Monday, August 31, 2009

How Twitter Helps ESL Students Learn

Besides advertising for ESL students online and my ESL blog and websites, I must admit that I'm a bit behind with all the social networking opportunities on the web. However, there is no doubt that English learning opportunities abound with the world wide web.

Here's a post by guest author Donna Scott on ways to use Twitter to help ESL students learn.

Donna Scott writes:

Twitter isn't just for bloggers or niche networking: it's also a great educational tool. From sharing links and study materials during your off time to encouraging students to keep up the conversation outside of class, Twitter has unlimited potential for learning. ESL teachers can turn to the microblogging platform for word games, quizzes, contests and vocabulary challenges. Here are different ways Twitter can help your ESL students learn more effectively.

  • Students can't go over 140 characters. This fundamental rule challenges students to use the phrases, vocabulary words and abbreviations that allow for the character restriction.

  • Extra space for learning materials. On Twitter, you can link to supplemental online education materials, upload videos and photos, and add music to your posts so that your students can continue learning even after class is over.

  • Set up private groups. There are lots of ways to create groups on Twitter, allowing you and your students to play word games and talk about assignments in a shared space that's also private from the general public.

  • It forces them to become a part of the greater conversation. Connect your ESL students with native English speakers by encouraging them to follow celebrities, news feeds, and industry insiders from the subjects they like to follow.

  • Track words. With Twitter, you can track words to find out all of the conversations that incorporate that word or key phrase. This is an excellent exercise for ESL students, as you can show them all the different meanings of a word.

  • It provides a central place for messages and announcements. If your class or school doesn't have a website or a private spot for you to make announcements online, Twitter is great for sending direct messages to your students and giving them free access to chats, extra material, and more.

  • Use polls: Ask your student to participate in Twitter polls (Poll Daddy has a Twitter feed, for example) to get feedback from them about lessons.

  • Create group stories. One student will start writing a 140-character story, and each student will take turns writing the next "chapter."
This post was contributed by Donna Scott of She welcomes your feedback at DonnaScott9929 at

Please let me know your thoughts on this article or if you have any other suggestions for how to use social media to teach ESL to adults.--Thanks, Debra

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

10 Conversation Starters for the ESL Classroom

by Guest Author Karen Schweitzer

Getting adult ESL students to engage in conversation is a great way to promote classroom learning. The following article offers a list of 10 conversation starters to get things rolling in the ESL classroom.

1. What is your favorite thing to cook at home? Ask each student to name their favorite dish to cook at home. Encourage them to list the different ingredients and the different steps involved in making the dish. You can also ask students to use various words and phrases to describe how the finished meal tastes.

2. I've never… Ask one student to name something they have never done. For example: I've never been to New York. Afterwards, anyone who has been to New York or knows someone else who has traveled to this destination must tell a story about the experience.

3. If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be? Ask every student to state what type of animal they would be if they could choose. Then ask them to explain their choice to the class.

4. Where are you from? Ask one student to state the name of the city or town they live in. Encourage everyone else to ask the student one question about this city or town. For example: Where is the best restaurant? What is your town known for? How many people live in your city? If everyone in the class lives in the same area, you can change the question to: Where did you live when you were ten years old?

5. What is your favorite movie? Ask one student to name their favorite movie. Allow each student in the class to ask one question about the movie. For example: How long is the movie? Have you watched this movie more than once? Where were you when you first watched the movie?

6. Name three things in your bedroom. Ask each student to name three things that can be found at home in their bedroom. You can make this conversation game more difficult by not allowing students to repeat any of the three things mentioned by a previous student.

7. What was the last item you purchased? Ask each student to name the last item they purchased from a store. Then, ask the other students to ask questions about the item. For example: Where did you buy it? How much did it cost? Was it on sale?

8. Pretend you are only allowed to use one of the following items during the next year: a computer, a car, or a flushable toilet. Ask each student to choose which one of the three items they would keep for the next year if they had to make a choice. Then, ask them what made them choose that item.

9. What is your dream job? Ask one student to tell the class what their ideal job would be and why. Then, ask the rest of the class to name jobs that are similar to the original student's dream job.

10. Describe your first job. Ask each student in the class to describe the first job they received payment for. Encourage them to share as many details as possible about the type of work they did and the people they worked with.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online colleges for