One of the most common struggles of every English learner is the struggle to speak fluent English. We all strive to speak confidently and naturally and fluency plays a major role in achieving this. Many times learners of English even prefer fluency to accuracy. Students often don’t mind making a few errors while speaking as long as they can maintain a fluent flow of speech. Accuracy versus fluency have been fighting an eternal battle in ESL classrooms for a long time and we will deal with our take on this in another article. Today, we are going to talk about fluency and how to achieve it.
So what does it mean to be fluent in English?
According toEnglish Teaching professional, fluency refers to the measurement of the ability one has to speak smoothly and freely without the need to pause and think about the grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation one needs to communicate.
I would like to emphasize the ability to speak smoothly and freely without the need to pause. How important are grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation if we want to achieve this? One might argue that it is necessary.
But is it?
If the speaker constantly worries about the right grammar, colloquial expressions or pronunciation, or even accent, do they have time to maintain fluency? Of course, this might not be a problem for more advanced learners, but what about those who have yet to achieve that level of accuracy? Are they doomed to aim for accuracy before they can become fluent?
I believe fluency comes before accuracy. Ithink it gives the learners confidence to speak and express their ideas and opinions without worrying about grammatical errors. So how can you improve fluency and at the same time expand your vocabulary and improve grammar without even trying?
Let’s have a look at these tips on how speak fluent English.
1. Whatever you watch, watch it in English
Binge-watching favorite TV shows? Looking for a new recipe on Youtube? Watching news? Watch it in English with English subtitles. Make it a habit. Do it now. I can’t emphasize this enough. Even if you don’t do anything else from this list, do this. And #2 as well.
2. Find a speaking partner
Practice, practice, practice. You can practice speaking best by speaking. Shocking, I know. The good news, you don’t need a native speaker for that. It can be your classmate, a friend, colleague. Nowadays, you can easily practice online. There are plenty of platforms where you can find English-speaking partners. Most of them are paid, but you can also find some that are free. For example, Speak Peak offers a free and a premium subscription. The free subscription limits the conversation time to 40 minutes, which I think is still enough. The premium version offers unlimited conversation time and some statistics and your partner’s feedback. The registration takes 10 seconds and you can choose your speaking partner’s level of English, from A1 to C2, which is a great feature. If you’re not sure what to talk about, try these conversation starters.
3. Read in English
It may sound counterintuitive, but reading can help your speaking. How? By learning new vocabulary and getting certain phrases and expressions under your skin. After some time, you will use phrasal verbs, colloquial expressions, and certain grammar structures automatically. Of course, if you want to achieve this you have to read the right books. Contemporary fiction books with lots of dialogues are perfect. Books such as Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils, not so much. Extra tip: Combine books with their audio versions. Read and listen at the same time, you don’t have to do it all the time, but doing so occasionally can benefit you immensely.
4. Google in English
Around 50%-70% of the Internet is written in English. If you’re not looking for specific information that is only available in your native language, google it in English. From now on, whatever information you need, look it up in English.
5. Self study
While watching anything and everything in English helps, sometimes you have to work a bit harder to improve your fluency. Video lessons are great for this. Watch shorter clips on topics you like and then study vocabulary and even discuss the video with a partner. There are plenty of video lessons online, if you have Netflix, you can try this resource ESL Video Lesson Based on Netflix Docuseries “The Mind, Explained” or you can try lessons based on TedTalks.
6. Improve your vocabulary
While you will improve your vocabulary when watching and reading content in English, you will also need to supplement it with more targeted approach. This depends on your goals. Why are you learning English? What do you want to achieve? What subjects do you expect to be talking about? Choose your reading material and watching content accordingly. Do yu want to improve your presentation skills? Watch TedTalk videos. Do you want to be able to negotiate? Practice negotiating. If you are a visual learner, you could try Visuwords a visual dictionary which shows a visual map of connected words. If you prefer a more classical approach you could try vocabulary quizzes, for example Englishclub has quizzes on many different topics.
What do you think about these tips on how to speak fluent English? Have you tried any of them? Have you tried any other methods that worked for you? Let us know in the comments.
Traditional college instruction is part of a well-established tradition that has remained fairly unchanged over time. Becoming an instructor in this environment has meant conformity to teaching standards that have also remained fairly unchanged. A college professor is associated with someone who is a subject matter expert, likely to achieve a position with tenure, and have dual roles as an instructor and researcher. It is expected that they will be published authors of scholarly journal articles that have been peer-reviewed and contributed knowledge to their field. While this form of education and instructor still exists, there is another academic institution that has also been established and it is an online college and university.
For a modern form of online education you will not likely find any positions that are labeled professor. Most online universities hire adjuncts and many refer to their instructors as facilitators. Some universities expect their instructors to complete annual professional development requirements but rarely does that include publishing peer-reviewed journal articles. What is needed now more than ever is a new category of educator, one who meets the needs of students who participate in this modern form of education. Now is also the time for online universities to embrace this new form of instructors, those who can be called a Modern Educator.
From Traditional to Online Teaching
The traditional format for educating students is the lecture-driven class. The instructor delivers information to students and they must demonstrate what they have learned through various assessments. They know that their instructor or professor is an expert in the particular subject area for their class. This method of instruction is the same style that is used in primary education and it is teacher-centered. As technology has brought new possibilities for the field of education a new format developed – online courses and online degrees. At first traditional educators taught these courses but over time that has changed, especially as adjuncts filled a majority of the instructional roles. Now with online degree programs and online schools having been fully established in the education field, a new type of educator was also emerging.
Evolution to Modern Teaching
With the growth of online learning came the need for hiring a large volume of instructors. Some online universities have classes that begin weekly and others offer courses starting monthly. Hiring adjuncts was the answer and the majority of jobs teaching undergraduate students have been filled by instructors holding a master’s degree in the subject field they were teaching. Over time the number of instructors qualified to teach online has grown substantially and now many adjunct positions require a doctorate degree. What has contributed to the increased pool of available online instructors is the fluctuation in enrollment numbers, the limited number of full-time online instructor positions, and the increase in degree specializations – especially those related to online teaching. There are also many online schools that offer online teaching specializations and those students who complete their master’s degree are added to the pool. It is estimated that at present there are nearly two million adjunct online instructors teaching online courses.
The requirements for teaching online also may include continuing education. Most online universities require some form of annual professional development. Those universities generally offer workshops and training courses as a means of fulfilling this requirement. Publishing scholarly journals can be used to help meet the professional development requirements but most schools do not require it. These modern teachers are also different from a college professor by the manner in which they are allowed to present themselves in the classroom. An online instructor is often called a facilitator and rarely is this position referred to as a professor – although some instructors will refer to themselves as a professor to establish their position in the learning process. Many online universities tell their instructors to use their first name as a means of creating a casual and approachable image – even if the instructor has a doctorate degree.
An Example of a Modern Educator
Within the field of online education there is a significant difference among educator types. There are those with a master’s degree who can teach undergraduate courses and there are those with doctorate degrees who can teach both undergraduate and graduate students. For those schools that offer doctoral degree programs, an expectation for instructors to be published in a manner similar to that of a college professor may still be in place. But there is a need for a new standard. If traditional methods of learning do not apply to online education, then traditional instructor qualifications should also not apply to online educators. Now is the time for a new instructional category, one that is referred to as a Modern Educator.
My work as an educator has evolved from traditional college teaching to that of online teaching and now I have become a Modern Educator. Instead of spending months (or possibly longer) trying to become published in a scholarly journal, I publish online articles. Instead of my work being available only to those who have access to and read scholarly journals, I now have an opportunity to reach a broader audience. My work is available as soon as I write and publish it, and more importantly – I understand how to use social media. I am connected to an international basis of educators, universities, and students through the use of social media.
Through social media it is possible to share ideas and resources, along with online articles, blog posts, and other intellectual contributions. This also applies to transformation of the publishing process. Instead of waiting to find a publisher and go through the traditional publishing route, I have self-published e-books. This has allowed me to become highly engaged in the field of education and it has redefined what it means to be a college instructor. Becoming a Modern Educator indicates what online instructors should be involved with and online schools developing as a requirement for their professional development.
Steps to Becoming a Modern Educator
Whether you have a master’s degree or doctorate degree, if you teach online courses you need professional development. But this should be more than taking a workshop – it needs to involve making an intellectual contribution. In addition, the work of a Modern Educator also needs to be involved in some form of social or professional networking. Here are some steps you can take and strategies you can use to become a Modern Educator.
#1. Write a Blog – This provides a platform to share your expertise and summarize your knowledge. As you continue to conduct research for your areas of professional interest and you can include what you have learned through your blog posts. There are numerous free resources that will allow you to create and share your blog, such as Word Press.
#2. Write Online Articles – Instead of taking the time required to write and submit articles to scholarly journals, which can always be an option for you, find a resource that allows you to publish online articles. The articles you write, which are based upon your knowledge and experience, will allow you to reach a broader audience, refine your writing skills, and establish yourself as a subject matter expert. I utilize Ezine Articles, which is an article marketing database.
#3. Use Social Networking – Every online educator needs to learn how to establish their presence via technology. It only makes sense that if you work in a technology-enabled environment you should also know how to be engaged in online communities. LinkedIn provides a means of professional networking, finding groups that match your interest, and even finding online jobs. Twitter can connect you to an international base of educators, students, and universities – providing a place to share resources.
#4. Develop a Website -If you find that you are highly ambitious and want to develop more than a blog you could also build your own website. This would be a place for you to house resources that you have created, which could be shared with educators and students. There are free webhosting services available and others that charge a small fee.
#5. Write E-Books – The field of publishing has changed and now authors are taking back control by making their books available in an e-book format. Kindle and Nook devices are the most popular devices. Kobo is another device that is gaining popularity because it can be used on mobile devices such as Blackberry. You will likely need to hire someone to format the book, sign up for an account to distribute your e-book, and once it is ready you can have it available in a relatively short amount of time.
Maintaining a Modern Educator Status
A Modern Educator is someone who does more than teach online classes. They are active in the field of education and their chosen subject matter. They know how to teach using technological tools and engage in a virtual community of other educators through social media. The Modern Educator is also conducting research and making intellectual contributions through technological means. The work they publish is done through technologically-enabled resources and made immediately available for their intended audience. They know how to use social media to promote their work and share resources with other educators and students.
It is time now for the Modern Educator mentality to become the standard for online learning. Instruction has adapted in format from traditional to online, and so too must the instructor. It is also important that online schools and hiring specialists recognize the new Modern Educator. This is someone who has likely taught for several institutions because of fluctuating enrollments and staff changes; however, what matters most is their ongoing professional development and intellectual contributions. The most desirable candidate for an online teaching position is someone with more than extensive work as an online educator. It is someone who can also utilize technological tools as a means of publishing their work and connecting with other educators. A Modern Educator is the new college professor and the one most prepared for teaching through the use of technology.
Dr. Bruce A. Johnson is an online college professor, faculty workshop facilitator, faculty mentor, faculty peer reviewer, career coach and professional writer. Dr. J authored four books, including Be Prepared to Teach Online: Strategies from an Online College Professor and APPRECIATIVE ANDRAGOGY: TAKING the Distance Out of Distance Learning. To sign up for a free educator resources newsletter and learn more about the books and resources available from Dr. J, including a brand new career coaching program, please click here.
Work-life balance has been a buzzword for quite some time now, and I can’t stress enough how important in the teaching profession it is not to work.
If you want to be healthy, efficient, good at your job and happy at the same time, you have to learn to let go. To stop and take a breath.
It is essential for your personal and professional life that you find joy in the work you do. And you can’t enjoy our job if you are permanently stressed and overworked. Your personal life will suffer and afterward, it’s a downward spiral.
How to find the time? Here’s a short list of tips.
1] Prioritise. You can never do all the tasks in one afternoon or evening, you’d be overwhelmed. Chose the most important ones, plan your work, and after you’ve finished them, don’t work.
2] Plan and prepare. Whatever it is, a lesson, a game, your lunch, paperwork, be ready. Prepare before so that you can finish your task effectively. Otherwise, you will improvise too much, panic and lose precious time.
3] Share. If you share your lesson plans and activities with colleagues it is likely they will also share their resources with you. You don’t have to do everything alone.
4] Don’t try to invent the wheel. There are tons of textbooks, grammar books, resource packs, pdfs, lesson plans, videos, apps, podcasts. You don’t have to prepare all your materials from scratch.
5] Delegate. I know many female teachers with families who after they come home from work: cook, clean the house, do the laundry, do the dishes, walk the dog, do the shopping, do homework with their children, etc. I’m sure those of you with older kids could delegate some of these responsibilities to them and be strict about it. Also, I’ve noticed how teachers are considered to have more free time and they are often expected by their partners to do all the housework. Talk to your partner about their expectations and try to find a mutually satisfying solution.
6] Don’t waste your time. Learn to say no and don’t spend time with people who you don’t like. Don’t do things that aren’t important or necessary and which don’t make you feel happy.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips how to effectively manage your time.
It’s been a while since I posted an article, created a worksheet or did anything even resembling work. Why?
I needed a reboot. I love my work, the creativity of it, the relationships with my students that it brings, BUT, in order to enjoy it all and to be able to create, invent and teach and to be all enthusiastic about it – I need, from time to time – a complete cleansing.
In my case, it means not to work at all and to completely forget that I am a teacher. Not for a weekend, not for a week or even a month. I am lucky that I can relax for 7 weeks.
I read all those mystery novels I’d been putting aside for months, went hiking, rafting, walked around my city, enjoyed coffee in my favorite cafes, went on a couple of day trips with my friend, traveled a bit: Greece, France, Italy. In those countries I explored the seaside, the medieval little villages, galleries, I sampled their delicious food and wines. I had a great time and I didn’t work.
I never work in summer, I don’t think about work in summer and I don’t talk about work in summer. It is me time and in the end of my little sabbatical, I can’t wait to go back to work!
It is essential for teachers and any other helping professions to find ways how to relax, recharge mentally and physically. You can’t do this job properly unless you learn how to let go. Burnout is a real threat and I believe that only a happy teacher can be an inspirational teacher.
Long break such as I’ve just had is not always an option and finding personal time during the school year is as important as good lesson planning. I will write more about how to find that time and how to use that time to recharge in my next article.
Who doesn’t like jelly beans? Most kids love them. Why not use that love for them in your classroom?
I’m sure most of you know the naughty version of Jelly Beans- Bean Boozled. It is a game which features a spin wheel and 14 different flavours of the jelly beans. 7 of the flavours are weird and wild and quite disgusting, especially rotten egg or dog food, others are more or less harmless, like toothpaste and lawn clippings. The other 7 flavours are regular jelly beans: peach, coconut, lime, etc.
The fun thing is, the seven regular flavour look identical to the other seven disgusting flavours. Can you tell them apart? You spin the wheel, which shows you what colour you have to eat. Will it be tasty lime or lawn clippings?
So far, it sounds fun, but what can you do with this game at your ESL/EFL lessons?
Plenty of things. I used it for the first time as an icebreaker in September, during that first lesson when everyone feels awkward and uncomfortable. I prepared a set of quiz questions, mine was general knowledge but you can make it anything you want: tenses, vocabulary, spelling, etc.
I asked a student a question and when they didn’t answer correctly they had to spin the wheel and eat a jelly bean. It was exciting because they didn’t know what flavour they would get, so they tried to answer correctly as the game progressed, hence the motivation.
You can use it as an energizer when your students seem in need of a little excitement and fun. It can be used at the end of the lesson as a filler, or as a form of a reward after a difficult test. You can also hack the spin wheel and add different questions to each section. If the student answers correctly, they don’t have to eat the jelly (or they can, if they want to risk it). If they can’t answer the question correctly, they have to eat the jelly.
My favourite way how to use it is to let them write the questions, and I mostly use it for vocabulary revision. I prepare vocabulary cards on certain topic and each of the cards contains the word which they need to explain and colour of the jelly bean.
They spin the wheel, and if they can’t explain the word they have to eat the bean of the matching colour. Which can be delicious or quite sickening. Just make sure the kids are ok with this kind of game and have some tissues ready, some spitting may occur!
Are language lessons or any lessons even supposed to be fun? It is all about learning, hard work, discipline, focus, determination. How can all that be fun?
Simple. You, the teacher, should love your job, enjoy working with people and bring life into the dull stereotypes of a boring lesson.
Why should you do that? Why bother? Isn’t the teacher’s job to teach and not to entertain? Ideally, the teacher should do both. Making your lesson fun can be a powerful tool. You can find the reasons why bellow.
Why English (and any other) lessons should be fun:
1. Building rapport.
Friendly and relaxed atmosphere makes it easier to establish rapport with your students. Fear can be a motivator but it should never be used in a classroom. By showing students that learning can be a fun, enjoyable activity, something that they may even look forward to, you will gain something priceless-their interest. And interest in the subject is the first step in a sucessful learning process.
2. Interest in the subject
English is generally considered as less boring school subject than the others, but let’s face it; it is still a school subject. It is graded, it requires studying rules, memorizing vocabulary, drilling grammar, etc. Where is the fun in that? It is important to make the studens realize that learning English can be fun and that it is not only a school subject.
3. Fun breaks the ice and promotes speaking
All the icebreaking activities are supposed to be fun to make the students feel relaxed. We want them to be relaxed, open, willing to share their ideas, to express themselves. Do we want them to feel that way only at the begining of the school year or a course? Definitely not! Break the ice all year around.
4. Variability of your lessons
Listening, reading, speaking, writing. The four pillars of any language learning. All of them can be taught in an engaging way using a variety of materials. Teaching a language is much more than a coursebook and a dictionary. So much can be learnt outside the classroom, outside the cliché of read the text, fill in the gaps, answer the questions, learn thevocabulary. Learning a language can be more natural, spontaneus and entertaining activity.
5. All the great activities and resources
Simulations, role plays, group work, quizzes, games, drama, projects, presentations, competitions, videos, TED lectures, podcasts, worksheets, flashcards and many more. When utilized correctly they are not only a source of knowledge but they capture the students attention, foster creativity and contribute to a well balanced, engaging lesson.
6. Attention span
We are all familiar with the attention span theories. Different psychologists and reaserches claim that the attention span can vary from 10 to 90 mintes depending on factors such as the age of the students, time of the day, emotion, enjoyment and motivation. We can’t influcence all the factors, but there are some that we can influnce, namely emotion, enjoyment and motivation.
Teacher is the director of the class and the leading actor. Teacher gives orders and motivates the rest of the cast to give their life performance. When in a classroom you are in a role. You are on stage. You have power over your students in more ways than you think. And with great power comes great responsibility. (comics are a great teaching resource as well – The Oatmeal Grammar Comics for example)
Do you want to to bring more fun into your English lessons? Try these engaging activities activities.