Getting ESL Students to Use Their English Outside of Class

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 [email protected]

Dr. Robert W. F. Taylor

3 Easy Steps To Learn English Grammar With Mini-Stories

While most English students struggle to learn English grammar, mini-stories instantly turned Rinaldo Guerreiro into a fluent English speaker. Now an English speaking maven, this former English student of mine now teaches others students just like himself in several different English schools. And he now creates his own mini-stories to teach his English students.

Junior is not a language geek. He was not ‘holed’ up in a cave 14 hours a day to learn English. He is just a normal, small-town person his English students can relate to. You too, can become an English speaking maven — and even teach others too — when you follow my grammar learning strategies below.

My Fool-Proof Plan to Mastering English Grammar With Mini-Stories
There are two major problems that English students face when studying grammar. The first is they spend way too much time focusing on the exceptions and waste time that could be used more profitably.

The second problem is that when they want to talk in English, they have to pause to remember all the rules and exceptions to the rules before they can say anything. That kills your fluency and makes you stumble over your words and sentences.

Using mini-stories and following these three simple steps will help you overcome both of these problems that most English students face with a single blow.

Step 1: Listen To Your English Mini-Story
Once you have a mini-story that focuses on the English grammar structure that you want to learn, you need to listen to it many times. This will allow you to begin assimilating the grammar structure before you begin to study the grammar rules. This will make it much easier to understand.

Listen to your English mini-story several times a day. And do this for several days. It is important that you understand the story well and grasp its internal structure implicitly before you try to memorize any of the rules. Otherwise the rules just won’t make sense.

Instead you want to use the grammar rules to explain what you have already seen in the story because that is how children learn to speak their mother-tongue. First they learn how to talk. Then they go to school to study grammar. So, why learn English any differently?

Step 2: Study Your Grammar Lesson
So, after you have listened to the mini-story several times and understand it, now it is time to study your grammar lesson. Now this is where most English student make the fatal mistake of getting bogged down in the details.

Most want to learn all the rules and exceptions to each rule…and waste lots of time where it isn’t profitable. At this point in you English learning process you want to speak English fluently like a native. And native speakers make lots of ‘grammar’ mistakes…which means that if you speak too perfectly you won’t sound like a native.

There is nothing wrong with that…if you are the head English professor in some fancy language university where you want to impress everyone. But if you’re like 99% of the English students I know — you just want to be able to express yourself clearly and easily.

So, don’t get bogged down in the details and all the exceptions to the grammar rules. Instead of spending weeks trying to learn how the grammar doesn’t work…you can spend just five minutes watching a quick video to understand how it does work.

Focusing on the basics…means that you can spend your effort and energy on what is most important — developing your fluency.

Step 3: Do Your Grammar Exercises
Now that you understand the basic concepts of the grammar structure…it’s time to put your skills into practice. So, this is where you want to do some basic English grammar exercises.

Not only will you be practicing what you are learning…but you will also be testing yourself which means that you will be able to evaluate if you really understood what you learned correctly.

Okay! I know I promised you three steps…but I wanted to give you an extra bonus step here that will really help you master the grammar structures that you are learning.

Bonus Step: Listen To The Grammar Mini-Story
For best results when learning something, you must compare it to something else. That way you can look at the similarities and differences between each one. So, what I always recommend that you do is listen to your original mini-story again…but this time with a different grammar structure.

For example, if your original mini-story was in the present continuous…you would now want to hear it in the past continuous or the present perfect. That way you can observe what changes between the structures and what remains the same.

Follow these steps, and you will master the English grammar structures quickly and easily so you can speak English fluently and proficiently like a native speaker in the least amount of time.