Eltabber of the month: Sarah Brown

1. Galina would like you to share your great idea for giving feedback/homework/revision by recording a short message.

What’s worked wonders with my private students and very small group lately has been me making an audio recording on their smart phone (or for small groups an audio message in a WhatsApp group) at the very end of class. I make it no longer than 5min and monologue through what we covered in class, repeat new vocabulary with an example in context and highlight any difficult pronunciation we had. The students that listen to it during the week come back the next class using the new concepts and vocabulary correctly on their own! It’s my new magic trick 😉

2. Wow you have been everywhere! Where was your favourite place to teach? Work? Live?

Thanks! Still some continents to go…I loved living in a new language and culture in Buenos Aires. Las Vegas was quite intense and a time where I really got my feet wet teaching intensive courses to groups of immigrants. Now, I’m very happy to be putting down roots in Berlin, working and living here where I’ve wanted to for a long time.

3.You teach a lot of 1-to-1s, what are your best tips for working with individuals?

Private lessons are my favorite! Best tip is to find out what they are interested in and let them talk about it, bring in related material etc. A private lesson is really a moment for them to shine. My intention is to keep them talking and being open and receptive to all of their questions.

4. How do you keep your sessions fun and interesting while maintaining a level of professionalism suitable for your Business English clients? Have you encountered any resistance to using games or other fun activities?

I’ve never found resistance to keeping it light. I am always my student‘s ‘cheerleader‘ so to speak, encouraging and celebrating their small victories. Also, everybody loves taboo! I like to tailor the taboo words or recycle vocabulary we’ve seen as the taboo words. Then, of course, there is discretion and adapting to the student. I have a CEO client that doesn’t like the review game I often do at the beginning of a lesson that involves me and the student throwing a ball back and forth. So, I just don’t do that anymore with him, but I always try many things out in the beginning to see what resonates.

5. Since I know you speak Spanish and German, I am curious how important you think it is it to know the language of your learners? Do you use L1 in the classroom much?

Great question. I think it’s a great tool (not a necessity) to know aspects of the students L1. It’s like an insider perspective that can give clues and understanding into the challenges of the students. That said, my ground rules in class are that we speak English 99% of the time. The L1 is only used to compare, a quick translation when I see it’s effective and if they ask nicely (and I say yes) so they can briefly explain something. The goal is to encourage them and show them they can do and say everything they need to in the target language, even if it’s in a basic way, and L1 is just a tool.

6. Who did you teach in Las Vegas and what were their English needs?

In Las Vegas, I taught Latin Americans in a language school and also on a state sponsored program at the libraries to immigrants from various cultures; Hispanic, Chinese, Russian, Ethiopian were the most. Their needs were mainly A1-A2 language, cultural awareness and community. Looking back now, it must be like many ‘Intigrationskurse’ here in Germany.

7. Regarding your Las Vegas experience, how is teaching ESL different than EFL? If you are teaching English in an English speaking country, can you use the environment more -i.e. create a more immersive learning-experience? Or is it more or less the same as what you do in Berlin?

The basics of my lessons are mostly the same. What was different was being able to pull direct context from our environment and having them bring examples from outside; from advertisements and signs. I also had a questionnaire activity where I would have them go out into the library and ask the staff questions.

8. I hear you’ve been involved in the mentoring program. How have you been doing it and how have you benefited from it?

Yes I have. Mandy Welfare is my mentor and it’s been very helpful. Mandy and I meet about once a month and I can ask her for help with lesson ideas, or about her experience with dealing with clients etc. I’d definitely recommend it for any teacher at any stage of their teaching. There is always so much to share and learn from each other.

9. You recently did the FTBE course with Evan Frendo and Mandy Welfare, what were the top 3 things you got out of it?

Learning about dealing directly with companies as clients, basic business concepts like ROI, and it was such a great experience to get to know them and the other teachers in our group better.

10. Who would you like to nominate as Eltabber of the month and what question
would you like to ask them?

I would like to nominate Robert Nisbet. What advice would you give to a new freelance teacher breaking away from language schools and finding their own clients?

Edited by Mandy Welfare