Learning to communicate in English has become a necessary skill in the modern world. Many adults who have not practiced English since their school days are returning to the classroom in order to advance in their careers or make the move to an English speaking country. Others, who did not receive formal English education during childhood, are making the independent step toward learning it for the first time. While learning a language can certainly be deemed more challenging as an adult, having low literacy in one’s own language undoubtedly adds to the difficulty, as is the case with many vulnerable populations who now rely on learning English to integrate into a new society.
Teachers who take on the task of teaching English to refugee children put themselves into a very unique situation, facing challenges that they would probably never be exposed to otherwise. Unlike the average ESL classroom, this environment demands a variety of special considerations that can have much bigger and more permanent consequences on the individuals concerned. One major fact to consider is the likelihood that the children have experienced an interruption not only in their lives but also in their education, if they had one previously. It is important to find out as much background information about your students as you can, as assumptions just won’t cut it here. Never receiving a formal education is a concept that most Westerns cannot truly understand, but it is an unfortunate reality that occurs in many other places in the world. Imagine attending a lesson for the first time- and it’s in a foreign language. It’s a lot to digest and is certainly high on the list considerations teachers must make.
The reasons for having a textbook can be varied; maybe it was chosen by the Director of Studies or maybe you, as a teacher, insisted on having a textbook for the class. Whatever the reason, it is adamant that teachers are aware that the textbook is not ‘the be all and end all’ of your class. This article explains some of the advantages and disadvantages for using a textbook in the ESL classroom, and shows solutions for using textbooks effectively.
Business English students have a high level of English and require lessons for a specific purpose. With this in mind, it is vital for teachers to find out what the students’ needs are as early as possible, preferably before we even start teaching. The best way to do this is to conduct a thorough needs analysis.
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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.