Teaching English for specific purposes (ESP) involves so much more than just teaching language – by giving language practice for a specific field, you are helping them to learn more about the content their future field or work as well as the language they will need.
This is especially true when teaching English for those going to work in the field of marketing and social media writers. Global companies have seized upon the effective and popular social media tools for advancing their advertising, and they are hiring more and more people to be writers and advertisers to spread their image online. Here are some top tips for teaching the media generation!
Check These Interesting Tips for a Successful Lesson with Marketing and Media People
Writing in 140 characters or less
In advertising, less words is more; even more so when it’s online. Using Twitter’s character-restricted updates can help students to say more using less. But it isn’t easy; writing with fewer words takes time and a strong mastery of language. Practice giving students longer passages or stories and having them reduce it to a single sentence while still keeping the same idea.
Thanks to Twitter, hashtags are showing up everywhere, even in handwritten essays (true story!) One thing is clear, hashtags aren’t going anywhere and they take a special understanding of language to make an effective hashtag. In order to teach hashtags, you first need to understand them yourself. A hashtag is simply a label or code that some social media programs recognize so they can group similar posts together. For example, if we were watching the Olympics, and I want to make a comment, I would add #London2012 to the end of my post. Then, I can do a search to see who else is commenting on the Olympics by doing a search for the same hashtag.
Practice hashtags in your classroom by creating an assignment and then asking students to create an appropriate hashtag. If you use an online environment (see below), tell students to post their questions online using the hashtag so other students can help with that particular assignment.
Create an online class environment
There’s no better authentic practice than getting your students on the web as early as possible (as if they aren’t already!) There are innumerable options for managing your class online. Here are some suggestions for programs and uses:
- Twitter: Instead of having a class blog, put your students on Twitter! Ask them to respond to class by posting updates and creating a #hashtag for your class. They can post their feedback on a lesson, responses to reading you give them, daily journals, and practice advertising slogans.
- Facebook: Have students create their own business page (it’s free!) Have them practice uploading photos, status updates, sharing links to outside resources, and making videos to post online. Make sure each student follows all of the other business pages.
- Instagram: A picture is worth a thousand words, and photo-advertising is taking the world by storm! Use instagram in your class to have students post related photos and practice writing the caption underneath each. Create a class #hashtag that all of your students use when they upload their photos so your class can comment on each others’ pictures. This is especially effective for advertising since so much of our advertsing is visual.
Much of the media writing we see is based on non-literal writing, or English that can be understood on more than one level, such as puns and idioms.
Some of the best (or at least most memorable) advertisements are ones that rely on plays on words or puns. Puns are tricky because they rely on learners to understand the multiple meanings of a single word.
To practice, I recommend the British comedy skit “My Blackberry is not working.” You can find the link to the Youtube video here. To practice with students, print out a copy of the script and underline each word being used as a pun (Blackberry, run out of juice, frozen, booted, date, apple, etc...) and as students watch the video, have them write down the two different definitions for each word. Show the video multiple times to let them hear it accurately.
Next, practice writing your own puns! Have students brainstorm words with multiple (and vastly different) meanings in English. Tell them to think of homophones (see/sea, too/two/to) and homographs (lead (verb)/lead (noun) Give them some help by starting them off with some examples:
“Writing with a broken pencil is pointless.”
“When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.”
“What do you call Santa’s helpers? Subordinate clauses.”
Another aspect of being a good social media writer is having a good understanding of idioms and proverbs. Spend a lot of your time teaching students these idiomatic expressions. Idioms aren’t easy as sometimes they don’t make a lot of sense (It’s raining cats and dogs? Why not fish and bunnies?) Treat them like vocabulary and introduce and practice them just as you would other vocabulary.
A good way to do this is running dictations. Pair your students up and then have them choose which student is the ‘writer’ and which student is the ‘runner.’ Post the definitions to proverbs or idioms on the wall outside of the classroom, and have the runners go out of the classroom to read as much of the definition they can remember and then tell it to their writing partner. The students can run back and forth as many times as necessary until they have copied the entire definition. When students are finished, have them come to the front of the classroom where you have the corresponding idioms written on notecards. Tell the students to take the definition they have an match it to the correct idiom.
An often overlooked aspect of working on computers is typing. If students need to type in English, it would be useful to have a standard QWERTY keyboard. If students are used to typing on the standard keyboard of their country, it can be difficult to adjust. Typing can take an unnecessarily long time if students are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with finding the letters for English on a keyboard. Find a good typing program on the Internet; there are countless free ones! I recommend http://www.typingweb.com because students can make an account and track their practice without having to download any programs.
Social media is the business of the future, and effective English is an essential part of this. Help prepare you students in the most authentic way possible by taking advantage of all of the tools available to you for educators online!
What online tips to you have for using social media?
What else should media writers know?
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