Talking teaching

    A zoom call on a computer screen and a cup of tea
    © Chris Montgomery
    Von Robert Kirstein

    Meet Robert Kirstein, a teacher, teacher trainer and ELT writer. He also conducts workshops and webinars for Klett Verlag.

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    Which courses are you teaching?

    At the moment, my work consists mainly of teaching English linguistics, the history and variation of English, and English as a lingua franca for “in-service teacher-training programmes” in Berlin and Brandenburg. I also have a few VHS and business English courses at companies in the Berlin area (A2–B2 levels).

    How can we keep learners engaged and involved in an online lesson?

    By focusing on content that’s relevant and finding ways for learners to share their thoughts and experiences. I don’t think it’s about the platforms or tools we use, but about the when, how (much) and what for. Also, their novelty quickly wears off. When I discovered Mentimeter a while ago, I thought it was so cool and was looking for ways to use it in class. Once, I set up a “word cloud” activity on stereotypes for a business English class. It was received with mild indifference. I thought I’d wow them, but learned they’d been using it in their meetings and had become annoyed by it.

    How do you correct language errors in the classroom?

    It depends. I might ask if they are sure they used the correct form. Sometimes, another learner is quicker to suggest a better form. Because we are online, I don’t have to interrupt, but can type in the chat while a learner is speaking. Then they can see my feedback and “self-correct”. Once a learner has stopped talking, I might repeat what was said the correct way. However, when we talk in general (not focusing on form), I think it’s more important to allow learners to put their thoughts into words. A good rule of thumb is to interrupt and correct only if a learner might be misunderstood. More often than not, they can communicate successfully despite grammatical, lexical or phonological errors.

    How do you go about collecting and writing material?

    I read, research and keep a lot of copies, and I subscribe to materials such as Spotlight. Recently, it’s been more about reworking, adapting or updating things I’ve stored. Most of it is in the form of books or copiables and needs to be adapted for online use. That’s the most time-consuming thing. However, once it’s done, it can be reused and recycled in a myriad of ways and makes teaching online much faster and more economical in the long term.

    Can you share any upcoming publication projects with us?

    The second editions of Great! A1 and Great! A2 have just come out with the B1 and B2 levels following by the end of this year.

    What changes do you want to see happen in the ELT field?

    I’d like to see teacher-training programmes address the implications of the use of English as a lingua franca more and highlight its consequences for anyone working in ELT. Also, I wish we were paid rates that showed appreciation and recognition of our professional development as well as the dedication, time and effort we put into our work.

    How do you like to relax?

    I love being in the woods and going for long walks.