A.E.I.O.U English

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Say It Loud

At Astar Education Institute,

our goals is for our student’s to practice their language skills daily in school and out of school.

When student’s practice their Speaking_and_Listening_Label

skills, they become more confident with using English. But sometimes, you run into challenges with Shy-student-400x266shy students who are afraid to speak in class and afraid to sound wrong or silly speaking English. As an instructor at Astar, I try to engage with my students in a not only professional way, but in fun and comfortable methods where they wont feel bashful about making mistakes and/or sounding silly.


At times, I crack a few jokes, use various facial expressions and vocal tones to show a more “goofy” side of myself.

My hope is to show them it’s ok to sound or be silly in class.

One day, I was wondering how I can not only make their learning environment more comfortable, but also explain to them the logic behind projecting their voice in class and practicing the sounds of English.


First, I thought about a recent example I was introduced to through learning music and learning to sing.6TyXj6j7c At times, I can get very shy when it comes to singing. I mean – if you hit a wrong note, it is NOT forgiving at all. Especially if it is super loud and other people are around and listening.

It can be very uncomfortable.

My instructor, yelled at me one day,

“Sing Out Louise!!!”

If you are familiar with musical theater at all, this phrase comes from the famous production of Gypsy.

gypsylogoMy instructor told me he would say that to me and call me Louise every time I would not “Sing Out” – meaning,

“Project my voice when singing. Sing loud so I can be heard. Sing Loud so you can hear yourself and so your brain can process the sound and you can learn the right notes.”

Let me tell you – THIS WAS SO UNCOMFORTABLE!!!

So when I thought of this example I was able to empathize with my students. I also thought about when I was learning Spanish in Costa Rica and how difficult it was to get use to hearing the foreign sound. I remember getting confused and frustrated about how to use,

“Por” and “Para”.

Man that drove me crazy!!! A Costa Rican friend of mine said to me, “The more you hear Spanish, the more your ear will become familiar with the sound and the more you will understand how to use it!”

At the time, that logic was “Moo” to me. My understanding was,

how can I know what sounds right if I don’t know what sounds right!!!!!?????

However, 8 months later it finally clicked! I was starting to understand and I even had my first dream in Spanish! It was GLORIOUS!!!

Using my life lessons, I decided to explain to the students the importance of projecting their voice loud enough so they can hear the English sound. For my students, English is a foreign sound and in order to get use to how this language is used they have listen and speak loud enough so they can hear themselves. It’s very similar to singing. In order for me to learn the right notes I have to hear myself create the correct sound. Otherwise, I will not know how to correctly produce musical notes.

Anyhow, I did a little hand puppet demonstration explaining this logic of mine, hoping that they would understand. Thank goodness they did. They laughed and said,

“Ok teacher!”

From that day forward they have been projecting their voice. Take a look at the video I created of me explaining this theory to my students! 🙂

The Barter’s Club

Today Astar Intermediate English students played a card game called, The Barter’s Club. The student’s current unit is on money, borrowing, trading and counterfeit bills.

Using their vocabulary words and content from the unit, I came up with a game that will allow them to practice:

Listening & Speaking




Critical Thinking


Connect real-world situations



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Developing the game took me about 15-20 minutes. I used regular index cars, pens/markers and the content from the unit.

The game is similar to Go Fish:

  1. Each player gets 4 cards.

  2. Each card consists of a product and it’s value.

  3. In the deck of cards there are 4 “Piracy” cards. I will explain how those are used later.

  4. Each person chooses one other player to barter with by offering one of their cards (products). Do not let the other player see your card. You do not have to disclose the value or details of the product if you don’t want to, i.e. model, price, condition, etc. If the player asks you questions about the product then, YES – You MUST tell them the truth.

  5. The other player will decide what they would like to barter. The two will either negotiate or say not interested in doing business.

  6. If the two players make a trade, they can draw one card from the deck.

  7. If the two players do NOT decide to make an exchange they hold on to their cards and the turn passes to the next player.

  8. If a player decides to use their “Piracy” card, this means they have an opportunity to see the other player’s hand (all of your products) and take any ONE card of their choice. The player then puts the piracy card underneath the deck of cards.

  9. The idea is to collect as many products as possible. Whoever loses all of their cards first is out of the game.

I played this game with 4 people including myself. The student’s really enjoyed the game. They understood their vocabulary afterwards and were able to get a comprehensive understanding of their unit.


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The Producers Daily Reflection

To piggy back on one of my latest blogs, Back To Kindergarten, team

I would like to reflect on the word “Producers”.

When a person produces something, they are creating a vision of theirs and bringing it to life. Think about the last thing you produced? Maybe it was a painting…An architectural structure…A delicious meal…etc. When the project was finished, you may have been very proud of the final product. You were proud because it was your vision…you Owned this project.

In my last blog I wrote about students taking ownership of their work will help them become better connected to the teachers lessons. They need to be the producers!

Teachers should, “organize instruction so that students are the producers, not just the consumers, of knowledge.”

When students are ProducersLogo0708(1) it sets the tone of the classroom as “Reflective“.Teachers who promote reflective classrooms ensure that students are fully engaged in the process of making meaning.

Today during class I introduced the “Daily Reflection“. Since this is a beginner/intermediate ESL class, I have to gradually build the students up to a more detailed reflection. But for now, I want them to practice retelling and reflecting on what they learned. This also gives me the opportunity to see if they really mean “Yes, they understand” when I ask if a concept is clear.

From this exercise, I want to guide them into a more strategic method of reflecting where they are able to make connections to previous lessons, real-life situations and predict what new concepts are in the near future.

If we want students to get in the habit of reflecting deeply on their work—and if we want them to use Habits of Mind such as applying past knowledge to new situations, thinking about thinking (metacognition), and remaining open to continuous learning—we must teach them strategies to derive rich meaning from their experiences.

implementing discussions, interviews, questioning, logs and journals will help engage students and guide them into a deeper and more reflective state of mind.


It is also very important to model how to reflect before asking your students to complete a daily reflection activity. Again, with ESL students who have different English language skills, strengths and weaknesses, I chose to keep my reflection activity simple in the beginning with the intentions of increasing it to a deeper and more strategic process.


1. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/Learning-Through-Reflection.aspx

Using Flashcards for Fun & Visual Learning

Using Flashcards for Fun & Visual Learning


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If I had to pick only 1 teaching tool to bring into the classroom, it would be flashcards. Over the years I have drawn, printed, laminated, and used hundreds of flashcards. Versatile, durable, visual, and super affordable — flashcards are a must for every Early-Learner and ESL teacher.

Here’s why:

  • Kids go bananas for them! (2-12 years old) Pictures! With colors! Cute!!!! What’s not to love?
  • Easy to use. This is an obvious one but it’s too true to leave out. Flashcards don’t take any set up time at all and can be used regardless of the class size, nationality, or age. Pineapples are pineapples in everyscreenshot-www.mes-english.com 2015-03-12 06-51-11
  • Reusable and durable. Even with large classes of rowdy kids and, unlike worksheets, arts and craft items, or toys, flashcards can be used again and again without taking damage. That is, if you laminate them first 🙂
  • Visual learning. This one is important for…

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Ten Common Mistakes ESL Teachers Make in the Classroom (And How to Fix Them)

Ten Common Mistakes ESL Teachers Make in the Classroom (And How to Fix Them)

So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

Nobody is perfect. That’s the truth. It’s the same for doctors, lawyers, parents, students, and teachers. Nobody likes making mistakes. Big or small, mistakes can kill self-esteem, loom over our heads like some grim reaper created out of our own idiocy. In a classroom, teachers often make mistakes early on in their careers; veteran teachers make mistakes, too.


What mistakes do ESL teachers make?

ESL teachers tend to frequently make mistakes throughout their first year. The inadequate training of some programs, lack of preparation, and general inexperience all contribute to these mistakes. They’re fairly common, so don’t feel bad. I made numerous mistakes my first year teaching, and I still make mistakes from time to time.

Here are ten common mistakes ESL teachers make (taken from both BusyTeacher, and ABCfrog).


1.Too much “Teacher Talk Time” – This is a very common mistake teachers make. The teacher might…

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Back To Kindergarten

You may remember a time when you were in kindergarten, or grade school; or maybe you taught kindergarten before and can recall how engulfed they were in their classwork. They REALLY cared about how perfect their christmas tree picture was or they were beyond enthused about stringing raw noodles onto a string. I think it’s safe to say – They were dedicated.


Fast forward to middle school …..

If your teacher assigned you christmas tree art or a noodle stringing project to complete, your response may include the following:

a). Roll your eyes and suck your teeth

b). Totally ignore the assignment and continue snap chatting with friends

c). Rush through the assignment so you can have an extra 5-10 minutes of down time to – continue snap chatting with friends

d). All the above

I’m sure most middle school students would choose answer D.

But, why?

Why were the kindergarteners so enthused about their project? Why wouldn’t a middle schooler be enthused to accept this project and possibly gain a quick A out of the process? Well, the kindergarteners took ownership of their work! They were dedicated and passionate about that christmas tree and those noodles.

I don’t think it was necessarily the idea of christmas trees and noodles that threw of the middle schoolers – possibly it was because there was no connection to them and the assignment – no power was involved – no opportunity to extend this assignment and come up with new ideas – no interactivity.


“Giving power to my students? Won’t that mean school days full of texting, non-educational movies and zero learning? Maybe not …

Empowering students is not the same as abdicating control of your classroom. The ASCD’s journal Educational Leadership defines student empowerment as “student ownership of learning.” That is a good way to look at it – helping students take control of their own education. But how do you do that?”

If you give the “Christmas Tree” assignment, give them the power to connect with it personally. Meaning – maybe it’s not just a tree on a piece of paper – maybe it’s not just about coloring and tracing. Nowadays, with today’s technology, there are multiple avenues to use to complete an assignment – let the student decide! This way, they aren’t just creating a tree – they are making Their Tree!

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Interactive Learning has evolved out of the hyper-growth in the use of digital technology and virtual communication, particularly by students.

Interactive learning is a more hands-on, real-world process of relaying information in classrooms. Passive learning relies on listening to teachers lecture or rote memorization of information, figures, or equations. But with interactive learning, students are invited to participate in the conversation, through technology (online reading and math programs, for instance) or through role-playing group exercises in class. 

How does it help?
In addition to engaging students who are raised in a hyper-stimulated environment, interactive learning sharpens critical thinking skills, which are fundamental to the development of analytic reasoning. A child who can explore an open-ended question with imagination and logic is learning how to make decisions, as opposed to just regurgitating memorized information. Also, interactive learning teaches children how to collaborate and work successfully in groups, an indispensable skill as workplaces become more team-based in structure.  

At Astar Education Institute, teachers  strive to take classrooms and lessons “Back To Kindergarten”.

It is important to have a balance between passive learning techniques like lecturing and independent reading with more active assignments that integrate technology and force students to apply lessons in new and often unexpected settings. However, keep the kindergarten class in mind – Think about  how dedicated the children were, the interactive activities, their project ownership and try to apply similar principals to your next lesson. Incorporating these elements into a lesson can create an optimal learning environment for your students.

Watch the ASTAR students ENGAGE in the Sports and Exercise Lesson and INTERACT within their groups. 

If you are interested in learning English, more about occupational development and the Work Force Program at Astar Education Institute, you can visit our website at http://astarinstitute.org/. You may also contact us by phone at 703-368-6838.


  1. http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/your-child-technology/understanding-interactive-learning
  2. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-interactive-learning.htm#didyouknowout
  3. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Leadership-for-Student-Empowerment.aspx
  4. http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm


Diversity In The Classroom


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Astar’s students come from all over the world such as Columbia, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia and China, to name a few. Having a classroom of students that speak a different language encourages them to use the one skill they have in common which is speaking English. A diverse classroom allows students to practice their conversational skills and it increases class participation. This type of environment opens up the door for peers to help one another.

Peer Correction in English Language Teaching, is a method of correcting work where other students in the class correct mistakes rather than having the teacher correct THEM. 

According to Paul Rollinson (2005), the principles operating behind applying this technique are:

1. Peer feedback is less threatening than teacher feedback. Because students are more comfortable with their classmates and therefore, getting corrected by own friends evokes less anxiety.

2. When correction comes from the teacher, it reinforces teacher’s authority. In a traditional language class, the teacher is the authoritative figure and s/he is considered the sole source of knowledge. Students play the role of just a passive receiver of information. But through the practice of peer feedback, the classroom becomes less dominated by the teacher.

3. The involvement of peers in the correction process makes the classroom atmosphere more supportive and friendlier.

Watch the students as they collaborate in the Parts Of Speech matching game and discuss the answers with one another.