Ways to Keep ESL Students Engaged After the Lesson
Hello everybody, it's Liza here and I'm super happy to welcome you to today's ITTT live session. I hope that you have some spare time to tune in and talk about another exciting teaching topic. If you can see and hear me clearly, please let me know via the chatbox. I'm super excited not only because of this live session but also because of the weather, it is super warm here today. My hometown is blooming, and it feels so nice. Let me know where you are tuning in from. I am actually located in the middle of Russia in the city of Yekaterinburg. Usually it's pretty cold here but May is just the best month of the year, so if you are thinking of coming here one day it's better to choose May and you'll definitely love it.
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I can see that there are some people here already, so please let me know that you can hear and see me clearly. Also, share your locations, and I'll share them with the audience because I want to show that we are actually a truly global crowd. In a moment, we are going to move on to the point of today's discussion, which is actually pretty interesting to me and hopefully to you as well. I really want you to benefit from today's session, and I'm not bragging, but I really like today's presentation because it contains some exciting content related to teaching, and also some of the ideas are really unique because I haven't seen them anywhere on the net. I hope you love them.
All right, here is Marvin from Vietnam. Nice to see you Marvin, thanks for tuning in. If you want to share your locations, please go ahead, I'm here to communicate with you, not only presenting to you. I hope to hear from you as well. I'm still a little bit shaky and nervous because of my presentation skills, so I hope you'll support me somehow. Let me just change the presentation a little bit so that you can see it and let's move on. Today's presentation will take approximately 30 minutes or so, and then we will have our usual Q&A session. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask them via the chatbox.
Let's move on to the main point of today's discussion. So we're going to talk about ways to keep ESL students engaged after the lesson. Today's tips are going to be focused around online teaching, however, I believe that all of the tips might be applicable to in-class teaching as well. So if you work in a real classroom, just feel free to adjust them to suit. Also, if you see this description at the bottom, we are actually going to discuss a more specific point which is customer retention or student retention in ESL teaching. I feel like this point isn't covered anywhere, and when it comes to selling your services, it's also about business and marketing.
So customer retention is when you do some activities in order to increase the number of repeat customers and to increase the profitability of each existing customer. As an example, if you want your students to stay with you, you have to be creative, you have to give them interesting and engaging activities, and you have to be helpful and sensitive. You will need to combine your personal skills and qualities with your professional skills. Basically, this expression, customer retention is usually used in marketing, however, we can also implement it in the ESL teaching world if we sell our services online. Or even if we find students online and then work with them in a real classroom.
The next point would be how to make students come back? The problem stems from motivation in general and this notion is really common to ESL teaching. We all know that teachers' books and teaching courses suggest we focus on motivation and try to organize our lessons in order to motivate students. However, there is a little bit of a problem because individual motivation might be different. When we talk about different types of motivation, we would probably focus on internal versus external motivation. But when it comes to real teaching, we would probably also need to look at genuine motivation and fake motivation and be able to understand the difference.
We need to look at these examples. These are some types of sentences I usually hear from my students or from my perspective students and right after I hear such words, I understand if I'm going to teach that person or not. Sometimes I hear something like, "I learn English to pass an exam and get a university scholarship". When I hear words like this, I understand that the person is pretty motivated because they need to achieve a specific goal. On the other hand when we talk about individuals who say something like, "I learn English because it's important", it's clear to us that they don't actually have a specific goal. They are not trying to achieve anything, or maybe they want to achieve something, but they just don't know how to express it. This is why I believe this type of approach is not real motivation which drives you in language learning. It's really important to make sure that your prospective students are genuinely motivated.
Then when we go back to teaching activities, we would ask how we as teachers can influence student retention, how can we make them come back? For example, right now we have this trial lesson, and we are not sure that students are actually going to come back and here is what we have to count on. First of all we need to summarize some of our personal qualities and try to get prepared for the first class. We need to be sure, we want to be as helpful and motivating as it is possible. It is also important to be sensitive and to accept any peculiarities, any features of our students. It is also important to treat them equally and as individuals. The atmosphere of the lesson is also pretty important and as an example here I'd like to share my personal story with you.
When I was much younger, probably eight years ago or so, when I just started tutoring students one-on-one, I wasn't prepared for being a teacher. I didn't know how to communicate with different people, especially with children. I could easily get annoyed and irritated with some of the answers, my reactions weren't normal. I would say they were too extreme, and that approach made me look like a bad teacher. When we talk about the lesson itself, we need to make sure that the lesson dynamic is interesting and engaging, and to do so, we need to give clear instructions, positive feedback and praise, and select materials which are going to be appropriate for specific students. Of course, it is always better to focus on students' interests versus some specific tests and scores and stuff like that.
Another example here would be that as a learner myself, I didn't like to learn English at school because it was always focused on getting correct answers. It was circled around some grammatical points, and it was all about being clear and precise in different aspects of language learning. Teachers never praised me and never said anything encouraging, and usually, when I wrote an essay and received them back they were covered in red corrections and stuff like that, and I felt so miserable. There were remarks like it's not right, it is all wrong, change it, paraphrase it, but I couldn't understand how to do that because the feedback wasn't clear at all. It was just not motivating, it was not clear, and it was useless to me as a learner.
Nowadays, when I work with my students, I usually try to look at the most positive aspects of their work. When we have speaking activities, I try to show them that they are doing great, even if they make mistakes. Mistakes are not actually that important when it comes to communication.
Now I'd like to ask you guys a question that is important, but I'm not sure that everyone is on the same page with me. So do you think it's important to assign homework to your students? Let me know via the chatbox. Do you think it's important or not in terms of student retention?
While you're thinking, let me quickly look at the chatbox to see if there are any questions. Hello Alexey, you haven't missed that much, we are just in the beginning, I suppose. Today's live session is devoted to student retention, which is we want to make sure that students are going to come back to us after a trial lesson, or the first course, things like that. So there are people from Egypt I can see, thanks guys for tuning in. Please go ahead and vote whether you think it's important to assign students homework, what do you think?
For me, I think it is pretty important but there is a problem as sometimes teachers give too much homework and this is a way to reduce student motivation. Especially when they are committed to working two times a week for example, and then you give them so much homework that they are going to spend three or four hours or more of their spare time on it. However, giving homework is still important, and I learned this trick when I worked for an online teaching school, they assign students with homework right after the first trial lesson. They explained that it is important to give this first homework to make students come back again. It was something like, you give this trial lesson but you treat it as a real class and you want to make sure that students understand it the same way as you.
For example, if you teach on a platform like iTalki, then you are probably giving trial classes for free or maybe for some discount, and you want to make sure that your prospective students are going to come back next time and pay you that amount of money you really want and deserve. So it's a great idea actually to give some homework that would be relevant to the content of your teaching. So the answer would be, yes, it is important to assign students homework, but make sure that you don't burden them with it.
Now we're moving on to the most exciting part of today's presentation. I'm going to share some engaging ideas, but before I do that, I'd like to move back to the chatbox and see your responses. This is the answer I was actually thinking about, so when you work with specific groups of students, for example, with adults, it is extremely important to give them enough homework, but not too much. Later on I'm going to share several ideas on how to give exciting homework which won't take more than one hour during the week.
I partially agree with this point, sometimes it's important to ask for students' opinions whether they want to get homework or not. However, it is still important to assign students with homework in order to make sure that they request something and then they come back to your classes and they are prepared somehow.
Okay, so let's see some of the ideas which can actually solve this problem, how not to give too much homework and at the same time help students to retain your lesson content. As I have already mentioned, these ideas are actually for online teaching, however, they are really flexible. It is possible to adjust all of the ideas to real classrooms. On the next slides I'm going to show you some of the greatest ideas and I hope you will benefit from it. I hope you'll try to use them with your students.
The first one is actually really famous, it is Quizlet. Let me know if you've heard about it or not? I actually started using Quizlet not that long ago, but I see that this application is really helpful. Last year I actually created real cards to learn words by heart, and it was so useless, it was so inconvenient because I lost all of the papers. I created papers like this, I wrote one word here and a definition or a translation on the other side. This is the way I used to do it when I studied at university, but nowadays I feel like it's a little bit old-fashioned. Quizlet actually solves this problem, how not to create too many papers and how not to lose them.
Basically, you can have all of the cards in your cell phone and you are able to learn the vocabulary and even have team activities on your way home or on your way to school and stuff like that. Quizlet is just really amazing, and I want to show you how to use it as a teacher. So this is the way it looks from my teacher's dashboard. I paid for the teacher's account, it's not that pricey, especially if you get the discount that they give out from time to time. So this is one of my classrooms with my adult students. I created several sets of cards and made a special classroom for this particular group and now I can track their activity, I can track their progress and I actually see that some people are really consistent and some people are really engaged in this learning, versus some other people who log in and don't do anything.
I believe that it is especially exciting for younger students, but adults enjoy this application a lot as well. Especially because there is this sense of competition and my adult students mentioned that they really enjoy competing with each other. It's actually up to you how to organize your content, but as for me, I create sets for more advanced students focused around collocations and structures, so it's really easy to teach grammar through this lexical approach. So yeah, just try out Quizlet, it's super helpful.
Let's see the next idea. I haven't seen this idea anywhere yet, but I believe it's super helpful to those teachers who are struggling to explain speaking activities and who are struggling to assign students speaking activities to do at home. This application is called ELSA Speak, I believe I have already mentioned it in my previous streams. However, here I'm going to show you how to use it as a teacher. This is for drilling your pronunciation, and it contains different conversation scenarios, it can also help you to prepare for different exams like IELTS because it contains activities related to the speaking section on that exam. The last point, which is the most beneficial for teachers, is community study sets. I'm going to show you how to use them and how to implement these ideas in your ESL teaching.
This is the way it looks when you start using this application. This first screenshot was my assessment test when I began using it in 2020. However, I actually started using this application even before that, so I feel like I retook that test because I've been using it since 2017 or something like that. At that time, it wasn't this advanced and today its voice recognition is just amazing. It is really like a speaking body, so if you want to practice your personal speaking skills it can be really helpful to you as English learners and as teachers as well. This is my score right now, it's changing, and although it is not that obvious, little by little, my personal skills change and I am super excited about it. Just imagine what your students feel about this application?
Now about the community study sets, so this what they look like. They are not that advanced as it's a new feature, however, you can already start using it. You can create activities, you can add study sets in your personal group and share this group with your students. So you can use an invite link and share it with your students and they will see this leaderboard. They will have access to the leaderboard and all of the materials stored here. The best idea for using this application is that it is possible to compete and I think that competition is a good driver for ESL students. It is especially helpful if you teach groups of students, but even if you work with one-on-one students, it is possible to invite them in your personal classroom. Even if there are some other people, they will probably enjoy working on their pronunciation and competing with others.
The next idea is focused on listening comprehension. It is actually not a single application for teaching this skill, it is important to use various resources, but generally speaking, you will probably need some audios. This application is called storyboard. This website helps you to create comics, but I decided to use it in a slightly different manner. I didn't want to create comics myself; I wanted my students to create comics, to retell me the contents of the videos or podcasts they have just seen. For example, I ask my students to listen to a podcast or to watch a video, and then I ask them to make some concepts using this storyboard application.
This example was created by my 12 year old student. We talked about mindfulness and meditation, and she watched a video from Netflix about meditation and then made this short story to retell the content of the video. That activity was really engaging because it not only was focused on listening but also on retelling as well. First she listened and then she told me the story as she understood it. So from listening we moved to speaking, that's the idea of this activity and this is how it looks. The application is really simple, you log in with your Google account. By the way, it's not free, you have to pay to use it but it has a two week trial so it's possible to try it to see what it actually offers.
There are different scenes so you can change pictures, add your characters, write speech bubbles and stuff like that. If you want to use it yourself, you can prepare comics related to your teaching points. For example, in this storytelling way, you can assign it as homework, and students can get creative and create their own comics.
The last thing I'd like to recommend is this writing practice activity. You will also need this special resource which is called write and improve. It is from Cambridge and it is pretty famous nowadays. I used to practice my writing with it when I prepared for the IELTS test a couple of years ago. It was pretty helpful because it has this automatic checking feature, so as a learner, you don't need to ask anyone for feedback. As a teacher, you can use it in order to assign homework as well, and you won't need to check for grammatical errors or punctuation, spelling, and stuff like that. All you need is to provide your students with positive feedback on how they did with their writing and maybe explain to them how to structure and organize it.
It is also awesome if you want to engage your students in a different way and if you want them to spend not that much time on doing something because this application is also about progress and competition as well. You can add your students into a workbook like this one that I prepared. I just actually copied this activity from the textbook and shared and assigned it to my student. There are some prepared materials, so you don't necessarily need to create something on your own, you can just pick from the bank of ideas.
Last but not least I'd like to say that it is really important, apart from your homework tasks and your actual teaching, to learn how to provide feedback. When we go to this feedback idea, it is really important to be sensitive and to stay positive. So the best choice here would be not to overcorrect your students, they don't like to receive back work which is marked with red pen with all the mistakes corrected. This way they actually start feeling miserable, and you don't want this happening. It is always better to implement different correction techniques, and if you want to learn more about various correction techniques, I'd recommend you think about our TEFL course.
Otherwise, you can just search for correction techniques on the net, there are a lot of them. One of the most famous correction techniques isn't actually done by yourself; it is done by other students. This is called peer correction or even self correction. It's when you ask your students to check for mistakes or for slips on their own and then say what was bad or what was good.
The last point is to ask concept checking questions to see if the students understand you and actually get the content. Concept checking questions are something like, what have we just finished? What tasks have we just done? Something like that. They are asked in order to check if the students have got it and if they didn't get it then you have to repeat the explanation.
Let's have a short summary of today's live session. We've covered three main points which are motivation for customer retention. Then personal qualities which are important for student retention. And the last thing is to assign students engaging homework and how to give them appropriate feedback. I should say that I'm really proud of today's presentation. I'm not bragging, but I really like these ideas, and I think they are helpful. I hope they will be helpful to you, and you will try to implement them in your classroom.
If you still have any questions, it's time to ask them now. We are 45 minutes in, and I believe we can have a 15 minute Q&A session. Let's discuss today's points, or if you have any questions related to ESL teaching or TEFL courses, whatever is on your mind, please go ahead and send them to the comments section. Just a quick reminder if you scan this QR code, you will be able to get 30% off any ITTT TEFL course. So if you are thinking about getting a TEFL certificate or you want to learn more about teaching approaches, or ways to give feedback, just go ahead and scan the code or click on this link in the chatbox.
Now let's look at the questions. The first one is, where to get these apps?
I'm going to share this presentation with you, and this presentation contains all the links, so just let me copy it and send it to the chatbox. If you want to get all of those applications, just follow the link from the chatbox. It's the link to today's presentation and all of the slides with the ideas. For example, on this slide, if you click on this part, you will be directed to the service itself and the same for the rest of the applications.
In regard to corrections, green ink is much better than red. It is just a little irritating and is probably related to our psychology somehow. But it is not just about the color, the problem is really the quality of your feedback. It's pleasant to get praise, and it's pleasant to get nice words. To see that there are not only mistakes but also some good in your homework.
By the way, I'd like to invite you to my Facebook group. I'm not that active on the Facebook group yet, however, I am thinking about the most interesting content for you, and I hope I will be consistent in posting. So if you want to communicate with me, please go ahead and add me as a friend or join my Facebook group.
I see no further questions, so probably today's point was pretty clear to you. I believe that is all for today, I am super glad that you could make it and that you joined me. Just a quick reminder that ITTT is represented on various social networks. We are active on Instagram, and we share useful tips there, so please follow us and keep in touch. I hope to see you next week and I'll try to come up with another exciting topic. I hope you enjoyed this one. I know that probably my speech wasn't perfect again, but I try my best, and I actually work on my pronunciation and on my speaking abilities as a presenter, so I hope to improve.
Thanks for joining me today, and I hope to see you next week guys. That is all for today. Bye, bye.
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