Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Power of Bingo and ESL

Teaching English can get a little redundant, especially if you are using the same books for a long time. One way to break up the boredom for both teachers and students is to regularly play some games. Bingo is probably one of the best listening games you can find. It really helps the listeners pay attention as they are usually pretty competitive, especially here in China as the whole of their educational experience is pitted against all other students at their level. So they take to it likes ducks to water. The best place I have found for resources for bingo is Mark's Esl Pages. I have plugged his site before in general but he can never get enough credit for the sites he has put together. Here is what I suggest. Use the flashcards in classes, make some bingo cards, and hand out the handout pages to build the vocabulary, familiarize the class with the word and the image. They will be begging you to play. This is what you aim for. Get them excited and involved in their learning process. It is such a change from their traditional style of class in their Chinese schools that it is sure to be a winner.

Another great game that you can use to improve their listening is the old tried and true "Simon Says" game. I'm not sure which one my students like best but both can really energize and create a lot of excitement in the classroom. You can use Simon Says for the really young kids or the older higher level classes. You may want to do it in coordination with the introduction of commands. These lessons usually come pretty early at least they do in the books I use. The Cambridge for young learners introduces open your books, raise your hand, open the window in the first 10 lessons. You want to try and trick them too as you physically do the action or command without the Simon Says. I also make a buzzer noise vocally which always gets a laugh or two. This game always gets the parents laughing and they pay attention to the class too. It's a great way to demonstrate that their children are learning the language as they respond to your commands.

I just wanted to say a few more words of praise for Mark and his teaching skills and dedication to sharing his work with others, thanks Mark!

worldtour aka Larry Rhoe

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Getting teaching materials

Sites for Teachers

Often when teaching, you may be required to supplement the teaching materials that you use, or in some cases, you may have to supply all of the teaching materials. The web provides lots of ESL materials. One of the best is "Sites for Teachers". Not all of them are specifically for Teaching English as a Second Language, but most can be used in your classes. If you have not yet discovered the site mentioned above please take a moment and check them out.

One thing that you might find is, that when dealing with websites and the administrators of websites, it can be time consuming. I found that "Sites for Teachers" has a responsive admin and can get listed with them easily. I received approval and was placing the code to the linking in less than 24 hours. That's an excellent response time.

In order for your site to attain a decent page rank and receive search engine traffic you will want to have links pointing to your site. These links are more valuable when the page rank of that sight as high or higher than your own. This is just one way that you can get more traffic to your site.

So if you don't have the time to make your own exercises, or you need some new materials, please take a look at "Sites for Teachers" and some of the other links that I have in the sidebar.

Worldtour aka Larry Rhoe

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Travel and Homesickness

For anyone who has lived outside their own country for any length of time, homesickness is something they are familiar with. I have not been home in over four years. That is one of the reasons why I am so happy to get mail from friends and family. This photo was sent to me by my brother and shows the Tulip Festival in Western Washington where my family lives. Acres and acres of tulips and other flowers as well. The rush of color is awesome and the natural beauty is surely something I miss about the Great Northwest. I have some posts with some beautiful flowers from my vacation in Sanya, Hainan. Now another Chinese Holiday is nearly upon us. Workers day, or May day is a week long holiday for many in China. It holds perhaps more significance here than in other parts of the world given China's history and political structure.

For teachers in China it is a welcomed break, a time for travel, or just chilling out for a while. For me it's somewhat different as the parents of my students want their children to have classes during this time. So it can be even busier than other times. That is good since I have been looking at some real estate recently. So many teachers bemoan the low salaries in China but few take on the steps to insure their own prosperity. I have been fortunate but I also took the risks, so I feel I am reaping the rewards of my labor. Even if you are teaching at another school you could include in your contract the possibility of working on your own. Or if you don't mind being a little clandestine about it, just do it. Many teachers in private language schools have heavy weekend schedules and free time during the week, many receive an apartment as part of their compensation, so with a minimal investment you could easily bank 12-15 thousand per year with one or two classes per week.

Reading is so fundamental to language development and most Chinese students read at a much higher level than they speak, which is normal for anyone studying a second language. In that regard, I just wanted to say how deeply touched I was at the passing of one of America's great writers, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., my favorite author. If you are interested in what I have to say about him please visit one of my other blogs. Worldtour P.O.V. at

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tempus Fugit (Time Flies)

It seems like yesterday that I returned from my Spring Festival vacation in Sanya, yet it has been a month since I last posted. Time indeed flies. I personally prefer to be busy rather than bored so I'm not complaining. You just notice it more as you age. In many ways things could hardly be better. I have added 5 or 6 classes and it has all come from word of mouth. Teaching in China has always offered challenges so it also keeps it pretty interesting. One cannot underestimate the value of the person who interfaces with the parents of the student. As English language schools grow this becomes more difficult. Classes are scheduled back to back and it becomes more and more trying to pass on the information to the parents. So if you are only teaching and not doing much in the area of dealing with the parents, consider yourself lucky.

Here is a dynamic you may find useful in your teaching. The age of the student wanting classes is very high at the ages of 5-11. You can effectively control about 16-20 if you have experience. Most have had some contact with some sort of schooling and considering their age they take to the classroom setting pretty well. I recommend a combination of drilling the lesson and then remove it from the book. Get it into the room. It's just the idea of making it more concrete or tangible. This is quite easy as the early lessons are quite simple, such as "what's your name". They tend to respond with more excitement if you can just get it out of the book and demonstrate to the student and parent that it is sinking into their heads. One of the best ways to do this comes in early command exercises, such as "open your book, close the window, clean the board". You can easily slide into "stand up please, sit down please, raise your hands" then make it a fun game of Simon Says. It really breaks up the boredom on both ends, teacher and student. This simple practice is perhaps one of my better areas, getting the lesson out of the book. It's not difficult and builds the skills effectively. Additionally, one must direct a bit of the over the top energy these ages have. Sometimes my biggest problem is the students saying "Teacher me", up on their feet begging to answer. This is of course a good problem to have, so you need to push that enthusiasm in the right direction and not stifle it with your own needs for "order". With the right mix of drill and improvisation within the lesson and classroom you can please the parents and they will beam with pride over their children's progress.