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Miscellaneous Articles

A (Mostly) Complete Glossary for ESL EFL Teaching

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Don't know a term? Need a quick reference on techniques and methods?  Take a look at this (mostly) complete glossary of EFL ESL terms.

accuracy: Some students have little trouble speaking English. The words just pour out. For some ESL EFL learners, although they produce a steady stream of English, the sentences contain numerous mistakes with grammar, vocabulary, and other aspects of the language. In other words, their speaking isn't very accurate, which could hinder another's comprehension. Activities which encourage accuracy, or activities which use group correction and student-to-student correction, help reduce mistakes. Compare fluency.

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Classroom Motivation

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A Systematic Approach to Classroom Motivation

Several years ago, a book on successful management and motivation in the workplace was released, which was called "First, Break All the Rules." It was based on contributions from more than 1,000,000 employees and 80,000 managers in 400 companies across all industries. The result provided new insight into what makes for a successful company or department.

And so I thought: Could these ideas be applied to the language classroom? After all, a motivated company or department produces tangible results the same as a motivated class. The former sees an increase in work output by the employees while the latter sees an increase in language output by the students. A lot has been written about motivation, but not much in the way of a consistent, systematic approach.

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Confidence in the Classroom

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Confidence in the Classroom

The fluency of some students suffers because they focus far too much on accuracy and perfection rather than smooth communication. For example, response time to questions ends up as overly slow, as these students analyze and translate every sentence rather than accept a general understanding to correctly answer and participate in a conversation. I don't advocate tossing out accuracy. However, for some students in particular, too much attention to mistakes actually hinders communication. It also negatively affects motivation, and can be one reason as to why students quit.

So what can be done?

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Dictionaries: Harmful or Helpful?

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Dictionaries: Harmful or Helpful?

Dictionaries in the classroom: Some students effectively use them, other students abuse them. Some teachers allow them, other teachers outright ban them. What exactly is the best policy?

A ban on dictionaries in the class should be viewed as extreme. After all, native speakers of English sometimes consult dictionaries when confronted with unknown words. As children, most parents even encouraged us to look up words we didn't know, in effect to take control of our learning. So why then should teachers prevent students from taking control of their learning? Why should teachers prevent the class from more richly understanding a text, or speaking with greater clarity, or feeling more comfortable with a difficult task, all because students couldn't check a word?

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Set Goals to Motivate Students

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Training at a gym and learning a foreign language have a number of similarities. The most obvious is probably on the tip of your tongue already: Both take a lot of hard work. Perhaps you also realized that a lot of people give up after a few sessions. In fact, excitement peaks before the first lesson, whether it's aerobics or English or something entirely else. And as imagination and reality collide mental exhaustion follows (in the case of language learning), and with months and months of more work on the horizon, a decline in interest naturally results.

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Six Activities for First Lessons

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Six Activities for First Lessons

The first day of a course sets the expectations and atmosphere for future lessons. For example, a fun, engaging atmosphere where students work together sets up a collaborative environment in which students must take an active, participatory role.

The full first lesson shouldn't be all games, of course. The teacher will likely want to introduce the materials and goals for the course, and also quietly begin assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the students.

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Study Advice for Students

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Students often need constructive study advice. Students who progress slowly, quit their studies, or become discouraged often do so because they simply don't have effective study techniques. For example, let's say Takeshi, a Japanese student, wants to improve his vocabulary. He buys a book of 1000 words, with each entry listing the word and definition in both English and Japanese. A short multiple choice quiz is at the end of each chapter.

Unfortunately, this is one of the least effective ways to improve vocabulary. The words are simply entered into Takeshi's short-term memory. The words aren't accompanied with examples, so he has no opportunity to see each vocabulary word used in context. He will also miss the nuance and proper usage of each word.

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Teaching Mixed-Level Classes

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Classes with mixed levels are a difficulty many teachers face from time to time. No two students are alike, of course. Some have stronger skills in speaking, while others struggle with it. Other students are more like novice grammarians, while others focus on fluency and communication. However, what can a teacher do when portion of the class is much lower overall, say a group of beginners mixed in with a class of intermediate students? Or how about a class with beginners, intermediates, and advanced students all together?

This article will look at several ideas to address the problem of mixed-level classes.

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Why Do Students Quit?

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Why Do Students Quit?

Students begin or continue their studies for all sorts of reasons, from work-related needs to studying abroad to improving their English skills for personal accomplishment and growth. And as many reasons for students to start or continue English, so too are there an equal number of reasons to quit.

Although a good number of reasons lie beyond the control of the teacher, I also believe that the teacher has the ability to mitigate some possible excuses. Working with students to set goals, creating a supportive and collaborative learning environment, providing well-structured lessons with a clear objective, and many more keys to better language teaching all help.

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