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Dolch Sight Words – Using them in ESL classes

May 31st, 2010

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This show starts off with a quick discussion about the new teacher tips video blog that Matt has put together on DreamEnglish.com called the Teach Kids English Show.  They are short 3-4 minute videos packed full of tips for teachers that are teaching young learners.

Talking briefly about MES-English‘s 5th anniversary on the web, Matt brings in the show’s main topic, Dolch Sight Words.  We first go over briefly what sight words are for those that are unfamiliar and then discuss how Matt found them to be inspiring and exciting in some classes where phonics-only was failing.  For Matt’s class they really sped up reading and the learning process.

Mark has taken the original list and made a graded and short version for his ESL classes.  You can find those downloads and a more in-depth explanation of the lists on the MES Dolch Sight Words Resources page.

We also go over:

  • when to start using sight words
  • the importance of knowing the word before memorizing the spelling
  • using a book to create a list of sight words and then immediately applying knowledge to context to inspire your readers
  • 5 different games and activities you can use in your classes to practice sight words

Thanks for listening!

High grammar but low speaking competence

March 15th, 2010

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This week we welcome Dave from http://www.learnenglish-online.com.  Dave is working at a language school and international high school in Canada.  Additionally he runs his own website for students to “learn English online.”  We’ll talk a bit about his website and also in general about website building/promotion later in the show.
In part one of the podcast, we focus on some of Dave’s students’ problems and how he handles them.  He has a good number of Japanese students and they have a strong knowledge of grammar but a very low speaking level.  Mark and Dave offer a few ideas on how to improve speaking competence and fluency with these learners.

  • breaking down the walls and barriers
  • stopping the calculating and perfect sentence building
  • reading to increase speaking competence
  • using music and acting
  • understanding errors are not necessarily mistakes

In the second part of the podcast we discuss Dave’s website.  It offers students listening exercises with videos and music, help with grammar, quizzes, and provides them with a lot of feedback.  The website is growing and the response has been positive for Dave.  Mark and Dave also discuss a bit about how Dave built up the site and any mistakes people might want to avoid in make their own site.  There are also some tips for promoting your ESL website or blog and getting more traffic.

Right at the end, we had some technical problems and I lost Dave, but Dave was kind enough to email me the Game of the Week section of the show that got cut off.

If you have any questions or comments about teaching students with advanced grammar but low speaking competence or if you have any questions about building and promoting your ESL site, please comment below or over at the ESL Teacher Talk forums.

We’d like to thank Dave for coming on to the show and encourage everyone to visit his site Learn English – Online.

Game of the Week: Speedy Subject Verb Agreement

This game is used to practice subject verb agreement in conversation.  It is also designed to improve fluency and speed when speaking.

* Put the students in partners
* Write these categories on the board:

1. Do/Does
2. Is/Are/Am
3. Have/Has
4. Was/Were
5. Doesn’t/Don’t
6. Wasn’t/Weren’t

* Student A randomly says pronouns to Student B.  (I, You, He, She, It, We, They)
* Student B must say the correct verb that matches with the pronoun.

Example: Round 1

Student A:  He
Student B:  does
Student A:  We
Student B:  do
Student A:  They
Student B:  do

* After 7-10 words, the partners switch.  After switching, they go to round 2.
* Students are trying for perfection, and then to develop speed.
* Make sure they say the pronouns randomly to avoid developing a pattern in their speaking.

Another option is to put the students into two groups and the teacher says the pronouns.  Working through each round with one pronoun for each student, the two teams can have a competition to see which is the fastest.

This game works very well for students who know simple subject verb agreement on tests and in writing, but sometimes make mistakes when speaking.  It is also very good to promote speed for students who still speak at a slow pace.  In general, it makes students think and speak quickly, which gets their brains really working hard.
Thanks for listening!

Teaching holidays

February 4th, 2010

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Even though it’s February, happy New Year!  Valentine’s Day is on the way and Mark has a new site with some cool teacher tools.  Print With My Pic.com allows you to add your photo to cards, calendars or certificates.  Since Valentine’s is just around the corner, why not send your Valentine a card with your photo!

This week’s show is about teaching holidays.  Every time a holiday rolls around it seems like we should be teaching or working with those holidays and seasons.  This show we discuss ways to teach holidays with beginners to advanced students.

  • new vocabulary or vocabulary that doesn’t go well in other places
  • low level classes, crafts and activities for these classes
  • worksheet and listening ideas
  • using the holidays as a chance to teach a bit about different cultures
  • using the holiday to dress up your current content
  • working with readings or holiday backgrounds
  • advanced speaking tasks associated with holidays
  • using video segments from Hollywood for discussion
  • discussing the differences between how holidays are celebrated in different places around the world

For Valentine’s and other holiday materials, check out the teacher printables at MES-English.com.

If you have any other tips or advice for other teachers out there on teaching holidays, we’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments here or over on the ESL Teacher Talk forums!


Game of the Week: Last Card out
This is a simple vocabulary review game or for practice after drilling.  You just need your flashcards and a group of students.  We also explain how this game can be adapted for use with small children to adults.

Thanks for listening!

Motivating students

December 13th, 2009

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Christmas is upon us … ho! ho! ho! Merry Christmas everybody!  Tis the season, so Matt has a new Christmas Song for you to download and use in your classes: Merry Christmas!  It’s a play-like song with speaking, actions and a matching picture book!  There are a few more resources discussed that are available for download from MES.  You can find all those here, MES Christmas, if you are interested.

This week’s show is about motivating your students.  Matt goes over his three keys for motivation your students and Mark comments and adds two more areas to think about in your lessons.

  • self motivation
  • when to encourage and when to challenge
  • setting up the right classroom environment
  • choosing an appropriate theme and format
  • using testing to motivate

If you have any other tips or advice for other teachers out there about motivating students, we’d love to hear from you.  Please post your comments here or over on the ESL Teacher Talk forums!

Game of the Week: the Knock Out Race

This is a new board game from Tools for Educators that you can completely customize with images, text only or a mixture of both.  It’s different than most board games out there in that it’s a loop.  So you can practice your content several times and even increase the difficulty or add new tasks with the same content.  It has been a big success in my classes and I hope your students enjoy it!

the Knock Out Board Game

Thanks for listening!

Teaching toddlers, 2-3 year olds

November 14th, 2009

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This show was recorded back in the summer and a few shows got bumped up, so if you feel we’ve gone back in time, I guess we have 🙂 But first, we of course have some new things on the web to talk about …  Check those out at the end of the show notes.

Teaching toddlers:

This show goes over some basic problems that come up in teaching classes with 1-3 year olds: short attention spans, running around the room, eating your materials, high expectations of the parents and more.  Each problem is addressed and a few ideas for dealing with each are discussed.

More advice and focus is given to the actual planning and running of the classes:

  • language production and what to expect
  • handling zero production
  • eliciting language from this group
  • activities: what do they like
  • activities: what qualities do they like
  • vocabulary: how to introduce it
  • working with music and actions
  • play and explore vs. teaching at them
  • how to motivate them

Quite a bit in this show and we hope some of it is helpful if it’s not all applicable.

If you have anything to add to the show, your own advice or questions, please let us know.  Post them here or over at the ESL Teacher Forums.  We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for listening!

New materials from Matt and Mark:
Matt has a new phonics section with Touch and Say phonics over at Dream English.  There are chants to download, worksheets, flashcards and more.  Check those out!

Mark has a new site, 123 Print Calendars.com.  You can make custom calendars for you classroom or for home.  Enter events, class schedules, vacations, students’ birthdays, whatever.  All the text is 100% customizable.

There are all kinds of themes to choose from.  I hope you are able to find something you like.

Teaching communication strategies

October 9th, 2009

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Happy fall everybody!

We’ll get back to fall and Halloween for the games of the week, but Matt has some great news for you.  He’s finished and launched Dream English volume 3.  There is a download pack on his website and it contains all of the songs from the 3 CDs plus a few bonus songs (over 45 songs.)  You can also just get the new CD from there as well.
This show deals with teaching communication strategies. We discuss ideas and tips to teach to students, especially teens, about how to be a better conversationalist.  So while it’s not really teaching them English, you will be teaching them how to involve themselves better in conversation and keep conversations going.  The main points Mark covers in the podcast are:

  • using questions
  • follow up questions
  • feeding the conversation content
  • not killing, but keeping the conversation
  • keeping everyone involved
  • how to move forward from negative responses
  • attacking the conversation and not being passive

There are bits and pieces in there about how to adapt these ideas to children’s lessons.  We also discuss some ideas and advice for helping quiet students.

There are 4 activities mentioned toward the end of the show to help apply some of these concepts in your lessons.
If you have any questions of comments about the show, please post them here or over on the ESL Teacher Talk Forums at MES-English. We’d love to hear from you.

Games of the week:  It’s a mummy. You’re it!

I just made that name up, but this week Matt has a Halloween theme game that uses some flashcards and game cards from MES-English’s Halloween set.  Using a few cards and playing some Halloween music, you can have a lot of fun selecting students for different language tasks or it can be a knock out game you use at a Halloween party.

There are two more games mentioned that are just party games and might be fun for you to use with your students.

Thanks for listening!

Teaching the Past Tense

August 31st, 2009

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Mark starts off the show with a description of a few new things MES English has to offer its users.  In the show Mark has gone over his speaking first curriculum and now some of that is listed on the MES English website with links to all of the resources and additional resources you might need.

There are also some new teaching videos at MES-TV.  There are straight vocabulary videos, questions and answer videos as well as interactive question only videos. These are great for non-native teachers and teachers that just want to expose their students to another voice.  Check them out – http://tv.mes-english.com

This show deals with teaching the past tense. The main points of the podcast are:

  • when should we teach the past tense?/What age is too young?
  • How do Mark and Matt introduce the past tense to students
  • what are some ways in the beginning to avoid the complications of irregular verbs
  • ideas for content when teaching the past tense
  • how to practice the past tense

There are quite a few games and activities listed in the show, 4-5, I believe.  So, this show there is no designated game of the week section, but we hope some of the activities mentioned in the show will give you something to work with.

If you have any questions of comments about the show, please post them here or over on the ESL Teacher Talk Forums at MES-English.  We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for listening!

Using Chants to Teach

July 9th, 2009

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Matt has a few new songs on Dream English for younger children (shapes and more.)  There’s also a little discussion on the benefits of using children’s songs .

Dream English has 40+ free downloadable chants.  They are very popular for teaching languages and Matt and Mark go over teaching with chants.  The main points of the podcast are:

  • what are chants, why use them, and what are the benefits
  • differences between chants and songs in teaching
  • how chants are used in class
  • an example of a chant – ‘Days of the Week
  • ideas you can use to add to chants sections of the lesson
  • ideas for adding chants to different sections of your existing lesson plans

Matt added a free simple background beat clip for ETT listeners!  You can use the file to create your chants for anything.

Later in the show, Mark discusses sentence reduction and incresing student fluency.  He explains in adult classes how teachers can use some chanting to increase speed, fluency and pronounciation.
If you have some ideas to add or questions about the show, please post your questions and comments here or at the ESL Teacher Talk Forums.

Game of the Week: the Chanting Game

Matt brings the game of the week this week.  It can be very simple or use more complicated language structures.  It can be used with classes of 6 and up and is a whole lot of fun.  Many variations of the activity are discussed as well.  Give it a try and let us know how it goes!

A challenge for listeners.  What’s a better end to this sentence than Mark’s off-the-cuff  response:

“I have a bird and her name is …”

Thanks for listening!

Teaching the Present Continuous

June 11th, 2009

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The show starts off with unseasonable weather and a circus but moves quickly into this show’s theme, the present continuous.

Matt and Mark go over:

  • presenting the target language orally
  • why teach the present continuous early on in your curriculum
  • teaching and explaining the grammar using only English
  • forming questions and negatives
  • Teaching short answers, or that is to say not teaching short answers, but the ‘reduced’ answers.

Towards the end, Mark goes over quite a few games that can be used to practice the present continuous.  The games were mentioned fairly quickly, but a couple that have further explanations can be found here: Go Fish, Memory, Slap, board games, and Bounce Around
If you have some ideas to add or questions about the show, please post your questions and comments here or at the ESL Teacher Talk Forums.

Game of the Week: the Skit Kit
This is an activity that focuses on creating stories, short dialogs and can be built up into skits or role plays for the students to perform.  This activity can be used with large classes and works well all the way down to one-on-one classes.  Mark goes over how to use the Skit Kit to accomplish the activity goals, but if you don’t want to use the actual kit, that’s no problem and Mark explains how.

The activity has many parts and it’s also great for introducing focused target language.  We hope you and your students enjoy it.

Thanks for listening!

Teaching Thematic Units

May 7th, 2009

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Matt has added some new simple easy songs for 1-3 year old classes.
Mark and Matt cover creating thematic units.  This show covers what a thematic unit is, what the goals of a thematic unit should be, and what you need to get your thematic unit off the ground.

Mark covers the city, food and animals as examples of thematic units and we hope that gives you so ideas for introducing vocabulary, working in target language, and working in role-plays.  There are also some discussion on the benefits and reasons behind why a thematic unit is beneficial.

If you have some ideas to add or questions about the show, please post your questions and comments here or at  the ESL Teacher Talk Forums.

Game of the Week:  a Shopping Game

This is a game that can be worked into thematic units such as shopping!  Using flashcards or slips of paper with items written on the cards and play money, students have to buy and sell items using language centered around shopping and bargaining.