Motivating Teachers

I have been a teacher trainer/educator, town department of education methodologist, unofficial mentor and author for many years. As I came to work at school after a decade of university lecturing and some years at Columbia College - Columbia University Alumni Affairs Office, in addition to being the only Ph.D. out of a hundred staff, I was asked by the district authorities to conduct several courses for the local EL teachers during my very first year at school. Since I had my own three children at school I could not very well say “No” to any extra tasks.

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Listening Skills

Listening and understanding spoken speech may be quite a challenge for any student. They may read, write, translate and even speak fluently, but whenever they are up against a listening comprehension task they may freeze, hover in uncertainty or even stop reacting. There are a few strategies which have been useful to me over the years, and which I share with my colleagues at any opportunity. Sometimes an EL teacher with decades of experience, who is used to conducting most of the lessons in their own mother tongue, would ask me for helpful tactics to overcome their own problems.

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Assessment old and new

Assessment and grading are traditional indispensable staples of teaching and learning; it encompasses any subject and all the aspects of our work. Ideally it is supposed to show a student’s progress and our own ability to teach. In a simplified way, it goes like this: we “give” a topic, students do exercises and homework, regurgitate all the new knowledge in the classroom with various success. They get daily marks for every exercise fulfilled which produces an overall impression about the new material for us and for them.

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Using digital tools to help promote learning outside the classroom.

We are waiting for our flight at the airport. My husband talks quietly to his colleagues discussing a scientific project while I check in with our children, then click on various favorite links like The Free Dictionary, Teaching English and a few others. All around us people of all ages and nationalities are engaged in similar activities, talking, listening, writing, using their smartphones, iPads and other devices. The number of languages spoken is very impressive.

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Observing Others and Being Observed

When I first started teaching EL at the university, I visited several lessons conducted by my own former school teacher. Here are a few new insights which I learned as an observer.

• How to parcel out various topics; how much or how little we may fit into 45 minutes; how to stop myself from sharing ALL my own knowledge of a current theme at once so as not to overload my students. I appreciated how much she knew, and how effortlessly she doled out information so as to involve her class in the process but not overwhelm them.

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Learning Strategies

My long experience with ELT at all levels and ages has led me to the following simple conclusions; One, to quote Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), is this: “Knowledge is power”. Two, we cannot change human nature.

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Bridging the generation gap

We have been doing international internet projects with students and teachers for more than twenty years; I have written about them many times. For our new topic, I would like to share our ongoing positive domestic project. Several years ago a few well-equipped schools, the local education authorities and parent-teacher associations suggested an innovative usage of the numerous internet classes. What if we could work at bridging the generation gap by bridging the digital divide?

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Games and Activities

Recently a group of former students who celebrated their tenth graduation anniversary came to visit me. They presented me with a nice bouquet of flowers, then exchanged quick glances, formed a circle and sang, “You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out...” That was the very first song, the first game we played in class when they were eight years old! This little episode reminded me a simple truth I learned thanks to them two decades ago: with the young children anything goes.

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Turning Input into Intake: Helping Students Speak.

We had a great teacher at university who helped us activate our vocabulary and speak in our lessons on a large variety of topics. Later I realized that she had one very simple and effective technique which I used regularly with my own students. She would sort of step aside once we all started speaking, and allowed us any deviations from the theme if she saw that we all took part in a discussion.

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