Let's start at the very beginning...


Let's start at the very beginning...

Do you remember how you learned to speak your first language? How about any languages after that? Regardless of the details, I’m sure it involved A LOT of patience and practice! The same is true for your students. Beginner language learners may face many challenges in their language journey; likewise, you may face many challenges as their teacher. Despite the many possible challenges, it can be a lot of fun, if you know what you’re doing. If you can keep approach the course with a bit of empathy, you will have one of the best tools out there to help your student be successful. Let’s start at the very beginning…

What does this label “beginner” mean?

Absolute Beginners

have zero knowledge of English.  They may know the ABCs and numbers, or simple words like “hello” and “goodbye,” but there is a very good chance that they know absolutely nothing. This is what makes them absolute beginners.

However, some beginners are what’s known as False Beginners.

These learners have some knowledge of English because studied previously or have made it a personal hobby to listen to music or watch movies in English, but their English is still very basic. False Beginners may have a skewed sense of their true abilities: they may think they know more than they do OR they may think they know nothing. It is your job to help them identify and acknowledge their starting point so that they can make goals to get to their ideal endpoint--hopefully English fluency!

REMEMBER---whether an adult student is an absolute beginner, a false beginner, or somewhere in between, they know how to communicate in at least one language--just not in English. Be sure to consider what they know already! Part of the benefit of working with adults, is their generally higher level of cognitive abilities than their children counterparts.

What problems are unique to beginners?  

Yes, the 3 most common problems for beginners are:

1. Feeling like a child

As teachers, we can be tempted to start with what we assume to be the basics: colors, numbers, days of the week, etc. because they are easily learned by most students. However, what can your student really communicate if they know how to say “1,2,3” “red, orange, yellow” and “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.” Not too much. It’s okay to teach these vocabulary words as long as it is done within the context of real communication. Don’t just teach isolated words. The critical period hypothesis puts a lot against adult beginner learners so giving adults a context also helps them to feel that their cognitive abilities and prior knowledge are being acknowledged and used as a tool rather than a hindrance. Happy, confident learners learn much more than insecure, stressed learners.

Start with the language that is most essential to the student--this may be greetings, asking for help/clarification, introducing oneself, explaining one's job or describing one's family and hobbies. Based on her goals for learning you can determine this. If no clear goals are there, start with language you need her to understand in order to give a successful class. Generally to be in affirmative, negative, and questions are a good place to start. Then you build vocabulary around this and again, always practice the vocabulary in a full sentence/sentence frame--not just isolated words.

2. Feeling like English is useless avalanche of information

When you know little to nothing about a language--or anything for that matter--it can feel like you are walking along a dark tunnel without fully knowing what to expect or where they will end up. Your job as a teacher is to be a guide with a hint of light along the way, little by little. It is good practice for all courses, but especially for beginners, to plan 2-4 classes ahead of time and present this information to the student. This could be through a calendar or just filling out the “next class” section in the Cornell notes ahead of time. Having an idea of what is coming should help put learners at ease AND help you as a teacher feel more confident and prepared.

You need to speak simply, but not unnaturally. Don’t talk “like a cave person.” You should be conscious of the kinds of words and grammar structures you use as well as your speed of speech. However, take care to speak as naturally as possible so that students learn from the real thing. Again, the goal is that they can communicate so if they can’t understand real speech patterns, they won’t be able to communicate. To help make yourself clear, but natural, you can use: cognates, visuals, gestures, and realia. Teach students to use communicative strategies. as well such as circumlocution and asking for clarification when they can’t think of a word or don’t understand something. This way you can avoid falling back on using their first language (L1) as a crutch.

Additionally remember to show, not tell whenever possible. When you introduce a grammar pattern, vocabulary word, or activity, try not to explain in detail what you are going to do, just give the basics and do it. This way you cut out a lot of useless teacher talk that will go right over your students head and distract them from concentrating on the main language targets and objectives for that class.

3. Feeling tired and frustrated more quickly and more easily

Endurance for any activity is built up slowly over time; this is no different for learning a language. While we want every course to be conversation focused, communication and conversation do not only require active, productive skills. You also need to be skilled in receptive skills--which can be active or passive depending on the context. Therefore with beginners, they won’t be having typical conversations you would with a B1 or B2 learner, but they can certainly work on their English communication the entire time.

The Golden Rule of Beginners is “regularly repeat, review, and reinforce.” All students need repetition. A student needs to see and use a vocabulary word, phrase, or grammar structure in communicative practice at least 10-20 times in order to fully acquire it and be able to use it relatively consistently in spontaneous communication. Ojo, this doesn’t mean to simply repeat the word or phrase 10-20 times and call it good. This means you need to think of contexts and types of practice: controlled, role play, Q & A, etc. in order for them to repeat the material to be acquired frequently enough. Don’t teach something and then wait weeks to review it either. Review should be consistent, ongoing, and cyclical. Language isn’t acquired by checking off a list of items. The more often you can review, the better. As you repeat and review regularly, you need to also reinforce what is being learned, what is done correctly, and what is not yet done correctly. Each class should start and end with a short review time where active feedback is given to the students. Use the Cornell notes to guide you. You don’t need to correct every single error they make, but definitely correct any objectives you are working or have worked on previously as well as anything that could be offensive or seriously impedes communication. Try to use a variety of correction techniques which you can find here in the Resource Drive.

Finally, you should plan your classes with beginners in short, connected blocks of time of maybe 10-15 minutes. You should maintain the objective of the class throughout, but you will need to change the pace and variety of activities in each class. It is especially important to alternate between activities that require more production vs more reception and to use all 4 skills. You want to slowly build a student’s confidence and fluency without overwhelming or over saturating them. If a bright light suddenly fills that same dark tunnel discussed earlier, what would be your reaction? Naturally, you will probably cover your eyes, stumble, or otherwise react to this negative stimulus. It would be too much for your eyes to handle without the proper warning or transition to such bright light. The same is true for your students, if you give them too much at once, it will just cause that same negative reaction and hinder their learning.

Online Resources








Language Strategies


Pronunciation App to download

Learn English Grammar app

Check out the pages on the Dynamic Teacher Resource Drive for even more!


5 Common Misconceptions about Teaching Pronunciation


5 Common Misconceptions about Teaching Pronunciation

Misconception #1: Pronunciation is just a small part of speaking so you don’t need to focus on it too much.

While pronunciation is perhaps not the only important part about speaking, it is certainly still necessary to teach. When you teach pronunciation you need to hone in on two essential skills of communication: speaking (of course) and listening. Together, these two skills form an essential speech loop; without one, the other doesn’t happy--at least not easily or naturally. You don’t want your students to just sound good, you want them to understand native-like, natural speech when they encounter it. In real life, nobody talks like many traditional textbooks would have you believe. The only way to truly become proficient in a language is if you can successfully communicate with others who speak the language.

A general rule of thumb for a student learning pronunciation is:

  1. Ears - Students should be able to hear the sound/pattern.

  2. Mouth - Students should be able to produce the sound.

  3. Eyes - Students should recognize the word and its spelling on paper.

Misconception # 2: Teaching pronunciation means teaching phonetics.

This is not completely false, but it completely true either. Teaching phonetics--individual speech sounds--is certainly part of teaching pronunciation, but it isn’t everything. A lot more goes into using correct pronunciation when speaking a language.

In fact, pronunciation is divided into two big categories: segmentals and suprasegmentals. Segmentals are probably what first comes to mind when you think about pronunciation: consonants and vowels. These are definitely important to teach, but the main purpose in teaching them is to avoid a student being misunderstood.

Because of this, we also need to teach suprasegmentals: word stress, sentence stress/rhythm, and intonation. These 3 aspects will often make or break communication. They are the “non-verbal cues” of pronunciation. What I mean by that is that successful communication mostly comes from non-verbal gestures facial expressions, etc. AS WELL AS certain vocal elements--wait for it--suprasegmentals. Now, you can find research listing exact percentages for this anywhere from 75%-95%, but the truth of the matter is that the exact number doesn’t matter. What matters is that we acknowledge that being fluent in a language is more than picking the right vocabulary words and stringing them together using correct grammar.

Misconception #3: Pronunciation only needs to be taught as errors arise.

To be clear, you definitely SHOULD address incorrect pronunciations when you hear your student using them. However, don’t wait for the problem to occur before you address it. Be proactive, and give your students a head start.

Your student’s first language (or second or third or fourth...you get the idea) will often have a direct effect on their pronunciation in English. Luckily for you, that means there is research out there that tells you what to look out for. For example, b vs v, w vs g (would vs good), sh vs ch, and long and short vowels. If you know your student’s first language, you can covertly add these into your lesson plans before you even know your student or have had time to observe their current language patterns.

Apart from predicting pronunciation errors, part of your job as a language teacher is to take running observations of your students. Don’t leave pronunciation errors out of these observations. Keep a running list--literally or just in your mind--and do a bit of the error analysis game. This means you look at words or phrases where you student makes an error and try to find a pattern. Using these theories, you can test out different explanations and strategies to “fix” the problem.

Misconception #4: There’s no time to teach a pronunciation lesson, and besides, pronunciation lessons are boring.

First things first, please don’t isolate language aspects completely. This is not to say that you can’t focus in on a certain aspect or skill from time to time because obviously you should do that. Rather than only teaching pronunciation this lesson, grammar the next, vocabulary the next, etc., teach language holistically. Teacher language as a whole, not just a collection of parts. When you think about a lesson you should include all of the following in some way: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and function. This may or may not mean that you are teaching each of these directly, but nevertheless they should be present. Perhaps one day you do a mini-lesson on pronunciation, but you are also correcting a grammar structure you reviewed in an earlier class; or vice versa.

When you do find your student in need of some direct teaching on pronunciation, try to follow this structure for the lesson:

  1. Introduction: How is the sound or stress made by a native speaker? This may include mouth placement, individual sound practice, looking in a mirror, using rubber bands or balloons, etc.

  2. Controlled practice: The student should practice the pronunciation component in a focused activity. Plenty of feedback and correction should be given.

  3. Communicative activity: Practice the component within a conversational, real-life activity.

You can find several example lesson plans with this structure here:

Pronunciation Presentation & Teaching Ideas

***** WARNING: Pronunciation errors often sneak back into spontaneous speech even when they are eradicated from controlled practice. *****

Misconception #5: The goal of teaching pronunciation is for a student to sound native-like. Beginners shouldn’t worry about this.  

There are actually for main goals of teaching pronunciation: intelligibility, comprehensibility, accent, and voice quality. First and foremost, you want the people listening to your students to recognize the words, phrase, and utterances they make (intelligibility) and you want them to understand this with ease (comprehensibility). Speaking of being understood, as a language teacher you are probably not the best judge of this because you are used to hearing non-native speech and may accommodate the student more without realizing it. For this reason, set your standards high, and give them plenty of corrective feedback! (#cornellnotes)

Second, you can’t wave a magic wand and make a non-native speaker sound like a native speaker. It’s possible if someone learns from a young age and continually uses the language in a variety of contexts, but later in life, it’s not usually a realistic goal. Instead, you should focus on reducing misunderstandings because of accent or providing your students to insights to how certain words said with a non-native accent might sound funny or even offensive to a native speaker--i.e. focus, beach, and sheet. Additionally, you need to pay attention to a student’s voice quality in terms of their overall volume and pitch as well as how they use those tools to stress words or syllables. All of these little nuances will help students to be more easily understood.

Finally, don’t wait to start teaching and correcting pronunciation. This should be taught from the beginning because if a student gets too used to saying a word or sound a certain way, this may become fossilized. This means that changing it is going to be as complicated as trying to carefully excavate a fossil from a rock without breaking it. It’s not impossible, but it is certainly difficult and time-consuming. It will take not only your coaching, but your student’s patience, desire, and determination to put in the extra practice to change it.

To find more resources on teaching pronunciation including books and lesson plans, check out the link to the Dynamic Teacher Resource Drive below:

Pronunciation Resource Folder

Also be sure to check out the Pronunciation (KEPHAM) app for Android or Phonetics app for iPhones. (See picture for reference). Here you can practice segmentals and suprasegmentals by listening to words, phrases, or sentences as well as watching videos

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English proficiency Tests: Cracking the Code

A note to the teacher:  Taking an English proficiency exam can be a daunting task for any student. However, your job as the teacher is to coach the and provide them with realistic goals, timelines, and necessary practice in order to do their very best. It is important to emphasize that to be successful on a proficiency test, a student should have a solid B1 level if not higher. The real difficulty of test-taking lies in the format of the test themselves and the specific strategies and skills required to take a test. In other words, it isn’t just about knowing the parts of speech and how to hold a conversation. Help your student prepare with the tips & practice ideas below. They are written for and directed to your students.

Part 1: General Test Tips

Part 2: Speaking Section

Part 3: Writing Section

Part 4: Reading Section

Part 5: Listening Section

PART 1: General Test Tips

Preparing for the test

1. Determine which test best suits you here.

2. Determine what score is needed, and understand the rubrics for each section.

3. Become familiar with the format of the test you choose.

4. Become familiar with the instructions of the test you choose.

5. Understand & practice all question types that the test includes.

6. Determine strengths and weaknesses in 4 skills (Speaking-Writing-Reading-Listening)

7. Focus on productive skills (speaking and writing) during class time and receptive skills (reading and listening) as homework.

8. Practice test strategies, individual tasks, and full-length exams.

9. Use a variety of outside materials (videos, news articles, textbooks, etc.) to prepare as well.

10. Take care of yourself! Wear comfortable clothes to the test, and eat and sleep well in the days before the test.

During the Test

1. Work quickly and carefully.

2. Pace yourself--do not spend too much time on any one question.

3. Mark only one answer for each question. If you mark more than one answer, that question will be counted wrong — even if one of the answers you marked is correct.

4. Your score will be based on the number of questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty for guessing.

5.Try to answer every question to the best of your ability.  

6. Pay attention to the specific instructions.

7. Utilize scheduled breaks. Although you may leave the test room briefly to use the bathroom, you cannot make up any lost time.

8.  Paper-based tests: Mark your answers on your answer sheet and not in the test book. You will receive credit only for answers marked in the circles on the answer sheet. You will not receive credit for answers entered in the test book.

9. Remember to use skills like skimming and scanning to work efficiently.

10. Remember to breathe and be confident! You are prepared for this.

PART 2: Speaking Section

Like any Dynamic class, speaking will still be a main focus in a test prep course. Each test has its own rubric. Despite different names for the criteria, all of the tests generally have the same requirements. These are summarized in the table below.

**Keep in mind that depending on which test you choose,

the speaking test will be in-person or computer-based**


General Tips:

  • Better to make minor errors than hesitate often and/or use only simple vocabulary/grammar

  • Interact naturally: respond to questions, eye contact, act interested, disagree/agree, show understanding, give/request further information

  • B1-B2 Level questions: can’t ask examiner to rephrase

  • Self-correction: Use sparingly because it will affect discourse & interactive communication marks

  • Practice different registers (formal vs informal)

  • Speaking Prep time: Write down a few key words and ideas and plan how you will organize your response. Don’t attempt to write down exactly what you’re going to say. It’s a waste of your time, and raters will be able to detect responses that are read and will give them a lower rating.

Find ideas for speaking practice here!

PART 3: Writing Section

Writing will also be a focus of a Dynamic class. However, time spent actually writing in class should be limited. Instead, the writing should be assigned as homework and then analyzed in class together using the rubric. Each test has its own rubric. Despite different names for the criteria, all of the tests generally have the same requirements. These are summarized in the table that follow. In general, the following aspects should be considered in completing a writing task:  function/purpose, reader/audience, register (formal, semi-formal, informal), and structure.

**Keep in mind that depending on which test you choose, the writing test will be paper-based or computer-based**

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There are two main methods to approach teaching writing. One is a bottom-up method, and teaches the process step by step. The second approach is top-down method; it shows an example and involves creating a product based on an exemplary model. The two methods are laid out in more detail below.

Method 1: Process Method (Step-by-step)

1. Prepare to write:  Recognize type of question asked, think about content, take a few notes. Organize ideas to make structure easier (headings)

2. Write the first paragraph (introduction): Introduce topic. Show reader how it will develop. Restate question in own words. DON’T COPY VERBATIM

3. Write the middle paragraph(s) (main body): Expand points so answer as full as possible. State main idea & follow with 1+ supporting points. Link ideas, avoid repetition (pronouns, synonyms), subordinate clauses (additional information)

4. Write the final paragraph (conclusion): Short & completes essay. Make sure reader clearly understands main points.

Method 2 - Product Method:

1. Show learners good example of a finished writing task.

2. Analyze together using score descriptors from rubric.

3. Students write their own response to the task.

4. Score using rubric.

5. Compare good example with student’s response.


The exact requirements of writing tasks may vary from test to test, but there are 3 main types of writing that are seen across the board. Each of these types can be succinctly answered following a set structure. These structures are listed below.

Both sides of argument

  • 1. Introduction

  • 2. Advantages/Disadvantages

  • 3. Conclusion: summary both sides of argument & Statement of Opinion

Opinion & Justify It

  • 1. Introduction & statement of opinion

  • 2. Justification for opinion

  • 3. Conclusion: restate opinion & brief summary of reasons

Solution for a problem

  • 1. Introduction & description of problem

  • 2. Possible solutions

  • 3. Conclusion: summarize

You can find practice writing activities here!

PART 4: Reading Section

The reading section varies based on the type of test you take (academic vs general English). However, there 4 main purposes for reading within testing. Each of these requires essential skills in order to be successful on a test. These skills are described below.

Essential Skills

1.Pre-reading: Preview a text & Predict content/structure

2.Reading for Basic Comprehension:

-Skimming for main ideas

-Guessing words from Context


3. Reading to find information: scanning for key facts/information

4. Reading to learn:

-recognize organization & purpose

-understand relationships between ideas

-organizing information into a category chart/summary

You can find reading practice ideas here!

PART 5: Listening Section

Similarly to the reading section, the listening section can best be approached by practicing essential skills. These skills are described in detail below.

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Other Listening Practice:

  • Dictation practice: letters (spelling of names) & numbers (dates), difficult sounds (i vs e, 14 vs 40, etc.) = Bingo

  • Mortar (function) words: articles, prepositions, and auxiliares

  • Brick (content) words: nouns, verbs, carry message/meaning

  • Function phrases: common phrases for offering, suggesting, expressing a preference, giving reasons, making, introducing paraphrasing, indicating time  

  • Identify Text Type: Which task does the situation belong to? Ex. panel discussion/lectures, interviews with celebrities

  • Accents: British, American, Australian, North American, etc.  

  • Vocabulary: context clues for unknown vocabulary  

  • Take notes: identify speakers, main points, details (answer questions after listening, only hear once)

For more ideas to practice listening, click here!

For more specific information about format or unique aspects of a test, check out the powerpoints below!

IELTS Powerpoint

FCE Powerpoint

TOEFL Powerpoint

TOEIC Powerpoint


Testing, Testing


Testing, Testing

You’re in a class with one of your students when they share the news that they are thinking of going abroad soon to really put their English skills to the test. Then they ask you the question that you know was coming: Which test should I take to prove my English level?

A slew of acronyms starts filling your head--TOEFL..or was it TEFL? IELTS? TOEIC? TOEIC-Bridge? FCE? CAE? PET?

Then they ask even more questions: Does it matter which test I take? Is one cheaper? Is one less difficult? Which one is recognized more? How do I prepare? How soon can I take the test?

If you’re not sure how to answer any or all of those questions, keep reading.Also be on the lookout for part 2 of the proficiency tests workshop next month that will go into more detail for teaching the strategies & skills required to pass the tests.


The most important factors are the student’s current level and the amount of time they have to dedicate to preparing for the test.

In order to be successful on any of the standardized English proficiency tests, a student needs to have a strong intermediate or upper intermediate level (B1-B2). If they have an advanced level, that’s even better. However, while the tests measure proficiency in English, they also measure a test taker’s ability to deal with various types of challenging, multi-step tasks in a fast-paced, timed environment.

If a student’s level is below an intermediate level, it is highly recommended that they first study general English to increase their level before attempting any proficiency tests. A student could choose to take the TOEFL, IELTS, or TOEIC because they can’t fail it; they would simply receive an A1 or A2 level. However, most institutions requiring proficiency or employers looking at proficiency as a factor will not accept anything below a B1 level. The Cambridge Exams, on the other hand, test a specific level only. Therefore, if a student attempts the First Certificate Exam (FCE-B2 level), they can very well fail it if they get a score lower than 60%. Ask your student if they are willing (and financially able) to take this risk.

Once it can be determined that a student has a proficient base level to work with, attention should be turned to how much time the student has to prepare and how much time they can dedicate to classes and studying. Generally speaking, a student with a strong intermediate level still needs at least 1-2 months of intensive studying and practice in order to feel confident going into the test and to achieve a good score. It may be possible in less time if a student is advanced, very familiar with the test’s format and tasks, and is highly motivated to study. However, it is best to allow for more time instead of cramming.

Use this flowchart to help your student determine     if they are ready to take a proficiency test.

Use this flowchart to help your student determine if they are ready to take a proficiency test.

OVERVIEW OF TESTS: Which one should a student take? 

Deciding which test to take may be a very short process if the reason a student is taking the test is to be approved for a visa or entry into a university program. In these cases, a specific test and minimum score will be stipulated and you can start preparing.

However, if there is no specific guideline given, start by asking if the student will use the proficiency test for purposes in Chile or abroad. If they have a particular region in mind, you can suggest a test that is more commonly recognized in that region. While there are plenty of exceptions, the general rule of thumb is that if a student wants to use the test in the US, they should take the TOEFL or TOEIC. If they plan to go to the UK, they should take IELTS or a Cambridge Exam. If a student is going to another country such as Canada, New Zealand, or Australia, you can check with immigrations to be sure, but generally IELTS will be more accepted.

If a student decides that they will only use the exam for purposes in Chile, such as a new job or a work promotion, they will need to decide if they would like to demonstrate an academic or general proficiency. They should also consider whether or not they have a preference for a computer-based exam or a paper-based exam. Do they have basic computer skills? How is their handwriting? Are they comfortable speaking to someone in person or would they prefer to record themselves responding to prompts with a headset and microphone? Do they need the exam to be valid for a lifetime or is 2 years enough time?

Use this flowchart to help your student determine which proficiency test to take.

Use this flowchart to help your student determine which proficiency test to take.



Effectively Teaching Grammar in Context


Effectively Teaching Grammar in Context

Effectively Teaching Grammar in Context

Get in the zone--the Zone of Proximal Development that is! Much like Krashen’s i+1, Vygotsky’s ZPD reminds us to aim for the happy place between what a student has acquired and what they are capable of acquiring at that time. While i+1 focuses more specifically on Second Language Acquisition, the ZPD can be used in nearly any setting where learning takes place. Either way the warning is the same: reach too far, and you’ll likely spend a frustrating class trying to explain something  above the student’s head that cannot yet be taken in as input. Why is this important?

The ultimate goals of teaching within your student’s “Zone” are:

       1) Students acquire language and don’t just learn to memorize.

        2) Students’ affective filters (emotions) are appropriately & adequately acknowledged.

        3) Students move from other-regulation to self-regulation. 

        4) Students tap into their built-in syllabus of language learning.


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FAQ About Teaching Grammar:

1. How do I teach grammar?

There are many answers to this questions. However, to simplify it a bit, you can divide teaching grammar into 2 main approaches: deductive and inductive. Deductive teaching of grammar means that you start by giving the explicit rule, followed by several examples to practice the rule. Inductive teaching, on the other hand, means that you provide several examples and other input in order for the student to notice the grammar and arrive at the rule themselves--or the guided hand of a great Dynamic teacher.

So which is better?

Dynamic methodology strongly favors inductive grammar teaching as this tends to be more natural and interactive in nature. However, there is a time and place for deductive grammar teaching. Some students won’t comprehend any input if they are stuck thinking about the rule--they just gotta know! Also, if you feel confident explaining the rule and it is rather succinct, go ahead and use the deductive approach.

Regardless of the method, FREQUENCY AND QUALITY OF INPUT is everything! Students need to see and practice using a structure a minimum of 10 times---no not 10 exercises, but in 10 different contexts to be able to use the structure. This could even be as many as 30 times or more--it depends on the student and other variable factors.

**Pro Tip: When you aren’t sure of the grammar rule yourself, use the inductive approach right alongside your student and “discover” the rule together!**

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2. How do I make grammar more exciting and interactive?

Grammar can easily be broken down into form (often seen like a formula: s+ verb + ing = present continuous) and function (Why/how do we use it?--to talk about things happening right now). The ultimate goal is to teach both of these within a real world, meaningful context.

For example, you could get a real-world context from one of these conversation starters here. You can teach the form & function deductively or inductively (see previous question), but either way, you need to teach it in a context that is related to the student’s real life interests & experiences.

Once in a while, you can add in a quick game as brain break or to test automaticity. Then, practice, practice, practice! Practice makes permanent.

Do: Assign grammar exercises as homework and use that grammar to interact in class. Give real world examples of how and when grammar is used. Answer student questions to the best of your ability.

Don’t: Spend more than 5-10  minutes doing book work/exercises in class unless the student specifically requests this--and even then, try to encourage interaction. Ignore student questions.

3. Is there a specific order in which students acquire language structures?

There is something called a built-in syllabus. First language acquisition (i.e. native speakers) follows this in terms of developmental milestones, but guess what--this exists for second language learners too! It isn’t always as clear cut because it can vary depending on a number of factors, but examples of the “syllabus” can be found in the Dynamic Teacher Resource Drive here.

4. What factors affect the progression of second language acquisition?

  • L1 (1st language) influence

    • Too similar: Get stuck in a stage

    • Too different: Avoid the stage altogether

  • Linguistic complexity

    • Is its structure easy to understand?

    • Are there clear rules?

  • Semantic transparency

    • Its function is clear

    • It has a real-world connection

  • Salience

    • Do students notice it?

    • Are they ready to notice it?

  • Frequency of input

    • How often have students seen the structure?

    • How often have student used the structure?

  • Affective filter

    • Student’s emotional state

    • Prior experiences

5. Should I teach slang or other informal language?

Yes and no. First, what are the student’s goals for learning English? What is their base level? It is definitely okay to teach slang and informal language because that is how people actually talk; this is known as descriptive grammar. However, just like with anything else, one must know the rules before they are able to break them. Therefore we also need to be sure that we teach prescriptive grammar--that is to say the by-the-book rules.

How often have we tried to participate in a conversation in Spanish--or whatever your second language is---and we thought we knew all of the vocabulary and grammar needed, but then we got thrown a chilenismo or people didn’t pronounce the words like we were taught, but now we’re totally lost. The benefit of a Dynamic English course is that we have flexibility to go off the grid a bit and get into the nitty gritty of how people actually talk so that your students are prepared to take a formal test OR have a conversation in a random bar or sporting event with native speakers who have never encountered non-native speakers. The opportunities are endless!

**Be sure to identify these contexts with students. For example, say “this is only for an informal context..or among friends, while this one you can use with a potential client or your higher ups.” **

6. How do I teach grammar to beginners?

Teach a structure in multiple contexts with a sentence frame. For example s + to be + complement. You can teach this with a variety of vocabulary categories such as: emotions, physical descriptions, personality descriptions. Be sure to teach 10-20 new vocabulary words a class/ a week, and use them multiple times.

Then switch to another verb s+ verb + complement. Be sure to teach the affirmative statement, the negative statement (at least the short form), and the question form of each sentence frame/structure. Get students speaking and using these sentence structures in every class. Assign repetitive grammar exercises for homework. Don’t teach isolated words or grammar points---always contextualize them!

7. How do I teach grammar to advanced learners?

Think about the different branches of linguistics, or the study of languages. We often focus just on morphology (vocabulary), semantics (vocabulary meaning) and syntax (word order and grammar). However understanding pragmatics is essential for truly mastering a language. While it is important at any level, it is especially important for advanced learners. They already know the forms, the rules, and the functions---or do they?

What if the context, the speaker, the tone, the country, the gender, the degree of power, etc.changes? Can these learners still hold their own or do they stumble into faux pas after faux pas? Do they know when it is appropriate to use slang or shortened forms of speech? When they need to use the traditional, prescriptive form? When to be direct and when to beat around the bush? Do they know what all of these idioms mean in various contexts? There is always more to learn--even if you’re a native speaker!

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8. What grammar resources are available?

English textbooks: Essential English, English Results, Advanced Grammar




How will you know?

Essential Questions:

  1. How can assessment be used effectively?

  2. When does error correction impede or improve communication?

  3. What factors affect language learning and acquisition?

  4. How do we balance accuracy and fluency?

Understanding by Design (UbD, McTighe and Wiggins 2005) tells us that there are 3 main stages to educational planning. They are:

  • Stage 1. What is worthy and requiring of understanding? (A.G.O blog post)

  • Stage 2. What is evidence of understanding? (Assessment & Feedback)

  • Stage 3. What learning experiences and teaching promote understanding, interest, and excellence? (Individual learning activities)

Welcome to stage 2!

Now that you have a plan for the course and an idea of the course objectives, you need to decide how (and when) you will know that these objectives are met.

Part 1A: Kinds of Assessments

Just as there are multiple learning styles, there are multiple teaching styles; there are also multiple types of assessments.However, it’s important to remember that while all tests are assessments, not all assessments are tests. A summary of the 4 main  types of assessments can be found below. Please note that for each there are “traditional methods” and “alternative methods.” The communicative approach we use at Dynamic tends to favor the alternative approach, BUT there is always some room for traditions.


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Part 1B: Integrated Performance Assessments (Summative)

An Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) is a summative assessment that is comprised of three tasks. Each task corresponds to one of the three modes of communication--Interpretive (receptive), Interpersonal (spontaneous) and Presentational (planned and productive). The tasks should all build upon each other.

The three tasks are aligned within a single theme or content area, and they reflect how students naturally acquire and use the language in the real world.  Research shows that the brain learns and recalls learning through connections and relationships. The more teachers make connections,patterns and relationships explicit and accessible for students, the easier it will be for the brain to integrate and retain new information.

IPAs are designed for students at the elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels of proficiency. They are standards-based, performance-based, and developmental and integrative in nature.  IPAs are designed to be used with scoring rubrics that rate performance in terms of whether the performance meets expectations, exceeds expectations, or does not meet expectations for the task. See the Dynamic Teacher Resource Drive for more information.

***Each IPA task can replicated in shortened form for formative assessments***

Part 1C: Supporting Second Language Acquisition (SLA) Theories to Consider


  • Learning vs Acquiring (Krashen) and Noticing (Schmidt)

Learning language is different than acquiring language. Learning is concerned with explicit knowledge that is consciously studied. Many times we focus on learning grammar rules and vocabulary words, but we don’t focus enough on the context of when and how to use this knowledge. To learn grammatical features of a language, students need to first notice them. Noticing alone does not mean that learners automatically acquire language; rather, the hypothesis states that noticing is the essential starting point for acquisition. (Richard Schmidt 1990).


  • Explicit Knowledge vs Implicit Knowledge

Then, to acquire a grammar form or vocabulary word, students need to make comparisons to their prior knowledge and current life. Slowly but surely, after at least 10-20 exposures minimum, the student will begin to integrate the grammar form or vocabulary word into their implicit knowledge. This intuitive and automatized knowledge is needed to communicate effectively. Explicit knowledge that is learned can most often be monitored or edited, but this may be impede communication and make the speaker sound less native. Implicit knowledge is acquire so monitoring is less frequent and more organic; speakers tend to sound more native-like.

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Part 2a: When and How to Give Correct Student Errors

Error correction is definitely needed at some point in the learning process. There are several individual factors that affect the implementation of error correction including: the learner’s age, aptitude, stage in the language process, proficiency level, motivation, anxiety, metalinguistic sophistication, individual preferences, learning styles, learning strategies and previous achievement. It is essential that teachers are aware of these factors in order to improve the learning process.

Useful questions to decide whether or not to let an error go:

  • Does the mistake affect communication?

  • Are we concentrating on accuracy at the moment?

  • Why did the student make the mistake?

  • Is it the first time the student has spoken for a long time?

  • Could the student react badly to my correction?

  • Have they met this language point in the current lesson?

  • Is it something the students have already met?

  • Is this a mistake that several students are making?

  • Would the mistake irritate someone?


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Part 2b: Factors & Processes to Consider

  • Krashen’s Affective filter hypothesis

A learner's attitude towards the target language, their motivation to learn, and the amount of stress they experience impact language acquisition. A learner who is comfortable with their learning has a low “affective filter.” These learners are ready to learn and take in new input. Pressure to perform, negative emotions or past experiences can set the filter high, blocking new acquisition. According to Krashen, this may explain why a group of learners vary in their language progress, even when they are in the same environment

  • How to Apply to Dynamic Teaching:

Find out about your student’s past language learning experiences and their motivations for learning now. Be mindful of your student’s body language and show an interest in them as people, not only in their learning. Be empathetic, sincere, and flexible!

  • Krashen’s Natural Order Hypothesis

This hypothesis believes that there is a fixed sequence for language learning later in life that is similar to acquiring one’s first language as children. For example, grammatical morphemes appear to emerge in a particular order, no matter the student’s first language or other factors.


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  • How to apply to Dynamic Teaching:

When correcting errors, keep these hypotheses in mind to help you decide when to correct errors, and when to let them go until a later date.




What's Your Plan?


What's Your Plan?

****Example of course objectives and May Workshop info below****

So you’ve received the materials for a new class at Dynamic English. The wonderful office staff tells you that the student is a B1. You think, “great--did I enter into a game of Battleship unknowingly?” Well, it could certainly be a hit or miss depending on your next move. What’s your plan?


When planning any course, keep in mind A.G.O. Aims, goals, objectives. Let me explain…

Start with the general aims of the course, and then adapt and personalize them until you get specific objectives. Aims are general statements that provide direction or intent. Goals are a bit more specific, but don’t go into detail. Objectives are specific statements that break down aims and goals into smaller, more manageable parts that follow an intended timeline. For example, let’s say your aim this year is to travel. Your goal might be to travel in Northern Chile. Your objectives are essentially the itinerary you create for this trip. This process is adapted and summarized below for a student learning English. 

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Writing Course Objectives

The good news is that the syllabus is provided by Dynamic (and online here: Dynamic teacher resources) and it already covers the Aims and Goals so your creativity and professional judgment comes into play in planning objectives.

A good objective includes: grammar + function + vocabulary/language strategy (see example below). Use this as your guideline to plan objectives for each class period, and share this objective with students. If you stray from the plan or topic, see what you can do to redirect the conversation to meet the objective. Alternatively, save the objective for later, and develop one that works for the moment. 

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The Top 5 Reasons to Be a Cornell Notes Master


The Top 5 Reasons to Be a Cornell Notes Master

Cornell notes establish a method to efficiently track student progress and areas for improvement. Learn how to use it as an excellent tool for providing feedback to your student during class as well as study material for them outside of class!