Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tutoring assistance for ESL tutors

Sometimes, teachers need the help of teachers!

I often get inquiries from other ESL tutors who are needing some help organizing and developing their lesson plans, particularly new teachers. Since I have been doing this for a long time, I have had the opportunity to try out a lot of material on students and now have a large collection of invaluable resources.
ESL teachers can now hire me for help with planning and delivering their own ESL lessons. I will take you through the ABC's and nuts and bolts of what makes a memorable ESL lesson. If you have a particular area of dread , then I will show you how to tackle these areas so that you can develop confidence in all areas of teaching.
Having taught many different nationalities, I can prepare you in the areas that your students will most need help with.
ESL tutoring is a rewarding and exciting career, and well worth investing time and energy in your training.

This is my "How to" list that I will cover as needed with each teacher:

  • Lesson planning
  • Grammar review and how to best teach grammar.
  • Accent reduction and pronunciation.
  • Teaching vocabulary.
  • Free resources that you can use in your classrooms.
  • Creating a good learning environment.
  • Recommended reading list.
I am a qualified ESL tutor. For further information please contact me:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

IELTS Test Preparation - Listening Test

In order to obtain a high band score on the IELTS listening module, the ESL student should understand fully the structure of this section. This module of the exam is the same for both the academic and the general IELTS tests.

The listening module is 40 minutes total in length (30 minutes to give the exam and 10 minutes to transfer answers). It is divided into 4 sections. In each section the test taker listens to spoken English and answers questions related to that recording. The spoken English differs in the number of speakers and the type of speech occurring. The four sections are:

  1. A dialogue/conversation between two people

  2. A monologue/informational speech

  3. A dialogue/conversation between several people (more than 2 and up to 4)

  4. A monologue/lecture

As with all the modules of the exam, the test taker should be aware of the time limit and have an idea of how much time can be spent on each question. Taking practiced, timed exams prior to the real exam will help with this. Click here for a link to free IELTS practice tests.

Because the recording will be played only once, it helps to develop a strategy for identifying key points in the dialog and keeping in mind the questions that need to be answered. Before the recording is played, you will be given the question numbers that pertain to the recording. I recommend taking the time before the recording begins to identify key words in the questions. Mark the key words using an underline or some other marking. Also, read the INSTRUCTIONS for each question carefully. You will want to answer the question in the specific format requested. For example, a question may ask for a 2 word answer. Answering 3 words in this case would result in the question being marked wrong. Taking practice tests will help with this.

While you are listening to the recording, stay focused on the key words you identified in the questions. When you hear a key word spoken in the recording, this should cue you to listen for the answer to the question. Be careful, because occasionally the speaker may say something pertaining to a question and then correct himself or change his mind. Be ready for this and be ready to change your answer.

In most cases, the answers to the questions will occur in the same order in the recording as they appear on the written test. You should, however, try to keep in mind all the questions while you are listening.

The test is 30 minutes in length. You will, however, be given 10 additional minutes at the end of the exam to transfer your answers to the test sheet. So, I recommend writing your answers to the questions on the question sheet itself while the recording is playing. Use the 10 minutes you are given to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Take care and be diligent in copying the answers neatly and to the correct place on the answer sheet. Review the instruction again to be sure you are answering in the correct format. Also, remember, there is no penalty for wrong answers, so it is best to answer all questions. Copy the answers you do have to the answer sheet first, then go back and attempt to answer the ones you missed.

When preparing ESL students for the IELTS exam, I recommend they read a variety of materials in English, such as magazines, newspapers, and any other materials of interest. For the listening portion in particular, I would recommend listening to a variety of talk radio programs, such as those on NPR or the BBC. These two stations have programming which will give the ESL student an opportunity to listen to the types of conversations covered in all four sections of IELTS listening module.

If you are looking for more help preparing for the IELTS exam, I do offer private tutoring for IELTS preparation. I am a qualified ESL Tutor and have successfully coached many English learners. I would also be happy to give you some personal tips on how to prepare for success on this exam.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

TOEFL Preparation - The Listening Test

TOEFL Listening Test

The Listening section of the TOEFL includes lectures and conversations and is about 60-90 minutes in length. It contains about 34-51 questions overall. Its goal is to measure the test takers’ ability to communicate in an academic setting. Even if the test is computer-based, test takers may take written notes throughout the entire test.

The format of the listening test is in two parts: Conversations and Lectures.


The test will include about 2-3 conversations. Each conversation is about 3 minutes long and will have 5 questions related to it.

Examples of conversations in an academic setting would be: a meeting with a professor or instructor or a conversation with university staff or other students. For each conversation, pictures of the scene are shown so you can visualize the setting and participants.

In most cases each verbal exchange will be heard only once, but you may take notes while listening and refer back to those notes at any time during the exam.


The test will include about 4-6 lectures. Each lecture is 3-5 minutes long and has about 500-800 words. Each lecture will include 6 questions.

The lectures you will listen to in the exam are samples of the kinds of communication that occur in an academic setting. They generally include a professor speaking. In some of the lectures, there is dialog between the professor and students. In all the lectures, a picture will be shown of the people involved and the setting. You do not need to have background knowledge on the subject of the lecture to complete the test.

As with the conversations part you will be able to take notes and refer back to those notes to answer your questions.

How to Prepare for the Listening Exam

As with all TOEFL test preparation, the student should prepare for the Listening exam by practicing as much as possible. Practice is the most productive way to prepare for the exam. There are many practice tests that can be found by searching online. I have found a free TOEFL Listening Lecture with sample test questions as well as free TOEFL Listening Test online.

Click here for a link to sample test questions for all sections of the exam. (For the Listening section, this sample test shows a transcript of the spoken parts rather than an audio recording. However, it gives good examples of the types of questions asked.)

In addition to taking practice tests, I highly recommend listening to a variety of talk radio programs, such as those on NPR or the BBC to gain more practice listening to spoken English. A good exercise to do would be to listen to a portion of a broadcast and write down the conversation as you listen. Then listen to the broadcast again and check to see if you understood the words that were spoken.

Since some of the questions may require the listener to draw conclusions about the speaker’s feelings toward what is being said, it may also be helpful to think about this while listening to broadcasts. It may even be useful to listen to English lectures and speeches. Click here for a link to a great site with a wide variety of video speeches.

General Tips and Information for the Listening Exam:

For many people, the Listening section is the hardest part of the TOEFL test. Be sure you practice and prepare adequately.

Take notes on the conversation while you are listening. Practice note-taking during your test practice sessions as well.

There may be a question that measures your understanding of a speaker’s attitude toward what they are speaking about. This requires you to listen to voice tones and inflection to deduce how the speaker feels. Be sure to keep this in mind during your practice.

Some questions will refer back to a particular part of the lecture or conversation. In this case you will see a headphone icon, and that part of the conversation will be replayed for you.

You will hear the questions on your headphones and see them on the screen at the same time.

There is not a time limit for each question, but there is an overall time limit for the section. Keep this in mind when answering questions.

You must answer each question as it appears.

You cannot skip a question or go back to previous questions.

Resources for Test Preparation

There are many resources available online for preparing yourself to take the TOEFL test. I encourage you to use a variety of resources. In addition, working with an experienced TOEFL teacher can help you receive advice on how to improve your listening skills.

If you are looking for more help preparing for the TOEFL exam, I do offer private tutoring for TOEFL preparation. I am a qualified ESL tutor and have successfully coached many English learners. I would also be happy to give you some personal tips on how to prepare for success on this exam.

To schedule your free introductory lesson, contact me today!