As English teachers, our role is to help students achieve their English language goals. For some ESL students their goal is to do well on an English proficiency test such as IELTS, TOEIC, or TOEFL. Some want to study or work abroad. Others want to do their jobs more effectively. Some want to communicate with international business clients or colleagues. Some want to become more proficient in giving presentations. For others, it is to be able to participate in the world of English language. They want to watch and understand Hollywood movies, chat with foreigners, or converse with people from different countries.
There is a great deal of evidence proving the effectiveness of peer to peer education. What does this mean exactly? Essentially it is the idea that the teacher facilitates the beginning of a lesson but encourages a great deal of peer-to-peer correction (with the guidance and supervision from the teacher), strategizing, communication and teamwork among students.
When I began teaching English, the one thing I struggled with the most was getting my students to engage with each other. I was so focused on learning the material from the textbook and how to effectively teach the grammar points that I didn’t realize how important bonding and relationship building was between myself and the students. Furthermore, I didn’t realize how it would not only take the stress off of my shoulders, but how it would yield even higher results than teacher-led instruction.
-Clare completed the 120-hour TESOL certificate course and she is currently teaching English in Toronto-
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.
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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Preparing TESOL lesson plans can turn into a teacher’s least favourite past-time. Some of the tips below seem to be little more than common sense, but when time becomes scarce we find ourselves cutting corners and taking care of immediate needs (such as photocopying or marking the latest quiz we gave our students) and we end up having less time to devote to lesson planning and preparation. This, in turn, makes certain small tasks more cumbersome and, before we know it, lesson planning becomes a black hole that consumes more and more of our time. If the following tips are followed consistently, lesson planning will become natural to you and take less and less time as you become an experienced teacher.
While not all ESL classes are the same, you will likely have one where it is a struggle to teach due to excessive talking. Like a round of Whack-a-Mole, as soon as you stop the lesson, redirect the talkers, and begin again, another group of students starts up. This can be super frustrating, and if you are a teacher who likes total control, aggravation may become the rule of the day. By grouping your students according to proficiency and then providing differentiated instruction, you can preempt such situations.
Participation in the ESL classroom is indispensable for students to improve their English skills. By increasing student interaction during class you will encourage participation, and students will have a better chance to develop their language skills more successfully.
For most students, their English class is one of the few moments in the day, or the only time, when they have a chance to use their spoken English. If they do not participate, their oral skills fall behind and they lose confidence as time goes by instead of gaining it. Telling students that participation is beneficial for their language development and improvement is often not enough to motivate them to participate.
Cooperative learning activities help ESL students to interact more with other students and allow teachers to witness their learning. Communicating and collaborating with their peers allows students to participate more by using the language in lower-risk situations where they do not feel they are being evaluated.
Many experts recommend cooperative learning activities to provide opportunities for English language learners to practice using English and to receive feedback that promotes language acquisition. By focusing on the process as well as the product of group work, cooperative learning also enables students to work effectively with others from various cultural backgrounds and English ability levels, to develop friendships that might not happen otherwise, and to experience the satisfaction of helping others.
Cooperative learning is an essential strategy that gives students the best opportunities to use the language and practice what they are learning. The following activities are carefully structured to promote purposeful talk and collaboration:
Culture shock is a series of feelings that travellers experience when they encounter the new and unfamiliar culture of a different city or country. Four stages have been identified in the process of experiencing culture shock: