Friday 30 August 2013

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Visual Aids in the Classroom

Gardner and the VAK learning style use visual aids in the classroom. There are pros and cons to using visual aids when you teach. Before we talk about those, let's look at what a visual aid is.

Examples of visual aids
  • People: use your students or yourself to demonstrate height, hair color, feelings, etc. 
  • Posters: they liven up the darkest classrooms.
  • PPT: you no longer have to write on the board and have your lesson at your fingertips.
  • Realia: bringing real items to class, example fruits and vegetables.
  • Videos: students spend a lot of their free time plugged in.

  • As the VAK learning style mentions most students don't learn through listening alone, so combining listening with seeing can help students retain knowledge. 
  • Remember the saying a picture is worth 1000 words? well, apply it to your lessons.
  • It's more fun for the students as well. Even if you're the best teacher in the world your students can benefit by watching a video and hearing a different accent.
  • It gives you a break. You can turn "off" for a bit, which is a nice welcome after being "on" for so long.

  • Students can zone out, especially if the language is too complex for them. 
  • They can be hard to lug from classroom to classroom.
  • Technical difficulties can arise and this can be really embarrassing if you're standing in front of the class and randomly pushing buttons.
  •  Teachers can zone out if they're teaching the same lesson over and over and over.
With every teaching method there are pros and cons, hopefully the pros outweigh the cons and you can use visual aids more in your lessons. If you want to learn more, here's some information about VAK learning style and multiple intelligences.


Wednesday 28 August 2013

Hot Topic: Why You Should Accept a Lower Paying Teaching Job

Money can't buy happiness and there are many reasons why you might want to accept a teaching job that pays less. Perks and benefits can count for a lot and help lower your taxes.

The picture on the right doesn't show money as a part of job satisfaction. There is self confidence, a challenging attitude, variety, self awareness, knowing your options, a balanced lifestyle, and a purpose. In addition to those here are some other things people consider besides money when looking for a great job.

  • Possibility for advancement
  • Academic freedom
  • Well-developed curriculum and materials
  • Stability
  • Prestigious school
Perks and Benefits
  • Teaching facilities
  • Your own office
  • Teaching interesting classes
  • Housing or housing allowance
  • Good expat community
  • Livable city
  • Long vacations
  • Chance to learn the language
  • Number of teaching hours
  • How many days a week you teach
  • Possibility for overtime
  • Possibility for outside work
  • Few meetings
  • Few office hours / desk warming hours
  • Little paperwork
  • Helpful faculty and staff
  • Honest management
  • Getting paid on time
  • No micromanagement
  • Fair treatment / no favouritism
  • Transparent evaluations
  • Small classes
  • Student motivation
  • Student age


Monday 26 August 2013

Enhanced Lectures

Also known as interactive or guided lectures, these lectures get students involved and have been shown to raise their grade. Many, many teachers are trying new and innovative ways (such as using cellphones in class) to get students involved more in the class. Stephanie Nickerson wrote a great article on what to do during enhanced lectures. You can read more about each one in her article at NYU.
  • Use the pause procedure
  • Short writes
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Formative Quizzes
  • Create an Exam Question
  • Voting and Polling
  • Classroom Assessment Techniques
  • Mid-lecture Brainstorming
Another good article worth a read is at Bright Hubs. The writer has many ideas to help teachers out. Here are a few of them.
  • Give an outline
  • Use discussion groups
  • Talk about one question
  • Give students the lecture objectives
  • Answer open-ended questions that the students come up with


Saturday 24 August 2013

Job Site: Teach Overseas

If you're a licensed teacher looking for a job overseas, then check out Teach Overseas. With over a decade of experience, they have teaching, management, and administrative jobs available is schools around the world.

While they don't have a job fair, you can apply for the jobs directly by sending your CV, cover letter and references. It's free, so you might as well give it a shot.

Got an idea for a job site?
Email me with your job site, name, and website (if you have one) and I'll post it ASAP.


Thursday 22 August 2013

TEFL: A Growing Market

The following post is from a guest blogger.

Times are tough right now, especially in the graduate market and for people aged under 25. There is a general downwards trend throughout most western countries and that economic downturn has hit every single industry. Some have, of course, suffered more than others. For example real estate and high street retail were some of hardest hit but some others have managed to do a better job at keeping their heads above water. There is one industry however, that I didn´t initially consider… one which, unbelievably in the current economic climate, is developing. That industry is the TEFL market (teaching English as a foreign language).

When I started university in 2009, a year after the recession had begun in the UK and Europe, I said to myself , “Wow, I'm glad that I am not graduating now”. I made such a statement as I thought that by the time I had graduated, the economic cycle would have changed and the future would be looking up. Not that I was an economics expert, but that’s what everyone was saying- wishful thinking. We were mistaken. There I was in the summer of 2012 graduating into an almost static economy, with nothing to look forward to apart from the Olympic Games.

What was I going to do? I had a Marketing Management degree with a decent classification, but I found that there were around fifty people applying for every one position. By August I still hadn´t had any luck. I could have done a Master degree or found an entry level job, but I really wanted to begin my actual career. A family member then suggested teaching English abroad and when I researched the market I found that in every single country where native-speaking English teachers were common, the marketing was expanding. Year on year the amount of people learning English as a second language around the world rises. English has become widely accepted as the language of International business and therefore with ongoing globalization (distances in effect become shorter due to technology and international trade) English has become very important. This has filtered down to young learners and to non-English speaking adults, creating a high demand.

It is estimated that the number of learners will double from 1 billion to 2 billion over the next ten years and there are not many industries that you can say that about. Certain countries such Turkey and South Korea have recognized the importance of teaching English at state level and have put initiatives in place to increase the number of English teachers year on year. I saw the opportunity.

I took an accredited TEFL course in London over a four week period all the while searching for positions. Having a recognized TEFL certification and a BA degree stood me in good stead and in October 2012 I secured a position via a telephone interview in Santiago in Chile on a 12 month contract. And that is where I am now. It’s been a great experience so far both in the classroom and social wise. Santiago is an exciting city and I´ve managed to learn some Spanish too. In the current times, one of the most important factors that employers look for is experience. However it is a vicious circle: how can you gain experience if you can´t get a job? The TEFL market is not one that I initially considered but is more of the few industries that has allowed me to gain professional and life experience, which, whilst the crisis looms on, is priceless.


Wednesday 21 August 2013

Quick Tip: Chatrooms and English Corners

These can be awesome and they can be horrible. In order for them to work, some planning is required. Don't believe, "if you build it, they will come" because more often than not you'll be left sitting all alone twiddling your thumbs. Free talking doesn't work, nor does just dropping by.

If you want to use English corners or chatrooms with your students you need to do two things.
  • Make them sign up for a time
  • Have a topic to discuss


Tuesday 20 August 2013

Why Do Schools Use Crummy Books?

There are some bad textbooks out there. They're often in-house productions made by non-native English speakers. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if they're going to do something they need to do it right.
You know the sayings, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?" and "don't re-invent the wheel", well, there are plenty of fantastic coursebooks out there, written by professional ESL writers who often have decades of experience. While I agree that you'll have to tailor the books to suit your students' needs, you might still be able to use them and just supplement a bit rather than writing a whole course.


Sunday 18 August 2013

Uploading Videos of Teachers Teaching Online

TED started it all. Then Khan Academy and big name schools like Harvard and Oxford have started uploading videos of their teachers teaching online. Other schools want to get on the bandwagon. Now the problem with this is that professors at Harvard and Oxford are usually of much better caliber than TEFL instructors at rinky, dinky universities.

Don't get me wrong, there are great TEFL teachers out there. But giving a lecture is totally different than teaching EFL. TEFL teachers move around a lot and the video can get jumpy and make you sick. Plus, teachers shouldn't be talking a lot in student centred classes, which makes e-lectures a misnomer.

However, schools shouldn't upload videos of their teachers teaching without their permission, without giving them some type of payment or incentive, and just because everyone else is doing it. And schools shouldn't force their teachers to participate. If it's in the contract from the beginning that's one thing, but changing the contract is a no-no.


Saturday 17 August 2013

Can You Apply to Jobs You've Previously Turned Down?

As with most things it depends. It can be awkward to apply for a job that you had been offered but for some reason decided not to accept it. There are a couple reasons why I think it's ok to applied for a job when you were previously offered it but decided not to accept it.

Things change and even though you didn't accept the job, there's still a chance that you might be offered it again. Below are some situations that might cause you to re-apply to the job that you turned down.

1. Your situation has changed
  • Maybe you turned down a job in order to study.
  • Or possibly because your partner was unwilling to move.
2. The job you actually accepted isn't as good as you thought
  • You might not have accepted the job because it was your second choice and your first choice offered you your dream job. All that glitters isn't gold though; the job you accepted might not have turned out the way you thought it would.
3. The job itself changed
  • Maybe the pay they offered you was too low but now they're offering more.
  • The benefits package might have changed: less hours, a bigger bonus, housing or an allowance, or the vacations are longer.

4. The Director Of Studies or Hiring Director has changed
  • In the TEFL world DOSes come and go. If there's a new DOS you've got a better chance of being asked for an interview even though you turned them down before.
  • If you turned the job down because the previous DOS wasn't good, then you might want to accept the job with a new DOS.


Sunday 11 August 2013

Quick Tip: 4 Ways to Deal With Disruptive Students

Every class usually has one student who always has a comment or question. These types of students love to be the centre of attention and have all eyes on them. Other students usually get frustrated with them and sigh loudly when that particular student raises his hand or says, “Teacher, I have a question.”

Classroom discipline can be challenging. Usually no one else has any questions or comments and this student is holding up the lesson. There are a couple ways to deal these types of students.
  • Avoid sitting or standing across from them. If you’re opposite them it’s easier to make eye contact. The best place is right next to them so they can’t catch your eye.
  • Talk to them after class. Let them know as nicely as possibly that they shouldn't dominate the class. Tell them that they can ask you questions during your office hours.
  • Cut them off. Ok, it's a bit rude to interrupt you, but they've been doing the same to you. Simply say, "That's an interesting question / comment, but unfortunately we don't have any more time to discuss it. If you'd like to discuss it further you can visit me during my office hours."
  • Refer the question to others. There's no reason you can't ask the other students for their opinions. You're not the only one who can answer questions. As an added benefit, students are usually more direct and this may discourage them from trying to dominate the class. 


Saturday 10 August 2013

Job Site: International Supply Teachers

If you're a licensed teacher with two years experience looking for a job now that lasts 6 weeks to 12 months you need to check out IST. International Supply Teachers provides teachers with jobs in international schools with British, US and IB curricula. These schools have had an emergency vacancy and need supply/substitute teachers.

You'll make good money that will allow you to travel or save. Salaries and conditions vary according to the country and school, but they will pay for transport to the school and health insurance. You might also get free or subsidized accomodations and tax exempt salaries.

In addition to being a licensed teacher with two years experience you will have to provide three references (you have to get the reference forms for them. IST will not run after them) and travel without dependents and enjoy living and learning about new cultures and countries. You'll need to show copies of your qualifications and it can take up to a month for them to place you on the teachers' register. There's a one-off fee of less than $100, but it's well worth it if you're looking for a job at a quality school that's already been vetted by IST.

Got an idea for a job site?
Email me with your job site, name, and website (if you have one) and I'll post it ASAP.


Friday 9 August 2013

Make Use of Native English Speakers

I can't tell you how many times I've been to schools that have native English speakers working there, as teachers, and there are grammar, vocab, spelling, or punctuation mistakes. I'm not talking about minor mistakes, but major ones.

The reason is simple. Even though they have native teachers there, they don't use them. They put their info in Google Translate and use it. On websites, billboards, posters, in books, and on paper, they have tons of mistakes.

It wouldn't be too hard to remedy this. All they'd have to do is ask the native speakers to help edit any and everything in English. Better yet, hire someone specifically to do this. People need to swallow their pride and ask for help. If native speakers have people proof-read their work, then non-native speakers should as well. It'll make your school look better and people will stop laughing at mistakes and putting them up on


Thursday 8 August 2013

Documents Teachers Usually Need for Work Visas

Gone is the day of the backpacker teacher. Ok, for the most part. Countries are requiring more and more documentation and exams in order to get a work visa. Here's a list of things that are often required, thank goodness there's no Chinese test yet!

Behaviour Test: China just started this with their Evaluation System for Foreign Language Expert just started this. You've got about 20 minutes to answer 100 questions. You're supposed to put 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree). It's basically to see how well you'll fit into Chinese life. They have statements such as "I like being in crowds" or "I like to spend time alone" I did poorly on that part since I hate crowds and love spending time alone. If you want to score high, just think like a Chinese person. You're scored on warmth / friendliness, gregariousness (aka sociable), positive emotions, trust, straight-forwardness, altruism, cooperation, sympathy, competence, orderliness, dutifulness, self-discipline, anxiety, anger / hostility, depression, self/consciousness, impulsiveness, and vulnerability.

Criminal Background Check: If you have small offenses it might be ok. Depends on the country. See teaching with a criminal record.

Degree: you often need the original, an apostillised / authenticated copy, and original sealed transcripts. Korea's fanatical about this.

General Knowledge Test: Another requirement from China. More like trivia than general knowledge. You'll be asked stuff such as "what's the music capital of the world?" and "Who wrote the Leaves of Grass?" Not sure how either of those will help with life in China. They also have questions related to China, such as "Which of the following is a traffic law in China?" and "When is the official first day of class?" Even though they're related to China, I'm pretty sure they're not much help since people don't follow traffic rules and I have never, ever been asked about Chinese trivia. They should put up realistic questions like "what do you think of Taiwan, Tibet, etc?" or "What do you think of China?"

Medical check: blood, urine, EKG, height, weight, vision, X-ray, sonogram to make sure you have all your organs

Recommendation Letters: Always have extras.

Transcripts: Sealed, originals are needed. Get them ahead of time so you're not scrambling for them last minute.

Written test: multiple choice, short answer, matching, essays (another requirement for China), etc.


Wednesday 7 August 2013

Poll Results July 2013: Do you use L1 to teach L2?

July's poll was "Do you use L1 to teach L2?" Here are the results. If you're looking for reasons for and against using your students' L1 in class, check out this post.
  • Yes: 60% with 3 votes
  • No: 40% with 2 votes
Be sure to vote in next month's poll: Are TEFL certs useful?


Tuesday 6 August 2013

Hot Topic: What Schools Are Requiring In Order to Renew You

Schools are getting pickier and the competition is getting fierce as far as renewal goes. Many schools out there simply want the best teacher they can get while giving out as few benefits and as low a salary as they possibly can.

Here are some things schools ask for when deciding to renew you or not. It's pretty easy for the admin to get rid of teachers they don't like, making the renewal process similar to student evals: a popularity contest.

Administrative Duties
  • Keeping office hours: you should sign something to prove that you've kept office hours.
  • English corners / help desk: you should sign something to prove that you've done these hours.
  • Meeting with students: during office hours or outside of class
  • Presenting at workshops: they might not give you points for if they don't like the workshop topic.
  • Presenting at meetings: they won't let you do if they don't like you.
  • Quality of teaching material: easily fudged if they don't like you
  • Recording your classes: sometimes they require you to record classes and upload them.
  • Publishing: they might not give you points for if they don't like the topic. Or let you go for publishing even though they hadn't told you that you needed to publish.
  • Developing new material, i.e. books: they won't let you do if they don't like you.
  • Teaching X number of hours: if they don't like you, they will make sure your classes get cancelled so you can't fulfill your contractual hours.
  • Teaching overtime: forget it if they don't like you.
  • Teaching make-up classes: you should sign something to prove that you've done these hours.


Monday 5 August 2013

Quick Tip: Repeat Your Students' Questions

Students usually listen to the teacher more than others. Any time a student asks a question you should repeat what is said. This serves two purposes.
  1. You're clarifying the question to make sure you understand what is being asked.
  2. You're speaking loudly so that everyone can hear. 


Sunday 4 August 2013

TEFL Teachers Need to Look Out for #1

Loyalty to employers can be a touchy subject. If you want to quit or finish your contract early you might be penalized. Likewise, future employers may be wary of hiring someone who has left their job early, even if it was because of a dodgy employer. While most people in hiring understand about leaving a bad job, they might not look to kindly on teachers who leave a decent job for a better job.

It's a fine line. Very few TEFL employers offer stability and many teachers sign year to year contracts. At the end of each contract there's no guarantee that they'll keep their job. After all, if the employer finds a teacher who is willing to work more hours and for less they may lose their job. So how come that's ok but it's not ok for a teacher to keep their best interests at heart and to look out for themselves?

I think that if employers expect TEFL teachers to be loyal then they need to offer more perks, benefits, and stability, like Google. This will help out both the employer and the teacher in the long run. Happier teachers mean happier students. And employers will also save costs on recruitment and training. Until then, teachers are going to look out for themselves, especially if they have a family to support.


Friday 2 August 2013

Signing a Confidentiality Agreement With Your School

I had never heard of confidentiality agreements for schools until I was talking to a friend about salaries at her school. TEFL teachers are usually very open about things. Living in a foreign country where you might not speak the language makes you that way. You need to know about prices and salaries to make sure you don't get screwed over or get the special foreign price.

Imagine my surprise when she told me she couldn't tell me. Usually people will give you a range of salaries, but she said her school had made her sign a confidentiality agreement and she wasn't supposed to say anything about the school.

That's a bit hard. Talking about your work is a way to make small talk. Now I'm not sure if she couldn't say anything at all or she just couldn't talk about certain issues, such as students, other teachers, or salaries.

Fast forward a few years and I was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement as well. It was about half a page and not in English and I was only given a brief oral summary of what it was in English. I didn't really have a choice; I had to sign. When I asked the head teacher what exactly I had signed he told me that it basically said you weren't supposed to talk about the school. I'm pretty sure when they say that they mean you shouldn't reveal company secrets or talk badly about the school. I can't imagine they wouldn't want you to brag about what a great job you have.

Another friend of mine said it was common to sign documents in a foreign language when she lived in Europe. Like me she was only give a brief oral summary and sometimes the documents were pages long. What she did, and still does, is write the name of the person who gave her the translation, what they said the document contained, and the date. Only then will she sign. I think it's a good idea since you never know exactly what you could be signing.


Thursday 1 August 2013

Teaching / Working in the US or Canada

America and Canada have a lot to offer. It is possible to teach there even if you don't have a US or Canadian passport. There are many immigrants and they have become a melting pot of cultures around the world.

Some of the info below was taken from a book written by Susan Griffith called Teaching English Abroad. You might also want to take a look at Teaching at International Schools and Teaching Exchanges and Fellowships.

United States
The US offers an Exchange Visitors Programme and provides successful applicants with J-1 visas. Here are just a few programmes that offer this.
  • AMIDEAST has scholarship and exchange programmes.
  • Amity has an intern and teacher programme.
  • BUNAC gets work visas for its participants.
  • DECS places teachers in the US.
  • EPI places teachers in K-12 schools.
  • Humphrey Fellowship offers mid-career professionals 10 months of work and study.
  • ITES places teachers in K-12 schools.
  • LASPAU has research and scholarship programmes.
  • NCUSCR offers exchanges between the US and China.
  • The US State Department has a list of more exchange programmes as well.
  • VIF places teachers in K-12 schools.
  • World Class Schools places UK teachers in US schools.
  • BUNAC gets work visas for its participants.
  • CEEF places teachers in Canada and has exchanges for Candian teachers to go to other countries.
  • DECS places teachers in Canada.
  • LECT offers exchanges between Canada and Australia.
International Schools Jobs
Short-term and Working Holiday Visas


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