By Cathy Sunshine
The school has a new name! This is good news. For one thing, it will make it easier to find us when prospective students or volunteers search online for English language classes in Washington, DC. Unlike the slightly perplexing “Language ETC,” the name “Washington English Center” says right up front where we are located and what our core mission is.
As we start the new year with a new name, this blog is also starting its fourth year. It was great to see some new writers step up last term and post on the blog, and we hope that even more will do so this term. The blog is a forum for ALL volunteers, students, and staff at Washington English Center. If you would like to post activities, lesson plans, photos, videos or anything else, simply send your material to Alyssa, Denis, or me.
Meanwhile, this seems like a good time to revisit some of the blog’s most popular articles from the last three years. They’re grouped in three sets: for everyone, for lower levels, and for upper levels. Hopefully they will be helpful to new teachers and to longtime volunteers who might have missed them when they were first posted.
For All Volunteers
Tips for New Teachers
Experienced Washington English Center volunteers share what they wish they’d known when they started teaching.
“I Like It When Teachers . . .” : Student Views on Teacher Practices
We asked our students what they like best (and least) about the way we teach. They provided invaluable feedback that can help us all.
Lesson Planning at Language ETC
A step-by-step guide to preparing for class.
Hot Topics: Conversation Starters for ESL Classes
Volunteers share their favorite conversation prompts that really get students talking.
Pitfalls for teachers: talking too fast, talking too much. How we can adapt our classroom speech to communicate better with students.
Musical Chairs: Seating Arrangements for the ESL Classroom
Alternatives to the traditional front-facing rows.
Managing the Multilevel Classroom
Ideas for coping when students in your class are at different levels of proficiency.
Tea and Sympathy: Building Community in the Adult ESL Classroom
How we create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for students at Washington English Center.
Student Persistence in Adult ESL: The Continuing Challenge
Why students sometimes stop coming to class, and what we can do to keep them.
Conversation Clubs: Casual, Comfy, Creative
Learn about the free conversation clubs for our students.
Hidden Resources: The Ventures Workbook and Add Ventures
These materials supplement the Ventures Student’s Book. Some ideas for making good use of them in class.
ESL Teacher Training Programs in the DC Area
An overview of TEFL master’s degree programs, university certificate programs, and commercial programs in the DC area, with notes from volunteers who’ve taken these courses.
Mainly for Levels Basic, 1, and 2
Teaching ESL Beginners: Tips from Two Longtime Volunteers
Veteran teachers Mary Jane Dicello and Marcia Rucker share some ideas about what works in the Basic classroom.
Name Games and Icebreakers
Fun activities to help students and teachers get to know each other at the start of the term.
One Fish, Two Fish: Teaching about Count and Noncount Nouns
Count and noncount nouns are an important topic at the lower intermediate levels.
Let’s Play Grocery Store: Shopping Activities for ESL Students
Lessons around shopping help students learn about food groups, money, units of measure, and more.
Everyone’s Favorite Topic: Talking about Food in the ESL Classroom
Food-themed activities can be adapted for all levels.
Using Newspaper Photos as Conversation Prompts
Before students are able to read newspaper articles, they can talk about the pictures.
Teaching Adverbs of Frequency
Classroom activities using adverbs of frequency like always, sometimes, and never.
ESL Pronunciation Pitfall: The ‘-ed’ Ending of the Simple Past
Students frequently mispronounce the -ed ending or drop it entirely. Here’s a lesson plan to help students learn the three ways to pronounce -ed.
Mainly for Levels 3, 4, and Advanced
Teaching Advanced Students at Language ETC
Three experienced volunteers share their thoughts on teaching our highest level.
Teaching Telephone Language and Strategies
Role plays for practice in talking on the telephone — a challenge for many English learners.
Teaching Workplace Language and Strategies
Role plays about negotiating sticky situations with bosses and co-workers.
Plan Your Dream Vacation
Students choose their vacation spots and work in groups to plan their whirlwind trips. A fun activity that students enjoy.
“Be My Guest!”: ESL Summer Conversation Activity
Similar to the above, except that students plan visits to their home countries, with one student as host and the other as guest.
A variety of fun map-based activities for all levels, including some for Language Lab.
ESL Students as Advice Columnists: Leaning Modal Verbs
Let students channel Dear Abby to practice modal verbs like could and should. This activity gets everyone laughing.
Student Presentations and Projects in the ESL Classroom
Students prepare and give 5-minute talks on any topic of their choosing, then take questions from their classmates. Really engages and challenges upper-level students.
Teaching Writing at LETC
A six-step lesson plan to help students improve their writing.
Challenging Advanced Students with Phrasal Verbs
Phrasal verb combinations (verb + preposition) are extremely common in English, but tricky to learn and use.
Phrasal Verb Worksheets for Intermediate to Advanced ESL
Simple printable worksheets for teaching some common phrasal verbs with call, come, get, give, hang, look, take, and turn.
Scavenger Hunt in the Neighborhood: Fun Outdoor ESL Activity
The blocks around Washington English Center have many odd and curious objects. We sent students on a scavenger hunt to find them.