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Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide for EL Teaching – Book Review

Posted by Claudio on August 29, 2014 in Book Reviews |

Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language TeachingLearning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching has been around for more than 20 years and is still one of the most popular TEFL books. There is a DVD included with all the sample lessons as well as demonstrations of the teaching techniques taught in the book.

Chapter 1 is mostly aimed at teachers just starting out. It explains the role of a teacher and methods of teaching English as a second/foreign language.

Chapter 2 deals with how to plan and deliver classroom activities, explaining the benefits of pair- and group-work.

Chapter 3 is a comprehensive view at classroom management. It ranges from seating arrangements and monitoring the classroom to giving instructions and using the board effectively.

Chapter 4 of Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching is titled “Who are the learners?” and explains the difference between individual and group lessons, how to assess the level of your students, and how to get feedback from them.

Chapter 5 introduces language analysis. It provides a good introduction on grammar and vocabulary.

Chapter 6 teaches how to best plan your lessons and courses for maximum success.

Chapter 7 goes into details of teaching grammar with a good explanation of what grammar really is. It introduces the reader to activities that makes learning grammar fun and exciting for your students.

Chapter 8 shows how to teach lexis (compared to just teaching vocabulary) and is based on The Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis. This chapter contains practical activities and games to ensure students will remember lexical items.

Chapter 9 and 10 deal with the four basic language skills, broken into two parts: productive skills (speaking, writing) and receptive skills (listening, reading). As in other chapters, the emphasis is on interactive classroom activities with practical examples.

Chapter 11 covers phonology and pronunciation. It teaches the importance of sounds, word-stress, and connected speech.

Chapter 12 is a focus on language. It shows how to utilize a learners first language, how to correct errors, and how to use dictionaries most effectively.

Chapter 13 provides an overview of the different classes you might encounter: from young learners to teenagers to adults, from exam classes to large groups to business English. This chapter covers pretty much any scenario that you will come across at one time or another in your teaching career.

Chapter 14 introduces technology in the classroom. In today’s classrooms, you will often find interactive whiteboards and projection devices. This chapter shows how to best utilize these technologies effectively.

Chapter 15 is a collection of tools, techniques, and activities that will help you make your classes fun and exciting for your students: flash cards, picture stories, songs and music, drama, projects, and many more.

Chapter 16 finishes the book with closing comments and the question “What’s next?” It explains the importance of continued education to keep your teaching skills fresh and shows ways how to study your own teaching.

Why I recommend Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching?

Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching is the most comprehensive, well written TEFL book I have read. It helps beginners with a structured approach and many samples on DVD as much as it is a reference manual providing inspiration and ideas for experienced teachers.

 

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Happy Teacher’s Day (Jan. 16)

Posted by Claudio on January 16, 2014 in Teaching in Thailand |

No school today - It's Teacher's Day in Thailand

To all the teachers in Thailand: 
enjoy the Teacher’s Day and let yourself be celebrated!

Today, the 16th of January, Teacher’s Day (วันครู) is celebrated throughout Thailand.  It’s a special day and most schools are closed to honor teachers for their contribution to society. The first Teachers’ Day was held in 1957; the date was chosen as it marks the enactment of the Teachers Act, which was published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette on January 16, 1945.

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The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide – Review

Posted by Claudio on November 29, 2013 in Book Reviews |

The ESL/TEFL Book: ELL Teachers Survival GuideThe ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide is full of practical strategies that can be immediately implemented in the classroom. Experienced English teachers will benefit from this book as much as people who are just starting out. It is well organized. The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide includes much relevant information about teaching English as a second/foreign language.

Part 1 starts with the big picture and ESL best practices. It research about the English Language Learner population. I especially liked the brief tour of ESL teaching best practices. It also describes how to build rapport and a good relationship with your students. This section also shows how to establish routines in the classroom and lists useful resources for English teachers.

Part 2 covers key curriculum elements for beginning English language learners, including a description of a sample teaching week and a year-long schedule. It teaches the reader how to assign homework, use field trips constructively, and how to assess the progress of students.

Part 3 of The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide moves on to a curriculum for intermediate English language learners, including daily instructions and how to write compelling lesson plans for more advanced learners. There is a sample unit showing how a problem/solution exercise can lead to great results as well as an sample for a two-period intermediate class.

Part 4 goes beyond the four basics skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. If you teach additional subjects in English, you will appreciate this section. It provides information for teaching social studies, science, and math to learners of English as a second language.

Part 5 teaches further strategies to ensure success in the classroom. It shows how lessons can be kept interesting with games, how to handle challenges, error correction techniques, and how to assess your students.

Why I recommend The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide?

The strategies outlined in The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide clearly demonstrate the knowledge of author. Larry Ferlazzo has not only vast experience teaching in a classroom, but also as a writer. He has written six books about teaching and classroom management.

 

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Being a Novice Monk at a Thai Funeral

Posted by Claudio on July 15, 2013 in Living in Thailand |

At first I was hesitant when I was asked to be a Novice Monk for a Thai funeral for two reasons: I’m not exactly what you would consider a religious person, and I wasn’t too keen on getting my head and eyebrows shaved. My eyebrows are one of my most defining features and just the thought of parting with them, even temporarily, was like a blow to my stomach. When I asked if there wasn’t anybody else who could do it I was told that it would mean a lot to the family if I’d step in. So I agreed to do it to help make merit for the deceased.

Claudio the Novice Monk

Preparing to be a Novice Monk

On Sunday, after the bathing rite for the deceased, I met with a monk at the temple to find out what exactly I had to do. He gave me a book in the Pali language (but written in Thai script) and showed me some of the passages that I would have to repeat during the ordination and the funeral ceremony. I recorded the monk reading these passages (listen to a sample) to have an example which aided me in practicing the proper pronunciation. Since Thai books are typically written with rather small fonts, I also typed the passages as a text document to enlarge the font for easier reading during my practice.

There go the eyebrowsOn Wednesday, I arrived at the temple at 6:00 am to get ready.  The first step in the ordination was to get my head and eyebrows shaved. Leading up to the ceremony, I did some research as to why I had to say goodbye to my eyebrows as well. I learned that only Thai monks do this and the reason for it goes back a long time. Apparently when Thailand and Burma were at war the Burmese sent spies across the border dressed as monks. So the Thais ordered all their monks to shave their eyebrows to distinguish them from the Burmese spies. Of course the Burmese spies started shaving their eyebrows to blend in, but when they returned to the Burmese court the Thai spies there were able to easily identify them. I’m not sure of the validity of this explanation, but to this day, Thai monks are the only ones that not only shave their hair, but eyebrows as well.

I know, I seem obsessed with my eyebrows, but they are such a defining feature of my face (and help my facial expressions to make a point while communicating) that some of my friends did not recognize me without them. In fact, the first time I looked into a mirror without my hair and eyebrows, even I had the feeling a stranger was gazing back.

The Start of the OrdinationOnce I had all hair above my shoulders removed, it was time to meet the head monk for the actual ordination. At this time, I was still dressed in my civilian clothes: jeans and a white T-shirt. I requested to become a Novice Monk and was presented with my monk’s robe.  This was a very short session that consisted of a prayer the head monk did together with me. As the language barrier presented a small obstacle, the head monk only said a few words at a time rather than full sentences, as it was easier for me to repeat them.

Getting dressedThe next step was to get dressed in the monk’s robe. I was assisted by three monks who had the routine down to perfection. They quickly transformed me from a civilian into a Thai Buddhist Monk. There are a total of three pieces and some ropes to hold things together. The under-robe (sabong) is worn around the waist, covering the navel and falling to just below the knees. The sabong is held up by a fold and a tuck as well as a cord belt. It was fastened quite tightly, which at the beginning seemed uncomfortable and restricted my movement a bit. Over time, it either loosened up a bit or I just got used to it being so tight. The top part is a sleeveless waistcoat (ungsa) which covers only the left shoulder and is joined together on the left side by ties or buttons, depending on the particular design. The third piece of the robe is an additional robe (sanghati) which is folded in a particular way and hung over the left shoulder and fastened with an outer belt around the belly. During the dressing procedure, I also found out what monks wear underneath their robes: nothing. Yes, I had to discard my underwear and after doing so, one of my dress assistants made sure I was not cheating by asking me: “You really are not wearing anything underneath anymore, right?”

Ordaining as a Novice Monk

My Ordination as a MonkAfter I was fully dressed it was time for the actual ordination. We returned to the head monk, who had been waiting patiently in the same spot we did the pre-ordination. This time the chanting went on much longer and it was sometimes difficult to follow along with proper pronunciation and tonality. The head monk was very patient and every time I slipped up, he looked at me with a big smile on his face. His gleaming eyes communicated to me that all was good. Sometimes he repeated a word or phrase so I could get it right, other times he just moved on. The most central part of the chant was the instruction about the three jewels (the Buddha, the Written Word, and the Community of Monks). It seems Buddhism has been aware long before Steve Jobs about the Rule of Threes, as the instructions are not only describing three parts central to Buddhist practice, but is also repeated three times.

BreakfastAfter the ordination, we ate breakfast (a simple rice soup) and then pretty much just relaxed until about 11:00 am, when it was time for lunch. This meal was cooked by relatives of the deceased and was actually quite a feast. I don’t have any photos of the food, as it seemed inappropriate for the occasion to take snapshots of my meal. I recall being served a wide selection of foods, which included a beef curry with pineapples, fried pork, mixed vegetables, rice, and fresh fruit including durian. The one thing that made the meal a bit less enjoyable was having to sit on the floor in a lotus position, which is rather difficult for me to do. My hips hurt quite a bit after a while and getting up afterwards was a bit difficult.  After the food and plates were cleared from the monks, it was time for the funeral attendees to eat.

The early afternoon was then spent doing nothing. I just sat around and mediated, contemplated, and checked my Facebook from time to time. I’ve uploaded some photos of my ordination to Facebook earlier in the day and the number of likes and comments were quite high. Many of my friends expressed their surprise of seeing me as a Novice Monk. I also watched the decorating of the crematory building. The decorations included long strips of black and white cloth up the stairs, as well as beautiful flower arrangements.

The Funeral Ceremony

Procession around the CrematoryAt around 3:00 pm the monks came back from their quarters and lead the final chanting session for the deceased before the coffin was carried outside and placed onto a beautifully decorated cart. Once the coffin was on the cart, we were ready for the procession to the crematory. In front were the family members carrying the deceased’s portrait. The monks of the temple, including me, lined up behind them, holding a white thread that was attached to the coffin. The other mourners walked behind the coffin as we circled the crematory building of the temple three times counter-clockwise. The coffin was then carried up the stairs and placed on a long table in front of the crematory. The portrait of the deceased was placed next to the coffin.  We were ready to start the final part of the funeral.

Crematory BuildingDuring the actual funeral ceremony, honored guests came up the stairs and placed monk robes on a tray in front of the coffin. Monks followed each of the guests and said a short prayer before receiving the robes. Once all the robes had been received, a eulogy was read. Then, all of the mourners lined up to say a last goodbye to the deceased. They walked up the stairs and placed a flower, made from wood shavings, on the tray in front of the coffin. They “waid” and said a short prayer to forgive the deceased any wrongdoings he may have done in his life. On the way down the stairs they received a souvenir, which can be anything that will remind the mourner of the deceased. At this particular funeral, it was an aluminum cup with the deceased’s name, birthdate, and date of death on it.

After all the mourners had an opportunity for a last farewell, the decorations were removed from the coffin and it was placed on the floor in front of the crematory. Its lid was removed and close family members gathered around, many placing money or memorable objects in the coffin. Then, a coconut was opened and the juice poured over the body inside the coffin. Once this was done, the coffin was placed inside the crematory and the deceased’s son and I used the flowers made of wood shavings to light the fire. The doors of the crematory were closed and the funeral was officially over. I met one more time with the head monk for a short prayer before disrobing and changing back into my civilian clothes.

My Five Most Memorable Observations

  • Buddhist monks are very forgiving of mistakes.
  • Monks don’t wear underwear.
  • Using Facebook and smoking seems quite accepted for Thai monks.
  • I find sitting in a lotus position for long periods of time highly uncomfortable.
  • Thais seem to love taking photos with a monk, especially if it’s a Farang (caucasian) monk.

Becoming a novice monk definitely ranks as one of the most unusual things I have done. It was an experience I will treasure for my entire life. What are some of the unforgettable moments you have experienced in Thailand? I’d love to read about them in the comments below.

 

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TEFL For Dummies – Book Review

Posted by Claudio on May 29, 2013 in Book Reviews |

TEFL Book: TEFL for DummiesTEFL for Dummies is a comprehensive, well written book. If you are familiar with other books in the “for Dummies” series, you know that they are not really dumbed down books. I consider them typically well written and organized with useful information on the book’s subject. TEFL for Dummies is mainly written for people who are starting out.

Part 1 is an introduction to the wonderful world of TEFL. It starts with a description of what TEFL teachers actually do. It also examines courses, qualifications, and jobs.

Part 2 is about how to put your lesson together. It includes tips for proper lesson planning and delivery, how to let students practice, how to correct and give feedback, how to best use course books, and general classroom management advice.

Part 3 of TEFL for Dummies covers how to teach all four skills of language learning: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Each skill is covered in its own chapter, giving the reader many ideas how to structure their lessons in an interesting and engaging way.

Part 4 is a refresher on grammar and how to teach it in a way that won’t put your students to sleep. I particularly liked the in-depth section on verb tenses and verb structures, something that can be difficult to teach when not done in an engaging fashion.

Part 5 is discusses the different classes you can expect to teach. It deals with the difference between teaching a group vs. one-on-one. You also learn how to cope with young learners, and how to handle exam classes.

Part 6 describes ten ways to liven up your classroom. The author makes recommendations from bringing real world objects to the classroom, to how to best do project work and how to play interactive games. This section of TEFL for Dummies also points to further resources that will be useful in your life as a TEFL teacher.

The author has almost 20 years practical experience as a TEFL teacher. She has the Trinity Certificate and Licentiate Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Previously she was Director of Studies at Avalon School of English. She now trains TEFL teachers and also one-to-one English courses.

Why I recommend TEFL for Dummies?

Although Teaching English as a Foreign Language For Dummies is written for beginning TEFL teachers, I consider it also a good refresher for more experienced professionals as well. It is comprehensive and well organized with a logical flow of subjects.

 

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A Cola War Made in Thailand

Posted by Claudio on April 19, 2013 in Living in Thailand |

Is the Cola War really over as  reported a while back in the article How Pepsi Lost Cola War Against Coke?  Not in Thailand, where a new chapter has just begun. Last November a new cola brand appeared in shops and restaurants all over the country.

est – the Beverage that Reignites the Cola War in Thailand

est - reigniting the cola war in Thailand

The new brand is called est (เอส). Have a look at est’s commercial, which features one of Thailand’s biggest Superstars, Bie.

The CEO of the company, fueled by a dispute with Pepsi, predicted to be in the number two spot nationwide within a few months. At that time, I didn’t think that would happen. Well, it did. est (เอส) now occupies the second position with 19% with Pepsi coming in third with 15%. The cola war in Thailand is in full swing!

Not too long ago, Pepsi was the leader in the Thai market with 48% and Coca Cola was playing catch up. Coca Cola is the clear winner of the cola war in Thailand so far. Its market share has shot up to 50%. How did it happen in such a short time? Watch the video below to find out.  Or head over to Tasty Thailand and read a synopsis of it.

The most important lesson to take away from this is to make every attempt to better understand Thai culture. I consider it the first and foremost thing to do when living in Thailand, as it will make your stay all that much more pleasant.

Have you tried “est”? What do you think about it? Do you like it? Leave a comment below with your verdict.

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