Teaching Themes Emerge at CATESOL: Use Technology To Meet Student Needs

Do ESL teachers want a more democratic classroom? Perhaps the workshop description discouraged English teachers, the title seemed too bold, or the other two dozen workshops held at the same time appeared more practical.

Techniques and Methods for a More Democratic Classroom
A more democratic classroom encourages student speech, features student created content, allows student choice of assignments, reflects student interests, and includes peer evaluations. Democratic classrooms create autotelic students where we learn by making good mistakes. Handouts.

For whatever reason, my CATESOL workshop on “Classroom Techniques and Practices for a More Democratic Classroom” only attracted around 20 ESL teachers – and a few left early after taking the 12-page handout of reproducible lessons. Yet the ESL teachers who stayed asked good questions, shared examples to support my thesis, and several expressed gratitude. Consider me basically satisfied.

Several other CATESOL presenters also lead workshops and shared materials and techniques to incorporate the internet, radio, and other authentic materials into ESL classrooms. While few other presenters used the word “democratic”, many other ESL professionals noted the need to be “student-centered” and include “critical thinking.” More and more English teachers, even the pseudo-Luddites, have become aware of teaching potential of 21st century technologies – and the ability to tailor instruction to individual student needs.

I still wonder, however, why the idea of a more democratic classroom where students hunt and gather their own source materials to develop their language skills seems strange to so many English teachers. To me, it seems absolutely natural to guide students toward becoming self-directed, or autotelic, learners. Here are three handouts that I shared at my CATESOL workshop on Friday toward that goal. Use or lose. You choose.

Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Create Compelling Conversations.
Visit www.CompellingConversations.com

This I Believe Homework Worksheet

Links: This I Believe

Please select one radio segment, based on a personal essay, and read by writers. Find a story that resonates with you. Listen carefully. Take notes. Fill out the worksheet below. You will be asked to share your selection with classmates in both a small group and the entire class.

This I Believe Title:

Who is the author?

What’s the main idea?

Why did you choose this podcast?

Did you hear any new words or phrases?

Who do you imagine is the audience for this podcast? Why?

What is your reaction? Why?









Please circle the appropriate overall rating 1-10 (10=BEST)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Getting Job Interview Advice from YouTube!

Student Name:

Please find an YouTube videoclip that helps people successfully interview for jobs – in English – that you would like to share with your classmates. Watch the video, take notes, and review it for your classmates.

Video title:
Web address:

Please describe the video.

What interview tips did the video provide?

Where do you think the video was produced? Why?

How practical did you find the advice? Why?

What was the strongest part? Why?

What was the weakest part? Why?

Who do think is the target audience for this video?

Why did you choose this video?

How would you rate this video 1-5 stars? Why?


  1. Hey ya Eric,

    Same discussions are happening over our side of the pond too.

    I’m not sure it sounds strange, I think for many teachers it sounds scary or like ‘more work’ – but it’s not, it’s less LOL. And it’s definitely not scary it’s exciting right!

    Student-centered classrooms mean that teachers finally have enough time to really teach, to really encourage and motivate, the ‘work’ goes into the hands of the students!

    Glad to hear it went well.


  2. Karenne – Thanks for your insights from Europe and web tips. You’re probably right that our techniques sound like more work so time-conscious teachers just stick with traditional methods and mainstream textbooks.

    Once students, however, have had the experience of learning in a student-centered, democratic classroom they will want other English classes to meet that same high standard. Or so I suspect.

    Technology and personal attention, after all, can be addictive.

  3. Amazingly, many instructors still shun technology and it could make their lives so much easier and productive.

  4. It’s somewhat rare for students to enjoy their jobs in college. I know my first internship in college showed me that I didn’t want to work in that industry.

    Sometimes just working at the school cafeteria can be the perfect fit for a student. It beats filing papers all day in a cubicle, and you usually get some free food!

  5. Good point. I also like informational interviews, along with student jobs, as a practical method of discovering your professional preferences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *