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:

Design

  • 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.
 Content
  • 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.
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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.

Technology tools for teachers

Here are my newest favorite web-based tools that are a HUGE time-saver and help to teachers:

Jing:  Jing is a tool that lets you capture any image you see online.  It’s very helpful for creating worksheets and classroom activities.  Once you capture an image, you can also write or draw on it. It also lets you capture movies.

Evernote:  Ever surf the web and find interesting articles/resources only to later think, “Now where did I see that?”  Evernote is an online filing cabinet that lets you organize and categorize anything at all!  Michael Hyatt just published a fantastic article on “How to organizer Evernote for maximum efficiency” that’s worth filing in Evernote!
For even more ideas on webtools for English language teachers, see Sandy Millin’s article Easy Technology for the EFL Classroom.

Online dictionaries for language learning

While dictionaries have always been crucial in the process of language learning, online dictionaries are introducing a whole new world of accesible information!  Complete with forums, idioms, thesauri, and even encyclopedias in a variety of languages, these sites are a one-stop shop!

Here are a couple of my favorite that are particularly useful for English language learners:

The Free Dictionary

My favorite feature of The Free Dictionary is it’s industry specific dictionaries – it has medical, legal, and financial dictionaries.

Word Reference

Don’t let it’s plainness fool you – this is a powerful tool!  With dictionaries in 15 languages, this is great for a multilingual class.  It’s language forums are also very useful in dialogging about word meanings with native speakers.