Every year in school, my class would have that one student- the one who never raised his hand, preferring to sink lower and lower into his seat behind the propped up textbook. As I grew older and transitioned from sitting behind my student desk to standing in front of the board, this scene did not change very much. Now, imagine that you are the shy student and, to add to that, the class is being conducted in a foreign language. Seems fair to characterize it as at least mildly intimidating, right? Shyness is a composition of emotions, ranging from fear, apprehension, and embarrassment, often manifesting itself as self-consciousness. More often than not, an ESL class will have one student who is less keen to participate. I’ve found that this is only exacerbated as the group grows larger, allowing the student to retreat into anonymity. When you are inevitably faced with this common challenge, there are a few ways to gently encourage (never ‘push’) your shy student to come out of his/her shell.
Kids are typically a lot easier to engage than adults. Even the shyest kids can usually be persuaded to participate and feel more relaxed through edutainment. Children are naturally less inhibited than adults, as they haven’t had years of experience moulding them to feel embarrassed at not knowing something or trying new things. As adults, most of us understand the dread of feeling and/or appearing incompetent amongst our peers. While these feelings are normal, they are intensified for a person coming from a culture that puts a strong negative connotation on shame. There are many countries and cultures, particularly in parts of Asia, that have a strong outlook on shame and embarrassment. This starts in childhood at school and is only exacerbated into adulthood. Looking ‘foolish’ is deemed quite disgraceful; with such a huge load of pressure, it’s unsurprising that some adults may lack confidence to put themselves out there in the classroom. Dealing with shy adult learners adds another layer of challenge to a teacher’s job, as it might feel awkward for you to try to engage them. Understandably, you don’t want to come off as forceful or disrespectful, especially when your students are older than you. I’ve encountered this predicament time and time again through my own teaching experiences as well as through discussions with other teachers, and wanted to offer a few suggestions to set your shy adult students up for success.
Teaching English is not a ‘one-size fits all’ endeavor. Understanding your students’ needs and, more importantly, their backgrounds is always important. However, it is even more crucial to exercise precise judgement when working with students coming from a life experience very different from your own. As a comedian would say, you must be able to “read the room”. I’ve recently embarked on a totally new ESL teaching journey, one that has, unfortunately, become all the more necessary due to the humanitarian crisis occurring around the globe: working with refugees and asylum seekers. With such a growing demand for relocated persons to learn English in order to integrate into their new home, I’d like to pass on some newly acquired wisdom that I’ve gained through my recent experiences.
First of all, why use songs in the classroom? When we consider that almost 100% of students enjoy listening to music and most of them also enjoy songs in English, we realize that songs in ESL classes can prove to be a very valuable resource.
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For many TESOL teachers, the first step in their careers will involve substitute teaching. Subbing jobs can range from last minute fill-ins for single classes to short-term contracts to cover vacations or illness. While it can be stressful not to know where you will be teaching from one day or week to the next, making a good impression as a sub can lead to more permanent work in the future. Here are five useful tips to help make your subbing experiences as successful (and unstressful) as possible:
Relative clauses are a rather complex grammar structure, but teachers can help their students to learn this structure in fun and communicative ways by thinking about where the ‘language lives’ in our every day life and how we use it. The three games and activities I will explain below are a great way to teach relative clauses while integrating writing, speaking, reading, and listening skills.
One of the worst things about professionally published language teaching materials is that they often tend to focus on one particular skill in a fairly unnatural way. Indeed, a lot of language courses even go as far as focusing solely on productive skills. In such courses, reading and listening become secondary skills (while other courses do the exact opposite, of course). Authentic materials, in the other hand, allow teachers to plan for integrated skills lessons.
As many teachers know, ESL students struggle with reading activities, especially those that are reading out loud. Reading activities can be fun! Here are a few different activities for engaging your students and helping them to love reading!
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Lesson planning should follow ‘the rhythm of your class’ and your students’ needs. Finding this “flow” will require getting to know your students and the curriculum requirements of the school you teach at. You could get students who benefit greatly from structure or you could get students who need less structure. It is up to the teacher to read the students and to get to know them over time. Here are 3 tips to help you plan lessons that meet your students’ needs.
Teaching English online is very different from teaching in a classroom. The lesson planning skills you acquired in the TESOL certification course will definitely help you to create interactive activities for your students and replace the textbook with songs and videos, but your personality will also make or break your experience teaching English in front of a screen. Teaching online just doesn’t work for some people! This blog we will look at different qualities that online ESL teachers must have in order to succeed.