First, don’t assume that you are an expert on the language just because you speak it. Even if English is your native language, that doesn’t mean that you know all of the grammatical intricacies that come with it. For most of us, learning our mother tongue was an entirely organic process. Learning in such a way is great when you are constantly surrounded by it and can put things into context without even thinking twice. However, this is not the case for those who are learning English as a second language. Don’t give answers to students if you do not know the answer. Making up something that sounds good to you can confuse them beyond the point of no return, and it just makes you look silly. To avoid this situation, be sure to brush up on the grammar points that you are scheduled to teach before creating your lesson plans and before each lesson itself. Better yet, take a TESOL course and get the ultimate refresher on how to properly use and teach grammar and syntax. Below you will find 5 ways you may be teaching English all wrong.
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2) Over-utilize movies.
This might not seem like a big deal, but, trust me, it is. It’s just lazy. Using authentic material is a great way to replace the textbook and expose students to the English language in context, but hitting the play button and playing a whole movie in class is just wrong. You were not hired to show movies that students can watch at home on their computers. The prospect of a movie definitely excites most kids but, unfortunately, there is more to teaching English than having a movie day. You have to create activities for students to learn and practice grammar, vocabulary, and communication skills, so that the movie meets your lesson’s aims.
3) Fail to correct your own mistakes.
We are all only human, and thus we make mistakes. It’s OK, it happens. In Western countries, the majority of people would be able to subconsciously correct it for themselves in their heads and figure out what you mean. However, if we don’t correct our language mistakes in an ESL classroom, the mistakes can quickly and easily become habits that are hard to break in non-native speakers. By not correcting yourself, you can actually be doing the exact opposite of what schools need ESL teachers to do! You want to encourage students to persevere when they make mistakes, so not owning up to yours is entirely counterproductive. Just because you’re at the head of a classroom doesn’t mean that you are expected to be infallible, so make a conscientious effort to point out and correct any error you may make while speaking or have typed on an assignment or powerpoint.
4) Lose your temper.
We’re all guilty of this. Again, we’re only human. However, losing your temper as an ESL teacher poses extra challenges. The young students won’t understand -unless Bobby blatantly hits Jimmy upside the head with his textbook. Plus, your frustration may very well be stemming from cultural differences, and your students will definitely pick-up on that. As an educator (yes, you are a real teacher), you need to be able to calmly deal with difficult situations. By blowing up because of differing behavioral expectations, miscommunication, or raw frustration, you risk instigating a permanently sour relationship with your students. You will make yourself appear impatient and non-understanding, and this will prevent you from cultivating a positive learning environment. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should allow disruptive or disrespectful behavior in your classroom. Sometimes, students will take advantage of being in “foreign teacher’s class” and let loose. If this is a recurring theme in your classroom, try to utilize your Director of Studies or co-teachers for support in regaining control. Read: How to build rapport in TESOL
5) Forget to have a back-up plan.
You might spend hours on what you think is the greatest lesson plan of all time, only to be met with blank stares from your students. Sometimes, they just don’t get it or you get it just wrong. In these instances, you don’t want to be caught twiddling your thumbs or reverting to a movie (refer to number three for details). Think of a couple of ways that you can approach each teaching point, and supplement each with a variety of tasks. You’ll eventually find a way to get through to them, and it will make them respect you more for putting in the extra effort to meet their needs.
6) Be boring.
It has been proven that learning information and skills in fun and engaging ways “sticks” in the brain better than listening to lectures and writing sentences, and this is especially true when concerning young learners. Creating lesson plans that allow your students to “forget” that they are in an educational setting will promote more willingness to engage, the ability to retain, and, of course, having fun in class. Remember, do not underestimate the value of authentic material.