Learning Resources (16)
Do you like to help people?
Be a DreyerCoaching Ambassador!
Help your friends, and help yourself!
Our best ambassadors are our students and their parents, who are happy with their learning with DreyerCoaching.com. To say "Thank You" to each person who introduces a new student who registers with us, we will give the introducer ONE FREE 1 on 1 English class -- an RMB 475 / NT$ 1,800 value!
AND, from December 14-21, 2018, we are offering a special bonus. For EACH student you encourage to register with DreyerCoaching.com, before December 21, you get ONE FREE 1 on 1 class AND we will enter your name in a drawing to win the GRAND PRIZE: 50% off the tuition for one 2019-2020 small group class (September 2019 - June 2020)!
When people register now, they get classes from January - June, 2019. AND, if they register soon, they can get the BONUS CLASSES during the week of December 17-20!
We have NEVER offered this before, so take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. Help your friends! Help yourself! Be a DreyerCoaching ambassador!
Here is the current tuition for classes, January - June, 2019:
Small-Group Classes (2x/week--only 6 students maximum per class) (except for Writing Classes):
原价 RMB 8,950 / NT$39,550 RMB 5,500 / NT$ 24,500 (good until 1/31/2019)
Small-Group Writing or Conversation Classes (1x/week--only 3 students maximum per writing class):
原价 RMB 5,395 / NT$23,875 RMB 3,200 / NT$ 14,300 (good until 1/31/2019)
1 on 1 Class (with a DreyerCoaching.com USA Team Teacher)
原价 RMB 15,320 / NT$68,135 RMB 5,800 / NT$ 47,700 (good until 1/31/2019)
Do your friends want to know more about our classes? Give them this link.
Want to know more? Email Scott today!
The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.
-German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt
I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.
To celebrate success and improvement, we created the DreyerCoaching.com Most Improved Award (最佳进步奖) for the first quarter of the 2018-2019 school year, to help also celebrate our 10th anniversary online.
2018-2019 1st 9 weeks
The FIRST winner of this new award, in November 2018, is Bob Liu, from beautiful Hangzhou, China.
Why did Bob win this award?
His DreyerCoaching.com teacher Mrs. McKinney reports that Bob has made GREAT progress since she began working with him, and Bob attends almost EVERY Friendly Free Friday class he can. Bob knows that learning a foreign language is a long-term process, and on top of that, when my wife and I were in Nanjing in June 2018, Bob and his mother traveled two hours by train from their home to Nanjing, just to meet us in person. Wow! What commitment! Lastly, Bob is curious and likes to ask questions, and always has a GREAT attitude.
So, for all these reasons and more, Bob is our FIRST winner of the Most Improved Award. Congratulations, Bob!
2018-2019 2nd 9 weeks
The winner of the "Most Improved" Award for the second 9 weeks is Cici Liu, of Wuhan, China.
Over the past year or so, two things about Cici have made her stand out in my mind. First, she takes initiative to learn. At DreyerCoaching.com, we seldom ask our students to memorize passages, but several times her teacher, Mr. Woodson, told me that Cici had volunteered to memorize and then recite passages from her Reading 1 book about the US states like Vermont. He was so impressed, he would record her recitations and email them to me to look at. Second, once she learned the word "mayor" in English and when she realized the Chinese meaning, she told her teacher, "I want to be the mayor of Wuhan some day." When I met with her for her bonus class the other day to celebrate her winning this award, I asked her why she wanted to be mayor of Wuhan. She told me in English, "So Wuhan can be number one." (Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, sits alongside the mighty Yangtze River and is home to more than 10.6 million people. That means, Cici's CITY has more people than the entire US states of VIRGINIA and WEST VIRGINIA combined!
When I told our teacher team that we have a new "Most Improved" Award, Mr. Woodson told me he wanted Cici to get it for the next 9 weeks. Below is his glowing assessment.
Learn to read and know basic sounds:
Learn days of the week:
Learn the months of the year:
Do you remember times in school when you thought the teacher sounded like the teacher in Charlie Brown, kind of like this?
As a teacher since 1987, I wonder how many times I sounded like that to my students? And when it comes to teaching a foreign language, I think the risk for sounding like this can be HIGH. Much research shows that a foreign language should be taught in the target language, as much as possible. But many times it's easy to talk ABOUT the foreign language instead of IN the foreign language, and there is a difference.
A slow, boring pace can be another "cardinal sin" of teaching. Sure, teachers don't want to go so fast that we lose or frustrate our students. However, it is easy to go so slowly, that we bore them too. At DreyerCoaching.com, we want to find the right class speed. Not so fast we "lose" our students, but not so slowly that we bore them.
This is where language drills can come in handy.
I first experienced these in the 1980's when I was a student at William and Mary. First, I encountered it as a sophomore student in French 101x. William and Mary required all students to reach a fourth semester in foreign language ability, (which thanks to high school German, I was able to do quickly.) The "x" stands for intensive, because the school offered intensive classes so students could fulfill their foreign language requirement quickly. Here's how it worked: students took French (or another language) with the professor four times a week, Monday - Thursday. Those sessions had the normal explanations, lectures, tests, etc. However, in the afternoon, the students had a SECOND sesssion, called the "drill session." Here, the groups were kept small, usually eight to ten students, and they were led by an upper-level student. In our case, the drill was a senior girl who had just returned to W&M from her junior year abroad in France. The professors gave the drill instructors a dozen or so drills to do each day, drills that gave us intensive practice using the grammar points we had learned in our lecture class that morning or in the previous day or so.
Drill topics might include vocabulary practice; working with masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns; verb tenses; forming questions, etc.
How drills worked:
It was called "drill" because it literally "drilled" the information into our heads! The instuctor gave us the clue, a sample response, as a group we gave a choral response. We did this about 3-4 times, for some familiarity. Then she would give the same clue as we had in the choral response, snap her fingers, and point to one of us. If we got it right, great; then she went to clue #2 and the next student. If we got it WRONG, she just repeated the clue, snapped her fingers again, pointed to ANOTHER student, who then (hopefully) got it right, then she snapped her fingers and pointed to the person who got it wrong, giving that person the chance to say it correctly this time. If the student STILL missed it a second time, she repeated that procedure AS LONG AS IT TOOK for that person to get it right. So the good news is, the student ALWAYS got it right--it just might take awhile. But at least the student DID get it right, and that was a confidence booster. The teacher did a combination of individual and group questions: usually about 3/4 individual questions, and 1/4 group questions. The teacher both starts and ends each individual drill with the choral response. You start with it to build confidence with the new grammar structure, and you end with it to end on a successful note. This intense drill session went on for 50 minutes, without a break! Needless to say, we learned A LOT of French that year!
Two years later, when I returned to W&M from my junior year abroad in Germany, I was thankful when some professors asked me to be a drill instructor for German 101x. That experience let me make some new friends, help people learn German, earn some extra pocket money, AND it was my first paid teaching gig! So even though I did not get my Virginia teacher's license and start full-time teaching until 1987, I actually became a paid instructor in 1986, as a (very part-time) staff at William and Mary!
So let's talk about English.
There is NO SHORTAGE of places where students can learn English. However, I wish I had a nickel for each time a student or parent told me, "I [my child] learned English for years, but never learned to speak it. Every time I [my child] sees a foreigner, all I [my child] can say is 'Hello. How are you?'"
Let's say you want to teach a key, high-frequency language point. Sometimes, we need the slow, methodical explanation. For our basic learners, explaining it in Chinese can be a HUGE help too. But to give the students LOTS of chances to have verbal practice, and to keep the class pace lively, look for times to use drills. For each drill, I suggest using 5-7 clues, and use them over and over till the group can master the grammar point.)
Drill 1. Teaching "be" verb conjugations. The teacher should show a chart of some visual, maybe in the book, and explain how the "be" verb changes based on the pronoun. (Note: Chinese has NO verb conjugations! So that's one reason why Chinese is easy to learn, but it's hard for Chinese speakers to learn English.)
After the (brief) grammar lesson, try a drill.
SS: all students in class (choral response)
S1: first student
S2: second student, etc.
One idea behind drills is to START EASY, where the students only have to produce one item. You can add complexity as you go on, by gradually adding new elements to each drill sentence.
In person, the teacher snaps his fingers, then turns and points to the student who is supposed to speak. However, in an online class, the teacher can give the clue, then call the student's first name.)
T: I ... I am nice. I... (waves arms in sweeping fashing, to signal "choral response.")
SS: I am nice.
T: I ... I am nice. I... (waves arms in sweeping fashing, to signal "choral response.")
SS: I am nice
(Repeat 3-4 times, so students are confident with it. EACH student should be repeating.)
T: I ... Jessica
Jessica: I am nice.
T: I ... Tom
Tom: I am nice.
T: You ... Jerry
Jerry: You are nice.
T: You are nice. (wave arms for choral response)
SS: You are nice.
T: He ... Jack
Jack: He is nice.
T: They ... Jessica
Jessica: They is nice.
T: They ... Jack
Jack: They are nice.
T: They ... Jessica
Jessica: They are nice (teacher smiles)
T: Mrs. Smith ... Fred
Fred: Mrs. Smith is nice.
T: Mr. and Mrs. Smith ... Jessica
Jessica: Mr. and Mrs. Smith are nice.
T: You ... Jerry
Jerry: You are nice.
T: You (wave arms for choral response)
SS: You are nice
(repeat 2-3 times, to build confidence and end on successful note.)
Drill 2: Reviewing "be" conjugations and teaching nationalities
Note: Give the pronoun and country; then model for students to conjugate the verb and say the adjective. Notice how this drill is a bit harder: the students have to conjugate the verb AND change the country to an adjective. Ideally, we want to always be moving our students to higher and higher levels of complexity and competence.
T: I ... China (wave arms for choral response)
SS: I am Chinese.
(repeat 3-4 times to build confidence)
T: You ... Russia (Jack)
Jack: You are Russian.
T: He ... Vietnam (Fred)
Fred: He is Vietnamese
T: They ... Mexico (Jessica)
Jessica: They are Mexican
T: She... Brazil (Tom)
Tom: She is Brazilian
T: We ... France (Jack)
Jack: We are French
(Note: try to keep the clues consistent. That is, always use "they/Mexico, she/ Brazil, we/France" etc.
Drill 3: Countable and non-countable nouns (Note: Again, Chinese does not have this distinction, so it's a challenge for our students to master this. And let's face it: many native speakers of English make mistakes here too. How often do we see the ad "Less Calories"?)
T: Tomatoes ... delicious (wave arms for choral response)
SS: Tomatoes are delicious
(repeat 3-4 times)
T: Milk .. delicious (wave arms for choral response)
SS: Milk is delicious
(repeat 3-4 times)
T: Pizza ... Fred
Fred: Pizza is delicious
T: Chicken ... Jessica
Jessica: Chicken is delicious
T: French fries ... Tom
Tom: French fries are delicious.
T: ice cream ... Jack
Jack: Ice cream is delicious
T: ice cream cones ... Jessica
Jessica: Ice cream cones is delicious
T: ice cream cones ... Tom
Tom: ice cream cones are delicious
T: ice cream cones ... Jessica
Jessica: ice cream cones are delicious
T: peas... Jerry
Jerry: peas are delicious
T: Peas are delicous (wave arms for choral response)
SS: Peas are delicious
(repeat 3-4 times)
Drill 4: Forming questions
(Language note: It is easy to form most questions in Chinese. Many times you just say the sentence, then add the question word "ma" at the end, and that makes it a question. So, when one has to switch the word order to make a question in English, that is difficult for many students.)
T: You are a student.... Are you a student?
(Repeat 3-4 times)
T: You are a student (wave arms for choral response)
T: You are a student .... Fred
Fred: Are you a student?
T: He is an American ... Jerry
Jerry: Is he an American?
T: We are going ... Tom
Tom: Are we going?
T: She is from France. ... Jessica
Jessica: Is she from France?
T: They are from Japan ... Fred
Fred: Are they from Japan?
T: They are from Japan ... Are they from Japan? (wave arms for choral response)
Are they from Japan?
(repeat 3-4 times)
Drill 5: Using irregular verbs in past tense
These are difficult for even native speakers, so they are very hard for ESL learners. Let's say you want to drill these: be, bring, eat, get, read, ride. Say the infinitive form of the verb. Pause 1 second. Then say the sentence with the present tense. Students say the sentence in the past tense.
(Note: Here is a list of irregular verbs. Some are more commonly used than others.)
T: BE. He is happy.
He was happy. (repeat 3-4 times)
T: He is happy. He was happy. (Teacher waves arms for choral response)
SS: He was happy.
T: BRING...She brings cookies to the party.... Tom
Tom: She brought cookies to the party.
T: EAT... I eat a sandwich.... Jessica
Jessica: I ate a sandwich.
T: GET....He gets a book.... Jerry
Jerry: He got a book.
T: READ...I read a book..... Jack
Jack: I read a book.
T: RIDE...She rides a bike.... Jessica
Jessica: She rode a bike.
T: RIDE: She rides a bike. (wave arms for choral response)
SS: She rode a bike.
(repeat 3-4 times)
Would you like to know more about learning or teaching English online? Contact Scott today.
Chinese New Year is coming!
In honor of the holiday, normal DreyerCoaching.com classes will stop from Monday, Feb. 12 - Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. However, during those two weeks, we DO offer two extra kinds of classes! For many years we have offered intensive English classes during the holiday, because schools are out, students have more free time than normal, and many parents and young people want to improve their skills in an intensive way during these two weeks. For example, during Chinese New Year 2017, we offered two book studies: 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird, in addition to 1 on 1 classes. Please remember, since our classes are online, you can attend from anywhere you have an internet connection! You can spend all day relaxing and enjoying time with family, and attend just two hours a night, to keep improving your English! (Note: we do NOT have classes on Feb. 15 and 16, Chinese New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.)
Our Class offerings for Chinese New Year 2018
|What Kinds of Classes?||Group Classes 小组课||1 on 1 Classes 一对一|
|What will be the topics students will learn?||
This year, we are offering a new kind of group class. Scott is to present a history class, an overview of some key events of the 20th Century, using class materials Scott made himself when he taught the class he created, "20th Century European Totalitarianism," at a local public high school. Specific topics include:
Topics will depend on the student's English level and interest
|Who should take this class?||
Students who want to:
|Students who want to improve their English skills, 1 on 1, during the Chinese New Year holiday while schools are closed. Students can improve their listening, speaking, pronunciation, vocabulary, reading, and writing skills|
|What English level is required?||DreyerCoaching.com Step 8 or 10, Reading/Vocab. 2 or 3, and Writing 5 or 6. The class will be taught in a seminar/lecture format, with many opportunities for Q&A. Since the class pace will be fast and it will include many terms specific to history and social studies, a high-level of English is required.||Any level, Step 1 to Advanced|
|What are the dates and times of the classes?||Feb. 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 (8 evenings, 16 sessions total), 8:00-8:50 pm and 9:00-9:50 pm China Standard Time||Any evenings, 7:00-10:00, Mondays through Saturdays, Feb. 12-24, 2018|
|What is the investment?||RMB 1,900, NT$ 8,600 (Registration due by Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. Minimum of 3 students required to open class; spaces limited! Register today!||RMB 400, NT$ 1,800, per 50 minute session. You can register for as many 1 on 1 sessions as you like, from Feb. 12-24. (Registration due by Mon. Jan. 22, 2018. Register today!)|
|Who will teach it?||Scott Dreyer||A highly-qualified DreyerCoaching.com Team Teacher (we will attempt to match the student with his or her normal school year teacher, when available.)|
|How to find out more or register?||Contact Scott today!||Contact Scott today!|
Some topics and people we'll learn about in our group class!
Do you want to improve your English?
Do you have a question about English or life in the USA?
Join a FREE class with Scott Dreyer, president and founder of DreyerCoaching.com. Scott speaks Chinese, so feel free to ask him questions in Chinese; however, he will be joining you in class live from his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, USA.
When? Fridays at 8:00 p.m., (Note new time) China Standard Time
How long will the class be? About 30-45 minutes.
What level does my English have to be to join? Since Scott speaks Chinese, you can be at any English level, or speak none at all and just speak Chinese! However, most of the discussion will be at a DreyerCoaching.com Intermediate Level (Steps 4, 5 or 6) or above.
Sample questions might include:
- When do I use BORED or BORING?
- What is the difference between a RUG, CARPET, and MAT?
- What is the difference between a SHIP and a BOAT?
- What is the difference between the words FOUNDER and PIONEER?
- Do I say "The Philippines IS a country" or "The Phillipines ARE a country"?
- How do I pronounce AGE and EDGE, SHIP and SHEEP?
- You can even tell Scott a Chinese sentence and ask him to translate it into English for you.
What ages can join this class? Any age is welcome, but due to the content and format, it is probably best for students ages 10 and over. Adult learners welcome too!
Hope to see you there!
Helping a boy in South China:
Back in the spring a few years ago, I got a message on WeChat from a mother in Shenzhen, China. It went something like this:
We met about a year ago, when you talked with my son online. We did not sign up for your classes then, but we are in trouble now. My son has applied to an American school here in Shenzhen. He has passed the written part of the entrance exam, but he has failed the oral interview with an American teacher. He has taken the interview two times and failed both. He has a third interview in late May, but that's the last time. If he fails that one, he cannot get in. I am almost feeling desperate. Can you please help us?
How we helped that boy:
Of course I wanted to help her, so we set up a time to meet online. I assessed her son's English level, heard more about about their goals, and we made a plan. Her son would have four 1 on 1 classes each week with a DreyerCoaching.com teacher, over the next two months or so, leading up to the interview. Each class lasted fifty minutes. His teacher used these and other questions as the teaching material.
1. The teacher would ask the question, so the young man would practice his listening skills. Let's face it: if you can't understand the question, there is NO WAY you can answer it correctly!
2. The student would try to answer the question, to the best of his ability.
3. The teacher would coach and correct the student, to help his word choice, pronunciation, and overall clarity.
If all this sounds like a lot of work, it is. As the old saying goes, "There is no shortcut to success." But the student and teacher met consistently and worked diligently for many weeks, about four nights per week.
The result? During the last week of May, I asked his mom how things had gone. This is what she told me:
Thank you, teacher, we are so happy! My son passed his interview and will enter the new school this fall. Thank you so much!
That mother's news made the other teacher and me SO delighted to hear. Thanks to that targeted, intensive time of classes, that young man got into his desired school so he can pursue his dream. That's what we want to do at DreyerCoaching.com: Help you make your dreams come true!
Helping other students too:
Ever since we helped that student get into a famous school in Shenzhen, we have also helped students get into US schools too. During 2017-2018 we offered six classes a week (Monday - Saturday) to a student in Beijing so he could prepare to attend a high school in the US state of North Carolina. Last time I spoke with him and his mother, he was very happy and successful there! During the spring of 2019, we are helping two other students, also in Beijing, prepare to enter US high schools in Illinois and Virginia.
The application and interview process:
In short, here are the steps to enter a US school:
1. Apply to the school.
2. If the school officials like your application, they will schedule an online interview with you, to assess your English skills and other traits.
3. Take the online interview with the school.
4. If the school officials offer you admission, they will start the process to issue a US student visa.
5. You will receive notification to attend a second interview, this time at a US embassy or consulate in your home country. A US diplomat will interview you, also to judge your English level and suitability to attend school in America. This is second interview total.
6. If you pass that second interview, you will then be issued a US student visa, so you can make travel plans to come to America. However, if you do NOT pass that second interview, you will need to schedule another one, and try again. As you can see, this process has many steps and can take several months, especially if you have to retake your visa interview. Therefore, it is usually good to find a school and start this process in February or March of the year you plan to start your studies in the US.
**For more information about the process to attend a high school or college in the US, please contact Scott Dreyer today to find out more and create a plan just for you or your child.
What the US school officials are AFRAID of:
When you apply to a US school (high school or college), it is normal for you to feel scared and nervous. However, you need to realize the school official is scared and nervous too! Why? The official is scared that if they choose a poor student for their school, everyone will lose. The school will lose, because the teachers will complain that the student is not doing well. The parents will lose, because their child is not growing as he or she should, and the student will lose, because you are only young once and the student is losing precious time.
Specifically, the school officials are afraid of:
- a student who is coming to the US, because they were not successful in a school in their home country. Some parents are frustrated because their child is not working hard and doing well in their home school, so the parents think, "I will send my child to the US, because American schools are a lot easier than Chinese schools." True, the workload in most American schools is probably a lot less than in Chinese schools, and the school days are shorter, etc. However, some parents do not seem to understand something. In the US, all the school work--the lectures, reading, notes, tests, writing--is in ENGLISH. Also, ACADEMIC ENGLISH is much harder than simple CONVERSATIONAL English where you can just talk with a friend. In ACADEMIC ENGLISH, you will have specific terms for science, history, math, etc., and the vocabulary overall is at an advanced level.
- a student who comes to the US but does not "dig in" to life here. What does that mean? That is the student who rides to school looking at Chinese on his or her phone; sleeps a lot in class because he or she was up late the night before watching Chinese movies or listening to Chinese music; stays mainly with other Chinese students at school so they can speak Chinese together; goes straight home instead of joining after-school activities; and stays up late that night watching more Chinese movies, etc. Then, if you ask them "why aren't you spending more time with American friends?" they may say, "I don't understand what they are talking about." It is very sad, but if the student would "dig in" to life here more, they would get more out of it.
- a student who is cheating. Rather than doing the "hard work" of actually preparing and learning English, some students try to cheat on their testing or online interviews. Some school officials have told me they have actually heard a person off-camera whispering answers to the student. In early 2019 the world was shocked by the college bribery scandal, where many wealthy parents had paid to cheat their kids into top universities. So, school officials now more than ever are looking for students who actually "know their stuff" and have the English and maturity to do well in school. At DreyerCoaching.com, our philosophy is to give students the skills and confidence so they can open their own doors by their own merits.
If you are applying to a Christian school, the officials might also be afraid that you will have a bad attitude toward their religion. Most Christian schools require a Bible or religion class every day, and probably a chapel once a week. In addition, if you are living with a Christian host family, they will probably expect you to go to youth group, Sunday School, and church with them each week. These activities might take 3-4 hours during the week, outside of school. And when you go to church or youth group, you should stay awake, sit up straight, be friendly, and try to understand what is going on. Nobody will force you to believe what you are hearing or accept a religion--but you should be respectful. Besides, even if you do not accept Christianity or believe the Bible, going to youth group and church is a GREAT way to improve your English, make friends, and better understand American culture! For example 25% of the TOEFL test is listening, so even if you do not believe what you hear in the Bible classes or at church, just listening to the speakers and understanding what they are saying is GREAT practice for the TOEFL, communicating in English, and understanding the American mindset
This morning I was having class with Queenie, a middle school-aged girl in Shenzhen, South China. We were working on some Q&A about a reading passage, and as I usually do, I asked "Do you have any questions?"
Graduation from high school is a night to remember. (Since our son David is graduating from high school in a few hours, that thought was on my mind.)
Our visit to Hawaii in 2010 was a trip to remember.
Hiking on the Appalachian Trail--an experience to remember!
The baseball game where we went into extra innings and won by one run was a game to remember.
And I asked Queenie, "Last summer, you came to our summer camp. Was that a summer to remember? She said, "yes!" So, Queenie can say, The 2014 Summer Camp with DreyerCoaching.com was a summer to remember."
Queenie in America
Are YOU looking for a summer to remember, for yourself or a child or other loved one? Join one of our summer or winter camps! Watch this short video to see Queenie (the second person speaking) and her friends from Vietnam and Brazil telling about "a summer they'll never forget." Contact me today for details!
Fear of Public Speaking
(This came in an email from Brian Flanagan, a man I had the pleasure of meeting when Zig Ziglar and his team came to the Roanoke Valley a few years ago.)
According to that great medical journal, The Readers Digest!, speaking in front of a group of people is still the number one fear in America.These three strategies might help you deal with that fear, whether speaking to a group of two, or 20, or 200
1. Preparation compensates for a lack of talent! Prepare the talk in advance. Organize your visuals, handouts, props, and material. Practice and rehearse not only the content, but also the delivery. Analyze the audience by asking yourself these questions: In what are the attendees interested? What is important to them? How do they want to feel or think about the topic at the end of my presentation?
2. Your "first burst" is important! You should practice, rehearse, memorize, and/or choreograph your "first burst." This is your opening sentence or paragraph. The purpose of the "first burst" is to grab the attention AND the interest of your audience. Using hilarious humor, quotable quotes, startling statistics, topical stories, and/or a focusing question can accomplish this. Use your imagination when creating your "first burst."
3. Your audience is more forgiving than you are! Loosen up, lighten up, and have fun when making a presentation. Don't take yourself too seriously. The audience is not expecting perfection and neither should you! Remember: angels fly because they take themselves lightly.
One more thing: when in doubt, just get in front of the audience and "let 'er rip."
This rhyme summarizes my point. It seems a 17-year-old boy was debating whether to kiss his girlfriend. He dropped to his knees and prayed. "Lord, Lord up above, should I kiss the girl that I love?" A voice came back saying, "Sinner, sinner down below, pucker up and let 'er go!"
When in front of an audience, remember to "just pucker up and let 'er go!"
Now, go sell somebody something!
When I began my teaching career way back in 1986 (instructing a daily German 101 intensive drill class at William and Mary--I was a senior who had just returned from a Junior Year Abroad program in Germany), I made a decision to try to "keep my teaching real." That is, I wanted to connect my teaching with real life, and the real needs of my students, in a real world--not the "vague otherness" of a fake world of textbooks only. So, as I taught the German grammar and pronunciation drills, I also tried to explain when the students would use those patterns, with a few illustrative stories from my year in Europe thrown in.
In the intervening 29 years I have been blessed to be in this very rewarding and satisfying teaching career, I have certainly spent a fair bit of time in the artificial world of textbooks. And I do not mean to unduly criticize textbooks-- they have their place and role. (Disclaimer: I have also co-written at textbook.) But wherever possible, I believe it is best to try to "meet students where they are" and try to "make connections" between the material I am trying to teach and the real life and experience of the students.
Now in our eighth year of offering online English classes, the wonderful team of teachers I am blessed to belong to is able to teach students, by the miracle of the Internet, across the world, from China to France to right here in the USA. And so it is a particular delight to see other members of this team making real-life connections and building relationships with students in other countries, from other cultures. For decades I have encouraged my students to "learn your foreign languages!", and as we at DreyerCoaching.com help students improve their English skills, they will be better-able to communicate with others and I hope, in a small way at the individual level, be better-able to contribute to a world of peace and understanding.
So it was a pleasure to receive this photograph from Mrs. McKinney, a master teacher on our team, of her recent class with Jason, a young student in South China. He plays the clarinet, and to "keep it real" in class, he played a few tunes for his teacher, across the 8,000-some miles (13,000 km), in real-time. What a fantastic way to build the student-teacher relationship and take a personal interest in the lives of the students we are are blessed to work with on a weekly basis.
My mother tells the story of her mother, who was born in the milestone year of 1900, in southern Indiana. As a young girl in a one-room schoolhouse, my grandmother vividly remembered the day when the peace outside was shattered by the novel noise of a passing-by motor car--a newfangled invention the children had never seen before. (Imagine the peace and quiet the world must have had, not to mention the slow pace of life, before the advent of the gas-powered engine and cars.) Naturally curious, all the children sprang from their desks and bolted to the windows to see that new spectacle: a motor car! At that moment, my grandmother also vividly recalled, the teacher barked out an order for all the children to return to their wooden desks, to continue their lessons uninterrupted. As a teacher, I think of that story and ponder: what a waste! For those children (and that teacher) in the early 1900's in rural Southern Indiana, they had caught their first sight of an invention that would soon spread round the world and change life for all of us, forever. Yet the magic of the moment was quashed by a teacher focused on getting through her lesson plan. Thank you, Mrs. McKinney, for making those real-life connections with our students. Let's "keep it real," fellow teachers!
Over the summer the students in our Writing Boot Camp worked on their writing skills and read a novel based on a true story set in Southwest Virginia. The book is the life story of Revered Bob Childress, a preacher who went in to teach Christianity in what was then an unbelievable wide and dangerous area, ironically, not a far drive from our offices here in Roanoke, VA. The story was set in the 1920s-40s.
As one of our last writing assignments, the students were to take Childress, who passed away in the 1950s, and place him in 21st century America. We wrote this as there was rioting and looting in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the shooing of an unarmed black youth there.
If he were alive today, what would Childress do? What would he say? How would he approach people and problems?
This is what one of our campers came up with. Fine writing, especially when you consider he is a middle schooler in Taiwan, a non-English speaking country.
Our new classes start every year in September. From vocabulary to writing to speaking better English, we can help you too! Sign up today!
Ok, so I am facing a "milestone birthday" in a couple of days...for which I'm thankful! The way to have a long life? Keep having birthdays!
But still, maybe "age" has been on my mind more the past few days. So, let me set the scene:
I was teaching my SAT writing class today. We had had a great class, lots of good editing and discussion. The students all attend the highly-respected Science Park School in Hsinchu, Taiwan (國立新竹科學工業園區實驗高級中學) where I served as teacher and college adviser, 1992-1997.Class was over, but one student who had 8th grade exams the next day asked, "Mr. Dreyer, can I ask you a question?"
(When time allows, I like to let the kids ask extra questions about things beyond our class content. This extra "homework coaching" is an additional benefit for our students with DreyerCoaching.com.)
His question: "How can I do better at learning the locations of the European countries, especially the Balkans?"
(Side note: I am DELIGHTED to see people learning geography; I taught world geography at his school for five years back in the 1990s, and said, "Please tell your teacher how glad I am that is he is making you learn the countries of Europe.)
My answer: Try an online quiz game, like this one.
You can also print off a blank map and label each country, and then check your answers.
"However, it was a lot easier when I was a kid, because...." (I wanted to continue, "because we only had to learn Yugoslavia, but now you have to learn six or seven countries.")
But, he piped up! "You had the Ottoman Empire!"
In case you did not know, the Ottoman Empire fell in the 1920's, having basically been dissolved after WW I and the Versailles Treaty, because they were on the losing side. (Also, countries get punished when they lose wars--sometime, they cease existing altogether!)
So, we all had a good laugh, and I told the student, "I might remember the Ottoman Empire...if I were 100 years old!"
(Now, I was blessed as a boy to have a friend and next-door neighbor, "Aunt Lou," who was born in 1892 in Franklin County, Virginia: she would have remembered the Ottoman Empire! She clearly remembered Teddy Roosevelt! But she passed away in 1997--at the age of 105.)
Still, that young man had a good point: people back then did have an easier map to memorize! You didn't have to memorize names and places like Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq...well, you get the point.
Each January, many people spend time thinking about new goals for their year and life. Actually, there is nothing magic about doing that in January only. As author Gretchen Rubin writes, the best time to start a new habit--or break a bad habit--is not the first day of the week, or the month, or the year, but right now.
Still, many people do think about goals at the new year, and here are some points I heard from talk radio personality and financial guru Dave Ramsey on his January 4, 2016 program. Ramsey himself said he had heard these points from Zig Ziglar, famous motivational speaker.
Creating goals has 5 crucial elements. To help you be successful, your idea must be:
1. Specific. (If not, your idea is just a wish or a daydream.) For example, saying "I want to be in shape" or "I want to improve my grades" is vague. By the end of the year, it is hard to know if you have reached that goal or not. Specific versions of these goals are: "I want to be able to run a 7-minute mile," "I want to be able to finish a 5 kilometer hike in the mountains," or "I will have all A's or B's this semester."
2. Measurable. This is related to being specific, because we need goals to be something we can measure. Let's take the goal of health again. To say "I want to work out," is too vague and weak. Saying "I want to work out at the gym" is specific, but it's still not good enough. A measurable goal is, "I am going to work out at the gym, at least 3 times a week, for at least 50 minutes each time." This is not a wish, but a specific, measurable goal. By each Saturday night, you can look back on your week and know if you met your goal or not.
3. Your goal/Attainable. When you think about the goal, is it truly something you believe in? In other words, are you working for something because your friends, parents, or spouse wants you to do? To be increase your chance of attaining it, be sure it is something that is meaningful to you. For example, I have a friend who is a licensed attorney. She was successful at it for years, but she told me she went into law because her father suggested she do it. Later in her career, she stopped being a lawyer and became--get this--a public high school English teacher. Why? it was what she wanted to do, and she found her bliss.
4. Time-specific. Here too, an idea without a time limit is only a wish or a daydream. What's wrong with this thinking?
- One of these days I'll get in shape.
- One of these days I'll have a happy family.
- One of these days I'll get organized.
The problem is, they have no time-frame. Putting a deadline on the objective is a crucial step from turning a wish into a goal. Now, see how a time-frame changes these:
- I will be able to lift 30 kg (44 lbs.) by the end of the month.
- I will take my family on an overnight trip within two weeks.
- I will clear my desk off by 5:00 each day.
These are time-specific goals.
5. In writing. This is what Ramsey calls the "magic" of goal-setting. It's easy to have positive ideas in our minds, but when we take the time and effort to write them down--whether on a computer or paper--then we take our thinking to the next level. For one thing, it takes time and effort to write down our ideas, so that can convince even ourselves that we are serious about it. Plus, when ideas are only in our mind, they can be vague and "fuzzy." But writing has a way of clarifying and crystallizing our thoughts, thus making them easier to evaluate and implement. Further, when goals are on paper, we can share them with a loved one and ask for help with accountability, as well as have a clear "check list" where we can record our progress. Ramsey quoted the Bible verse Habakkuk 2:2.
"Then the LORD answered me, Write the vision. Make it clear on tablets. so that anyone can read it quickly." (God's Word translation)
Another way to express this is to call your goals SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for objectives that are: Specific, Meaningful (for you), Action-oriented/Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. See the image here.
Want to see a personalized video that business consultant Mr. Zach Clark, CEO of Development and Leadership Coaching, made for Scott in March 2018 on the topics of focus, goal-setting, planning, and follow-up? Watch it here!
A word about ANOTHER crucial part of goal-setting success
Let me close with a little story. Someone close to me has been working part-time for years, but never seemed able to save much money. At the end of each year, this person would get a statement showing how much money had been earned and reported for taxes, yet the bank account was always low--and so this individual would wonder: "How come I've been working so hard for so long, but I don't have anything to show for it? Now matter how much I earn, I spend it all!"
So one day in early summer, out of the blue, this person asked my wife and me: "Would you be my accountability partners?" This individual went on to explain: "I know myself very well-- if I have money in my bank account, I'll spend it, thinking 'it's okay, I've got lots of money.' So, I end up living paycheck to paycheck, but I really want to save some money this summer." So, the three of us got out a pen and paper, and I advised: WRITE DOWN THE SPECIFIC GOAL. "I will save US$1,200 by August 9, (before school starts), and I will do this by giving Deborah and Scott $350 each paycheck." This young person then put the paper on a place to see daily. My wife agreed to take the cash each paycheck and put it in an online bank. That way, the money is "gone" so this person cannot spend it, PLUS the amount earns some interest! Furthermore, this individual used to eat out a lot, but has now greatly reduced that habit and instead packs lunches--that alone has helped save lots of money.
Since this person asked me to be an accountability partner, it's my job to gently remind every two weeks: "Your $350 is due on Thursday." I am NOT nagging-- I am just doing my job, because this person ASKED for my help, so to NOT follow up would be negligence on my part.
I am delighted to report, this person has not only made the $350 investment each pay period, but this person sometimes saves OVER that amount! So, at this point, this individual is on track to SURPASS the $1,200 goal!
Just last night this person told me, "When I started, I didn't really think I could do it, so I'm so happy now to see I'm on track. Now, I want to save $5,000 by the end of the year."
My response: "It's amazing what we can all do, if we just set our mind to it."
The details will depend on your own personality and situation: would an accountabilty partner help you achieve your goals?
Here's to your success! If your goals include "improving my English," "being able to talk with foreigners," "going to high school or college in the US or an English-speaking country," "doing well on the SAT and TOEFL," or "improving my career," we can help you! At DreyerCoaching.com, we have English classes for children to adult, plus we help with writing and editing as well as US high school or college placement. When it comes to following your goal or dream, you are not alone. We can help you!
Zig Ziglar on Setting Goals. (Note: Zig Ziglar [1926-2012] was America's premier motivational speaker. I had the privilege of hearing him the last time he toured the Roanoke Valley of Virginia. This speech is of great value, but it is a challenging listening exercise because 1. he speaks quickly--often hundreds of words per minute, and 2. he was born in Mississippi, so he has a strong "Deep South" accent.)
Ask Scott Dreyer:
Q: What are some good Accommodations for ESL students?
A: Several teacher-friends of mine have asked me this question in recent years, especially as more Chinese students are coming to the US to attend middle school or high school. This is a great question. The word "Accommodations" has two meanings in English. It can mean
1. a hotel room or lodging: "Our accommodations were close to the train station," or:
2. a convenient arrangement; a settlement or compromise.
"management was seeking an accommodation with labor"
synonyms: arrangement, understanding, settlement, accord, deal, bargain,compromise
"an accommodation between the two parties was reached"
A personal note:
"Did you understand what was going on?" we asked her.
"I did fine in the music, PE, and math classes. I understood those."
That little girl's experience in second grade gives us some insights into successful accommodations for ESL students:
- kindness and a welcoming spirit on the part of teachers and classmates
- a "buddy" to help the new student fit in and find his or her away around
- an assigned seat, by the "buddy," near the front of class
- focus on non-lingual aspects, especially at first (music, PE, math, art)
Without a doubt, international students coming to the US will face many challenges. Because of my background and the focus of DreyerCoaching.com, this blog focuses mainly on Chinese-speakers coming to the US, but many of these principles will apply to students from most any country coming here. Students will obviously struggle with homesickness, culture shock, loneliness, and other challenges during their time here. And to think that many come here in their early or mid-teens--so young!--is remarkable and it must make the transition harder in many ways. Issues such as culture shock require another blog post on another day, but dealing with English is an enormous struggle. Over the past years I have routinely seen students come to the US with a second grade English reading level. When you think that these students are now expected to listen to lectures, read books, do homework, take tests, and participate in class at a grade 8-11 level, then you do not have to have a PhD in educational leadership to realize "there is something wrong with this picture." Everyone struggles:
the student feels bad because they cannot keep up with the work or sometimes even know what is going on. They may feel stupid. Let's say someone gave me (or you) a page to read in Russian. I cannot read it, not because I am stupid, but because I never learned to read Russian. Same with our students.
the teacher feels bad because they want to student to learn and grow, but the student may lack the basic skills. When some students become very frustrated, they may just give up and sleep or play on their phones in class = more teacher frustration. Teachers may also wonder: is this student struggling because of language weakness, or is laziness playing a role? Most teachers (through no fault of their own) have not been trained in ESL skills, and teachers are busy: many fear that if they focus too much attention on one or two ESL students, they risk neglecting the rest of the class.
the administrators feel bad because they are caught in the middle. They want all their students to be successful, but there is no magic wand, and some teachers complain about students "not ready for my class."
the parents feel bad, because they are feeling helpless thousands of miles away in their home country, usually they cannot speak English well so they cannot talk with the teachers or host family directly, but they are seeing poor report cards and test scores. Their response is often to berate the child for not working hard enough.
the host families feel bad, because they are willing to provide a room, meals, and family experience in the US (already a big contribution), but they are not equipped to provide focused ESL or homework tutoring. Add in that most host families have their own children and homework to worry about, not to mention jobs, mowing the grass, driving to and from soccer, etc., and you see host parents are "stretched to the limit" too. They can and should encourage their guest student to do well in school, but expecting host parents to invest hours each night helping with homework and learning English is probably unreasonable for most situations.
The agents feel bad, because they want the students to do well, but the agent is probably in another city like New York or some place and thus unable to help directly. The agent too is "caught in the middle," with schools telling them the student is ill-prepared, and the family asking "why is my child doing so poorly there?"
Wow, that's a lot of problems! Thankfully, there are many solutions as well.
As stated above, where possible, look for ways to emphasize the NON-language aspects, especially at first. Over time, you can gradually add more linguistic work. International students may be particularly comfortable in art, music, or PE classes, based on their interests. As an administrator, you might want to place that ESL student in an art class, rather than Spanish I. For many Chinese students, they are one to two years ahead of many Americans in math, so math may be relatively easy and a confidence-booster for ESL students. One potential trouble-spot: word problems.
But I would like to talk directly to teachers now. You do not have the power to place students in, say, art or music. The student is in your core-curriculum class. What are some options? Here are a few.
- Place the student in the front row: better to see and hear, fewer distractions
- Place a responsible student nearby as a helper: it may be an American student, or maybe another ESL student who has better English and can help
- Offer to let the student audio tape your class. The student can then go home and listen again, if needed
- Try to avoid IDIOMS in your speech. This is hard for many of us, but realize idioms can "throw our students for a loop" (confuse them). Let's say your students did a great job on a test. Rather than tell them, "I'm tickled to death you all rose to the occasion and hit it out of the park," say, "I am so happy you did so well on this test."
- Avoid cursive. We Americans take it for granted, but it is undecipherable for many ESL learners. Just this week a Chinese student told me about his frustration in an English class here in the US. "I was trying to write down the essay topic, but I could not read it." The teacher had--understandably--written the essay prompt in cursive, but the student could not understand it. The same goes for cursive notes he tries to borrow from classmates: unintelligible. Interestingly, my wife told me that students in Taiwan learn to read cursive, which is good, but our student said that is not taught in English classes in Mainland China; they only learn to read printed letters there. (If you have time, you might want to include some cursive lessons in your curriculum, or at the least, give your students a copy of a cursive alphabet so they can learn it on their own.)
- Hold your student to high behavior standards, the same as your non-ESL students: no phone-surfing in class, no head on desk. Do not make excuses for or enable poor or insubordinate behavior.
- Do not be afraid to assign your ESL student different tasks. Remember that "fair" is not always the same as "equal." For example, maybe you assign your class to read ten pages and answer five questions. But maybe you can assign your ESL student to read four pages and answer three questions. Is that "equal"? No, you are asking different things of different people. But is it "fair"? I think it can be, because of different ability levels. (See also "Animal School," a story teachers have been talking about since I guess the 1940's or so, but to not much effect.)
- For example, a grade 11 student just arrived from China was struggling with a document-based question (DBQ) in US history. The topic involved the worldview and values of the Puritans, so most of the documents had "King James English" from the early 1600's. Plus, the very content was alien to a student from atheistic China. These readings are hard for American students, let alone an ESL student. So, this teacher made an accommodation. The student had to do the assignment, but instead of using all dozen or so documents, he just used one: a map of a Puritan village. (High on visuals, low on text.) He saw the church in the middle of town and realized "Christianity was important." He saw the schoolhouse there too and realized "education was important." He saw the Village Green and Meeting House and realized "community and democracy were important," etc. Result? 20/20 on his paper. As time goes on, more documents can gradually be added to each DBQ. Maybe two in the 2nd 9 weeks, three in the 3rd, etc.
- Maybe you are studying Germany in history or geography. Instead of the traditional "5-paragraph essay" about Germany, maybe your student could play a violin piece by Beethoven or Mozart for the class, and tell a bit about the piece or musician?
- Among the 4 language modes--listening, speaking, reading, and writing--writing is the hardest. Think of little children: they learn to listen first, then speak, read, and writing comes last. Similar for our ESL learners, in some ways. Back to the Germany essay: What if Li doesn't play the violin? Maybe he can create a poster board about Germany with photos and facts and tell the class about it. Still too daunting? Maybe he can explain the project toÂ you in private outside of class some day. Or he can bring in some apple strudel and coffee? (That will help his popularity with his classmates!) Be creative.
- Be flexible. A history teacher emailed me this about a Chinese student: "His ability to write his thoughts is severely limited. When I talk to him, he can express his ideas much better. He sometimes uses drawings to supplement his written work, which I think is great. It helps me to see what he is thinking. Some of this may be a vocabulary issue." I commend this teacher for being flexible enough to let his student draw and explain some of his answers. And yes, it's definitely a vocabulary issue. (Does a student need 1 on 1 vocabulary help? See how DreyerCoaching.com can help you.)
- Testing: instead of essay answers, maybe try multiple choice with your ESL students. For fill-in-the-blank, provide a word bank to pull from. Consider giving your student more time to finish tests, taking them with you during your planning period in case of questions, or even taking the test home and using the book.
- Be available: let your student (and the host family) know of days you are available for any tutoring or to answer questions before or after school.
- Sometimes, you have to "face the facts" and realize there is a large gap. Bridging this gap may take some creativity. I know of one student with a grade 2-3 reading level, who was struggling in a middle school Bible class with deep theological and Greek terms. Wisely, I believe, that student was quietly moved to a grade 6 Bible class, which consisted mainly of reading Bible stories. The student flourished, and learned some key Bible concepts and allusions just from the stories and discussions. Another student had roughly a grade 5-6 reading level, but was in a class reading high school-level novels. That teacher simply accepted her student "where he was at," and let him work on the grade 5-6 workbooks in class, and she checked his classwork and homework in private. (Note: to avoid potential embarrassment from other students screaming out, "Why is the new kid using a third grade book?!", buy an inexpensive book cover.) The teacher can still (and should) assign homework and give grades; they are just not the same tasks as the non-ESL students have.)
These accommodations are not to be a long-term "crutch" or enabling device. Nor are they to be used to cover for laziness. As time goes one, the workload can gradually be increased and "mainstreamed," with the goal of helping the student reach grade-level work as soon as possible. But in those first few semesters and years, some additional support is usually necessary. And yes, I said "years." If a student comes to you with an elementary-reading level, he or she will not be at grade level after a few months and a few "silver bullets." It will take time and effort and patience, but it is possible and very much worth it!
This topic is broad, so this post does not claim to be "exhaustive." For some more ESL accommodations, click here.
What if we need outside help?
There will be many times with outside help is needed. Everyone is doing their best, but your staff is busy and over-committed. Everyone is working hard, yet struggling to see your international students succeed. That's where we can help you.
A Success Story
A Chinese student came to an independent school in our city about two years ago. She was mature, ambitious, and diligent, but her lack of English skills hampered her work. Furthermore, she had a hard time expressing some of her questions to her teachers, and her teachers were not sure she had understood all their answers or explanations. She was in a highly academic school with rigorous expectations, and she was struggling. Disturbed by their teachers' and student's frustration, the school administrators asked the student's agent for help. That agent then told them about DreyerCoaching.com and me, and how I could help. We quickly set up a meeting where I went to the school and met the student, some administrators, and some teachers. After everyone expressed their concerns and goals, we decided on a simple plan: the student and I would meet two hours a week, after school, for focused, intensive tutoring. Since I speak Chinese, the student and I could easily discuss her school work and particular issues. Plus, having helped Chinese people with English since 1989, I could quickly pin-point her common mistakes and explain how to fix them. Since her parents spoke no English and no one on staff at the school spoke Chinese, I was able to arrange and translate for some online chats between the parents and principals, to everyone's seeming relief.
The content of our weekly classes varied, based on the student's needs that week. Sometimes we worked on some homework or an essay she had been assigned. Many times we worked through Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) essay topics I had assigned her. Sometimes we worked through TOEFL or SAT review books. During her senior year, we mainly worked on her college application essays and her senior thesis, a HIGHLY rigorous assignment that required copious research, a twenty-page paper with documentation, and a public defense with Q&A.
We worked together during her junior and senior years, and it was great: she took the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) three times, gaining about 10 points each time, with a final score of 95. She was accepted to six fine universities, including the highly competitive Virginia Tech architecture program, which she turned down to study art up New York. It is hard to express how gratifying it was to watch her read her twenty-page senior thesis in practically flawless English, handle questions deftly, and later see her and meet her parents at her going-away party and graduation ceremony.
Take the next step
Do you have international students on your campus now who could benefit from some intensive, individualized help? We can help! From our headquarters in beautiful Roanoke, Virginia, we offer professional ESL services with veteran teachers, native speakers of American English, to anywhere in the world over the internet.
EVEN BETTER: Do you have students planning to attend the US in the future? Get them involved with our tutoring NOW, while they are still at home, so they can become used to speaking with Americans before they arrive. Many of our students have told us how their tutoring while still at home helped them have a smoother and more successful transition to a US school. In this video (in Mandarin), Benny from Beijing explains how his online experience with DreyerCoaching.com helped him prepare for his successful high school years in Roanoke, Virginia.
Happy Ending! Kyle from China with his American friends, graduating from high school!
Happy Ending: Graduation night!