Before I became an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, I remember being perplexed as to why my friend, a high school Spanish teacher, was responsible for teaching English to a foreign exchange student. After all, there was an entire English department that would surely be more qualified than a Spanish teacher to help her. Having since worked for a decade in ESL instruction and curriculum design, the reason is crystal clear.

Any ESL instructor who has ever been burdened with using traditional “English” class curriculum can relate to how painful that experience is. The needs of an ESL student are completely different than those of a native speaker being educated in the nuances of grammar and expressive writing in their native language. While feedback is crucial for all types of learning, ESL students require a lot more feedback since language is inherently learned by making (and learning from) many mistakes. Annotate PRO (AP) is the perfect tool for providing that feedback. 

I originally discovered AP when a tutoring company I worked for asked me to test it out and ultimately to design a set of libraries that organized over 300 feedback comments. I was thrilled when, after having worked together with 11trees founder Andrew on that project, 11trees asked me to continue collaborating with them. That collaboration has allowed me to contribute to how AP functions and has given me the tool I need to be more effective at my job.

One of my favorite tasks is answering student-submitted questions. ESL students are often intrigued by subtle differences between similar words; sometimes when trying to answer a question I’ve become equally perplexed. With AP, I’ve been able to write out detailed explanations with examples that are then saved in text-searchable format. That has allowed me to provide very detailed answers any time the question is raised while only having to take the time to think about and write out an answer once. 

The vast majority of the learners I interact with are either native Spanish or Portuguese speakers, with a smaller number of Turkish students. I am conversant in Portuguese and fluent in Spanish from living in Costa Rica, but AP’s built-in translation tools are a real life saver when I get a question from a beginner Turkish student who understands little to no English. Even with Portuguese, the translation function saves me time and effort. I write faster in Spanish and the two languages are similar enough that translation tools will handle it perfectly about 95% of the time. Then, I can just make any tweaks to the resulting comment as needed. 

For giving feedback on oral communication, I like to make use of forms. They allow me to create a basic framework that explains a common grammar point while automatically prompting me to fill in a specific example. For example, learners often struggle with how to pronounce the –ed ending of past simple words. I’ve created this comment:

As you can see, AP prompts me to fill in a specific example before inserting the feedback comment. This is also helpful for something as simple as wanting to personalize the comment by leaving a space for the student’s name.

Whether I am giving feedback on oral communication, written assignments, or doing administrative work, Annotate PRO is my biggest ‘life hack’ for making my job easier as an ESL instructor.  

Tyler Wenzel

Tyler Wenzel

ESL Instructor and 11trees' Product Marketing Manager

With over 15 years of experience in the education and technology fields, Tyler holds MCTS and TESOL/TEFL certifications in addition to being trilingual. He currently supervises teachers and develops curriculum for Latin America’s largest English tutoring company from his home base in Costa Rica. He met 11trees as a teacher using Annotate PRO and saw such potential that he wanted to get involved. His goal is to bring better feedback and engagement strategies to both traditional and non-traditional education. His interests include birdwatching, linguistics, history, photography, good food, and craft beer. Tyler holds a Bachelor’s of Doctrines and Methods of Education from the United States Institute of Language and Clerical Studies (USILACS) and a certification in Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology from Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.. 

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