Thursday, May 29, 2014

EAP resources

                                My Top (online) EAP resources

After writing my EAP course overview post, I thought to myself, "why not write about my go to EAP websites?" So, here are a few of the websites I use when I teach my English for academic purposes classes. If you have never taught EAP before, I think these links are a great starting point. If you have, still read this post cause you may find something you haven't used (you can also add your own choices in the comments section).
Spoiler alert: not all the websites are focused on academic English, I do mention how I use them in an eap-ish way, though. So, here goes!
  • The Cambridge Online Dictionary
It is an online dictionary of course! What I like about it is that you can press the little speaker buttons (on the webpage) and hear the AmE and BE pronunciation of the word you are looking for. 

  • Anglia Ruskin University Library (Harvard referencing)
I like this site because if the reference system you are using is the Harvard referencing system, then you can find clear examples and great guidance of in-text citations and how to write the reference list as well.
  • todaysmeet
You can use this site to hold short discussions with your learners. Use it like a discussion board (especially when blackboard's discussion board is down during the summer). It is similar to twitter as there is a characters limit. It is great for starting threads. Just go ahead and create a room and share the link with your students!

  • Ted talks/Ted-Ed
There are many talks from subject specialists which you can watch in class with your students as part of a listening or presentations skills class. There are many videos to choose from. Two of my favourites: Jamie Oliver's award talk on obesity and Amy Cuddy's talk " your body language shapes who you are". You can also go to TED-Ed and create a lesson!

  • British Council BBC
You have probably visited this site many times. Press EAP in the search tab and you will find many interesting links. You can get many ideas from this website about how to teach EAP, discussions about EAP and lesson ideas.

  • British Council-Learn English
Here you can find the Writing for a purpose resource with lots of information on how to write assignments, exercises and examples of assignments (there are many different types of genres to choose from so it is great no matter what field your students are in). There are lots of tabs to choose from, and the information is very clear for us teachers and for our students as well ( they can look at this at home or in class)! Very well organised and easy to click through and find what you are looking for.

  • turnitinuk
This is the software you can use to check your students' writing for plagiarism. You just need to create an account and submit the papers. After a while, you get the plagiarism results as well as the initial source of what was plagiarised. 

So, if you have heard of the Academic Word List, then this is a go to website. You can find the AWL (a list of words that researchers have concluded appear very frequently in academic texts) here. There are also tabs that focus on all the skills. You can either do some of the tasks with your students if you print them out or you can send them to this site as part of a self study task. Tell your students to press the materials tab and get down to work : ).

This is where you students can upload their presentation and record themselves speaking while changing their own PowerPoint slides. They then send the presentation to your email account and you can listen to them talk whilst also looking at their PPT. You need to press the home tab, sign up for free and then you start. Registering can be quite tricky but do try it out. My students loved using it.
  • Academic writing-Routledge website
If you have taught academic writing, you probably know Academic Writing: A Handbook for International students by Stephen Bailey. I often use material from this book especially for my lower level students. This book has a webpage and on this website you can find the answer key to the exercises of this book. There are also tabs with extra material, quizzes etc. Have a look at the plagiarism quiz tab!
  • Dvolver moviemaker
Your learners can create movies and send them to you. You may wonder what the connection to EAP is, though. Well, I use this as part of my seminar skills class. Very frequently, I suggest/teach expressions my students can use when holding discussions, negotiating etc. I then tell them to send me little movies with these expressions in them. So, apart from practicing during a speaking task in class, they also get to write them down and make their own dialogues whilst having fun!

  • One Stop English
You all probably know this website! There is an ESP tab and lots of material, some free, others you have to sign in for. Teaching tip: find the pdf file adopt Ivan. It is a great file to use when teaching seminar skills!

I hope you enjoyed this post. I know that there are many websites out there that you can use. I will be back with more suggestions in the near future. I look forward to reading any of your suggestions!: D

Till next time

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

EAP course

EAP courses: a short overview for the newbie : D
A couple of teacher friends who will be teaching EAP (English for academic purposes) have been asking me questions about what to expect and what it is like. Well, first of all, for me, EAP courses are fantastic (I have taught on 3 pre sessional courses and am going to Sheffield Uni this year for my fourth course, yay!) and a chance to go from my everyday General English classes to something different and challenging. Yes, it will be challengeing but don't worry you can do it!
 So, for all you newbie EAP tutors congrats on the new job, this one is for you!This post is a very brief but quite a concise descrioption of what to expect when teaching an EAP course for the first time.

What will I be teaching?
Syllabus of course may differ, from course to course, due to duration, learners' English level and many other factors but at core they are the same. Here is a brief description of what you will be teaching:
  • Academic writing
Forget about the Ielts academic writing you have been teaching so far. Now, you will be helping your learners write research papers, assignments. You need to train them to use strategies like paraphrasing, summarizing information, synthesizing information and many others. They learn what a thesis statement is, a map, how to show their view in a research paper as well as how to support their main argument with other arguments. You also have to help them avoid plagiarism because there is almost next to zero tolerance of plagiarism!
  • Academic Listening
Your learners will be attending lectures so part of academic listening is to prepare your learners for that.  Your learners will attend, listen or watch a lecture. Your role is to ensure your learners make use of the strategies that will help them identify what information is important, and what  is not. You will probably have to devote some time on teaching them how to take notes. May I suggest brushing up your knowledge on Cornell notes?
  • Academic Reading
Here you will practice reading with your learners and engage in tasks that help them recognise the rhetorical functions so as to understand a text, skim, scan, understand the main and supporting ideas and guess the meaning of unknown words etc. so that they are able to understand complex academic texts, journals and books that are relevant to their studies.
  • Presentation Skills
In your presentation skills classes you will be giving guidance related to how to give a presentation. You will teach them what to include in a presentation (usually PowerPoint) and what not to include. You will give advice on the appearance of their PPT slides and their delivery of a presentation. You will also practice Q & A segments so they are prepared to answer any questions that come their way and are relevant to their chosen topic.
  • Seminar skills
Your students need to be able to express their views on issues related to their subject skills in study groups and in their classes. They need to hold discussions with their peers, negotiate, come to mutual decisions, argue their views and so on. This is what you will be doing in this class. You will equip your learners with the speaking micro skills that will enable them to do so.
  • Assessment?
This depends on the EAP course you are teaching. You will definitely be assessing in one way or another your learners so be prepared for a heavy workload : )

What about technology?
The university you will be teaching at will probably have smart boards and computers everywhere. You will also probably have to use MOODLE or Blackboard as a learners' management system. I have never used MOODLE so I cannot talk about that, but as far as Blackboard is concerned, it is easy to use. You can share things with your colleagues and students. You can use it to email, use discussion boards, get your learners to submit research papers etc.

Buzz terms you may need to read up on

  • critical thinking
  • autonomous learning
  • peer evaluation/feedback
  • plagiarism

Feel free to add whatever you feel is missing. I have also written a post about top resources when teaching EAP so have a look here.
Till next time

Friday, May 23, 2014

Learner autonomy?!?

                       The Mama bear teacher

For a couple of days now I have been wondering about my dedication to the job regarding how much I, should I say facilitate (?), my students' learning. I have come to terms with the fact that, yes, I am a spoon feeder (not in the evil spoon feeder way though, don't get me wrong). I often consider myself a mama bear teacher who in an attempt to help my learners, ends up making them over reliant! I am talking about simple things, things they should be doing on their own but in the end, I am the one doing these things for them. Where is the line between helping your learners and nipping learner autonomy in the bud?
Here is my list of sins. If you find yourself ticking the same boxes as me, join the club fellow mama bear teacher!

  •   My students (young or older) continually come to class without pencils, erasers, notebooks. My solution: I go buy pencils, notebooks and erasers and give them to them.
  • I schedule extra lessons with my learners. I tell them 100 times. I even ask them CCQs (: P) but what do I do in the end? I text message them a reminder a few minutes before the session.
  •   My EAP students have difficulty finding sources for their research projects. My normal teaching method: Show them how to search the Uni library/show them how to search Google scholar, muse etc. My learners are still frustrated (?!) My solution: I look for books myself, in my own time, and give them some titles.
  •   My Business English students: I suggest reading an article and talking about it together. “Time to talk about your interests”, I say. " Read something you like and send it to me" But only rarely do they send me something. My solution: I ask them,” what are you interested in?” They tell me. I find the articles and send them to them.
  •   Project time for my young learners. They have decided on what they want to write about. They write it. They bring it to class. Sometimes their work is incomplete though. They haven’t found pictures to accompany their texts. My solution:  I find the pictures for them.              
Am I actually helping my learners or am I cutting their wings, making them over reliant? Is this part of the job or have I turned into a control freak teacher? If you ask me, it is part of the job. But is it?When does caring turn to overbearing?
I love my job. Sometimes I think I even do it well, but I do wonder, "When do I draw a line and let my students be? Am I supposed to be a mama bear teacher?"
Tell me what you think!
Self made pic. Meet the mama bear teacher.

Till next time.......


Sunday, May 18, 2014

My first MOOC

The MOOC that went wrong: confessions of a learner.

So, here I am going on and on about the advantages of online teaching and then came the slap in the face. This is a story about an online teacher who became an online learner and failed. Anyway, let's take things from the beginning.
During the Easter break a friend of mine, Lia,  sent me a link for a free online teacher development course, a MOOC. Now, before moving on, I will tell you what MOOC stands for. It is a Massive Open Online Course. So, as an online teacher, I thought to myself, "Hey, what a great opportunity! I am in."
In fact, attending a MOOC, in my mind, at that point, was the best option for me for many reasons.

Reasons why the MOOC was a great choice:

  • I could study from home.
  • I could study whenever I wanted to.
  • There were deadlines so I did have time limitations.
  • There was a learner management system (LMS). I got to introduce myself and meet other students attending the same course as me. I got to make a profile, so it was not anonymous.
  • There was a discussion board with loads of Q & A threads and people asked and answered questions. The tutors also contributed to these threads so there was a lot of interaction.
  • There was an abundance of material available at the just the click of a button. No need to search for anything. I could also access further reading material if I was really interested in what I read.
  • There were videos related to the theme of the week. Follow up questions related to these videos were also there.
  • I could take a pre-knowledge test and see what I already knew about the material covered each week and if I had unknown terms the definitions were available immediately.
  • I would get a certificate of attendance and it would have looked great on my CV.
In fact, this MOOC had all the ingredients that were necessary to make it the perfect MOOC. The perfect (?) online course. Yet, I failed to complete it. I dropped out. Why?
Upon reflection, I think:
  • I was not motivated enough. The course was not on something completely new or something I needed to learn more about. It was not really connected to my needs as a learner.
  • I started it during my holidays. Bad, bad, bad idea! Holidays mean free time, time to relax and recharge your batteries. As a teacher who works all day long, I needed my free time and I had not acknowledged how tired I was. I seem to totally shut down when I actually find some free time.
  • I have realised that in order to attend distance courses, I also need some sort of face to face interaction with other learners and my tutors. I do not have to meet them in person, but some Skype time, some real time interaction, is necessary for me. It gives me the opportunity to express my concerns, my thoughts on whatever I am learning. I do not feel cut off.
As someone who teaches online, experiences the benefits of an online course and who knows the prerequisites of what makes a successful online course, I have not given up on the idea of MOOCs. I need to become a better online learner though!

I am really interested in seeing what you think about MOOCs so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Picture taken from:

Till next time...

Friday, May 9, 2014

Writing Feedback Idea

What does your essay feedback look like?

I was correcting my student's essay the other day and started writing my feedback for her essay, and then I thought to myself, "Will she read all this? Will she benefit from it?" So, I racked my brain a bit and then came up with a brilliant idea! Feedback Q & A for my student. Have I grabbed your attention yet, fellow teacher? Great! Now, read on. So, let's take things from the beginning.

Background information
The learner: My student is a C2 level learner who has been learning English for approximately 7 years now. She will be sitting for C2 level certificate exams at the end of the year. She is a studious learner. She had to write an essay about the advantages and disadvantages of using the internet.
The teacher's feedback track record: Although my feedback style varies, often when I comment on my students' essays I : 
  • Circle/mark/correct things on the essay.
  • Follow up with feedback comments where I rewrite/ correct some of the mistakes/ give grammar comments/talk about organisation-content and so on.
  • I follow the sandwich method (strength-weakness-strength OR you did this-you didn't do this-you need to do this).
  • I use the learner's L1 when my student is a bit weak and when I see L1/L2 transfer errors.
  • I do not comment about every single mistake in the essay.
  • I try to make my feedback page one page long (A4).
  • I do not squash everything up. I like space!
  • I use bullet points not numbers.
  • I use smiley faces : ) and sad faces : ( (sometimes there are even tears!).
  • My comments are handwritten. The good old-fashioned way.
  • I never use a red pen!
Why do I do this?
 Well, I have been correcting essays like this for many many years so, it is only natural for me to write my feedback page! I feel like I haven't corrected an essay if I do not state their mistakes/ strengths clearly or if I do not make suggestions on what they could have written.

My students' opinion of my (lengthy) feedback:
Some learners read it and like it. They learn from their mistakes. I often tell them to go over the feedback from all the essays they have written to check if any of their mistakes reoccur. Others don't bother reading it. They just take their notebook and chuck it in their bag. The latter for me, as a teacher, is demotivating. I then think of all the students who do read and do learn from my comments, so I keep writing my feedback comments page.

What did I do differently this time?

Feedback Q & A?

As I said earlier,I get discouraged when my students do not bother to read what I have written and I also want to check to see if they have learnt something from what I wrote. I also want to see if they can reflect on what they have written. So, I thought, " Hey! What if I ask them questions about the feedback? Something like a feedback questionnaire? " and I did. I made a feedback quiz/drill/reflection page!See picture.OK, so it ain't the best thing you have ever seen but it is a start and I do think it will benefit my learners.

What did my learner think?

She said that she liked the idea (implication: would she have told me if she didn't? Hopefully, yes). My questions were focused on the mistakes she had made in her writing task. She also had an opportunity to amend some of her errors. She got extra practice on some of the things she got wrong in her essay. I asked her a question about the strengths of her essay. She found pinpointing them quite hard. I was expecting the latter because upon reflect, I do not know about you guys, but whilst I write down the positive points of my students' essays, I do not often ask them to tell me what they think is good about their essay.

Why should a teacher try this?
Well, if nothing else, you ensure that your learner actually looks at the written feedback you have given him. They notice their mistakes! Your learner, depending on the questions/tasks you put on this Q&A form will get a chance to correct any mistakes/ make new sentences with the language he got wrong and so on. It is also a great opportunity for him to reflect not only on his strengths but also the weaknesses.
BUT.... and there is always a but....
this is VERY time consuming for you and the class. I would not make a little feedback Q&A page for every single piece of writing my students give me but I would do it from time to time because it does help my learners. I think I would be more eclectic as to when I make these feedback Q&A pages and branch them out to different genres so that my learners can look closely at different types of texts.

You can do this with any writing class and with all learners, so try it out. Will your students' writing be impeccable? Maybe not. Improved? Yeap!

Downloadable writing feedback Q & A idea. Step by step

Feedback Q.docx
I really enjoyed this blog post. I hope you did too. Feel free to comment below. I am interested in seeing if you do this in your writing classes and how effective you think it is.
  A few days later... note to the reader... This post was shortlisted for this month's (June) Teaching English blog post award, so if you like it, go to the Teaching English via the British Council Facebook page, scroll down to where it says this blog post has been shortlisted and press 'like'. Either way, thanks so much for reading : ) and thanks to the Teaching English Facebook page for shortlisting this post : D
Till next time.....

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ideas on where to look for material when teaching BE online

Ideas for material for my BE classes.... my favourite stuff : D

I teach business English online for some time now, so I thought it was about time I wrote a blog post about where I look for my material. These suggestions are geared towards boosting the speaking skill. I will not talk about material available in print, my focus is on material I access online. The websites that I use are open and offer their material for free. I am not going to give you any lesson plans but I do have some VERY simple warmer tasks/ideas and some ideas for follow up activities.
One of the benefits of teaching online is that it is easy to go from one page to another as you can send different links to your learner based on his needs and by just pressing a button! So, here goes! I hope you enjoy going from one website to the other!

Material for open/conversational sessions

Very often I have lessons that are more laid back and engage my students in conversations about their interests or kinda work-related issues. Since my learners are attending business English sessions, I do try to use material that is more business English friendly. So, where do I go to look for articles and what are some of my favorite articles?
                          Articles/reading material
I think the language is easy to understand and I like the business tab. Some of my favourite articles from here: 
Change offices from sitting to standing:
Warm up questions: What do you think about standing up while working instead of sitting down? Do you have stand up desks in your office? What are the benefits of having them in your office?
Follow up task: Send a memo to your colleagues informing them that your company has decided to order stand up desks. Mention why the company has reached this decision (use information from the article) and briefly describe the stand up desks.
Nap pods at work:
Warm up questions: What kind of facilities would you like your company to offer its employees in terms of well-being? What do you think a nap pod is?
Jobs for smart but lazy people (this one causes quite a stir).
Warmer; Start with this quote which appears at the end of the article.
 "I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job, because he will find an easy way to do it’."
The Guardian:
Top ten satisfying jobs:
Warmer: Get your learners to list the top three most satisfying jobs/top three factors that make a job satisfying. If you are having a one to one session, get your learner to make this list and you, the teacher, make one too. Once the lists are ready, have a short debate about satisfying jobs and what makes a job a good one or not. Then read the article and... do whatever you want to with what's in it : ).
Work from home:
Warmer: Tell your learner he is the manager of a company that has decided to get its workers to work from home. How would he/she set this up? What are some of the difficulties and what are the benefits of such an idea?
Follow up: get your learner to make a PPT presentation introducing the idea of working from home and the steps that need to be taken for this to work.
Speaking about non job related issues
Good spinoff for book conversations:
Even if you do not want to use this with your learners, do have a look at the top 5. Have you read them?
and something about health and well being:
I like this article because it gives ten tips on how to boost your metabolisms and you can get your learners to summarise the paragraphs into bullet points whilst also telling you if they follow these tips or not.
Of course,there are loads of other websites where you can find interesting articles like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and so on, but most of the time I use the Guardian and the BBC. There is also a cool (am I allowed to say cool, now that I am writing a materials blog post?!? Sure!) site called newsmap This site is updated regularly and you can send your learners the link and then a big collage of news from around the world appears and they can choose the article they want to read.
                                                                                                      Screen shot of newsmap


Everybody knows Youtube of course. this is the place to go to for free videos. One of my favourites is this documentary. It is one hour long, so I suggest you tell your learners to watch it as homework (WHAT? Homework?). The video is quite surprising for my German and French learners and it does generate a lot of discussion about internships, inequality in education etc. It is also a great way to start a discussion about different cultures and the job scene. I have prepared a simple lesson plan for this video (I will upload it in a blog post in the near future ...... hopefully).
Who gets the best job?

Another website with loads of videos which can be used with your BE students is The Australia Network . You need some time cause there are many videos connected to conducting meetings, business socials/small talk etc. Click the tab The Business of English and watch the videos with your learners.

That's all for now. I do know that there are loads of articles/videos you can use with your learners but I wanted to share the ones I use. Apologies if the links do not work where you are but hopefully by knowing where I got the article from and what it is a bout you will be able to find it... or not!

Till next time.....