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Should I study English grammar? In order to obtain English fluency for ESL students, studying grammar can slow your progress down significantly. Basic grammar is a necessity, but focusing on grammar will prevent you from being able to speak English fluently in a reasonable time frame. Grammar is most effective to improve communication and writing skills, but this only pertains to those who have a solid foundation in English fluency. If you are studying for an exam or want to learn the details of grammar rules, you can study our grammar section at English Grammar Basics. One commonality among everyone in the whole world is that they learned to speak before they learned grammar. Speaking is the first step for any English learner. So if you are a novice at English, please focus on your speaking and listening skills prior to studying grammar. After being able to speak English fluently, you will realize how much easier grammar is. But it does not work the other way around. Being fluent in English speaking will help you with your grammar studies, but studying grammar will NOT help you with your speaking. In this article, the four most basic grammar topics are there, which consists of 1) subject, 2) predicate, 3) verb, and 4) article. This is the absolute minimum you should know. After you become comfortable with speaking, then you can study more advanced grammar topics. For now, please review and study the four items described below.
English Speaking Classes For Ladies English speaking difficulty #1 – Listening Remember that when you’re having a conversation, you’re only talking about 50% the time – the other 50% is spent listening to the other person speak. If you don’t understand what the other person is saying, it’s difficult to reply. Here are two simple solutions to this problem: First, practice some listening EVERY DAY. All you need is 10-15 minutes per day to develop your listening skills. You can get free English podcasts on websites like ESLpod.com and listen to them while driving, taking public transportation, exercising, or doing housework. Next, memorize these phrases that you can use in conversation when you don’t understand something: I beg your pardon? I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Could you repeat that, please? Could you say that again, please? English Speaking Difficulty #2 – Vocabulary Sometimes when you’re speaking English, you have a sentence in mind, but you’re missing two or three important vocabulary words – and then it becomes difficult to say what you’re thinking. The solution? Learn more vocabulary words! But there’s a good way and a not-so-good way to learn new words. The not-so-good way is to read lists of words and definitions and try to memorize them. A good way is to learn words in “families.” For example, imagine you’re in an airport. Do you know the words for everything you see? (luggage, check-in desk, travel agency, flight attendant, boarding pass) If not, look for the words you don’t know in a dictionary. Now think about what kind of conversations you might have in an airport. How would you ask for help if you can’t find the gate? What would you say if you missed your flight? How about going through immigration? Create conversations and write them down in your vocabulary notebook. This will help you learn useful words that are all related to each other, so the next time you’re in an airport, you won’t have problems with missing vocabulary. English Speaking Difficulty #3 – Pronunciation English words can be difficult to pronounce – and when speaking English, you have to consider not only the pronunciation of the individual words, but also the connection between the words in the sentence. There’s also the “rhythm” and intonation of the sentence to consider – and sometimes your mouth gets confused! There are two things that can help you improve your English pronunciation. One way is to take a pronunciation course. Another way to improve your pronunciation is to keep practicing your listening. The more you listen to English, the more your pronunciation will naturally get closer and closer to native pronunciation. A good way to practice is to get an audio sample with transcript. Listen to one or two sentences (while reading the transcript), then pause the audio and try to repeat the sentences exactly as the person said them. Practicing pronunciation like this will help you improve very fast. English Speaking Difficulty #4 – Confidence If you feel nervous and are afraid of making a mistake while speaking English, then your problem is confidence. There are three things that can help increase your confidence: First, don’t worry too much about grammar! Just do your best to communicate, and you’ll often be successful even if you do make a small grammar mistake. Also, remember that the grammar of spoken English is often more “flexible” than the grammar of written English. Second, keep a positive attitude. Think of yourself as an English speaker (because you are!) and focus on celebrating what you know, not being frustrated about what you don’t know. Third, practice speaking English as much as possible in low-pressure situations. Here are two examples of low-pressure situations: Talk to yourself! It might feel ridiculous, but it really helps! Talk to your teacher and your friends in English class. If you make a mistake, they can correct you. It’s extremely important to practice in low-pressure situations as much as possible to build your confidence so that you will be comfortable speaking English in a more “high-pressure” situation (like a teleconference, presentation, or job interview).
LEARN ENGLISH IN THESE POWERFUL WAYS Learn Naturally and Playfully Like a Child Never Study Grammar Rules Learn With Your Ears, Not Your Eyes Learn Spoken Grammar With Fun Stories Learn Actively By Answering Simple Questions Emotional Lessons That are Memorable
fifty common grammar mistakes Below are some of the most common English mistakes made by ESL students, in speech and in writing. Go through the examples and make sure you understand the corrections. Then try the grammar test at the end to check your progress. Wrong I have visited Niagara Falls last weekend. Right I visited Niagara Falls last weekend. Wrong The woman which works here is from Japan. Right The woman who works here is from Japan. Wrong She’s married with a dentist. Right She’s married to a dentist. Wrong She was boring in the class. Right She was bored in the class. Wrong I must to call him immediately. Right I must call him immediately. Wrong Every students like the teacher. Right Every student likes the teacher. Wrong Although it was raining, but we had the picnic. Right Although it was raining, we had the picnic. Wrong I enjoyed from the movie. Right I enjoyed the movie. Wrong I look forward to meet you. Right I look forward to meeting you. Wrong I like very much ice cream. Right I like ice cream very much. Wrong She can to drive. Right She can drive. Wrong Where I can find a bank? Right Where can I find a bank? Wrong I live in United States. Right I live in the United States. Wrong When I will arrive, I will call you. Right When I arrive, I will call you. Wrong I’ve been here since three months. Right I’ve been here for three months. Wrong My boyfriend has got a new work. Right My boyfriend has got a new job. (or just "has a new job") Wrong She doesn’t listen me. Right She doesn’t listen to me. Wrong You speak English good. Right You speak English well. Wrong The police is coming. Right The police are coming. Wrong The house isn’t enough big. Right The house isn’t big enough. Wrong You should not to smoke. Right You should not smoke. Wrong Do you like a glass of wine? Right Would you like a glass of wine? Wrong There is seven girls in the class. Right There are seven girls in the class. Wrong I didn’t meet nobody. Right I didn’t meet anybody. Wrong My flight departs in 5:00 am. Right My flight departs at 5:00 am. Wrong I promise I call you next week. Right I promise I’ll call you next week. Wrong Where is post office? Right Where is the post office? Wrong Please explain me how improve my English. Right Please explain to me how to improve my English. Wrong We studied during four hours. Right We studied for four hours. Wrong Is ready my passport? Right Is my passport ready? Wrong You cannot buy all what you like! Right You cannot buy all that you like! Wrong She is success. Right She is successful. Wrong My mother wanted that I be doctor. Right My mother wanted me to be a doctor. Wrong The life is hard! Right Life is hard. Wrong How many childrens you have? Right How many children do you have? Wrong My brother has 10 years. Right My brother is 10 (years old). Wrong I want eat now. Right I want to eat now. Wrong You are very nice, as your mother. Right You are very nice, like your mother. Wrong She said me that she liked you. Right She told me that she liked you. Wrong My husband engineer. Right My husband is an engineer. Wrong I came Australia to study English. Right I came to Australia to study English. Wrong It is more hot now. Right It’s hotter now. Wrong You can give me an information? Right Can you give me some information? Wrong They cooked the dinner themself. Right They cooked the dinner themselves. Wrong Me and Johnny live here. Right Johnny and I live here. Wrong I closed very quietly the door. Right I closed the door very quietly. Wrong You like dance with me? Right Would you like to dance with me? Wrong I go always to school by subway. Right I always go to school by subway. Wrong If I will be in London, I will contact to you. Right If I am in London, I will contact you. Wrong We drive usually to home. Right We usually drive home.
Importance of English in the Business World Success in business is often hinged on one single important word – communication; and most of it happens in English. The world is flat; the economic migrations of the past decades have become permanent expat communities. Asians, especially, continue to migrate to the United States or to Europe for jobs and live there permanently. Even for those involved in business from their native countries, if they want to sell to a larger market, need to understand the trends and the cultures of those markets. This is often best done through the common currency that is English. Love it or hate it, we simply can’t ignore it. Big businesses call the shots, so if in Germany you do as the Germans do, in the common world market, learn English. In order to get ahead in your chosen field you need to make yourself completely understood by the people you work with. There will be emails; there will be telephone conversations, and they are costly! Knowing good English helps you to make your point faster. If you have a website that the whole world can see, you had better have content that is meaningful and accurate and does not embarrass you or harm your business. Even within Indian companies, especially large corporations, the number of employees is too huge for personal, one-on-one communication. Hence the intranet is the notice board and all communications are made through it. Imagine a secretary who didn’t know grammar and punctuation sent out a company wide email – “meeting cancelled because of indisposed”. Because of whom? Because of indisposed? Is indisposed the name of a person? Another Indian might scoff and laugh at the very poor grammar, or might even get the gist of it, but what about the impression you make on, say, foreign collaborators who receive the same email? And even if we ignore the impression we make, what about the issues that arise from miscommunication? People just don’t know what you mean. Written communication is as important as verbal. Engineers typically are nonchalant about their lack of language skills, saying that they understand their core subjects and that’s enough. I would say that it is not enough to understand the concepts through insight or genius, you need to communicate that you know. Think interviews and group discussions for job-seekers! You cannot do this without proficiency in a language. And what about presentations? You might have the most brilliant idea in the world, but if you do not know how to get it across, you are lost. I have seen scores of presentations made by students who are too stumped or lazy to formulate simple, brief and attractive sentences in English, which are the backbone of any good presentations. What they do is to simply type into Google, move into relevant or sometimes irrelevant sites, copy a large section of content and simply paste it into their power point slides, without a thought as to how readable or attractive it might be. A little education here (either training through company intranets, or an on-line course, or some self motivated self-education) can go a long way. The employee will not only use better grammar and vocabulary, but will also use logical chunking and sizing of the content, so he only puts as much on a slide as is easy to read and understand. One point per slide, with an example if it is there – this is a good rule. Anything more is actually taking away from your content.
IELTS IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is designed to assess the language ability of candidates who need to study or work where English is used as the language of communication. IELTS is required for entry to university in the UK and other countries. Who is it for? IELTS is recognised by universities and employers in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. It is also recognised by professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies. More than 2 million people a year take the test. What is the IELTS test like? You can choose between the Academic or General Training versions of the test. All candidates do the same Listening and Speaking sections. The test has four sections: Listening - 4 sections, 40 questions, 30 minutes Speaking - interview, 15 minutes Reading - different for Academic or General Training - 3 sections, 40 questions, 60 minutes Writing - different for Academic or General Training - 2 pieces of writing, 60 minutes This site also contains vocabulary tests, including practice tests for the academic wordlist, as well as grammar tests that are relevant to IELTS. Level and scores Multi-level. You get a score between 1 and 9. Half scores such as 6.5 are possible. Universities often demand an IELTS score of 6 or 7. They may also demand a minimum score in each of the 4 sections. Please click here to see an explanation of IELTS Band Scores. You can use the IELTS Band Score Calculator on this site to convert your reading and listening raw scores. Click here to see a comparison of IELTS scores with other exams. Click here to see our IELTS Exam Tips and IELTS articles. Where do I take the test? IELTS tests are administered at accredited Test Centres throughout the world - there are currently more than 500 Centres, in over 120 countries. Click here to find a test centre. When can I take the test? Arrange with your closest test centre. There are frequent dates, usually on Thursdays or Saturdays. How much does it cost to take IELTS? Fees are set by test centres and vary from country to country. Expect to pay around £160 GBP, €210 Euros or $230 USD. What materials do I need? You can download practice tests in pdf format from our partners at IELTS-Practice-Tests.com
What are the origins of the English Language? The history of English is conventionally, if perhaps too neatly, divided into three periods usually called Old English (or Anglo-Saxon), Middle English, and Modern English. The earliest period begins with the migration of certain Germanic tribes from the continent to Britain in the fifth century A.D., though no records of their language survive from before the seventh century, and it continues until the end of the eleventh century or a bit later. By that time Latin, Old Norse (the language of the Viking invaders), and especially the Anglo-Norman French of the dominant class after the Norman Conquest in 1066 had begun to have a substantial impact on the lexicon, and the well-developed inflectional system that typifies the grammar of Old English had begun to break down. The following brief sample of Old English prose illustrates several of the significant ways in which change has so transformed English that we must look carefully to find points of resemblance between the language of the tenth century and our own. It is taken from Aelfric's "Homily on St. Gregory the Great" and concerns the famous story of how that pope came to send missionaries to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity after seeing Anglo-Saxon boys for sale as slaves in Rome: Eft he axode, hu ðære ðeode nama wære þe hi of comon. Him wæs geandwyrd, þæt hi Angle genemnode wæron. Þa cwæð he, "Rihtlice hi sind Angle gehatene, for ðan ðe hi engla wlite habbað, and swilcum gedafenað þæt hi on heofonum engla geferan beon." A few of these words will be recognized as identical in spelling with their modern equivalents—he, of, him, for, and, on—and the resemblance of a few others to familiar words may be guessed—nama to name, comon to come, wære to were, wæs to was—but only those who have made a special study of Old English will be able to read the passage with understanding. The sense of it is as follows: Again he [St. Gregory] asked what might be the name of the people from which they came. It was answered to him that they were named Angles. Then he said, "Rightly are they called Angles because they have the beauty of angels, and it is fitting that such as they should be angels' companions in heaven." Some of the words in the original have survived in altered form, including axode (asked), hu (how), rihtlice (rightly), engla (angels), habbað (have), swilcum (such), heofonum (heaven), and beon (be). Others, however, have vanished from our lexicon, mostly without a trace, including several that were quite common words in Old English: eft "again, " ðeode "people, nation, " cwæð "said, spoke, " gehatene "called, named, " wlite "appearance, beauty, " and geferan "companions." Recognition of some words is naturally hindered by the presence of two special characters, þ, called "thorn, " and ð, called "edh, " which served in Old English to represent the sounds now spelled with th. Other points worth noting include the fact that the pronoun system did not yet, in the late tenth century, include the third person plural forms beginning with th-: hi appears where we would use they. Several aspects of word order will also strike the reader as oddly unlike ours. Subject and verb are inverted after an adverb—þa cwæð he "Then said he"—a phenomenon not unknown in Modern English but now restricted to a few adverbs such as never and requiring the presence of an auxiliary verb like do or have. In subordinate clauses the main verb must be last, and so an object or a preposition may precede it in a way no longer natural: þe hi of comon "which they from came, " for ðan ðe hi engla wlite habbað "because they angels' beauty have." Perhaps the most distinctive difference between Old and Modern English reflected in Aelfric's sentences is the elaborate system of inflections, of which we now have only remnants. Nouns, adjectives, and even the definite article are inflected for gender, case, and number: ðære ðeode "(of) the people" is feminine, genitive, and singular, Angle "Angles" is masculine, accusative, and plural, and swilcum "such" is masculine, dative, and plural. The system of inflections for verbs was also more elaborate than ours: for example, habbað "have" ends with the -að suffix characteristic of plural present indicative verbs. In addition, there were two imperative forms, four subjunctive forms (two for the present tense and two for the preterit, or past, tense), and several others which we no longer have. Even where Modern English retains a particular category of inflection, the form has often changed. Old English present participles ended in -ende not -ing, and past participles bore a prefix ge- (as geandwyrd "answered" above). The period of Middle English extends roughly from the twelfth century through the fifteenth. The influence of French (and Latin, often by way of French) upon the lexicon continued throughout this period, the loss of some inflections and the reduction of others (often to a final unstressed vowel spelled -e) accelerated, and many changes took place within the phonological and grammatical systems of the language. A typical prose passage, especially one from the later part of the period, will not have such a foreign look to us as Aelfric's prose has; but it will not be mistaken for contemporary writing either. The following brief passage is drawn from a work of the late fourteenth century called Mandeville's Travels. It is fiction in the guise of travel literature, and, though it purports to be from the pen of an English knight, it was originally written in French and later translated into Latin and English. In this extract Mandeville describes the land of Bactria, apparently not an altogether inviting place, as it is inhabited by "full yuele [evil] folk and full cruell." In þat lond ben trees þat beren wolle, as þogh it were of scheep; whereof men maken clothes, and all þing þat may ben made of wolle. In þat contree ben many ipotaynes, þat dwellen som tyme in the water, and somtyme on the lond: and þei ben half man and half hors, as I haue seyd before; and þei eten men, whan þei may take hem. And þere ben ryueres and watres þat ben fulle byttere, þree sithes more þan is the water of the see. In þat contré ben many griffounes, more plentee þan in ony other contree. Sum men seyn þat þei han the body vpward as an egle, and benethe as a lyoun: and treuly þei seyn soth þat þei ben of þat schapp. But o griffoun hath the body more gret, and is more strong, þanne eight lyouns, of suche lyouns as ben o this half; and more gret and strongere þan an hundred egles, suche as we han amonges vs. For o griffoun þere wil bere fleynge to his nest a gret hors, 3if he may fynde him at the poynt, or two oxen 3oked togidere, as þei gon at the plowgh. The spelling is often peculiar by modern standards and even inconsistent within these few sentences (contré and contree, o [griffoun] and a [gret hors], þanne and þan, for example). Moreover, in the original text, there is in addition to thorn another old character 3, called "yogh, " to make difficulty. It can represent several sounds but here may be thought of as equivalent to y. Even the older spellings (including those where u stands for v or vice versa) are recognizable, however, and there are only a few words like ipotaynes "hippopotamuses" and sithes "times" that have dropped out of the language altogether. We may notice a few words and phrases that have meanings no longer common such as byttere "salty, " o this half "on this side of the world, " and at the poynt "to hand, " and the effect of the centuries-long dominance of French on the vocabulary is evident in many familiar words which could not have occurred in Aelfric's writing even if his subject had allowed them, words like contree, ryueres, plentee, egle, and lyoun. In general word order is now very close to that of our time, though we notice constructions like hath the body more gret and three sithes more þan is the water of the see. We also notice that present tense verbs still receive a plural inflection as in beren, dwellen, han, and ben and that while nominative þei has replaced Aelfric's hi in the third person plural, the form for objects is still hem. All the same, the number of inflections for nouns, adjectives, and verbs has been greatly reduced, and in most respects Mandeville is closer to Modern than to Old English. The period of Modern English extends from the sixteenth century to our own day. The early part of this period saw the completion of a revolution in the phonology of English that had begun in late Middle English and that effectively redistributed the occurrence of the vowel phonemes to something approximating their present pattern. (Mandeville's English would have sounded even less familiar to us than it looks.) Other important early developments include the stabilizing effect on spelling of the printing press and the beginning of the direct influence of Latin and, to a lesser extent, Greek on the lexicon. Later, as English came into contact with other cultures around the world and distinctive dialects of English developed in the many areas which Britain had colonized, numerous other languages made small but interesting contributions to our word-stock. The historical aspect of English really encompasses more than the three stages of development just under consideration. English has what might be called a prehistory as well. As we have seen, our language did not simply spring into existence; it was brought from the Continent by Germanic tribes who had no form of writing and hence left no records. Philologists know that they must have spoken a dialect of a language that can be called West Germanic and that other dialects of this unknown language must have included the ancestors of such languages as German, Dutch, Low German, and Frisian. They know this because of certain systematic similarities which these languages share with each other but do not share with, say, Danish. However, they have had somehow to reconstruct what that language was like in its lexicon, phonology, grammar, and semantics as best they can through sophisticated techniques of comparison developed chiefly during the last century. Similarly, because ancient and modern languages like Old Norse and Gothic or Icelandic and Norwegian have points in common with Old English and Old High German or Dutch and English that they do not share with French or Russian, it is clear that there was an earlier unrecorded language that can be called simply Germanic and that must be reconstructed in the same way. Still earlier, Germanic was just a dialect (the ancestors of Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit were three other such dialects) of a language conventionally designated Indo-European, and thus English is just one relatively young member of an ancient family of languages whose descendants cover a fair portion of the globe.
Your English Level You can determine your level of English on a scale from 1 (Beginner) to 9 (Very advanced). Check the table below to see which level you have, or take a 20 minute English level test which will help you determine your English level with accuracy. Level LSE Class Level Description CEF level* 9 Very Advanced I speak and understand English completely fluently. C2 8 Advanced I speak and understand very well but sometimes have problems with unfamiliar situations and vocabulary. C2 7 Pre-advanced I speak and understand well but still make mistakes and fail to make myself understood occasionally. C1 6 Upper Intermediate I speak and understand well but still make mistakes and fail to make myself understood occasionally. B2 5 Intermediate I can speak and understand reasonably well and can use basic tenses but have problems with more complex grammar and vocabulary. B1 4 Low Intermediate I can make simple sentences and can understand the main points of a conversation but need much more vocabulary. B1 3 Pre-Intermediate I can communicate simply and understand in familiar situations but only with some difficulty. A2 2 Elementary I can say and understand a few things in English. A1/2 1 Beginner I do not speak any English. *CEF - The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages Necessary Levels of English General English: Course Level Intensive general English Level 2 - 8 General English 30+ Level 3 - 6 Individual English Tuition Level 1- 9 Skype English Lessons Level 1 - 9 Business English: Course Level Business and Professional English 30+ Level 4 - 8 Business English 20-30 Level 4 - 8 Business and Professional English 30+ Level 4 - 8 Legal English: Course Level Legal English 30+ Level 6 - 8 Legal English 20-30 Level 5 - 8 TOLES exam preparation Level 5 - 8 Professional English: Course Level Medical English Level 5 - 8 English for Human Resource Professionals Level 5 - 8 Effective Lecturing Skills Level 6 - 8 Communication Skills for Bankers Level 5 - 8 Academic English: Course Level English for University Level 4 - 7 Exam preparation: Course Level IELTS preparation course Level 4 - 7 Cambridge Advanced Certificate (CAE) Level 7 - 8 Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) Level 5 - 6 Cambridge BEC Higher Level 7 - 8 Cambridge BEC Vantage Level 5 - 6 Voice training: Course Level Voice training and Accent modification Level 5 - 9 Corporate English training: Course Level Corporate English training Level 1 - 9
Keys to a Creative Language Classroom 1. Resist Running Like Clockwork Routines can be useful. They are a sequence of habits that keep you on track and prevent complications. Not every day has to be a completely unique language learning experience. A little routine never hurt anyone, but zero creativity can. Throwing in some spontaneity every now and then increases the level of default alertness that your students operate at. Routines are comfortable, sometimes too comfortable, letting students sit back and “turn off.” Mixing things up requires them to pay more attention and listen carefully. The mental stimulation and social gratification that results from being creative literally enhances brain cells and memory, leading to more “Eureka!” moments. One way to keep students on their toes is to throw a wrench into their normal routine. Do something completely different. For example, by getting students up and about: Take students on a walk around the school or the block, asking them to write down all of the words that they see. If along the way they notice any objects for which they do not know the term, have them sketch a picture of it. Meet in a lobby or park and review the identified words. Play a game of Pictionary where one student sketches the objects that he or she saw and fellow students have the chance to guess the correct term (i.e. a fire hydrant, traffic light or gate). This activity works well as a “wrench” because it is not something that you can do every day. Other examples include interactive art projects, which we’ll discuss later, and games that get them moving, like charades or Jeopardy. The purpose of these activities is to surprise students and give them something unexpected that they don’t do regularly. We want to keep them on their toes and remind them to stay alert, because in your classroom anything can happen. 2 2. Invert the Routine You don’t have to completely change the routine to mix things up, you just have to change how the routine looks from the outside. If you run the same three-mile loop every day, pretty soon your body will get used to it and it will become easy. Give yourself a new three-mile loop and all of a sudden you’ll be challenged again. The same is true with our students’ brains. We want to keep them from getting too comfortable. Let’s take a look at some tricks to help clarify: Do the opposite. Take something familiar and do it differently. For example, if you always teach from the front of the class, try teaching from the back; if your students always sit in rows, try putting them in a circle. Switch up the order. Do daily activities in a different order. If you usually give a homework assignment at the end of class, for example, give it at the beginning instead. Change roles. Let students do the work. For example, if you usually read out the class schedule every morning, have one of your students do it one day. Those are a few simple ideas, but I’m sure you can come up with many more. These twists require little to no preparation, and are subtle enough to keep students from getting overly excited or distracted. What do these examples have in common? They pull students out of their daily habits. We are disorienting them slightly in order to give them a new perspective and keep them alert. 3. Give Students the Power As teachers our best source of inspiration is our students themselves. It’s okay to ask them for their ideas and opinions when designing a curriculum. Students are used to being told what to do and just going with the flow. Pull them back out of passive mode by giving them the power. Let them have a stake in the class by helping plan the curriculum for the next day or week. Here are some ways to do so: Let students choose. Describe two assignments then ask something like “Sarah, which exercise would you like to do first?” Giving them the chance to choose will instantly wake them back up. Involve students in scheduling. Present interchangeable topics that you plan to teach the following week. Write the days of the week on the board then ask students which topics they’d like to learn on which day. Have them explain their logic. Write the topics down next to the corresponding day and ta-da, you have a student-made schedule. Regularly ask for feedback. Ask students if they have a favorite language exercise or assignment. If so, then conduct it more frequently. Oftentimes what they want and what they need are the same thing. They’ll be the first to know if they’re losing interest or not understanding something. Creativity is generally linked to poetry or painting, but it can be much subtler. Just by giving students the agency to freely design their own schedule, you have encouraged them to use their creative muscles. Thank them for their help afterwards and it’s a triple whammy: You’ve engaged them, praised them and made them more invested in the week ahead. They planned it after all. 4. Relax the Rules Imagine a class of students who are all at the same level and who are all equally proactive. It’s hard to envision, right? As far as I know, it doesn’t exist. There are generally a few students who lead the way and the rest follow suit. Yup, creativity can also help solve this challenge. Deemphasizing the rules levels the playing field because exercises become more dependent on interpretation and individual experience. Try distributing the power with these activities: Vary the assignment by group. Split the class up and give each group or pair a slightly different set of rules for the “same” assignment. For example, have them create their own advertisements but give each group a different product to sell or audience to focus on. Groups will not be able to depend on the examples they see around them. They will be forced to look to their own understanding and creativity. Leave room for interpretation. The following week, split the class up again. Students will remember your tricky directions from last week so they’ll be ready for the twist. Don’t give it to them directly. Go around and explain the assignment to each group, giving them all the same directions. For example: Pick an object in the room and write a 300-word excerpt based on it. Notice how these directions are purposefully vague and limited, allowing for the students to fill in the blanks themselves. Each group will finish with something slightly different, maybe a poem about fellow students or a story about their new shoes. Invoke the senses. Association exercises are great for encouraging personal creativity. Play a sound to the class. It could be nature sounds, city sounds or something else, which can all be found on YouTube. Ask students to explain what they feel when they hear it, or to write a story to accompany the sounds. Another exercise involves students choosing a smell, noise or feeling that brings back a strong memory for them. They can write about it and then share it. All of these assignments encourage creativity by preventing students from becoming followers or looking to one another for assistance. It requires them to interpret instructions for themselves, trust their own perceptions or draw on personal experience. This is creativity in itself. 5. Embrace the Arts Perhaps the most straightforward form of creativity is art, which can include stories, plays, music, poems, mime and dance. These activities diversify coursework, require extremely proactive participation and establish a positive classroom environment. Art is cathartic, letting students express themselves in a safe environment while having fun and learning. Here are some artistic exercises that do just that: React to abstract art. Have students react to abstract art, like Picasso, or poems. Ask open-ended questions like, “What do you see here?, ” “What is happening?” and “What do you think is going to happen next?” Encourage them to use the present progressive. As students will interpret the art differently, you can use the ensuing class discussion to teach or revisit a lesson on politely disagreeing. Write a poem. Show students a photograph or painting. Ask them to write a short poem to accompany the artwork. Describe music. Play a song to the class. Try an instrumental movie theme, like “Jurassic Park, ” “Star Wars” or “Hook” (I’m clearly a John Williams fan). Teach vocabulary by asking students to identify what instruments they hear. Make a list on the board. You can also ask, “What instruments make this song sound sorrowful or upbeat?, ” “What is your favorite part and why?, ” “How does the song make you feel?” and “What do you associate with it?” Remind students that there is no right or wrong. Through engaging with the pieces, they’re learning new vocabulary and learning how to express or defend their opinions. Art has a visceral effect on students that you will be able to observe. They will be more lively and talkative. For this reason, it’s nice to save this assignment for after lunch or the end of the day when their energy starts to fade. Because it is thought-provoking and emotional, artwork inspires further creativity. It will make students forget that they’re learning a language, but will encourage them to use the language so that they can engage with the art. Enjoy stimulating your class’s creative side and putting these five tricks to work. Chances are your students will remember them for a long time to come, meaning that they’ll also remember the vocabulary and grammar that went along with it. Once the creative juices start flowing, they will find their way into the rest of your curriculum, resulting in a more engaged, positive and effective class.
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