Some great maps to use with English language learners

A key component to increasing communication in the language classroom is using content that students want to talk about. Given the global nature of ESL classrooms, these maps are great tools for facilitating discussion:

The Best Job Markets for College Grads Now

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 Where are the hardest places to live in the US?

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The World of 7 Billion: Where and How We Live

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40 Maps they didn’t teach you in school

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Like these? Check out more on my Pinterest Board.

A Twitter worksheet for engaging language practice

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.13.49 AMClassroom activities using social media platforms engage today’s tech savvy students. I use this Twitter worksheet in class as a tool to help students practice the language we’ve been practicing in class. I’ve intentionally left this copy blank so that it can be used in an language classroom.

I just recently used this worksheet as a follow-up activity to the Pixar short La Luna and had students write tweets from the people in the boat. They were really creative and had a lot of fun with it!

A few instructions to accompany the worksheet:

  • Students draw profile pictures in the boxes of the people delivering each tweet
  • Students write short sentences (<140 characters) summarizing a reading or other topic studied in class.
  • Students include a hashtag related to the tweet.

Click here to download a full sized version: Twitter WS

Enjoyed this activity? Click here for more social media worksheets.


Shifting to Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS) and Comprehensible Instruction (CI)

Last fall, I shifted from doing teacher training and teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at the college level back to high school Spanish teaching. While switching from teaching adults to teenagers has been a definite adjustment, I’ve also had the fortune of landing in a school that uses the methodologies of TPRS and CI – both methodologies I’ve been intrigued by for a long time. I’ve joined an incredibly talented team of teachers who’ve helped me learn a new teaching methodology.

After over 15 years of language teaching in a wide variety of settings, I can honestly say that it’s one of the most effective methods of language teaching that I’ve ever used. While I personally love grammar, I’ve watched its teaching be less effective with the majority of students – especially at the lower levels. TPRS and CI make language accessible in ways that a grammar-based approach cannot. As a result, I plan to post more resources and materials that align with TPRS/CI here.

If you’re a language teacher interested in learning more about TPRS and CI, here are some excellent resources that introduce you to many of its techniques and approaches:

  • Ben Slavic’s website is a great place to start. He teaches in Denver Public Schools (DPS) where over 90% of the district uses TPRS.
  • DPS has also posted lots of videos on TeacherTube of their teachers using TPRS & CI. His book “Stepping Stones to Stories” gives a great overview of how to get started with TPRS and the reasoning behind it.
  • Martina Bex posts incredibly useful activities, resources and games on her website The Comprehensible Classroom.
  • I’m using The New Cuentame Mas series to help ease my way into learning storytelling. Some of the storytellers I’ve seen are so creative, but this series helps me tangibly start storytelling before I really understand how to be creative.

Beyond Rosetta Stone: Online websites for language learning

While Rosetta Stone holds the biggest market share and name recognition, I’ve never enjoyed using it.  I actually find it a bit boring to tell the truth.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I located a whole bunch of other great programs out there!  There’s no reason to pay hundreds of dollars for Rosetta Stone when there are programs of higher quality available for free (or at least much less!).

Here are a few of my favorites:

Mango Languages

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Mango is often available free through your public library (you can check if your library has it here) and offers courses in ESL and 15 other languages.


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Livemocha is an interactive language learning site that rewards users helping each other in the language learning process.  Rosetta Stone owns LiveMocha, and this site shares a lot of similar features to Rosetta Stone’s software.  It’s free, and is available in 8 languages.

USA Learns (for English only)

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USA Learns is a government supported site designed specifically for adult English language learners.  It includes a full curriculum for students to work through.  Since it doesn’t start with the very basics, students should have know English in order to use this program.


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Memrise offers courses in a wide variety of languages as well as subjects like arts, maths, and geography.  It’s very easy to navigate and uses a points system that gives users access to exercises.

If you’re looking for language learning program, be sure to check out this article reviewing language learning software as well.  (It ranks Rosetta Stone as #9!)

Designing high quality activities

When teaching, it’s important that the materials you design not only solid have solid content, but they also need to be graphically designed in a way that facilitates understanding.  Here are some tips on how to create activities with excellent content and visual appeal:


  • Use SmartArt to create graphic organizers.
  • Leave plenty of white space.
  • Make the title is specific and easy to find.
  • Use bold, italics, font sizes, etc. to help draw the eye to what’s most important on the page.
  • Try to repeat the same design style for the repeating components (like directions).
  • If you use graphics, make sure they support the text.
  • Make sure the language AND tasks are written at a level accessible for the intended students.
  • Vary the type of exercises you include.  Try to match the difficulty of task to the level of student.
  • Make language as simple and straightforward as possible.

Beware of overseas teaching scams

An important issue to be aware of when looking for English teaching jobs is the existence of scams.  Susan Taylor guest-posted an excellent article on this topic on Kalinago English.  The highlights:

Beware of jobs that:

  • require upfront payment
  • look too good to be true
  • have questionable websites
  • use poor English
For more details, click on the link above to read the entire article.
Another good place to look for scams in on Dave’s ESL Cafe international job forums.  They have country specific forums which often discuss the realities of a specific location.