A Lesson Your EAL Students Will Love!

A Lesson Your EAL Students Will Love!

In my search for new ways to engage my ELLs I came across several interesting articles about using videos and TV shows with EAL students. Immediately I thought about the number of hours an average elementary school student spends in front of a TV screen and reminded myself about an age-old debate. (The question of whether technology will replace teachers is a long-standing one and is likely to continue as technology evolves further.)

I do believe in the art of teaching. Teachers impart students with life skills, valuable life lessons and inspire them to reach their potential. A teacher is so much more than a facilitator: they are also a guide and a mentor.

Without a great teacher, technology becomes an automated tool and stops inspiring and engaging students. Ultimately, it isn’t about teachers being replaced by technology but how teachers can adapt to incorporate technology in their lessons and enhance learning for our students. In fact, it is great teachers who make using technology so significant in students’ education.

Having said this, I would like to share several successful strategies that your EAL students will love.

1. Making Predictions

(Great practice for speaking, listening and thinking skills)

Learning Goal: To practice speculating and predicting, initiate authentic discussion and generate interest in a topic.

Material: A video with some kind of cliffhanger.

Procedure: Set up the situation. Teach any necessary vocabulary beforehand. Play the video and stop at a suitably exciting place. Have students discuss in pairs or groups what they think happens next. Elicit responses and write them down on the board. Play rest of the video to see if they were right.

2. Describe a Character

Learning Goal: To practice describing people and use language of speculation (could be, looks like, seems like, etc.)

Material: A short clip or still, which clearly shows one person (and key details such as age, clothes, features, mannerisms, voice, etc.) This could be someone in a TV interview, a character in a film and so on.

Procedure: Review descriptive language, and then review or teach expressions of speculation before starting this activity. Play a short clip and get students to ask and answer questions about the character, including: age, job, personality, kind/unkind, intelligent/unintelligent, what hobbies they have, married/single and areas of expertise. To elicit further discussion, they can argue their points in groups justifying their opinions. For example, one student may get up and explain that “he looks like a lawyer because…” and go on to enumerate his lawyer-like qualities

3. Memory test

Learning Goal: To practice listening for meaning and to practice role playing and improvisation.

Material: A clip with a short dialogue between two characters.

Procedure: Students work in pairs, A and B. Tell them that you’re going to play a short clip and Student A must remember what one character said. Student B must focus on the other character and remember what they said. Play the clip once, or more times as necessary. Try to keep this activity light and make it fun. If they can’t remember, improvise! They can then re-enact the scene and check for accuracy with the original at the end.

Videos are a powerful teaching tool as they provide great examples of language structure and function in context. Videos are a wonderful way to teach vocabulary and also a great strategy for encouraging discussion. However, to really tap into the potential of video lessons, these must be thoroughly prepared and the activities must target your goals. If you choose to use a video during your class, make sure you plan your pre-viewing activities (teach vocabulary and work on listening comprehension), viewing activities (setting the purpose for watching or revisiting the video content) and post-viewing activities (an opportunity for students to consolidate what they learned).

I hope you find these ideas helpful and your students will enjoy the class.





Engaging Students

Engaging Students

While planning this blog, I thought about how I engage my students in discussions and other speaking and listening activities. After reading several articles about engaging students I realized that looking at the bigger picture would give me more answers and teaching tools. Once a child is engaged in learning in general all language skills will naturally thrive.

When I read and think about modern teaching, I often come across the word “partners”. Students and teachers become partners in learning and thinking, partners in change. A partnership requires a special relationship and, in order to establish it, teachers need to develop awareness, understanding and respect for what matters to our students. “A widening awareness of students’ capacities can lead to new excitement about teaching and enrich pedagogic practices.”(Rudduck & McIntyre, 2007)

Involving students as “partners in change” invites us to get to know every student in more dimensions than just the academic, and support students in playing a more active role in their learning.

The key to understanding our students lies in learning more about their identity or identities. In the case of third culture kids and multilingual kids they have several complex ones.

“…ensuring students are listened to and valued and respected for who they are leads to greater student engagement, which, in turn, leads to greater student achievement.” (Cummins, et al.,2005; Flessa et al., 2010; Leithwood, McAdie, Bascia, & Rodrigue, 2006; Willms, Friesen, & Milton, 2009).

It matters how we interact with our students, and we should know each of their strengths, needs and interests. Through feedback and conversation about various aspects of their lives we build up trust and establish an ongoing dialogue with our students. The information that we learn can be built into our lessons and can help create connections between what matters to a student and our unit concepts and content.

Valuing a student’s voice and choice inspires the students investment in learning and encourages questioning and risk-taking. Teachers and students should create a respectful, solution-seeking classroom culture that leads to the co-creation of knowledge that is based on the social realities of students.

Here are some strategies that we employ in ISPP Elementary while setting the stage for student engagement:

  • Provoke thinking, stimulate discussion, engage students in dialogue;
  • Students engage in productive collaboration;
  • Students are taught to provide quality feedback to peers;
  • Diversity is valued;
  • Social and emotional skills are taught and practiced;
  • Students know how to assess their work using success criteria;
  • Ensure that learning is enjoyable through the choice of teaching technics and methods.

Engaging students in learning is an ongoing process and when challenges emerge we need to remember a formula for success: Be partners in change, learn about your students’ identities and value their voice.