One must wonder at times what some of the greatest challenges an ESL teacher like me would face. Is it having to come up with lesson plans?
Finding teaching and resource material?
The biggest challenge I face as an english teacher to date is the strong psychological barrier in the mindset of many latinos when it comes to learning english. All their lives these people have heard comments like "English is difficult to learn and the pronounciation is impossible!" In addition to that, in Buenos Aires there many bad english teachers and high priced courses that do very little to help a latino grasp the language of english. Thus reinforcing in people's minds the idea english is a horrifically hard language to learn and only few can truly achieve it.
But in my classes, I make sure that the opposite is true. I am of the firm belief that anyone can learn with the right teaching methods, resources and commitment on the part of the students. One thing that sets me apart from many english instructions in Buenos Aires is that I am a native english speaker who teaches english in the spanish language. Alot of english teachers teach in english and they don't really know realistically what students need to successfully learn another language.
What makes me different is that I am an english teacher who is a student of spanish myself. Obviously I learned another language with success and truthfully, alot of the time I'm just sharing with my students the things that helped me when I am trying to learn their language. And it seems as if the formula I used to achieve learning spanish is the same thing that is helping them learn english successfully. Like me, within a few short months they have managed to grasp basic english with little sweat and alot of fun.
There is a determination in me to break the latino mindset that english is impossibly hard. The fact is that english and spanish are very similar. The root of both our languages is latin. If you don't believe me on my comment about the similarities of our languages, I would suggest to you that you pull up all the months of the year in english and then pull up all the months of the year in spanish and compare them side by side. When I did the lesson with my students and showed them the months of the year in english, their eyes went wide and their jaws dropped.
One of my greatest secrets is in investing in good language material. I don't need to tell you that the language market has hundreds if not thousands of books out there. Some are top notch while others are junk. Today I'm going to share with some of my picks that form my collection of good language material that I take with me whenever I go to teach english in a spanish speaking country.
Some of the things that many english teachers miss out on is the use of mnemonics. From experience, I can tell you that one hour of class with the clever use of mnemonics is worth more that 6 wks of classes using faulty methods. And my favorite books to use when it comes to phonetics and mnemonics is Dr. Seuss of course. However, I would like to point out that it isn't as easy as it sounds. Due to the fact that alot of Dr. Seuss's books have made up words and tricky rhymes, I have to be careful in my choice of books. Some books that would be fun to us would be confusing to an early language learner.
One day, Ceci showed up in my class without the other lady. Ceci had a cold and her body was obviously feeling the brunt of the cold Buenos Aires winter. But she wanted to learn english still and i could see that and I made sure I didn't disappoint. For this class, I did something different. Instead of referring to another excellent book I use called "Ingles para Latinos", I instead began writing the text of "Green Eggs and Ham" on the chalkboard.
"Green Eggs and Ham" has a long repetitive text and I kept having to erase the text and write the next part but it was every bit worth it. The genius of the book is that it only has 50 different words that gets used again and again and again. It is a fantastic tool for teaching someone how to say "I like" or "I do not like" as well students learn the conditional tense (would, could). And it is a great way to teach negation (Not in train! Not in a tree!)
All I can say is that by the 45 mins which we went through the whole "Green Eggs and Ham" text, I had found a completely brainless way to burn new lessons into Ceci's brain. Because of this lesson, this is how she is able to remember conditional tense, negation, and how to say I like or I don't like. Even until this very day, the lesson has never left her.
Other books in my collection are "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish". But if there was any one book that I had to take to Buenos Aires with me other than "Aprenda Ingles", "Ingles Para Latinos", a few dictionaries including the Oxford spanish-english picture dictionary, it would probably be "Hop on Pop" by Dr. Seuss. To this date, there is no greater tool in the world that teaches phonetics with the use of clever mnemonics.
With these simple teaching resources loaded into your luggage the way a bullet is loaded into a gun, you´ll be armed and ready to teach an explosive lesson filled with fantastic phonetics!