Stephen Louw

Stephen Louw's blog on Ajarn.com


Theory vs practice

Who takes precedence, the theoretician or practitioner?

Who really knows the answers to the questions about education - the teachers who are in the classrooms, or the 'experts' working quietly in the halls of academia?


Triggers in the classroom

How to grab attention

Now classroom management is a complex thing, and identifying the reasons for the students' lack of attention is sometimes hard to do while things are descending into chaos. The real issue is what to do about it when it happens.


Do they do foreign accents?

Using fun technology to help student pronunciation

Because of way the speech recognition technology diligently transcribes sounds, the virtual assistants like Siri and Google Assistant that students have in their phones offer an interesting way for students to get feedback on how they are pronouncing their words in English.


10 go-to games for young learners' classes

Your kids will love them!

With a repertoire of 'fun' activities that are easily executed, new teachers can more easily build a working relationship with their classes. These games are not just a matter of filling time; they help re-engage a distracted class, they recycle vocabulary, get students using the language.


Trump gives himself a 10

The subtle art of self-evaluation

Not a lot of teachers I know use self-evaluation, and perhaps for good reason. There's a worry that students aren't qualified to self-evaluate, that it's the teacher's job (and duty) to allocate and distribute scores in some objective way.


Classroom observations: what can be seen?

The difficult role of the observing teacher

Observed lessons are never representative of a teacher's practice. The teacher and students are unnerved by my presence, and things feel stilted. Even when the lesson does go well, I know I'm seeing only part of the whole.


What if you were the Minister of Education?

A fun challenge to see if you, as a teacher, could do better.

Could you create the 'perfect' educational environment? In these positions, you'd have the power over some of the issues facing us every day as teachers, but not all. Some problems can only be addressed higher up the chain, at the ministry level.


Tin Tin in the classroom

The success and failure of eliciting

Questions form a crucial part of a successful lesson: they increase student participation and involvement, give the teacher valuable information about what the students already know, help to focus students' attention, and improve the teacher-student relationship.


The first days of the new school year

A new term usually means meeting new students

As you move into a new year with new classes, you may be considering what sort of impression you want to make on the students when you have your first lesson. What exactly should a teacher do in the first few lessons considering that these first impressions are so important?


A suitable resume

It's the time of the year for the job surge

April and May are good times to be looking for a teaching job in Thailand. Getting one starts with a resume or a Curriculum Vitae. We all know how it works, and what what to put into it, right?


Bad teacher!

Our experiences as students guide us as teachers.

It's painful to watch teachers model themselves on the teachers they specifically didn't like - a case of "Okay you lot, if you aren't going to listen, I'll do what Mr. D used to do to us in form 1. I hated that I was becoming Mr. D with my own students.


Food and the classroom

Language teachers need nutrition expertise too!

Our students eat. That's a good thing, except that after sweet snacks things can get complicated. This is most noticeable (for me, anyway) with kindergarten children who can't inhibit their impulses. The cause?


A good teacher

Who gets to decide what it means to be a 'good' teacher?

I have to admit that it is easy and tempting to think about teachers in shades of 'good'. But perhaps the reality is that there is no such thing as a good teacher. Or, if you are a glass-half-full sort, every teacher is good (in their own little way).


Do you teach pronunciation?

If you choose not to, your decision is easily justified.

When the class is struggling with remembering vocabulary, fighting with grammar rules, and also grappling with the whole notion of motivation to study English, taking time to perfect pronunciation seems like a real stretch of the imagination.


Who is worth working for?

In search of the holy grail.

Is there a Holy Grail of ELT jobs? Why are some teachers happy, while others suffer under a yoke of abuse? Who are these employers that are spoiling our fun?


A question of vocabulary (part two)

Getting to grips with Google N-gram

If time and resources allow, another way of handling questions of vocabulary is with the Google Ngram Viewer - a really useful tool for English language teachers!


A question of vocabulary

Helping students suffering from synonym-itis

It's such a pleasure to have students who are motivated to learn, and curious about the language. However, there is the little problem of how easily these enthusiastic learners can catch you out with curveball questions.


Phones in the classroom - a teacher's curse?

Should teachers tolerate telephones in the classroom?

Telephones have become an integral part of modern life, to the extent that they are an intrusion and compromise the long-term goals for our classrooms. I present the following arguments to support my position.


A cog in the wheel

The eternally pointless blame game

The participants in a school's operation are called stakeholders. Parents, teachers and students are perhaps the key stakeholders. Any (or all) of these contribute to, and can have a say in how things are run in a school.


My students don't even try!

The power of expectations

During my training as a teacher, we were told never to call a student stupid. Or lazy. Or bad. Or any other such pejorative. It seems like a sensible prescription, right? Criticize the behavior, not the person.


Teachers in the movies

Fictionalizing our reality

I love watching movies about classrooms and teachers. A lot of movie classroom scenes are blatant parodies of the real thing, which makes them strangely insightful.


Learning vocabulary

Let's start with Chinese household appliances

I had always taken teaching and learning lexical sets as a given - but perhaps in language teaching, there are no givens: it's a constant search for ways of doing things better.


Language learning

The curse of the native speaker

Let's face it - language learning is stressful stuff. There are words to memorize, grammar codes to figure out, rules that can't be broken, messages that have to be decoded and recoded, strange contortions of the lips and tongue, and frustration as everything comes out back to front.


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