Vicky Loras

Using English outside of class – Vicky Loras

Our students are with us every week for a number of hours – some of us have them for a good number of hours, some of us for a limited number of hours. It is great to use that time as much as possible for the development of their English language skills, especially speaking. But what happens when they leave class? How can they use English outside the classroom?

We certainly do not want them to restrict themselves to using English only in class. We want them to get as much practice as possible. Especially these days, with the advent of technology, there is a multitude of ways to help them practice their English:

  • In this world of smart phones and tablets, there are literally thousands of applications which can be used by students. For younger ages, there are English word games with instant feedback. For older students, there are listening and pronunciation apps that can help them tremendously.
  • For those who have limited access to technology, books are a great way of developing language skills. Very often, I take my young students to the library and let them wander through the books and pick up the ones they like. With older students, I have taken them to kiosks to look at English magazines on any topic that interests them, or even a visit to a library or bookstore could help. We can help find the kind of book they want with recommendations.
  • Writing with pen pals – there are so many ways to do that: either the good old-fashioned way, with letter writing (that I really love and is even more personal) or via safe chat rooms. That way they can practice their English with people worldwide.

There are so many ways to help our students use English when they are not in class – it is up to us to show them and motivate them to take their learning even further!

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Vicky Loras

My name is Vicky Loras and I am an English Teacher, born in Toronto, Canada. For ten years, my sisters (Eugenia and Christine) and I owned an English School in Greece, The Loras English Academy, but I have now moved with my eldest sister to Switzerland, where I continue to work as an English teacher. I believe in teaching as an ongoing learning process, both for the benefit of the students and the teacher. For that reason I love attending workshops and conferences! Outside class you can usually find me at bookshops or libraries, I absolutely love books!

20 thoughts on “Using English outside of class – Vicky Loras”

  1. Hello fellow Canadian,

    Technology, apps, books and pen pals – YES x 4

    If you have any apps/websites that have worked particularly well, I’d love to hear which ones.

    I was happy to hear another cheer for the power of books. My 10-year-old son loves books and I am amazed at what he already knows about life.

    Real letter writing is almost a lost art but most of us have kept letters from friends and loved ones for years and years, I hope some young people don’t forget this.

    Thanks, Vicky

    1. Hi Steven!

      Thank you for your comment – yay! You’re Canadian too, great to hear : )

      I have used apps like the Financial Times one with my bankers, who love listening to the podcasts – the good thing is that it has a variety of topics, not only finance and economy, so they can even listen to podcasts on arts, sports and so on. Many of them have told me their listening skills have improved. I also use the TED app (an idea from James Taylor @theteacherjames, a great teacher living in Belgium) with them. The good thing with both is you can also see the scripts.

      Excellent news that your son loves books – when children are exposed to them and we recommend our favourites and model reading with them, then they will definitely love them : ) I remember a fantastic teacher I observed once, she also took a book and sat on the carpet with the kids during silent reading time : )

      Thanks so much, Steven!

      Best wishes,

  2. Dear Vicky! I absolutely love your range of ways to work with English outside of classroom. Great range from kind of old-fashioned but really effective to hi-tech! It is true we (and our students) are really lucky to live in the 21st century when there are so many options to choose from.
    It makes me think now that what we need to support, encourage and work on is their will to try and go beyond the walls 🙂

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Vladka!

      Thanks so much – I tried to include as many recommendations as possible, for all kinds of learners. Those who have access to technology and those who don’t. There are so many ways to go beyond the walls, as you so nicely put it : )

      Kindest regards,

  3. I wish my son had inherited my love of reading when I was his age. Apart from the books he had to read at school, which aren’t a lot, I don’t think he’s read any books! In any case, I don’t believe in forcing either. So I try to instil reading in other subtle ways. When I can, which, unfortunately, is getting rarer and rarer, we watch films with English subtitles on. When he has webquests, I encourage him to look at English sites, too, even if he has to translate what he needs for his school work. I try to put whatever electronic stuff he uses in English, but he’s smart enough to change it though 🙁 Haha.

    1. Hi Chiew!

      Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your experiences.

      I agree with you that it should not be about forcing – sometimes the children choose not to read; perhaps later they decide to. I have seen students of mine who started off little with me and were not so fond of books, but as they grew older they found their niche in reading and literally ate them up! It’s also a bit harder these days because if the many many electronic devices and websites that take up a lot of their free time, no matter what we do in class or out of it. But we can keep trying : )

      Thanks Chiew!

      Have a great week,

  4. Hi Vicky!

    What a wonderful post!
    I personally adore the old-fashioned idea of writing letters and postcards, true communication story, and you can hold and keep them, and it’s priceless!

    As for the apps – I”ve only recently discovered the amazing opportunities of these, and I”m trying to make as much use of these as possible!
    From what I”ve been using with my students I can recommend first of all social networking apps – Twitter, Facebook. Downloaded in English they help boost the knowledge of a very specific and important nowadays layer of vocabulary. TED app is fantastic, Wikipedia of course. Gobby App with thematic sets of colloquial phrases. And – the very recent finding of mine – for students who love cooking and healthy eating Jamie Oliver’s app is essential. Kiils two birds with one stone as well))

    Thank you for great ideas!


    1. Hi Ann!

      Thanks so much for your comment – I love how you combine the two, written (postcards and letters) and technology in your teaching. The latter has helped teaching tremendously, and the apps….the apps! So many (tons are for free) that we can use in class. What a great idea to use Jamie’s!

      Thank you so much,

  5. What an interesting post and thorough selection of devices. I already use a couple of them with my students except perhaps the first. I’d probably add one to your list that I believe is revolutionising the way learning happens. It’s the use of the internet; access to this giant and unbelievably amazing tool when intelligently, wisely and fully exploited by users. I believe helping students benefit from technology that is at their disposal just at a single click whether to improve a language they’re interested in or just to get ‘free access to knowledge’ is a big step towards helping them become autonomous learners. Learning, I’m afraid, doesn’t occur within the confines of the classroom’s walls aka prison but outside of it and the internet provides this unprecedented opportunity to learners to meet and interact with the world and learn. I never stop reminding my students how lucky they are for being citizens of the 21st century: the internet generation.

    1. Hi Rima!

      Thanks so much for commenting – the internet is amazing and thanks for adding it to the list : ) An amazing place for our students to learn and extend their learning outside the classroom.

      Many thanks,

  6. Hi Vicky,

    Thanks for the ideas for taking English outside of the classroom. I often feel like one of our big jobs as teachers is to just help students recognize all of the affordances that are right there for them to grab. Recently I’ve been thinking about how volunteer work might help students take English outside of the classroom. This year the International Program at my school will be collecting English picture books to send to a school in Borneo. The collecting of books, writing of letters to the school children in Borneo, and blog posts about the experience will all be done out of class. I’m probably being a little over-optimistic, but I’m hoping that the emotional returns of doing something so obviously useful will help the students focus on the what and why of the project as opposed to the difficulties of communicating in English.

    Thanks again for a great post.

    1. Hi Kevin!

      Thank you so much for reading and your comment – I am happy you liked the post!

      Your idea to collaborate with Borneo sounds so interesting, please keep us posted! Iam sure it will turn into a great project and the students will only benefit and enjoy it.

      Wishing you the very best!

      Best regards,

  7. Lovely post indeed Vicky!
    I like your approach with books and pen pals. I used to ask my students to pick a friend from next door’s class and write to each other.
    Well done indeed Vicky dear!
    <3 <3 <3

    1. Hi Icha!

      Thank you very much – what a super idea you used! I love it. I will mention it to my colleagues who teach large classes and credit you for it ; )

      Have a great weekend,

  8. Great tips and recommendations, Vicky! I agree with you about our responsibility, in our role as teachers, in motivating our students. I think it’s great to consider our students’ interests and situations as you do, considering the techy ones and those that keep to traditional ways of learning.

  9. I live in Poland with my wife and 2 children. I thought I was going to have problems finding books in English for my son but was lucky enough to discover that the secondhand business which brings in clothes from the UK also bring in books and films from time to time. We now have a good collection of books for young people to read (not just my son!)

    I have also recommended my students to browse the secondhand shops as a source of (mainly) reading materials. The advantage is obviously cost. A book from the regular book shop costs upward of 30zl and books secondhand can be had for as little as 2zl. This means that even if a student doesn’t like the book they haven’t lost a lot. I also encourage students to swap books too – also cuts down on costs!

    1. Hi Bob!

      Thanks for your comment and sahring your experience : ) What a great thing that your children have taken your love of books, nothing better! And how great that you can get them at low prices for them.

      Great idea!

      Many thanks,

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