TEFL TIPS #7 – Sticker Charts

Using a sticker chart when teaching TEFL is by no means an original idea! In fact, most ESL teachers probably don’t need me to tell them how to use a sticker chart effectively—but I am going to list some of the benefits associated with using this handy classroom tool. I think it’s important to note that studies suggest sticker charts are used most effectively when teaching ages 3 – 8 years old.

Sticker charts actually divide opinion among the teachers I know. Many (myself included) find them to be a useful instrument in the classroom, and would be lost without them.

However, others say that they use fear to control and motivate . They argue that a child would be afraid of failing, and not receiving a sticker would cause them to feel ashamed in front of their classmates.

This may also be true, but unfortunately, in an ESL classroom with younger learners, the language barrier is a problematic issue and not all instructions are fully understood. There needs to be a method in place to translate to the students that bad behavior won’t be tolerated and good behavior is to be rewarded.

So, with that said, I think the benefits of using sticker charts outweigh the negatives. Here’s why –

– Discipline

I would say that a lot of the good behavior in my classroom is because the students understand that if they don’t behave they won’t receive a sticker at the end of the day. I can combat any naughty behavior with the simple question: “Do you want a sticker?” Ideally, it would never get to this point, but it happens.

– Encouraging English

Encouraging English is very important in any ESL classroom! Students may be more motivated to talk in English if they were to receive a reward at the end of class.

– Minimizing the use of Native Language

Unsurprisingly, stickers can also be used to minimize the amount of talking the students do in their native tongue.

Teaches about goals/working toward something long-term

Children often count down the days until they finish their chart and receive their reward.  This is great at helping them understand the concept of long term goals.


Learning to be excited for others’ accomplishments

Students always find it fun to see a classmate pick their prize and find out what it is.  This may be because they can see what potential prize they could get, or because they are genuinely excited for their friend.

A sticker chart is by no means a perfect system, but it is easily understood by younger learners and can be used in a variety of ways.

Check out these fantastic sticker chart resources:

Websites

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Pinterest

Twinkl

On Amazon

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TEFL TIP – 5 Ways to Increase Bookings (Online ESL)

In the world of online ESL, the phrase increase bookings is universal and becoming more and more common due to current market.

We’ve all struggling to fill our booking slots at one point or another, so I know how frustrating and de-moralizing it can be.

TEFL TIP - 5 WAYS TO INCREASE BOOKINGS (ONLINE ESL)

Here are 5 simple tips I think will help you increase bookings and stand out from the crowd, regardless of whatever platform you teach on:

How to Increase Bookings

Consistency

Parent’s LOVE fixed slots and consistent availability. It’s important to many parents that their children have some type of routine when studying. There are a lot of online ESL platforms that only allow fixed bookings for this exact reason.

Aside from a fixed schedule, it’s also super important that your teaching style is consistent. I know it’s hard to be upbeat of those days you’re not feeling great or when you haven’t had time to drink a cup of coffee, but try your best to keep it business as usual.

Adapt

All ESL platforms are different. Some prefer their teachers to focus on phonics & pronunciation, wehereas others may want high energetic teachers who focus on speaking and using props. Do your research and find out what works for your employers and adapt your learning style!

Master your Craft

There is a wealth of resources online. Watch youtube videos, read articles and practice, practice, practice. Master your craft! Learn from others and go from being good at what you do, to GREAT! If you’re teaching students in China, my top tip would be to focus on pronunciation and correcting sentence structure. Always do this is fun and positive way, and don’t forget to give lots of encouragement.

Stand out from the crowd!

The world of ESL is saturated (especially during the pandemic), so put in that extra effort to make your lessons and classroom shine! Invest in good quality props and a fun, presentable background.

Be Passionate

This is the most simple, but effective tip. Show genuine passion and care. Try to enjoy what you do and take interest in your lessons. Students and parents will be able to tell if you’re turning up just to collect a pay cheque!

These are the areas that I think teachers should work on if they want to increase their bookings and fill their teaching schedule.

What tips would you recommend to struggling online teachers?

TEFL TIPS #4 – Verb of the Day

Verbs are the skeleton of any language. Most ESL learners know the basics:. ‘eat,’ ‘go’, ‘play‘ etc., but expanding this list is vital to those working towards achieving a higher level of both spoken and written English.

verb of the day

In my classroom, I introduced a method I call ‘verb of the day’. It’s pretty simple but effective.

Every day I spend a few minutes introducing a new verb and ask my students to use that verb in a sentence. In a few weeks, my students progress from using standard verbs: ‘I eat‘ ‘I go’ & ‘I like‘ to the more advanced: ‘I climbed’, ‘I jump’, ‘I travelled‘.

The more creative you are at introducing the verb (you could use a song, dance and games), naturally the more the class will learn. For the smaller kids, acting out the words can be very effective.

A list of verbs I use to teach in kindergartens – elementary school are as followings:

– stretch
– push
– pull
– visit
– bend
– think
– cry
– rush
– throw
– move
-chase
– bite

The older or more advanced the students the further you can go:

– quit
– shake
– whisper
– scare

I find these Verb Flashcards from Amazon super helpful in my online and brick and mortar classroom:

TEFL TIPS #3 – Storybots

If you are lucky enough to have internet access in your classroom, you’d be stupid not to take advantage of it.

Storybots

Youtube is full of useful ESL videos that you can play to your class to assist with teaching. While relying heavily on videos may be a cop out, using them selectively can help create a more dynamic classroom environment.

A channel I cannot recommend enough is Storybots, found here:
https://www.youtube.com/user/storybots

(recently changed to Netflix Jr)

I primarily use it to show clips when I teach the alphabet as a little break in between activities—the kids love the animations. Each video utilizes a large variety of words that can help expand children’s vocabulary. The music in the Storybot videos is catchy and after listening to a certain one a few times, the class will try to sing along!

Storybots also has an assortment of other songs that can be used for many different things such as ‘clean up’, ‘teeth’ and numbers.

Why not try to spruce up your lessons? Check it out.

Tefl Tips – Wrapping Paper Backgrounds

Have you ever googled ‘online teaching classrooms‘?

Wow!

The creativity, time and effort put into many of them is nothing short of inspiring. Sticker charts, prop boxes, creative backgrounds – I’d love to be a student in one of those teacher’s lessons.

I think most online teachers would agree that a good classroom can really enhance the learning experience and create a more enjoyable lesson for both the student and the teacher.

However, not all teachers have the luxury of space, money or educational resources to compete with some of the online ESL titans on google.

Don’t fear!

I’m here to help you out with a simple tip that will enable you to create the illusion of a 5 star classroom, without costing an arm and a leg!

WRAPPING PAPER

Yes, just wrapping paper. Simple.

Wrapping paper is….

  • Cheap
  • Easy to find
  • Available in millions of options
  • Portable
  • Easy to put-up & replace
  • Changeable to suit the class type, season, student
  • Simple to cut & fit

I travel a lot! As an online ESL teacher, I have found that wrapping paper is the best thing to carry because it’s light and requires hardly any space. It’s also quick and easy to pin up in airbnb’s & hotel rooms.

I also stick to a wrapping paper background when I’m in a fixed location because even a small amount, with the right placement, can give the illusion of a grand classroom with hours of effort put into it.

So, when it doubt, chuck some wrapping paper up on the wall and brighten up your lessons!

How do you normally decorate your online ESL classroom?

Popular Wrapping Paper Options on Amazon

TEFL TIPS #10 – THE ALMIGHTY FLASHCARD (2)

For this TEFL Tip, I’m going to write another post on flashcard activities.

You can find my first post here

Activity – Run to the ______ (Listening)

Age – Pre-K, K, Primary

Level – Beginner

This activity mainly focuses on listening and is one of the most simple but effective listening games you can play.

You start by teaching new vocabulary to your class using a selection of flashcards. Spend some time making sure the children understand what exactly the pictures are and ensure they pronounce the words correctly.

Then, check how much they have learned!

Scatter the flashcards throughout the classroom, stick them to walls, chairs, or if you’re a giant goofball like me, even your forehead.

SHOUT a word and the students need to listen and run to the flashcard of that word. Kids love it!

As time goes on, use more flashcards to ensure some of the children aren’t just having lucky guesses.  Also, giving a few students the chance to play one by one, maybe even against the clock to see how many they can get in time helps strengthen each child individually. And why only run? You could ask the class to skip, hop, crawl, etc. each time.

Give it a go &have fun!

-Liam

TEFL TIPS #9 – CLASS THEMES

Class Themes

When you peek inside the classrooms around you, chances are you find a lot of the same, especially in elementary schools—bright colors, number lines, and those same “motivational” banners that lose their appeal by day three. It can be hard to make your classroom stand out and to avoid having your space become completely mundane year to year. One way to spruce things up is to choose a class theme and to change it with either each semester or each new school year.

Adding a theme to a class can really help get students involved in their environment—it gets their imaginations turning and inspires them to create a whole world within the classroom. A theme also gives a sense of belonging and creates the mentality that the class is a team—“We’re all Tigers and Tigers are the best!”.

Of course, try not to get stuck in the rut of animals & fantasy creatures. Get creative and try out different professions (astronauts, sailors), environments (allow the class to create their own city or country), or even authors (Shel Silverstein & Dr. Seuss are always great choices!).

When cleverly executed, a class mascot can also be used to encourage positive behavior: “Ninjas are very quiet!” “Let’s go! Trains are super-speedy!”

You can also use that theme as a jumping-off point for arts & crafts, stories, and activities throughout the year. You can have class projects that revolve around creating a giant image of whatever your theme is (a class train or snake that gets longer with each completed unit; a giraffe or cheetah with increasing spots; a pirate with a growing crew or ninja with increasing shuriken, depending on the age group) as you complete different units or learn new facts.

Lastly, having a changing theme is a great mental break for you as a teacher—it inspires you to get more creative and motivates you to have a fresh outlook for a new class. It can help make the passage of time more visible too, and you realize how many subjects you’ve gone through or how far back a certain class was. When a new topic is one that really excites or motivates you it is bound to have a positive effect on your students as well.

-Ashley

TEFL TIPS #8 – PLAYDOUGH

In order to inspire creative thinking and maintain active engagement in the classroom, teachers need to sustain a dynamic environment. One great way to get kids involved is to involve more tactile activities and there are so many fun ways to include playdough in an ESL classroom! Not just for kids, either—even my adult learners have enjoyed some of the more challenging activities and welcome the break from books & paper. Below are some of my favorite activities:

Younger Learners:

Letters & Numbers: Definitely the most simple activity, having your smallest students practice their letters and numbers in clay is a fun way to help them focus on the shapes while also benefiting their developing motor skills. Offering them free time to create whatever they want afterward is also a great reward and as their skills grow you can challenge them to first spell out what they want to make afterward.

Footprints & Textures: For this activity, you’ll need small toy animals or hard, textured items like brushes, legos, & coins. Spread the playdough out on the table and make impressions while one or all students close their eyes, then have them try to guess what made the marks. This is great with toy dinosaurs or other plastic animals that can make different footprints and gives the opportunity to practice phrases like “I think”, “I see”, and “Is it…?”. Afterward, let the kids experiment with making their own impressions and see what pictures and stories they can create.

Intermediate to Adult:

Storytelling: In this activity, allow the students roughly 5-10 minutes to create anything they want, then have them present it to the class by telling a story about it. For those with lower speaking skills, ask questions (What is it? What is its name? Where does it live? What does it do?). It is a great way to maintain students’ attention as well, as they always seem interested to see what their classmates were able to create.

Pictionary: In this version of the game, a student randomly draws an English word or simple sentence and must create it out of playdough for their classmates to guess. This can be done in teams (with two students sculpting for their teams at the same time and the first team to guess wins the point) or individually (where a point will be awarded to both the guesser and sculptor if someone gets it right). However, this is best done in small classes—in larger classes being able to see what is being made quickly becomes a struggle.

This is just one of many ways to get students away from their books and into a more colorful lesson!

– Ashley

TEFL TIPS #6 – Increase your cash: Start Tutoring

So you’ve taken the leap and decided to teach abroad: you found a great job, set up your apartment, and found the means to keep yourself fed, washed, and comfortable. Like many TEFL teachers you’ll discover rent, food, and utilities always run a bit higher than you expected and you’re itching for some spending cash. If you truly enjoy teaching, private tutoring can be a fantastic way to supplement your income while gaining experience with a wider range of ages and ability levels. Tutoring jobs are generally easy to secure—a flyer on a telephone pole is often enough to get a few students, while in some areas you may be approached randomly on the street just for being a foreigner. However, it is essential to realize teaching and tutoring are very different things, so before you start filling up your schedule, keep in mind:

 Know the Purpose

Those seeking out tutors each have unique reasons and goals. Make sure you thoroughly understand what each student is looking for. A middle-aged family man planning to relocate abroad doesn’t need to know the difference between past progressive and past perfect tenses, nor will a high school student studying for college entrance exams be all that concerned with how to order food in a restaurant.

Take Advantage of the Flexibility 

Your first tutoring job will no doubt be challenging—a one-on-one session with no coursebook, no lesson plans, and no classroom is a daunting scenario. Your first session with a new student can certainly be used to get a better handle on their current ability level, but be prepared to provide your students with some sort of practice material or key phrases/vocabulary to practice. Don’t be afraid to assign homework or give short quizzes—they’re paying you to both support and challenge them. Use the freedom from structure to challenge yourself as well by testing your creativity—develop new activities or generate original material you can use in the future.

Know What You’re Worth

One of the most awkward things TEFL teachers need to learn to do is set their tutoring fee—having some idea of what to charge is important to know before you get caught off guard by the question. In countries like Korea where English education is a huge industry and cost of living is high, tutoring fees generally start around 40,000 Won / hour (roughly $33), while in countries like Cambodia where cost of living is lower and English is already widely spoken, one can expect to make only about $10 / hour. In other countries it can vary greatly from city to city and grade to grade—and payment doesn’t necessarily need to be in cash. In more rural areas I’ve been paid in honey, oranges, kale, and whiskey. One generous woman even paid me with a live chicken intended for dinner—I’d like to believe she’s still living a full life clucking around in the hills of Thailand.

Tutoring may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely an easy way to make ends meet in a pinch or gain some spending money for those long weekends.

-Ashley

TEFL TIPS #5 – Asking the right questions.

An important goal of TEFL teaching is to keep students talking, getting them to practice new words and reinforce those they’ve learned. A simple tactic for doing this is asking questions about what they have, whether it be a drawing, a book, or a toy. However many teachers, myself included, often fall into a rut of asking the same questions over and over long after their kids have outgrown them merely because it often seems there are only so many ways for a kid to describe something. Chief among such questions are “What color is it?” “How many are there?” “Is it big or little?”

As teachers, we have to move away from this routine. It’s boring, it’s repetitive, and it doesn’t challenge the kids to think creatively or use their English in new ways. It is important to remember that asking questions isn’t only intended to test their vocabulary, but also to help them think outside the box. Here are some more challenging description methods you can try with your students:

Give it personality: What is its name?
This can easily be asked of toys and drawings, and of everyday objects as well. Oftentimes when I start using this question they’ll simply tell me what something is (“Me draw bunny!”). But simply telling me that a drawing of a bunny is a bunny isn’t enough—by getting them to name that bunny, it often sparks a whole new conversation (“Bunny name is Zombie. Zombie is silly monster; Zombie eats shoes”). Names are associated with personalities and individuality—a concept not lost on children.

Break it down: What shapes is it made of?
Asking what shape something is can be very simple, but asking what shapes something is made of can become very complex and can also be a great way to discover new words. For example, try asking a kid what shapes a teddy bear is made of. They’ll definitely start with the most simple (“Nose is triangle; foot is circle.”) but will soon rise to the challenge of breaking down more complicated portions (“Ear is BIG circle and little circle; tummy is loooooong circle.”). Here the teacher also learns what shapes the kids don’t know and can introduce words like oval or oblong.

Opposites & Abstract: What is it not?
A great way to encourage abstract thinking is to ask the students for the exact opposite of the information they have. Basically, instead of asking “What is it?” try asking “What is it not?”. This challenges them to rack their brain for relevant words and phrases rather than simply identifying what they see in front of them, and then decide whether those words apply to the situation. Further, it helps them practice more varied sentence structure other than “It is _____.” For example, if you’ve asked your students what the weather is, try asking them what the weather isn’t today. Rather than the repetitive “It is sunny,” you’ll be able to elicit a greater range of responses (It’s not rainy! It isn’t stormy. No tornado today!”).

Give these a try.  See how they work in your classroom!

-Ashley