The “Art” of Teaching

I couldn’t help myself. I bought an Apple Pencil. I justified it because I needed an iPad for backup when the Internet or power was down. I couldn’t miss my classes, after all. How that justified the pencil, well….

So far, I’ve mostly just doodled with it. During my non-VIPKid day job, I sit on a lot of conference calls. I find that if I let myself look at email, I will get distracted and stop listening to the meeting. So, I will occasionally doodle like the below.

But today I had the chance to draw my first “reward.” It was in one of my favorite 2-D prop groups, and someone had asked for a specific type of reward to be drawn. (Check out my little monster dudes above!) I gave it a shot, and it was actually very fun to duplicate and re-color my little drawing.

Would I recommend the Apple Pencil? Only if you are a serious artist or really enjoy doodling. I don’t think there is anything I could do with my poor level of talent that would justify the money spent on the pencil.

Is it fun? You bet. 🙂

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ESL Extension

Extension is not just a way to kill time. You want to … expand their vocabulary, grammar, or other English skills.

No one has ever accused me of being short-winded. In writing or speaking, I ALWAYS say too much. As such, it was no surprise that most of my VIPKid classes easily hit the 25 minute mark. In fact, my struggle is usually completing them by about 27 minutes in order to reset my classroom.

Imagine my surprise when one day I met Alina. Her English skills were on par for a level 2 student, but she was so well prepared for the lesson, that she was able to fly through each slide perfectly, with literally NO CORRECTIONS needed! She was not comfortable with free talk, so I had to be very intentional about what I asked her, or she would just freeze.

Thanks to Alina, I had to quickly learn the art of extension, and it has become one of my favorite parts of teaching. I teach Alina every other Friday now, and I always look forward to thinking up new ways to extend her knowledge just a little bit more.

The key to effective extension is your goal. It’s not just a way to kill time. You want to either:

  1. Confirm your student’s understanding of a concept
  2. Ensure your student can apply the new information or
  3. Add new information that relates to the content that expands their vocabulary, grammar, or other English skills.

Below are a few of my favorite extension techniques that you can customize for your classes.  These were written with major courses in levels 2-4 in mind, since most of those follow a similar “flow” in the lessons.

Noun Examples

Most lessons begin with the introduction of 1-3 new vocabulary words. There are always several examples in the lesson and several target sentences to learn. You can introduce new and different types of examples to help expand their understanding of the word, and help them use adjectives to articulate their sentences.

For example, if the target word is bus, you could use the below to extend.

bus

Verb Conjugation

I use this in almost every lesson. I have a few different laminated verb charts that I use, and I almost always go through a cycle of pointing at a pronoun and having the student say the correct word. “I _____. You ______. We _______. They _______. He _______(s). She _______(s). It _______(s.)”

You can then change the sentences slightly. Introduce different toys or characters that “do” the verbs. If Meg is doing it, they must know the right pronoun (she) and the right conjugation. If Mike is doing it, they must say “He” and the right conjugation. If Dino is doing it, they must say “It” and the right conjugation.

Sentence Objects

You can also change the object of the sentence.  If you are trying to teach the verb “point” and the target sentence “He points to a ____.” the possibilities are endless. “Teacher points to a Dino.” “She points to an apple.” “She points to a wardrobe.” (Any prop will likely do!) This can be extension and a review of prior lessons!

Role Reversal

For your more advanced students, you can get them to take on the role of the teacher. Ask them, “What can you point to?” and have them demonstrate, “I can point to a ____.” They also like it if you get answers wrong. If they point to a cat, you can say the sentence, “You point at a dog.” They’ll laugh and say, “No, teacher. I point to a cat.” I would only use this technique if I already had a good relationship with the student and I knew it would not confuse them!

Indefinite Articles

Almost every lesson has the opportunity to extend by teaching and practicing a/an. In all of the examples above, you can demonstrate and explain when to use “a” vs. “an.” Many students pick up on this intuitively but you can always reinforce it or have them explain the rule to you.

High Frequency Words

There are plenty of things you can do with high frequency words, depending on your student’s comfort level.

  • Read them.
  • Read them fast (and time them.)
  • Spell them.
  • Make a sentence with each one.
  • Make a sentence with more than one.
  • Tell a story using the words.

My sweet little Alina is no longer shy. She blew me away last week when I asked her to make up a “telling sentence” and instead she told me a story! You can check it out on You Tube!

Counting, Colors and Size

These are some of the easier ways to extend, and they most likely won’t take up a whole lot of time. But you can always ask some basic questions about the pictures in the lesson.

  • How many elephants do you see?
  • What color is the chair?
  • Which car is the biggest? Which call is the smallest?

I NEVER wait until the end of a lesson to extend. If you remember our objective above, it’s not about filling leftover time, it’s about truly expanding on what your student is learning. Throughout the lesson, I look for opportunities that lend themselves to the examples above. I try to set my pace to approximately one slide per minute. If I check, and we have time, then I will introduce one of these methods into the lesson at the appropriate time. If not, I keep moving.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

If you are new to VIPKid and are looking for a mentor to help you with these (and other) ESL teaching techniques, I’d love to help you!

Happy teaching!

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and VIPKid Class…

If you are like me, two things are true:

  1. You will be shopping for stocking stuffers on Christmas Eve.
  2. You will want to steal your kids’ toys for your classroom.

If so, I have the perfect solution for both of these things … Uno cards!

Uno cards are one of the most versatile props that I use in my classroom. I was first inspired when we had a couple of French foreign exchange students stay with us for two weeks when my kids were in middle school. They could quickly and easily relate to colors and numbers, so it was one of the first games we played.

Below, I’ve included a short video that shows how I use Uno cards in my classroom, but here is a quick summary:

  1. Colors and Numbers: This is the obvious use for these. You can quickly and easily hold Uno cards up to reinforce either colors, numbers, or both. You can pair them to go up through the double-digit numbers as well!
  2. “Only”: That was today’s lesson. Make your own combinations to show the “only” red card or the “only” 2.
  3. Equal/Not Equal: 3=3. Enough said.
  4. Greater Than/Less Than: 3<5. 3>1. Of course, be careful that if you add a greater than or less than sign when you hold up your cards that it points the right way!
  5. Same/Different: This is similar to “only.” For the most basic example, you could hold up two red threes, and say “same.” As the lessons/students become more advanced, you could have conversations about how a red three and a blue three are the same and how they are different.
  6. Before/After: This could be in a math lesson or in a calendar/days of the month lesson.
  7. UA Levels: Use this as part of a secondary reward system to acknowledge when a student moves from one level to the next.
  8. UA Projects: Use them to let the students know that they are in lesson 5 (Hold up the #5) today, and that their homework (project) is due in lesson 12 (Hold up the 1 and 2.)

Feel free to check out this video to see how I use my cards in action. The possibilities are endless!  How else would you use Uno cards in the classroom? Let me know in the comments below!

Now…off to do my own last minute shopping!

thumbnail uno