Teacher Tech: Making Your Own Video Subtitles

There’s some debate about whether it’s worthwhile to add subtitles to video clips that are shown in class. While that’s a good topic for another day, there likely will be times when, for whatever reason, you’ll want students to have subtitles to read as they watch a video. But what if you’re unable to find subtitles? Well, it’s actually possible to add your own. This article will show you one way to do this, and it doesn’t require any money, subscriptions, or tears on your behalf. Well, maybe a few tears, but at least it won’t cost you money.

First, the bad news. Adding subtitles isn’t as easy as it used to be … or, at least last time I checked. Years ago Windows had a free app known as Windows Movie Maker that allowed users to effortlessly add subtitles to their videos; however, this program was discontinued and every other method of adding subtitles now requires a bit more work: enough work such that fully subtitling a feature-length movie is probably out of the question. The good news is that, while a bit time consuming, it’s not terribly hard, and once you get the hang of it, you can subtitle a short video in under an hour.

Before We Start:

Before we learn how to add subtitles, it might worth talking about why you might need to use them in the first place. I’ve found adding subtitles can be useful when:

A. The English is too fast for students to understand, or uses unfamiliar pronunciation,

B. You want students to focus on the video’s overall meaning, rather than interpreting the English,

C. The English is too difficult, in which case a “simple English” (or even Korean!) translation can be
provided through the subtitles.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s learn how to do it.

Step 1: Download Shotcut

Yes, I know: I hate installing random programs, too. But Shotcut is, in my experience, one of the better free movie-editing apps out there. I’ve experimented with quite a few and, while Shotcut isn’t always intuitive and takes a bit of practice to figure out, it tends to have the best usability-to-hassle ratio among other free programs out there.

Here’s the link where you can download the program: https://www.shotcut.org/download/

Step 2: Select Your Video File

Easy enough: Simply open Shotcut, then drag and drop the file to which you want to add subtitles:

Your video will now appear in Shotcut.

Step 3: Add your Video to the Timeline

You’ll notice a big blank spot at the bottom of the Shotcut interface. Drag and drop the video window down to that area …

… and this will happen:

Step 4: Split the Video

Now’s the hard part. You’ll need to split the video at any point you want to add subtitles. To do this, first click anywhere above or below the blue timeline. DON’T click on the timeline itself. Once you do this, a white vertical line will appear where you clicked.

The white line is the cursor. You can drag it wherever you want on the video. NOTE: pressing the spacebar will cause the video to begin playing at the cursor, and pressing the spacebar again will cause everything to pause.

If you press S or the ][ symbol on Shotcut’s interface, this will happen:

You’ve now split the video at this location. As with a word document, you can press Ctrl+Z to undo it if you’ve made a mistake.

Find a place where you want to add a subtitle, and split the video at the beginning and end of the part where you want the subtitle to show, like this:

If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice two black bars sectioning off a portion of the video. This will be the frame where your subtitles will go.

Step 5: Add the Subtitles

Now, click on the frame where you want to put the subtitle. You can click directly on the blue timeline this time. The frame will be highlighted in red.

Now, go to the menu at the top of Shotcut, and select “Filters.”

Next, hit the + button below the window in the upper left.

A menu will pop up. Type “text” in the search bar. Then you can choose from either “simple” or “rich.” So as to not get too confusing, we’ll go with simple text for now, but if you have time, you can experiment with rich text later.

Now type your subtitle!

NOTE: If your subtitle isn’t appearing in the video window, it’s probably because your cursor is at a different point on the timeline. Move the cursor to the current frame, and your subtitle should show up.

You can adjust the position of the subtitle by dragging the little gray ball in the center of the video window.

In the event you totally mess up, the subtitles can be removed by clicking the – button next to the + button you clicked earlier.

Here’s the good news: You’ve now added your subtitle. The bad news? Now you have to do that EVERY TIME you want to add more subtitles. Unfortunately, without advanced knowledge of subtitle-creation software, this is probably your best option.

Step 6: Save the File

If you just save from the menu, it will save everything as a Shotcut project, but not as an actual video. In order to change everything to a video, you must convert it. Fortunately, this is pretty easy.

Simply click on “File” on the far upper-left, then select “Export Video” from the drop-down menu. Finally click “Export File,” shown here:

It will take a little while to convert the file. You can see the progress in the window on the right. When there’s a green checkmark, your video has been exported and saved.

Good job!

You’ve succeeded in adding subtitles to your video!

Sources:

The Art Institute of Colorado. (2011). How Coyote and Eagle Stole the Sun and Moon. YouTube. USA. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGXRSfdObag&ab_channel=EricaPrettyEagle.

Tips for Selecting Appropriate Videos for the Classroom

Picture this: you’re back in school, ready for another boring day of learning. You’ve got out your textbook and corresponding notebook, and have just set your pencils at the top of the desk when suddenly the teacher rolls in an antique relic of a TV player and a VCR. The mood in the class suddenly lifts – it’s a movie day!

Videos can be a great way to pique student interest, add other authentic voices to the classroom, create engagement, and a lot more. They can also be a great “treat” for students, but it’s not always appropriate to rely on videos rather than have a more active, student-centered classroom. In this post, we’ll go over ways that you can incorporate media into the classroom.

Consider Video Usage

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When considering a video, think about why you want to use it. Will it add something to your class, or is it just an interesting time filler? Of course, the latter is fine in some circumstances, but if you truly want students to learn, it might be best to watch the video yourself and come up with a lesson or activity from it. 

When planning to use a video in your class, consider this: if parents, a principal, or other educator were in the room with you, would you still play it? If the answer is “no,” then strongly reconsider using it.

Preview the Video

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This may seem like common sense, but when considering showing a video or videoclip to students, you should always watch it in advance. Nothing is worse than frantically trying to stop or block a video that takes a sudden inappropriate turn, and the fallout from showing inappropriate material – even accidentally – can be severe. You’ll also want to make sure that the video is appropriate for your students’ ages, English levels, and interests. If you don’t have a ton of time, consider playing the video at 2x speed when previewing. You’ll still be able to understand it, and you’ll get through it twice as fast. 

Use Subtitles

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I have a confession: I always watch movies and television shows with subtitles, even when the media is originally in my native language. I get distracted by what’s going on in the background, my phone, and of course, listening becomes an impossibility the minute I decide to eat some chips.

In the classroom, students likely have similar distractions, or have other reasons they need subtitles. Subtitles can vastly improve comprehension. Depending on what your goal is with the video, consider using subtitles – or if you can show the video more than once, try using subtitles for at least one of the views. 

Think About Video Length

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If you’re teaching a forty minute class, it’s probably not in the best interest to use a full twenty minute episode of something. When playing a video, its presence in the classroom needs to be justified with your teaching practice. Do you really need to play the full time, or can the actual content you want to use be made shorter? We can circle back to the parents or principal rule: if you would cut the video down if they were there, do it for your students.

Pick Appropriate Clips or Pieces From the Video

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I once met an instructor who, instead of teaching a class, would simply play entire Ted Talk videos as a substitute for actually teaching.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using Ted Talks to supplement your class, but videos definitely should be used alongside teaching, rather than replace it!

As discussed earlier, it isn’t always the best choice to simply play a full video in class. Instead, you can glean pieces of clips that are relevant to your classroom. This will make sure that the video content is concise, and give you more time for teaching and going over content in class. If you do want to use material from a video in class, or you think that what they’re saying is good, you can watch the video, learn it yourself, and then cite what they are saying in a shorter way. This will make your class go more smoothly, and ensure you can maintain a better balance.

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These are just a few things to keep in mind when selecting a video to use in your classroom. As ever, use your own judgement – it’s likely that you know your students and what is appropriate to use for them in the classroom.

Soft Skills in the Secondary ESL Classroom

Listening, reading, speaking, writing, grammar . . . these are all skills that every secondary-education English teacher tries to improve in their students. However, being a teacher is more than just teaching the skills involved in a subject; it’s also about equipping students with the life skills they need to be successful members of society. Unfortunately, there are seldom any classes that teach these skills, but the good news is that we, as teachers, can incorporate them into our everyday lessons. In today’s blog post, we’ll look at some auxiliary skills—or soft skills— that high-school and middle-school teachers can subtly incorporate into the flow of their usual classes.

A quick note before we begin: this article is intended to simply bring awareness to the need for these skills. Readers might find themselves wondering just, how, exactly, to effectively teach them to their students. While this article will give a few tips, each one is a topic in its own, about which an entire book could easily be written! Fortunately, GIFLE often holds training related to these topics and more, so we encourage readers to keeping checking this blog for further teaching tips and advice – or better yet, enroll in some of our trainings!

Note-Taking Skills

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In my previous job, I was tasked with helping students deliver a speech for a school competition. To this end, I gave them a variety of words that I thought would be helpful in accomplishing their goal. “If I were you,” I’d say, looking over the rims of my glasses to drive the subtle hint across, “I’d use these words in your speech to maybe get a few extra points on your final score.” Then I watched as the students, instead of writing the words down, continued to stare straight ahead, slack jawed. During the students’ final presentations, probably one student among the whole sophomore class used any of the words I taught them (and that student got a pretty high score, incidentally).

Later, when test time drew near, I was tasked with overseeing student self-study sessions. It was during this time I noticed something curious: not one student studied from a notebook. Studying was done either by pouring over highlighted textbooks or grinding through multiple-choice problems in their practice books. It hit me then: my students didn’t know how to take notes. Or, if they did, they weren’t convinced of the skill’s usefulness.

Taking notes is such an important habit for students to have. As a former language student, myself — having logged in over 3,000 classroom hours studying Modern Standard Arabic — I can tell you that there are so many grammar points, words, and tips that might be helpful to one student, but not to another, and test-practice books alone cannot account for these. Students need to be encouraged to actively listen and be ready to take (and later review) notes in order to tailor their study to their particular needs.

What’s more, this is a skill that is not only useful for English, but for any skill. For example, anyone who’s studied taekwondo, for instance, can likely recall a time they were taught a technique, only to attend class the following week to find themselves asking, “wait, how did that move go?” Similarly, anyone with a busy schedule knows they need to write their meetings and appointments in some kind of planner, or they’re bound to forget an important event. Whether it’s English, taekwondo, or business, note taking is a skill teachers need to encourage in their students.

How does one teach that skill? Well, that can be a complex topic best covered in another post, but a good place to start can be to make sure your students come to every class with a notebook and pencil. When you teach a point that you think is particularly important or useful, tell them to write it down!

Personal Accountability for Assignments

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I used to teach a lesson about riddles. Students would spend one class period thinking, in a team, of abstruse clues regarding an object of their choice. They would write these clues down, then present them in the following period in a sort of class competition. Sometimes students would lose the papers on which their riddles were written. My solution? Tell them “tough luck.”

I’ve noticed this with other activities as well. Any time I’ve had a class that required students to bring in a paper (or other item) a following class session, several (or sometimes many) forgot. This shows a real lack of organization and responsibility in high school students . . . which is to be expected in teenagers, of course! However, that’s why we need to teach them responsibility now, so that today’s high school students don’t end up becoming tomorrow’s businesspeople who forget to bring important documents to meetings, or paramedics who forgets to bring important pieces of life saving equipment to emergencies.

To this end, I encourage teachers to resist the temptation to manage students’ materials. Often, teachers prefer to collect ongoing assignments (book reports, projects, etc.) and return them for students to work on in subsequent classes, since this insures students will be able to use class time productively (or, in the case of written assignments, that they don’t have their friends do the work for them). However, this doesn’t build habits of responsibility. Instead, it makes students think that, even if they forget something important, there will always be someone to cover for them.

Of course, it’s easy to talk about this, but when a student shows up in class with nothing to do, it’s much harder to enforce it in reality. Therefore, it’s good to have a backup plan for forgetful students. For example, if a student forgets a report they’re working on, have them try to their best to continue it in class, then later re-write it on the original paper. At the same time, don’t be afraid of awkward moments. If a team forgets presentation material? Well, then they have to try it from memory, and if it doesn’t go well, let it be a lesson for how the real world works.

Confidence and Risk Taking

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The famous American baseball player Babe Ruth once said that we miss 100 percent of the shots we don’t take. Well, Korean students often use the opposite idea: We never give a wrong answer if we never participate. This is an unfortunate philosophy by which to live life. While there’s something to be said for the “better safe than sorry” outlook on life (ask anyone who’s been injured in a fireworks accident), it also means they miss out on a lot of potential life opportunities, and in class this will mean that students, out of fear of appearing foolish to their classmates, seldom volunteer.

But how does a teacher help inspire confidence in students? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer for this; (GIFLE’s Level One teacher training last month centered around this very issue, in fact!) but a good place to start is to try to create a classroom environment that allows mistakes. I often tell students that shy people seldom make history, and that sometimes being successful means doing things wrong once in a while. If a student’s answer is wrong, I might take a moment to explain why the answer might have seemed right to them when giving corrections. For example, if a student makes a pronunciation mistake, I’ll tell them “yes, a ‘p’ usually makes that sound, but when paired with an ‘h,’ the sound changes to that of an ‘f,’” instead of simply telling them “no, that’s wrong.”

Of course, this isn’t to say you have tell every student every time that every effort is a good effort. Sometimes they need to be told to get their heads out of the clouds and focus! That’s our next topic.

Attention to Detail

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Many ESL teachers will tell you not to focus too much on minor grammatical mistakes, as fear of making mistakes discourages students from speaking or writing their own English (see above). There is a lot of truth to this: if a student has to pause every time to consider if they need a definite or indefinite article before a noun, it can really slow down the speaking process.  However, there are also times when students should be made to consider some of the finer details of their English. This is because students often have a habit of being hasty and overlooking certain small, but important points. For example, in their writing, they might forget to capitalize their names, or place a period at the end of a sentence. What’s more, they seldom take time to proofread any pieces of English writing they submit to the teacher. These instances and more provide opportunities to teach students to put effort into the quality of their work.

This is an important life lesson for students. Again, bad habits in school can lead to bad habits as an adult. A student who doesn’t take time to check to see if the first word in every sentence is capitalized might later become a doctor who forgets to check if his patient is allergic to any medications, or an accountant who doesn’t take time to check her math.

So when it comes to certain, basic, English concepts, don’t be afraid to make sure your students are paying attention to the little things once in a while.

Wait! What About …

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Critical thinking? Citizenship skills? The ability to draw a realistic-looking cat? Yes, all of these and more are valuable soft skills for students to have, and there are many more you might be able to think of, as well. The above items are just four examples to consider when teaching your students. Remember, our job isn’t just to create English speakers, but future leaders, as well.

Teaching a Mixed Level Classroom: A Practical Guide on Assessments

In an ESL classroom, it’s pretty common to have students of all levels. This can make it difficult for both the educator and the students. Lower-level students often feel demotivated in a classroom where the assignments are too difficult. It’s understandable – if the material is so far out of reach for them that they can’t complete it, then why should they bother? In a similar way, advanced students might feel bored if the assignment is way below their level. They’ll disengage from what we’re trying to teach, which is never what we want to foster in a classroom environment.

So, how do we engage students of all different English abilities?

Differentiation – that is, creating different assignments in order to make them appropriate to different students’ English levels- is a great way to even out the playing field and make a more equitable classroom where every student has the chance to learn, grow, and maybe even earn an A. In this post, we’ll go over the steps to begin creating differentiated assignments in your classroom.

Step 1: Know Your Student’s Levels

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It’s likely you at least have some idea how well your students speak English. In my classroom, I normally categorize students using WIDA standards, but if you’re unfamiliar with this it can look intimidating or tricky. Instead, you can try categorizing your students into low, intermediate, and high proficiency. 

When thinking about students in this way, you’ll want to judge your students by class standards. So, “intermediate” should be the level where the majority of your class is. The outliers who are better would be your “advanced” students, while the ones trailing behind are your “low” levels. 

Of course, we get classes who skew towards advanced and ones who need much more basic instruction in English. So long as you generally know where your students lie, you should be able to create assignments that are accessible to everyone. 

Step 2: Write Your (Differentiated!) Objectives 

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By the end of your lesson, you want your students to have learned or accomplished something. However, what that “something” is can vary wildly depending on your student. At times, I’ve been thrilled if my low-level students can pick up just a few vocabulary words, but this would obviously be a ridiculous objective for some of my students who are at or near full fluency. Instead, I might want them to be able to write a full, five paragraph essay by the end of the lesson. It’s important to keep this in mind when writing objectives. 

For example, check out these differentiated objectives I created for three different levels of students, in a class about American culture. 

Low Level:

  • Student can use vocabulary terms in scaffolded sentences
  • Student can discuss about appearance using scaffolded sentences and visual aids
  • Student can write about appearance with appropriate accommodations 

Intermediate Level:

  • Student can use vocabulary in short sentences
  • Student can discuss about appearance with peers and ask some questions. They may be allowed to use some supports such as sentence prompts
  • Student can write about appearance with appropriate accommodations 

Advanced Level: 

  • Students can use vocabulary terms correctly in a full, complex sentence or paragraph
  • Student can fully discuss what they’ve learned about appearance with peers; ask questions; and show general mastery of the language surrounding the curriculum
  • Student can freely write about appearance

In these three different levels of objectives, you can see I want them to all vaguely do the same thing: they should know and be able to use vocabulary, be able to discuss about appearance, and complete a writing assessment. What varies between these objectives is the level of support that students get. Keep in mind that students can normally generally complete the same thing; the only thing that should change is scaffolding and other supports. 

Step 3: Choose an Assessment

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As educators, we have a myriad of assessments available to us, ranging from jigsaws to performance assessments such as doing a presentation. In the objectives above, the assessment is for students to be able to write about appearance. As mentioned, students can almost always do the same assessment; all that needs to change is the level of support or scaffolding students might get for each assignment. This step is therefore pretty straightforward: you can just pick an assessment like you would in any normal class!

Step 4: Differentiating the Assessment

Just as objectives should be differentiated to spell out what different levels of students should be able to accomplish by the end of the lesson, assessments should also be differentiated to let students be able to actually accomplish the objectives. 

So, let’s look at a practical example, based off of our earlier objectives.

In this writing assignment, students need to describe the woman pictured below. However, as you flip through the slideshow, you can notice that low-level students need to complete a cloze activity where they simply fill in the blanks (with help of a wordbank), intermediate students are expected to write sentences, and high-level students are expected to be able to compose paragraphs.

Wrapping Up

Now that your have differentiated objectives and assessments, you of course have to give them to the students! If I’m in a physical classroom, I simply like to have three different baskets at the back with the different assessments in them. I tell the students to choose one and only turn one in. If I’m online, I upload the three versions to an LMS and again tell students to only complete and turn in one.

Ever since I started differentiating my assessments to be appropriate to student levels, I’ve noticed that there’s much higher participation overall in my classroom. Students are much more likely to complete their work if it’s accessible or interesting for them to do. Higher engagement makes my job much easier – definitely worth the small time price it takes to create differentiated assignments.

Zoom Teaching Tips: How to Present Information Better

Online teaching has become a necessary part of school life during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. If we were to break it down, there are three models of online teaching that are viable in most cases: the synchronous model, the asynchronous model, and blended.

In the first method – the synchronous model – teachers and students use Zoom or Google Meet to teach students face-to-face and in real time via a computer. The second way of online teaching, the asynchronous model, has the teacher provide educational materials in a Google Classroom and lets students view the materials on their own time. The students then studies the material, completes the assignments and uploads them on Google Classroom or another LMS. The final model is blend between synchronous and asynchronous model where Google Classroom is used along with online classes with Zoom or Google Meet.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to discuss some tips that you can use in all three of these models for classroom success.

Zoom Tips for Classroom Success

Here at GIFLE, we have been mostly using Zoom to do synchronous online training programs and classes, namely our school visit program and the English Conversation Program. As a coordinator observing, managing, administrating and teaching these programs, the following are a few observations I had about doing classes through Zoom. However, as mentioned, these tips can also prove useful for those doing asynchronous or blended methods as well.

Bigger Text, Readable Fonts, Clear Pictures

The above PowerPoint slide was used in a class that I taught about US Culture. When making the slide, I thought all the text and pictures would be visible to the students.

That was not the case, and trying to use fonts that were too small interrupted my entire lesson.

When teaching in in-person class, this slide might be visible because you have a big projector screen or big screen TV. The small fonts and numbers might look fine to you when you’re making it, but on a Zoom shared screen, these are no longer visible. When making teaching material, teachers need to be aware of their presentations from a student’s perspective. Visual presentations need to be visible, clear and readable. Without these things, students will no longer be focusing on the lesson. Instead, they will be attempting to comprehend the visual content. Time spent on figuring out the pictures or text on a PowerPoint slide is time spent away from learning necessary content.

It Takes Longer to Do Things Online

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When we teach in in-person classes, there is freedom of movement. You give instructions on an activity, you can teach some and then you can quickly move onto another task. Done.

However, with Zoom online classes, each action requires time expended. If you want to put students in breakout rooms, you need to press the breakout room button, make the breakout rooms, and provide instructions on getting into the breakout room and what to do once students are in there. Once they are done, you have to close all breakout rooms and wait until everyone leaves. Then you can continue on with your class. All these steps are done just to use the breakout room function.

Another example would be doing an interactive activity using non-Zoom software like Google Slides or Jamboard. With these, there is an added step of explaining the software and what to do with the software. All time spent on explaining and using different software and function is usually longer than expected. Some students can understand the technology quicker than others. To figure things out will take some time. So when planning for activities or tasks in lessons, account for more time spent moving from one thing to another.

Need to be Animated on the Screen

The above picture is a screen shot of a Zoom class where I shared my PowerPoint presentation. This is a common occurrence in most Zoom classes; the PPT takes up most of the screen, and you yourself are a mere tiny box. If a teacher does not move and/or has a monotonous voice while teaching, it can be difficult for the students to stay focused and interested. There has to be some movement in order to them focus on what is taught on the screen. A tip is that even if you are explaining or lecturing on Zoom, you have to be animated.

How? When explaining or giving instructions, use gestures instead of just using your voice. If you are counting down, then use to hand to count the seconds. If you are providing instructions, use hand motions to show what you want students to do. If you want them to read a passage, use your hands to show that they need to read something. If you want them to write something, use your hands to show that they need to write something down. These visual cues are important so that the students have something else to rely on aside from only your voice.

It might sound silly, but your facial expression cannot be the same. The only visual cues that the students have, aside from the shared screen, is your face. If your face stays the same without any change, the students can possibly lose interest in your class. If the students did a good job, provide positive feedback by offering words of encouragement and smiling and clapping. If you need the students to be serious, then your face needs to show that you are serious. When teachers are in the classroom, the students are able to see all of you. They can see your facial expression and body language. Since via Zoom, they cannot take visual cues from body language, teachers need to make more of an effort to use facial expressions to show what they mean to students.

Lag with Annotations and Shared Audio/Videos

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Using the annotation function on Zoom and sharing videos are great ways to teach classes and mimic the way that classes are taught in person. The main caveat here is the timing of using the annotation function and sharing of videos. During my observations of GIFLE Zoom classes, I have noticed that the teachers would teach to what they see on the computer monitor. The problem comes from the students side. Just because a teacher wrote something on the screen at a certain moment doesn’t mean that the students saw that. There is a lag between when a teacher writes or draws and when the students see it. Teachers need to be cognizant of this fact when they are explaining something that requires lots of notes or drawings. Pausing and then continuing with the teaching is necessary when writing or drawing something in an online class. Students will be less confused with the lesson if the timing of the teaching and annotation is in sync. Teachers should write first, pause, and continue. This timing needs to be internalized when you are teaching using the annotation function.

The same concept applies to sharing audio or videos. When a teacher presses play on a video, that doesn’t mean the students see it immediately. There is a lag between the teacher’s computer and student’s computer. So when teaching by annotating on a word document or digital whiteboard and sharing audio or video files, teachers need to know that they need to wait a while before continuing onto the next part of the lesson.

Conclusion

When teaching on Zoom, things aren’t always as straightforward as they might be in an in-person class. There are all sorts of small things the teacher needs to keep in mind to have a successful class. However, if you follow the few tips that were presented here, we think that you can improve your online teaching and be well on your way to Zoom success.

Teacher Professional Development – Why to Do It, How to Do It, and Its Potential

Within education, professional development refers to improving your teaching skills, abilities, and overall know-how in order to better connect to your students, create a more efficient and engaging classroom, and, well, develop professionally.

Here at GIFLE, we’re big fans of professional development all around. We believe that PD can be done by anyone at any point in their career – not just those at the bottom of the ladder, but even by those at the top of their game. In this article, we’ll be going over different types of professional development, links and resources you can use for your own professional development journey, and talk about how professional development can help you out not only in the classroom, but in your overarching career. This is a pretty long post, so you can bookmark it and come back it anytime for all the professional development goodness you crave.

Why should I bother with professional development?

So, you already have a solid job in the ESL/EFL field, years of experience, and are overall feeling settled and comfortable in your classroom. You’re pretty good at grammar and have a good relationship with your students, co-workers, and principal. Why should you spend your time, money, and effort doing professional development?

The phrase “teachers are lifelong learners” sounds cliché, but it holds true. As educators, our field is constantly growing and expanding as our knowledge about how people learn does, and it can be important to keep up with new methods. Doing professional development can help you bring new ideas, teaching methods, and lessons into your classroom, expand your horizons as an educator, and even help you move up in your field. Furthermore, doing professional development can help you create connections that may be helpful to you in the future.

Lastly (and we know we sound like complete nerds here) professional development can be both rewarding and fun. It’s great to spend time talking and listening to other professionals in your field, bounce ideas off each other, and grow more as an educator. Don’t take our word for it – get out there and do some professional development yourself!

Okay, got it. Isn’t professional development really hard and time-consuming though?

While it’s true that high levels of professional development can take months or even years to complete, there are also plenty of easy options that you can do! In this post, we’ll look at some different ways that you can begin doing more professional development. We’ve divided it into three different sections for you – Easy-Peasy, Medium, and For the Enthusiastic.

The”Easy-Peasy” category represents free things that you can do with minimal time commitment. These are things you can easily incorporate in your everyday life without having to change or plan ahead too much.

The “Medium” category consists of things that will take a longer time commitment (hours and days, rather than minutes) or might have fees involved. These will boost your knowledge of your field more than the easy category; however, they are likely more difficult to accomplish.

The final category, aptly named “For the Enthusiastic,” will take a minimum of weeks to accomplish. They also may have quite a financial commitment attributed to them. However, doing this level of professional development may offer many more chances of career advancement than the first two categories, will add something substantial to your resume, and give you that oh, so satisfying sense of accomplishment.


Easy-Peasy

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  1. Read the literature, websites, blogs . . .

A lot (and we mean a lot) gets published about education, and specifically ESL and EFL every year. Why not take advantage of other people’s hard-done research and ideas for your own classroom? The great thing about using reading as professional development is that you can do it almost anytime or anywhere, and do it for as long or little as you like. It’s also easy to jump from subject to subject or even go down a rabbit hole of your interests (do you remember “footnote chasing” from your undergrad? It can get even more intense when you find a subject that interests you!). To get you started with reading, we’ve put some of our favorite websites, journals, and other resources down below, along with a brief description.

Description from the website:

Colorín Colorado is the premier [USA] website serving educators and families of English language learners (ELLs) in Grades PreK-12. Colorín Colorado has been providing free research-based information, activities, and advice to parents, schools, and communities around the country for more than a decade.

Description from the website:

The WIDA Consortium is a member-based organization made up of U.S. states, territories and federal agencies dedicated to the research, design and implementation of a high-quality, standards-based system for K-12 English language learners.

The Internet TESL Journal is collection of resarch papers, articles, handouts, lesson plans, links, teaching ideas – you name it, they probably have it. This is a great resource to go to when you need something specific, or even if you just want to browse for new ideas.

Description from the website:

The Korea TESOL Journal is a refereed academic journal concerned with teaching English as a foreign or additional language and related issues.

TESOL Journal (TJ) is a double-blind peer-reviewed, practitioner-oriented electronic journal that publishes articles based on current theory and research in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). TJ is a forum for second and foreign language educators at all levels to engage in the ways that research and theory can inform, shape, and ground teaching practices and perspectives. TJ enable an active and vibrant professional dialogue about research- and theory-based practices as well as practice-oriented theorizing and research.  

Description from the website:

Since 1981, Education Week has been America’s most trusted resource for K-12 education news and information. 1.6+ million readers. National Coverage. From teachers to principals and district leaders across the country. Education Week’s diverse audience turns to us for the most up-to-date information on K-12 education in the U.S., as well as innovative, high-value tools and solutions.

Google Scholar, JSTOR, and other similar scholarly search engines are also great if you want to read up about a particular or specific topic.

2. Share ideas with your fellow teachers

Sit down with your fellow teachers (in-person and online both work great here!), pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew, and talk through all of your classroom ideas. Here at GIFLE, we brainstorm about our ideas, struggles, and successes within the classroom.

Another great way to share (and frankly, steal) ideas with your fellow teachers is to sit in on each other’s classes. Every teacher runs their classroom differently – why not take advantage? You can individually talk to teachers in your school to plan when you’re going to sit in on a lesson, or use tools such as pineapple charts to collaborate.

3. Listen to a podcast

If you’ve not drunk the podcast Kool-Aid quite yet, let us try to get you on board. Podcast are excellent, very convenient little snippets of information, conversations, interviews, and more given by live people. You can get a feel for personality and passion more than by simply reading a text. Plus, podcasts are very widely available nowadays, – you can listen on your phone while taking the bus, put one on while you’re scrubbing out your bathtub, or even have one talking to you while you’re directly making a lesson plan. There are a ton of education podcasts out there, ranging in topics from curriculum design to classroom management. Below, we’ve included a few of our favorite podcasts at GIFLE to get your new playlist started.

Description from the website:


“Teaching strategies, classroom management, education reform, educational technology — if it has something to do with teaching, we’re talking about it. On the podcast, I interview educators, students, administrators and parents about the psychological and social dynamics of school, trade secrets, and other juicy things you’ll never learn in a textbook. Other episodes feature me on my own, offering advice on ways to make your teaching more effective and more fun.”

Description from the website:

Talks with Teachers brings you the stories and inspiration behind America’s great English educators. Each episode features a master ELA/Literacy/English teacher sharing what worked, what didn’t and the wisdom gained from their years of classroom experience. Intended to boost morale and help teachers find joy and purpose, Talks with Teachers is a great resource for K-12 English, Literacy, and ELA teachers

Description from the website:

FreshEd with Will Brehm is an interview-style podcast that showcases cutting-edge research in the field of education. It is used in dozens of university courses around the world. All episodes are transcribed and some are then translated into Mandarin, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Portuguese.

Description from the website:

The Google Teacher Podcast is designed to give K-12 educators practical ideas for using G Suite and other Google tools in classrooms and schools. Hosted by Matt Miller (Ditch That Textbook) and Kasey Bell (Shake Up Learning).

Description from the website:

The PBL [Project-based learning] Playbook from Magnify Learning is meant to help you navigate your PBL questions and problems, build your PBL confidence, and add strategies for success to your own playbook! 

What the “Easy Peasy” stage unlocks:

By doing the “easy peasy” stage of professional development, you’ll gain knowledge of new teaching methods, curriculum design, projects, lesson plans, and more. You’ll also be able to hold your own more when talking to other education professionals. People at dinner parties will relish conversation with you.


Medium

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  1. Gain new certifications

It’s likely if you’re reading this that you already have a TESL or TEFL certificate of some sort. However, these are truly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to certificates within the ESL realm, especially as ESL certificates have no overarching certifying board, no set number of mandatory hours, and some don’t even offer real classroom experience. If you want to increase your teaching knowledge (as well as pad your resume and get more professional clout), there are many more courses and certifications you can get within the ESL sphere that are guaranteed to impress.

Nowadays, certifications are offered both on and offline, which makes them more convenient to those currently working or unable to take time off. What certifications that you do are, of course, dependent on your interest and where you want to go within your field. Some popular certifications are:

Description from the website:

The CELTA course covers the principles of effective teaching, and gives you a range of teaching techniques and practical experience. You get hands-on teaching practice and observation of experienced teachers, and you’ll apply your learning by delivering communicative teaching with English language learners.

Description from the website:

DELTA is an advanced blend of theory and practice that provides professional development for teachers with at least one year’s experience. It gives you skills and techniques that will help you throughout your career.

Description from the website:

TKT is a series of modular teaching qualifications which test your knowledge in specific areas of English language teaching. It will help you to build your confidence, and is a cost-effective way to get an internationally recognised qualification. Whether you are a new teacher or have years of experience, TKT is ideal for people who need to prove their teaching knowledge with a globally recognised certificate.

These three certifications are all offered by Cambridge and are widely, internationally recognized. (For similar certificates, you can also check out these offered by Trinity College in Dublin.)These certifications are all different, targeting different learners and aspects of education, so make sure you do your research about what exactly you want before obtaining it.


There are also a lot of free certificates out there, for those interested in learning for the sake of learning. Sites such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer courses developed by universities online, for free, which offer tons of great information to those who are willing to take the time to complete them. For example, recently, our instructor Autumn has been doing a course on Coursera in order to learn more about how to teach students studying with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia.

Note: certificates obtained on sites such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy might not be recognized by an employer, but they’re still useful for expanding your knowledge and trying out new interests.

2. Take courses and join seminars

If you’ve ever been in school – and chances are that you have – you’ll know that courses and seminars are a great way to not only learn about a subject matter, but to get the chance to talk with an expert in the field, socialize with classmates, and get some hands-on practice. There are a myriad of courses and seminars out there, ranging from ones you can complete within a few hours to ones that last for months. Even if you’re loathe to get up off of your sofa, a lot of these courses and seminars are held online nowadays, making them accessible to anyone who has an internet connection.

The courses or seminars you join are probably contingent on your own personal interests and professional development needs. You can simply join a seminar that’s taking place in Korea (Autumn’s local library in Suwon used to offer free seminars in English on Saturdays!), check out online courses (a quick Google search will show you heaps), or even go as far as to look into university courses.

3. Attend a workshop

As an ESL teacher in Korea, there are a lot of different types of workshops that you can attend for free. If you’re reading this and are familiar with us at GIFLE, you’ll already know that we provide many different kinds of teacher trainings and workshops for those living within Gyeonggi Province. However, if you’re living outside of Gyeonggi-do, don’t worry! There are plenty of other resources for you to take advantage of. One of our favorites here at GIFLE that we ourselves take shameless advantage of is KOTESOL.

KOTESOL (the Korean branch of TESOL, that is, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) alone has chapters in almost every province that offers seminars and workshops – many of them free – along with larger (but paid-for) conferences. These workshops are generally run by instructors or other education professionals and can give you everything from lesson ideas to new know-how of how to best run an online classroom. You can also walk away with new friends, networking opportunities, and even full PPTs and lesson plans to use in your own class.

What the “Medium” stage unlocks:

Doing midlevel professional development will help you increase your knowledge in the field of education and gain more hands-on experience. It will also add great things to your resume.


For the Enthusiastic

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  1. Give a presentation at a workshop or seminar

Chances are that you’ve had some absolute smash-hits with your class, or have some really great ideas about how to implement different things into your classroom. You might have also studied a lot of different teaching techniques or pedagogy that you want to share with the world (or at least, some colleagues).

Workshops, seminars, and other professional events are a great way to share what you’ve learned with others, and get some professional, resume-boosting clout while you’re at it. In Korea, conferences are regularly held both in-person and online by KOTESOL, but many, many more opportunities to present exist. Start by performing a simple Internet search to see what’s happening around you in the professional world, gather your materials to create a killer presentation, and get started! If you’ve not done a conference or seminar before, it might be useful to watch and participate in one beforehand, so you have a clear idea of what’s expected.

2. Do research and publish an article

At first, this option probably sounds a bit intimidating, especially if the last paper you wrote was done during a Red Bull-fueled writing frenzy during your undergrad at three in the morning. However, it’s likely that within your classroom you’ve done research, whether advertently or not. You’ve probably searched for activities and lesson plans that work for your students and classrooms, tried out different methods, and might have even kept track of your students grades and test scores. Even these simple things can have great value to research and other educators within the EFL sphere.

As mentioned in the “Easy Peasy” section of this post, there are a lot of publications and blogs focusing on ESL and EFL. You can start by seaching which one fits your research the best, send them what you’ve written, and (hopefully) get published.

3. Become a licensed teacher

Gaining your licensure in teaching is a great option for those who want to really expand their knowledge of the teaching field. If you want to teach in your home country in the future (or level up to working at international schools or other such institutes), this is likely a great option for you, since you’ll need certification to legally work in most public (and some private) schools. Each state has different requirements for licensure, so make sure you do your research about what is required and the proper steps you’ll need to take in order to become a fully legal licensed teacher.

Believe it or not, it’s possible now to become a licensed teacher from abroad, through online programs such as TeacherReady or Moreland University.* These can be a great option for those currently abroad or those who have busy schedules.

*Note – these programs are for teacher licensure in the United States only. If you’re from another country, you’ll need to research licensure requirements

4. Get a Master’s or PhD

This is the granddaddy of all professional development. The big one. The top. If you get a Master’s (or PhD, if you are really blazing towards it), you will be an expert in your field. There are a ton of different choices for which direction you want to go in with your Master’s degree within the ESL field. Some popular choices are:

  • Masters in TESOL
  • Masters in Applied Linguistics
  • Masters in Education

However, as everyone has different wants and interests, the choice of the best Master’s or PhD degree varies from person to person. Here at GIFLE, five completely different Master’s are held by six instructors. Although we all followed our different interests in education, it still gave us the opportunity to work together and become professional education experts.

What the “For the Enthusiastic” stage unlocks:

At the highest level of professional development, you’ll be able to advance your career as an educator. All of these things will look fantastic on your resume, and give you an in-depth knowledge of your field.


This post should serve as an guide for how to begin your professional development journey. Remember, every person needs to engage in professional development depending on who they are as an individual, interests, education, and more so there really is no “one-size-fits-all” model you can follow.