like ManyThings.org, not only feature games, quizzes, exercises, and vocabulary words, but also a collection of slang terms, English songs, proverbs, jokes, and American stories. Podcasts such as the Learn a Song Podcast, Jokes in English, and Listen and Repeat Podcast can also be fun ways to not only learn the language, but soak up the culture as well.

Continue reading


4 Comments

4 easy ways to incorporate technology into ELT (for you and your students)

girl with laptop in classroomLaura Austin, an ELT Consultant for OUP, presents 5 easy ways to learn, connect, communicate and develop in ELT using technology.

Technology per se doesn’t affect the language development of students learning English. However, I think you’ll agree that these are useful tools to explore to help support both you and your students.

Infographics* (for students)

There are infographics about history, culture, business – you name it, they exist. The Coolinfographics website is a great place to start. Why not use it to start off a debate? To generate interest in a topic area? Or to pre-teach vocabulary? Even for introducing those analytical skills needed for core exams. This one from the Onlineeducation.net is particularly interesting as it relates to student views on technology; might be a useful one to kick start the use of infographics in class.

*Thanks to Ollie Bray for this idea.

Twitter (for you)

Twitter helps you to reach out to other ELT professionals all over the world. Once upon a time you’d browse through various websites to find out about new methodologies and teaching ideas. Now, all you need is a Twitter account to follow all your favourite ELT authors; put them into a list and away you go. If you haven’t quite got it; then just spend 10 minutes a day following Tweets. You’ll get there in a couple of weeks and once you do you’ll never look back.

The most popular feature for ELT teachers is #eltchat – you can follow this hashtag twice a week for updates and topical ELT debates. Great to read and even better if you can participate. You can find more information on the website

Wikis (for students)

Wikis are a way to collaborate everything you have learnt with your class, incorporate new skills (such as peer editing) and encouraging students to communicate. Most importantly it gets students excited about publishing their work online.

Each class one student could take notes and post it on the class wiki. This could be used for revision and for absent students to catch up on. For a more collaborative effort, students can do this in small groups and save it on different pages, this effectively creates a Website – so the Wiki then contains a range of pages for students to browse. There is a range of software which helps you put together your class Wiki. One of the most popular being PBworks. It is simple and straightforward to use.

Movie Makers (for you)

I love the browsing through all the home made animated movies on youtube. There are a wide range of movie makers which make this so easy for you to make for your class. How does it work? All you do is import your text and choose your characters, select a background and away you go … a movie especially made for your class.

You could use it to pre-teach vocabulary or as an end of term treat you could even create a movie based around students in the class. Try Xtranormal for starters.

Have you used any of these in your classes or in your own time? Are there others you would recommend? Share your stories in the comments below.

Bookmark and Share


6 Comments

How to make progress with Advanced students

Students shaking hands with their teacherIf advanced-level students think they’re not making much progress, or they’re struggling with motivation, it’s time to try some new ideas. Rachel Appleby, co-author of the Business one:one series, shares hers with us.

This article was originally published in Dialogue Magazine.

“Basically, they can operate quite well in English, perhaps with a few mistakes. And their vocabulary’s OK, though they sometimes avoid complex grammar.  They don’t seem very motivated, because they don’t easily see their progress, yet I’m sure their English could be much better.”

Sound familiar? It’s certainly pretty common at the start of any of my advanced courses. But a few simple tricks to determine what they need and what you want them to do, and you’ll be teaching advanced learners successfully before you can say ‘advanced Business English’.

My advanced students often simply state that they want more sophisticated English, but what do they mean by that? Well, I believe they want to communicate  in a more appropriate style, and sound  like a native speaker. They also want access to a wider range of expressions, and of course, they need to ‘lose’ some of their ingrained mistakes.

So how can we do this? Well, first and foremost, they need exposure to lots of listening and reading materials – texts which are carefully selected and exploited in advanced-level course books, as well as a wide range of authentic material. Encourage them to be active readers and listeners, by suggesting they highlight or note down phrases they’d like to add to their repertoire.

Set a challenge

With one of my current groups of advanced learners, we were practising phrases for meetings, but they weren’t really using them. So the next week, I produced a tick-box form of phrases (see below) and put students into groups of three – two students to have the meeting, one student to listen and tick boxes. The students swapped roles so there were three meetings altogether. I told them that at the end we’d be counting up the ticks. Well, now the challenge was on, the results vastly improved, and their satisfaction by the end was greatly enhanced – as was mine!

Continue reading


2 Comments

Preparing for those “Umm….” moments in a Speaking test

Woman looking confusedKathy Gude, author of New Fast Class, tackles the challenge of making Speaking exams that little bit easier for students.

For many students, the Speaking Paper can be a stressful ordeal. Our role as teachers is to prepare and encourage them as best we can. In my experience as an exams teacher and exams course book author, I’ve developed some strategies for making students more comfortable with the whole process. I’ve listed a few of them here. I hope you find them useful.

Practice

Because of their perceived unpredictability, tests of speaking and listening put tremendous pressure on the taker, so the more preparation students have, the more they will know what to expect and the more confident they will become. Giving students full-length practice tests under exam conditions before the exam is excellent preparation and will prevent them wasting time during the test checking what they have to do or asking the examiner for clarification. In addition, students will be more aware of how long they need to speak for in each part of the test and what types of tasks they will need to be able to cope with.

Teach them to listen

Students are often unaware that to be a good speaker, you need to be a good listener. Listening carefully to what they have to do, to questions they are required to answer, or to their partner in a paired test, will help students give a coherent and appropriate response to the task in question.

‘Umm…’ moments

Students often find speaking tests unnerving because they worry about not having anything to say. One useful way of dealing with this problem is to give students a range of fillers to use while they formulate their response. This enables them to begin speaking immediately while, at the same time, giving themselves an opportunity to come up with a suitable response. Depending on the students’ level of English, phrases like ‘Well, that’s a very interesting question…’, Let me see…’, ‘I’ve often wondered…’, ‘It’s difficult to say exactly but…’, etc. will prove extremely useful if they can’t immediately think of a reply.

Continue reading