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Texas ISD School Guide
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Lessons & Classroom Games for Teachers

Getting ESL Students to Use Their English Outside of Class
By:Dr. Robert W. F. Taylor

Every time I begin a new class, I give my students a hand-out sheet with ideas to help improve their English outside of class. Most ESL students unfortunately seem to think their English is for use only within the class. As soon as they leave, they switch back to their own language and generally forget about English until it is time to come back to class. Of course they are more comfortable in their own language but they need to remember to try to practice at every opportunity. I teach in Thailand so there are relevant references in the following text.

How to help yourself to learn English


2. Don't leave English in the classroom. Take it with you when you leave.

3. Listen to English songs. You can buy English songbooks to find the words.

4. Listen to English Radio and watch English TV or movies

NOTE: Your brain likes to learn in little pieces so DVDs are best. You can watch or listen to about 10 minutes or so. Then play it again. Each time you listen, you should be learning a little more. It is all right to begin with Thai subtitles but as your English improves, you should try watching without the subtitles. You will listen closer and begin to understand more.

5. Read English magazines - Student Weekly, Nation Junior, or whatever subject interests you. Read a little at a time. It is important that you don't stop and look up words as you read. This breaks up the flow of your reading. Make a note of the words you don't understand. Underline them in pencil. Then first try to guess the meaning from the rest of the sentence or other sentences around them. If you cannot, when you finish what you are reading, then go to the dictionary and look up the words.

Reading is the best way to learn more English words, how grammar works, how sentences are formed and how we use the language. If you like to read, you will do much better in this course and in school generally. HELP YOURSELF TO BETTER GRADES - LEARN TO LOVE READING AS I DO. I ALWAYS HAVE A BOOK OR TWO ON THE GO!

6. Buy a good BIG English dictionary. It will give you lots of examples of how to pronounce and use words.

7. You can also go to on the Internet.

8. Use Flashcards to improve your vocabulary. Put an English word on one side and the Thai translation on the other. Index cards cut into four are about the right size to carry in your pocket or purse. How many new words can you learn in one day? 5? 10? 20? Learning just five new words every day is about 150 words in a month or 1,800 new words in a year. With 1,800 new words, you will be able to communicate with almost anybody!

Review your new English words several times daily when you have a few moments - on the bus, waiting for someone, at lunch, e.g. As you learn new words, set aside those you know well but be sure to review all of the cards once a week.

9. Try to speak with someone in English whenever you can AND, try to speak, in English to Thais who can speak English well. There are many.

10. Start a daily journal where you can keep notes on what new words, phrases and idioms you learned that day. Practice your writing by writing in English about what you are doing or did that day. You should soon find that your English writing will be writing sentences longer, using more words and writing correctly.

I also post a big sign on the inside of the classroom door reminding students to take their English with them as they leave and 'Use it or lose it!"

You are welcome to adapt this hand-out for use in your own class.

If you would like a copy of my e-book "Introduction to Teaching Overseas", contact me at rwftaylor@gmail.com

Dr. Robert W. F. Taylor

Dr. Robert Taylor has been teaching English in Thailand for close to ten years.

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