Email Writing: 10 Classroom Activities

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

Today, I’ll share a few activities that you can use for helping students write an email in English.

Activity 1

Compose two columns. In one column, write several phrases from different types of emails, and in the other column write the email types. Students will match the phrases with the types.

For example:

Phrases:

  • Please accept our apology for….
  • I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with…
  • I’d like to thank you for your….
  • This is to invite you to join us…
  • We are happy to inform you that you have been selected…

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6 Steps to Making New Words Go From Unknown to Acquired

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

Years ago, I began Chinese lessons to better understand what it’s like to learn a language. I went from feeling giddy when I recognized a few characters to frustrated at how many I didn’t understand in the time it took to look at the bigger piece. Years later, I can identity many more common characters, but every time I start a new lesson repeat the cycle of going from overconfident to overwhelmed when I see how many new words I have to learn.

That experience made me think about how my students feel when I start previewing vocabulary for a new lesson. The first vocabulary preview can seem intimidating and strange when you don’t recognize anything in the list. Lessons can reinforce what the students learn, but there is a big difference between knowing a word well enough to answer a multiple-choice question and actually adding it into the students’ language repertoire. The result is that students tend to “learn” the word for a short while without “acquiring” it into their developing language. Continue reading

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Teaching the (Breaking) News

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

The news, as we have already covered in previous posts (Feb 2014 and May 2014), is an excellent source of material for the language classroom because of its wide range of topics and its relevance to our everyday lives. You can gather news articles or videos from many different sources, but today I want to look at just one, a website called Breaking News English.

Breaking News English is an excellent site that is completely free. There is no need to register or sign in to access the numerous resources available. Although the site itself appears somewhat dated, there is always new material being added, and there are now over 2,000 topics to choose from. Continue reading

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Narrowing In on Narrow Input

Robert Sheppard
Robert Sheppard

In this quick post, I want to introduce the concept of narrow input. We’ll go from what to why to how: what it is, why it’s a good idea, and how you can implement it in your classroom.

Defining Narrow Input

So, we know input: the language that our learners take in, via either reading or listening, the two receptive language skills. Accordingly, the two forms of narrow input are narrow reading and narrow listening, the former being much more heavily discussed than the latter. But what exactly makes them narrow?

What it means is limiting the texts students read, generally by subject matter, but also possibly by author or genre. Continue reading

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11 Apps to Build Literacy for Elementary ELs

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes

In my last blog, I talked about online resources for building English learners’ literacy skills. I would like to expand on that topic by listing some apps that also help build literacy. It became apparent as I examined these resources that free apps are not always the best choice. Many app designers create a free version, and this is certainly a way to explore an app. However, the complete versions of most apps  are more likely to provide a real learning experience for ELs.  You’ll want to look at samples of apps to see if they are developmentally appropriate, linguistically complex, and interactive.  Many apps have free “trailers” that you can view.  If you find a free app that you like, consider upgrading to the complete version.

Here are a few apps that I suggest:

1. Little Bird Tales is an app that allows students to tell digital stories using their own photographs or art work. It’s good for young students because it allows them to tell a story. Beginning ELs could use one-word labels or short sentences for their stories. (Grades K–2) Continue reading

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ESP Project Leader Profile: Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this ESP project leader profile, you will read about Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan. Shahid is a seasoned EAP educator, academic researcher, professional development consultant, and official ESOL examiner (speaking, writing) based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He has also worked as section editor of TESOL Journal (Scopus-indexed) and as associate editor of the TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching (a pioneering work of the TESOL International Association and Wiley Blackwell). Shahid is an alumnus of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (California, USA). He was a recipient of the Charles Wallace Fellowship (British Council/Charles Wallace Trust) and the Fulbright Fellowship (U.S. Department of State). He has also received a Best Teacher award for excellence in research and teaching from Sultan Qaboos University (Muscat, Oman). Shahid has led commissioned/invited professional development workshops in Albania, Canada, China, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey. Continue reading

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ELT Best Practices: Empowerment in Nepal

Sherry Blok
Sherry Blok

First introduced to the English language under the shade of a tree in rural Nepal, Ganga Ram Gautam has dedicated his life’s work to improving the standards of ELT in rural Nepal to empower students and teachers with English language education and to open doors to higher education.

Ganga Gautam (GG): I am from rural Nepal and some of the classes were given under the tree in the open field. There were no desks, we wrote on a stone slate with stone chalk. After high school, I went to university. It was a 3 days walk from my hometown; I carried a big rucksack on my back. I would walk the whole day, stay in a tea shop overnight, and then walk again next day to reach to the university campus. I stayed there in a rented room and studied there for about 3 years before I started my undergraduate study in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Continue reading

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Teaching Writing to Young Learners: 10 Online Resources

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

Today I will share a few websites that contain helpful resources and materials for teaching writing to young learners.

1. Creative Writing Teacher Resources

This collection of printables, graphic organizers, lesson plans, and activities helps teachers to build learner’ creative writing skills. The resources include poetry writing activities, journal topics, art projects, short-story writing exercises, scoring rubrics, and other printable worksheets. Continue reading

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How 3 Tiers of Vocab Make It Easier to Learn New Terms

Nathan Hall
Nathan Hall

Despite almost 40 years of speaking English, I often reach for a dictionary when adapting lessons for my ELLs. And, most of the time, I’m not happy with what I find. I usually get a concise definition that, while accurate, is at a level higher than what my students can easily understand. In these situations I have to find a way to articulate the meaning to my students in a way they can understand. But my goal isn’t to have the students understand the words for a few minutes—I need to move it through the exposure phase through conscious learning and ultimately to unconscious acquisition for them to get a step closer to fluency, even if it is for words they won’t hear outside of school often.

Thankfully, our colleagues have a similar problem when they teach academic vocabulary. Researchers such as McKeown (2014) have found a framework that helps students better understand difficult words they see for the first time in the context of what they already know. Although these techniques are often meant for students mastering their first language, I found they can be very applicable to ELLs, too. Continue reading

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Free Books for Your Classroom 3: Storynory

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen

Despite the fact that many educators have access to a wide selection of books from school and public libraries, it can still be challenging to choose the “right” ones and keep students supplied with material they are interested in. For contexts with limited resources, these struggles are even more pronounced. Luckily, there are many free online resources available, such as Storynory, that vastly increase the amount of material with which students can engage.

Storynory is simply a website with a collection of stories sorted into categories such as fairytales, myths and world stories, and classic audio books. Storynory is unique in that each story has a recorded reading so that users can read the text and/or listen to the story, which is beneficial in many ways and gives you added flexibility. Continue reading

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