Author Archives: discoveryteaching

Using Visual Aids & Manipulatives in ESL

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Hello guys, in this post I am going to talk about visual aids and manipulatives; what they are, and the way we can use them to help our teaching and students’ learning. Fortunately, English teachers are surrounded with all type of visuals which they can take advantage from, the key is to make a correct selection.


Visual materials are all the objects which are seen by students in order to learn. There is a great variety of visual materials.

Types of visual materials:





-real objects.

charts, etc.

Visual aids have different use, for example they can help teachers to present a topic, as a part of language practice and when reviewing language that was presented earlier.



Manipulatives are objects that can be touched or moved by students to reinforce a concept. And it is a way that students can physically interact with their learning. Manipulatives help reach students whose learning styles are often ignored, for example: kinesthetic, tactile. Manipulatives empower students to process and organize information at their own pace. Also they add novelty to the classroom and get students’ attention. And they can be used in a variey of ways such as these:











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Grading is one of the most difficult issues to teachers, you have to be aware of everything may affect the result of student`s grading, details must be taken into account. This paper will shows some suggestions for a better grading and some aspects that you must take into account at the time of grading. It is said that grades reflect personal philosophy and human psychology, as well as efforts to measure intellectual progress with objective criteria. For students, grades are the most frustrating thing and their importance means that all the time the teacher has to be in constant effort to be consistent, fair and reasonable and to maintain grading standards you can defend if challenged. In the grading process what is learned is quantified and feedback is given on how much the students learned.

In my case when grading time comes I feel very overwhelmed and nervous because I know it is going to be a hard job, but now as I have been reading interesting and helpful articles about grading besides the presentations of my partners have shown a wide perspective about grading, so that I can share interesting issues concern grading.

Before grading you have to take into account important aspects such as how much responsibility you have assigning particular or overall grades maybe for most teachers it is like a sign of power but it is not, rather it is a large responsibility. The evaluation criteria has to be given to students in order for them know what are the course requirements and the rules to follow. Following the guidelines you established in your syllabus is very important, the teacher has to be consistent and respect his/her syllabus. Students should know how are going to be graded, in case that they would have questions or doubts, the teacher`s duty is to clarify them. If students don`t agree, you have to rational with them in order to find the solution. Besides they have to know how attendance, tasks, participation etc will affect their grades. It is good for students to have multiple choices to show their learning process, a few short tests show better information than a long one. Feedback in a very important element in students’ development, corrective and formative feedback will help them to improve. Grades are very important for students and the teacher must be fair. I was not aware of how grades may affect students’ confidence and I tell them their grades in public but I noticed that some of my students felt bad when I mentioned their grade so I decided to be more careful a bout that, all students have the right of privacy. In all the assignments set your expectations. And make sure to explain clearly what you expect from the students. They have to know your grading rubric you will use and all the things you would like them to do before giving the assignment.

In the grading process get an overall sense of how students did on average. The teacher has to be consistent and fair with all graders, so that the criteria set has to be followed. Another important think to take into account when checking long writing tasks is to not to be tired or bored, maybe it sounds like ridiculous but it is true, it happens to me when it is time to check a large amount of exams it starts well, but when I have revised many of them I feel tired and bored and it makes that I do not make well my job, and it leads to commit mistakes. And when I have done all the grading go back to the first several papers to make sure you were fair.

What I usually do is to give the exams back to my students in a timely manner so that students can correct their misconceptions, or use the feedback in their further learning. Besides I give them a limited time for example a day to review their exam, to request a grade adjustment, and justify their request. Comments are important to be accompanied whit the grade, but not only guided feedback or comments about mistakes, positive feedback, no matter how bad the paper is, it could be a good way to increase motivation. What I have noticed is that my students feel more confident when I write good comments in their papers. Also students may be involved in the grading process to help you transform comments into teachable moments. And each comment can be as a guide to personalize your grading. Avoid writing bad comments which can make feel students frustration, rather you should invite students to talk to you outside the classroom to encourage them to improve their performance and provide guidance on the tasks content.

Order is the key point to maximize your time; students have to be asked to give their work in order to save you some time putting every thing in order. Every time I ask students to give me papers a revise them at home, once I have done it, for the next class I give them back to my students, and I try to not accept papers overtime, because it may leads me to spend more time trying to organize those missing papers. I do not correct every grammatical error. Rather, edit one or two sentences and highlight the type or error made and instruct the student to revise the paper. Sometimes I ask students to exchange their papers so that they correct each other`s. This is a good way to involved students in the grading process.

The school I work at, I asked to take into account other aspects such as attendance, participation and behavior. Since I grade attendance, I make sure that my class time is meaningfully used, or students will be resentful. Most of the times students misunderstand this concepts, for example when I grade participation students think that by doing the task they are getting the participation but they do not take into account how well or bad they are in it. They often relate how long and hard they worked at something that only demonstrates a modest understanding. Student effort must be recognized but should not be a consideration in assigning a grade. Statements such as – “I can see how much effort you put into this to attempt to understand it. I am happy to be able to give you a (x) on the skills you have demonstrated. Keep up the good work” (Ory, J. C., & Ryan, K. E. 1993). It might help students understand that you recognize the subject is difficult for them, but because of their effort, they are performing at a good level. So teachers have to be very careful when grading these considerations because students are specialists to complaint about the results of their performance even when they know that they do not do a good work.

According what I have learned I my class of evaluation, I think that there is no perfect test. According to Angelo, T.A any assessment will have errors in it because of insufficient sampling, ambiguity, misconceptions, fatigue, multiple interpretations, new knowledge, etc. With this in mind, remember that a test score is an approximation of actual performance or skill. Instructors must be flexible about grading (1993). Well as you know, grading is a difficult and hard task but can use some techniques which can make our job easier and I hope this paper may help my colleagues who are new in this hard field that is being an English teacher.


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Designing a test is not only choose the most difficult task for students to solve, making a test is a difficult a challenging task because the teacher has to take into account many factors in order to make the test valid and reliable.

First of all, the teacher must establish his/her instructional objectives, the knowledge measured and the learning outcomes to know what hi/she must include in the test. Then making an exhaustive research of items to be included in the test: At this stage items should be revised and edited; some authors suggest that you can make cards with every selected item and at the back of each card the information of the item should be written; for example how many times it has been applied, how was its impact and so on.

Is the item appropriate for the learning outcome being measured?

It means that if you want definition you should include a short answer format, or if you ask for identification, a multiple choice item can work, so it is very important the format item which you will include in the test.

– Does the knowledge, understanding or thinking skill called forth b y the item match the specific learning outcome and subject-matter content being measured?     

The complexity of the item included should match with the students` knowledge in order to make valid the exam. You can not include what you did not teach your students.

– Is the point of the item clear?

Not to include confusing sentences to make students feel confused.

_Is the item free of verbiage?

Not to use a lot of words when writing directions because they should be clear and concrete.

-Is the item of appropriate difficulty?

The level of complexity must be according with the students’ level.

Does the item have an answer that would be agreed upon by experts?

Sometimes in a multiple choice format there are similar answers so students can get confused with this. So that teacher must be very careful when choose this kind of format.

– Is the item free from technical errors and irrelevant clues?

Sometimes we overlook some clues that are included in the questions so students can guess the answer. And those kinds of clues can be:

     -grammatical inconsistencies.

     -verbal associations.

     -specific determiners (always or never)

     -some mechanical features.

-Is the item free from racial, ethnic and sexual bias?

Be careful of the items you include in order to not to hurt or offend students’ feelings.

the items should be arranged in sections by item type. This arrangement requires the fewest sets of directions; it is the easiest for the students because they can retain the same mental set throughout each section; and it facilitates scoring. When two or more type items are included in a test, there is also some advantage in keep the simpler item types together and placing the more complex ones in the test. The most effective method for organizing items in the typical classroom test is to form sections by item type, group items within each section by the learning outcomes measured being this the one we are going to use to arrange this test, and arrange both the sections and the items within sections and the items within sections in ascending order of difficulty (Norman E Gronlund 1985). The amount of detail depends on the students’ level, test`s comprehensiveness, the test`s items complexity, and the students’ experience with the testing procedure use. In preparing the test materials for reproduction, it is important that the items be spaced and arranged so that they can be read, answered, and scored with the least amount of difficulty.

When preparing directions all this factors have to be taken into account:

  • Purpose of the test
  • Time allowed for answering
  • Basis for answering
  • Procedure for recording the answer

And finally, when reproducing a test the font, spaces and arrangement could be a key point to make a test of high quality.

As we can see, preparing a test is not an easy task, we must take into account many factors which are necessary in order to create high quality test to measure students` knowledge. Although, it is impossible to represent this knowledge with a number, teachers try to be the most fair regarded this by designing appropriate tests containing the best items in order to reach the intended outcomes.


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Whit the proliferation of new technology English teachers has the opportunity to take advantage of all this useful tools which make English learning interesting and motivating. For example the use of authentic videos in EFL classroom has become a practical material to work on. There is a great variety of videos to choose from. Besides that, the use of videos gets students to the exposition of real language use.

Videos have proven to be a very good tool for educators, and here we have some reasons to support this statement:

-Videos provide the opportunity to experience students the target language in a more natural context.

-Language is presented in a less structured way.

-Students has the opportunity to learn in a more interactive and participative way, while maximizing their cognitive skills.

– Video materials can help to overcome obstacles to interaction such as physical location and the lack of opportunities to meet native speakers.

Stempleski (1987) states that, “a rich and exciting source of video software for EFL/ESL classes is authentic material.”  Authentic video material, especially that which represents what goes on in a non ELT environment, designed for its entertaining value rather than language teaching, is a rich and exciting source of video software for instruction in English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom. Videos can help students to improve their communicative language skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing). Also by using videos students increase their fluency in process of language learning because of the constant interaction with native speakers.

Video can be a powerful tool as an engaging delivery system, especially when used as part of an active learning approach. Video can also be an extremely effective intrinsic motivator. Video does have a meaningfully and positive impact on student motivation and interest.





Being a great English teacher.

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To be a good English teacher is a hard deal, but to be a great English teacher is a harder deal. Things that great English teachers do, they are ingredients which make good English teachers into great English teachers. Great English teachers need to be passionate about many things books, literature, theathre, their classes, film. They are people to be reckoned with, people with opinions, people you can not ignore. They are people who students want to listen to and ask questions of. Whatever their age, these teachers are still relevant to their students’ lives. They are texts maniacs. They are always reading something. They would never say they do not have time to read anything any more. They could not live if they did not read .These teachers will usually be reading and divert the course of something they read last night in bed and exemplify the relevance of written texts in life. These teachers work too hard. They write out advice-sheets for their classes, sample essays, give detailed feedback, write plays, and take coach loads of kids to the theatre. If they look like they are not working hard, you are being conned. They love individualism and relish the eccentrics in a class (the naughty ones as well as the well behaved ones). The naughty ones will often only behave for these teachers. These teachers have something individual to say to each student and call them out and talk about their work one to one. They say when they are disappointed about something a student has done, but mostly they celebrate success by sharing enthusiasm for a job well done. Students know when a teacher really knows them and you will note when ex-students send cards or make visits to be reminded that great English teachers change people for life. They balance spontaneity with structure and their lessons can feel hugely creative and unpredictable. Yet they fit into an overall developmental pattern. A student will know where he/she is heading, what he/she needs to work on to improve. And it will all feel so fluid, so unforced, and so natural. This is the great English teacher`s gift. These teachers are risk-takers and have their own favorite texts but they frequently try new finds. They are not afraid to use grammar or punctuation exercise if that is what is going to clarify the thinking of the class. But mainly they use texts to encourage and challenge young minds, even when they know that the text may be a little high level. It is a sign of their self confidence, of their high expectations. They mix  idealism and pragmatism and have high ideals about students gaining a love of literature and relish for the infinite complexity of language, but they are happy to simplify language to a series of accessible rules if that will help their students’ progress. They are undervalued. These teachers should be showing teachers in all subjects how to teach, how to build students ‘confidence, how to structure lessons, how to assess skills and knowledge humanely and precisely. They love the process of teaching and its creative opportunities. These enjoy listening to students talking. Like watching their drama, reading stories. The students complain about it but it is what drives them. Great English teachers have a powerful emotional impact. You can walk out of their lessons felling you can do things (can read better, write better, think better and learn better). They get nervous on the day of exam results it is a sign of their concern that their students should do well in exams, as well as enjoy their subject. They live the exams along with their students. And they are more important than they realize, they teach the most important skills within the most important subject. They remind us of the power of language and the delights of literature. Great teachers do all this and more, they have an impact beyond their knowledge, influencing generations of young people. They are the reason many of us are ourselves English teachers. Studies and being well-prepared English teacher is not enough. We must show students how to attempt their goals in an interesting way and encourage them to do it whit confidence and enthusiasm. Besides a great teacher need show students that they are the most important point where we need to start.

Steve Spangler – How to be an Amazing Teacher



Activities are an important part of ESL classrooms because elicit students to use the target language without realizing that they are speaking in another language. Activities and games are a funny and enjoyable way to practice and learn, that’s why they have to be present all the time in our classes.

When to use them…

Activities can be used as an additional practice for the language points taught.  They allow students to practice what they have learnt. Also, activities can be used at the beginning of a new topic to reinforce previous learned language points or even later on when learners are working in the next topic. Activities also bring to the classroom a fun way to closure a lesson when there is enough class time. Activities can be a useful diagnostic tool to realize how well learners have learned the language and what are their weaknesses.

How to use them….

The secret of the activities depends on appropriate classroom management. And something very important is that all the material you invest in the activities can be recycled for further versions of the same activity or topic. The format of the activity is better to show it than explain it, because learners will understand better from seeing the teacher or other students modeling the activity. Set the time to be done and the teacher should be monitoring the students’ performance, also helping with vocabulary. During the activity the teacher can notice common errors to be reviewed later.

Here there is a web page where you can find many games and activities:

what to do with large classes.

   I have been thinking on how I can do with a large group that I have, because of the number of students, it is very difficult to work with them; they get distracted easily or the ones that are at the very back of the classroom can not hear. So it is a very hard to teach in this classroom. I was looking for advices with my colleagues, some of them work but others don`t. Finally after a difficult time with it I found some useful suggestions  for large classes in a book called world link that is the book I am using with my students in the school I work at; here  I am going to share with you these great tips that I hope them to work for you:

First of all, you have to set-cut routines for as many activities as possible (for example, beginning a lesson, dividing into groups, distributing papers. Students should be said the importance of pair and group work in building communication skills And that this activities requires active participation and listening to others.  Each student has to be assigned a role, for example, students who don’t want to speak can be the facilitators and their role is to make sure that all members participate or report the ideas or decisions of the group. Even if it is impossible to change places or move chairs they can speak with the person to the left, right, front, back of them. Students should know that you are helping whenever they need it for them not to feel lost. Also a very useful technique you can use is the “jigsaw” where each group is responsible for learning a specific part of the topic. And finally, students exchange their written works for peer editing and rewriting before you collect it.

Well I hope these tips help you to improve your job with large classes, I have been applying them few time ago and they work very well, sometimes I don’t have time to follow them step by step but it is matter of practice and effort.