Tag Archives: English teaching

Using Smartphones in the Classroom

This week was the first time I have got my students to use their smartphones in the classroom. I hadn’t planned to use smartphones in the classroom but the positive results really got me thinking about my future lessons and how to include the use of smart phones more.

The first opportunity arose after I was told that the printer wasn’t working one day as I came into the college. I was covering for a sick teacher so no printing had been done in preparation for the lesson and I was left thinking about what to do instead.

smartphones

Entering class I had decided to just work from the book, but after looking around the classroom I noticed that every student had a smartphone. I had 7 students in class and all, whether it be a Blackberry, an iPhone or an Android, placed their phones in front of them as soon as they sat down. An idea popped into my head and I started to direct students to the website where I had a gap fill exercise as a downloadable document. Luckily I had an IWB to use in class so directing students to the right website and links wasn’t too difficult. Once there, I instructed students to download the task sheet so that they had it ready to use later in class.

Really all that I did was swap a paper copy of a task sheet for a digital copy. The task sheet was a gap-fill activity so students, unable to fill in the gaps on their phones, still

had to write their answers on a separate sheet of paper. There is nothing incredible about how I got students to use their smartphones, and I would still have preferred a paper copy of the task sheet to an electronic version, but just being able to use them for the first time really got me excited about their potential in class.

The second opportunity came again during another class I was covering. It was an IELTS class and the teacher I was covering for had kindly planned the lesson thoroughly. The teacher had included some IELTS speaking cards for the students.

The IELTS speaking cards usually focus on a topic where students have to describe a personal experience, for example a teacher who has had an important influence on your education. The card also gives hints about what you should include such as where they taught you or what you liked about their teaching.

There were only 4 students in class so the first activity we did as a group. I got one student to pick up a card and read it to the group. The student then had one minute to prepare and immediately after the minute was up they had to try and speak about the topic for two minutes. After this I instructed students to give some feedback on how the student performed, sandwiching one constructive criticism with two positive comments. This task worked really well and the students were using their iPhones to monitor the times.

After each student had spoken I split them into two pairs. I told the students to use their iPhones as voice recorders and continued the task as before, having one minute preparation then two minutes talk time, followed by feedback. The only difference this time was that after feedback students could listen to the recording of what they had said and then discuss if they agreed with the feedback and what they would have done better. The task worked really well and all students said that they would be trying this task at home independently.

I’m really excited about other things that I can do with smartphones in the future and I am sure they have lots more potential.

If you are reading this blog and have used smartphones in your classroom then please make a comment. I would really like to hear your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Tom.

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Filed under ESL, Teaching English, Tech

Teaching English as a foreign language: the good, the bad and the ugly

Today is my day off and instead of being in class teaching I am relaxing at home and having a well deserved break. Did I say break? Actually I’ve been updating my files, looking for resources, reading other ESL blogs, chatting to other educators on Twitter and writing this blog! I have booked 3 days of holiday and since teaching has become such a big part of my life I find it hard to switch off from it.

On #eslchat this Wednesday we were discussing our dream ESL job. In my blog I’d like to share my experiences of ESL teaching so far, looking at the good, the bad and the ugly.

Lets start on a positive note. The good. Teaching English now for over a year I am in love with my job. I feel like I am a good teacher and that I’m learning new things everyday. The people that I work with are great and supportive and the people who I see the most of, my students, are a pleasure to teach. I love how I can go into class most days and come out smiling. When a student tells me that they’ve enjoyed the class that day it can make all the effort I put in worth it. Teaching English is a fun and exciting job and I don’t think I could find the same level of job satisfaction anywhere else.

The bad. The past few months I feel like I’ve been working non-stop. In ESL you are paid for the hours you teach. There are no half-terms and no breaks. Classes are Monday to Friday and Sunday is my planning day so Saturday feels like the only time I get to relax. I feel exhausted. I feel like I work a 40 hour week sometimes when I only get paid for 20. I teach 4 hours a day, but if you count unpaid breaks and the time I come in to do printing and organise my files, I’m probably in the school for 5.5 hours a day. On top of that is lesson planning. Now I’m guilty of spending too long on my lesson plans. I think I should be spending no more than 15 minutes for every hour I teach. So 20 hours teaching should equal 5 hours planning a week. In reality I probably spend up to 10 hours. Now that’s not all planning. A lot of it is looking through the vast amounts of resources on the web, or creating my own because there’s nothing that works better than something you’ve designed yourself. So, if you want to teach English as a foreign language, expect to put those hours in.

The ugly. No sick pay and zero hour contracts, and that’s just in England! Schools can only give you hours if there are students to attend the lessons. I understand at the end of the day the school is a business and you can’t give work when there is no work to be had. After a great run of hours, with extra hours to be had from other teachers taking holiday or calling in sick, I have just been given the call that unfortunately there will be no hours for me next week, or possibly the week after, or maybe the week after that. Job security is one thing that a lot of people want from their careers. It’s unfortunate that a job such as this which I love doing will never have that.

If you are reading this and thinking about taking the first steps to becoming an ESL teacher please don’t let those bad points put you off. I love teaching English and wouldn’t change my job for anything and would recommend that you go for it and don’t hold back.

Since I have got this time off I will use it constructively. I’ll think of it as an unplanned half-term break. I’ll search for articles, watch webinars and do all those things that I’ve wanted to but just haven’t had the time for. Perhaps I’ll even write another blog or two.

Thanks for reading,

Tom

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Filed under Teaching English