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Top 5 Problems When Teaching EFL

POSTED ON June 20th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Any classroom, whether you are teaching in Taiwan or Guatemala, has its set of challenges and problems when teaching EFL. If you haven’t taught before and came across this article in preparation for teaching EFL, then this might sound scary: There isn’t a way to avoid these problems. However, there are, of course, ways to prepare for these challenges that can arise.

Let’s have a look at the top 5 problems when teaching English as a Foreign Language.

1. Students Don’t Speak English In Class

If you have a class full of young learners, then it is very likely that they will speak more in their native language (L1) than in English.

The Solution:

You might be aware that every class is different. However, it doesn’t matter what the students’ English proficiency level is or how old they are; every student in class needs to understand that, at the very least, they need to try to speak as much English as they can. For young learners, awarding points for speaking only English in class could work very well.

2. Dependent Students

This EFL problem occurs when the students in your class are constantly seeking attention or assistance. There are two scenarios here: They may either ask you to assist them in completing an exercise or say they cannot or do not know how to complete the task on their own.

The Solution:

It is vital to empower your students and let them feel as if they are able to complete the exercises. For example, say they have to complete an exercise on choosing ‘many’ or ‘much’ with countable/uncountable nouns, you can do the first or first two exercises on the worksheet with them. Ask the students, “Is it many apples or much apples?” They should answer “many”; then ask them why – the answer should be something along the lines of apples are things you can count. Your students may simply feel overwhelmed by the exercise, but by nudging them in the right direction, they should have the confidence to complete the rest of the exercise on their own.

3. Students Take Over

On the other hand, students taking over the class is another common problem and can easily happen when you are a new teacher or just the new teacher of that particular class. Two possibilities are (1) when a student comes in all excited over something, tells the class, and then the class gets all excited or (2) the students think they can improve the activity you have picked for them.

The Solution:

The obvious: Take your control back. But how? You need to let them know – firmly and kindly – that the lesson needs to take place, but that if work is finished in time, they can have some time – a few minutes, really – to talk about whatever it is that they are excited about. Or, as for the second case, you need to let them know that you have already planned this activity or game, but will consider their ideas for the next one.

4. One Student Takes Over

This third problem when teaching EFL is related to the third challenge above; however, in this scenario, only one student – usually an eager beaver – dominates the lesson by blurting out the answers or raising their hands first. These students typically like to win and are quite competitive.

The Solution:

There are quite a few ways that you can deal with this. One way is to take straws or pebbles (or something like this) with you to class. Consider the lesson and how many times – ideally – there are questions to answer, etc. Give each student, for example, 4 straws – meaning that they have 4 opportunities in the lesson to answer questions or say something. Once the straws are finished, they have to stay quiet, unless you call on them. Turn this into a game for young learners, whereby there is some sort of prize for having no straws left at the end of class. This will also help the quiet students – hopefully, they will want the prize and speak up a bit.

Another solution for this eager beaver student is to make them the helper for the day or lesson. The student can help you to give out books, write things on the board when necessary, or help other students find the right answers or complete an exercise.

5. Unmotivated/Bored Students

For any EFL teacher, no matter whether you are still a newbie or very experienced, this problem when teaching EFL is something that is bound to happen from time to time. Your students’ eyes will glaze over – whether it is from no motivation, no interest in the lesson, or because what (or how) you are teaching is boring.

The Solution:

It is easy to blame the students, the grammar you are teaching, or even the course book you have to work from. Unfortunately – and this is the truth – the reasons for your students’ boredom or lack of motivation is you. After all, you are the teacher and, thus, you are responsible for keeping the students engaged. There are always ways to make the lesson more fun – doing research on the internet, seeing what other teachers do, and adding your own interesting ideas should be a priority.

Last Thoughts

There are of course some other problems you can experience in an EFL classroom, from students being late and not doing their homework to not doing what you ask them to do; nonetheless, the problems when teaching EFL discussed in this article are the top 5 that any teacher can and will encounter in their class.

About the Author

Denine Walters currently works in the events industry and freelances as an EFL teacher, writer, and proofread/editor. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world, and before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In what free time she has, she likes to travel, watch Netflix, read, and do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes.

 

14 Things To Do To Improve Your Teaching

POSTED ON June 12th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Getting your certification doesn’t mean that you know how to teach, just like having years of experience doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Even though this sounds negative, you can view it in a positive light by knowing there are many fun ways to develop professionally.

Whether you are a newbie, a seasoned teacher, or somewhere in between, there are always ways to get better. Fourteen ways, in fact.

1. Take a course.

This is perhaps the most obvious and traditional way to improve. Beyond your initial CELTA or TEFL course, there are numerous and more specialized courses for every aspect of teaching. These can be taken either online or face-to-face. Young Learners, Business English, Teaching Writing, Classroom Management, and Project Based Learning are just to name a few of the possible courses that are available. Some are free, while others you need to pay, and therefore can get a certificate of completion to add to your resume. To take things a step further, you can always enroll in a Masters or DELTA course.

2. Videotape yourself.

After getting permission from the right people, set up a tripod in the back of your classroom. Recording yourself while you are teaching and having a critical look at it later is an excellent DIY type of observation and feedback. You’ll easily see areas where you can improve, as well as things you did well. Do this a couple of times in the same class so the students (and you!) feel comfortable enough to act normally.

3. Keep a journal.

A teaching journal can be used in many ways to help develop yourself professionally. It’s up to you how you want to organize your entries and how much detail you want to note. The basics should be what went well and what didn’t, plus why.

4. Join Twitter, Facebook, or other social media/networking groups.

Social media is a wonderful thing because it can connect you with teachers all over the world. By conversing with them and joining in on teacher groups, you can share and learn from each other.

5. Study.

Even the most advanced students continue to study English. Unless you’re a true grammar wiz, solidifying and improving your knowledge base of English grammar will benefit you and your students.

6. Get techy.

Technology in the classroom is something that is still left out of many classrooms. Even if you are using the basics, try upping your game a bit. Students will get much more out of learning because they will be more engaged. Using technology also helps save valuable class time because you don’t have to take time to write everything on the board.

7. Watch some TED Talks.

Need some inspiration? Aside from being motivating, there are some really useful TED-Ed talks for teachers. YouTube is another great resource where you can find new games to try and how to implement new practices.

8. Lead a professional development (PD) session…

…or share it with your fellow teachers. Ask your admin if you can share about a topic or lesson idea with your coworkers. Hopefully, they will be willing to share their ideas as well.

9. Attend conferences and webinars.

There are lots of free conferences and webinars. You’ll be surprised at just how many once you start looking around! Most range from a few hours to up to a week. A day or weekend conference is the perfect refresher and way to learn (and then try) some new activities or methodologies. Make a trip out of it if it’s a few hours away!

10. Ask to be observed.

Most teachers dread being observed. It can be stressful and have big impact on your standing within your school. However, if you are really looking to improve you can ask to be observed by the academic director or another colleague. It may be intimidating, but you will get feedback, which is exactly what you want.

11. Give a survey.

Depending on the level of the groups you are teaching, make a simple survey with some questions for your students to answer about your current teaching methods and what they would like to see more of. Put yourself in their shoes when creating the survey so that you have appropriate questions.

12. Write an article for a teaching journal or other publication.

They say that the best way to learn is to teach someone else (or share your experience). One way to do this is by picking a topic or issue within ESL teaching and write an article about it. There are many good publications that will readily welcome your contribution.

13. Read.

You’ll be surprised at just how many books related to teaching English there are. Reading is a wonderful source of knowledge. You can get new ideas, inspiration, and learn more about the English language itself. If you Google “recommended CELTA (or DELTA) reading list” you’ll be off to a good start. Some useful books aren’t only in the form of dense text, but also ideas for activities in the classroom.

14. Be forgiving and make specific goals.

If you are reading this article, then you are already on the right track to becoming a great teacher because you are being proactive. The key is to make specific and achievable goals that you can reach within a period of time. For example, “read one book a month”, or “journal after every class for one week” are good goals. Also, be forgiving to yourself. No one is perfect or can ever be perfect—it’s all about the journey. Mistakes are a good thing because you learn from them!

Are you looking for more teaching tips? Visit our Teaching Tips Blog. Or are you looking for a teaching job? We have those two at Saxoncourt Recruiting.

About the Author

Yvette Smith is an English teacher currently in Vietnam. She has taught in China and Mexico as well. She enjoys writing about the ESL field and thinks everyone should take the chance to travel abroad at least once in their lives.

Using Multimedia in Classroom Teaching

POSTED ON June 5th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Today, it is normal that students in elementary school, high school, and university learn English. However, standard methods of teaching are often not enough. Can teachers successfully incorporate multimedia into their classes and if yes – how should they do that?

Improved and modernized teaching using multimedia in classes and extracurricular activities, especially in elementary school, is becoming increasingly popular with teachers all over the world.

Besides creating a fun learning environment for the students, this type of teaching using multimedia can immensely help teachers prepare materials and conduct classes that are of higher quality, more interesting, and more creative.

Online Tools for Teachers

The Internet is not simply an immense storage of information that its users can passively consume. It provides plenty of resources for both teachers and students that can be used to improve the overall quality of teaching and learning.

Many of the tools that can be found online are free and accessible to everyone and can be used very successfully in classroom teaching and all forms of extracurricular activities.

In this way, learning stops being merely consuming content; it is through collaboration and creation of your own knowledge with the help of a variety of resources and users.

If you are interested in trying out some of these tools, take a look at the ones listed below:

TeacherTube

TeacherTube enables all participants in the teaching process, especially teachers, to exchange different types of educational content such as video and audio, documents, photos, groups, and blogs. They help to enrich the teaching process and make it more interesting.

Prezi

Prezi is a program used for creating dynamic multimedia presentations. Although similar to Microsoft PowerPoint, Prezi offers its users more creativity when creating their presentations which, ultimately, leads to creating a more interesting lecture for the students who will certainly be engaged in each slide.

Edmodo

A social network where you can set tasks, make questionnaires, assess students’ work, schedule quizzes and much more. Certainly a very good tool for a teacher that be used completely free of charge.

These are just some of many websites and tools available to teachers but with a few searches on the Internet, you will be able to find lots of useful and free tools.

Interactive Whiteboards

Thanks to interactive whiteboards, classes are not based solely on lectures by teachers but encourage students’ activity and their inclusion in the teaching process. These whiteboards adapt the classrooms to the needs and interests of contemporary students and make them really want to spend time at school.

On interactive whiteboards, you can circle things, write or draw with the help of special pen or with a finger in some cases. By using simple movements, teachers are able to rearrange elements on its surface.

When creating teaching materials, the use of an interactive whiteboard allows the teacher to use documents from different programs on the board’s surface, mark, magnify and emphasize the text.

When presenting on an interactive whiteboard, it is also possible to connect to other pages, other computer programs, and various online websites. Additionally, it is possible to record everything shown on the screen during a lecture, which the students can access whenever they want.

In addition to increasing the activity, motivation and focus of students, the benefits of using such interactive technologies are both contributing to the enrichment of teaching content through different sources, the dynamics of teaching, the greater creativity of teachers and the development of functional abilities of students.

Playing Music in Classrooms

There have been numerous studies that have proven and highlighted the benefits of music to children’s brains.

One of several teaching approaches many lectures use, to some known as Desuggestopedia, proposes quiet music be played in the background while the students are engaged in work, more preferably if the work is being done in groups.

This quiet background music is said to improve the students’ cognitive abilities and positively influence memory and data retention, while at the same time creating a safe and positive learning environment.

Creating and Improving Computer-Literacy

It is certain that both changes in science and technology have led to the need for constant acquisition of new skills so, regardless of age, it is necessary to be computer-literate.

Also, new forms of education require self-improvement and search for information and facts that are not in the textbooks.

However, this almost certainly means the students will need to have access to a computer at their homes too.

There are computers and laptops on the market that are specially designed for students of elementary and secondary schools. They are characterized by fast integrated graphics, wireless connectivity and multimedia tools for current digital education.

Personalized education is the key to future education. By using technology, it becomes more interesting and attractive because an individual can learn anywhere, anytime, as well as harmonize their educational path with interests and responsibilities.

Incorporating multimedia in classroom teaching will help students get familiarized with technology at a young age which will certainly benefit the transition that is inevitable and that is moving from their school desks to their work desks and finding jobs in the modern world.

Want more teaching tips? Visit our Teaching Tips blog. Are you a teacher looking for new teaching opportunities? Visit our recruitment division at www.saxoncourt.com.

About the Author

Milica Madić, freelance blog/article writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.

 

Teaching English Online: The Beginner’s Guide, Part Two

POSTED ON May 29th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

In the first part of this article, we looked at the perks and pitfalls of teaching English online and introduced some different styles of classes you can use. Continue reading for more tips on how to build a successful online teaching career.

Three Choices for Teaching Online

There are three popular choices for how you go about finding students and teaching English online. Your choice will depend on several factors, including:

  • how many hours you want to teach
  • how reliable you want the work to be
  • how good you are at using platforms and technology
  • how much money you want to make
  • how experienced you are as a teacher, and with making/sourcing your own materials

Here are the three options for getting your online students and starting to teach.

Total Freelance is not an option for the newbie teacher, because basically, going total freelance style means you’re totally on your own. No support network, no help finding students – it’s you and you alone. However, if you’ve got some experience and think you can do it, this is the best option because:

  1. You set your own timetable, and class length times.
  2. You can teach what you want.
  3. Pick and choose the students you want, not who you’re told to teach.
  4. Set your own pay, and cut down on the middleman costs. Finding students can be tricky, but there are ways to do it. Online advertising is a good choice, but if you live somewhere with lots of English language learners, you can also look at local advertisements, pin boards, etc. This is also a popular choice for teachers who have taught student on other platforms (or in person) who can then transfer these students to online freelance classes.

Platform Teaching is a great way to get started, and probably the most popular choice. Using a platform means that you have easy access to loads of students who will pick their teacher from a list of profiles on their search. To get involved in platform teaching you often have to make an introductory video for your students to get a feel for you, your style, your accent, etc. You may also need an interview. Students will read your profile and see if you’re the one for them. Pros of this choice is that you have a support network if things go wrong, and there are usually secure payment systems in place. Some platforms offer training, and you can network with other teachers. Cons of this choice is that you get paid less (as the platform will take a cut) and it can be difficult to get off the ground when there are so many other teachers advertising on the same platform. One way to counter this is to set low prices to begin with, and then raise your prices once your profile is more attractive.

Online Teaching for Companies is probably the least popular choice, but for some people, it works well. This is when you get hired by a company to teach English online – they find the students and set the timetable. This is a great way to start if you want a hands-off approach and just want to get stuck in. Downsides are that these companies often have a minimum contract hours and you might end up working more than you want to. Again, you get paid less because the company takes a cut. The company might be online, or it might be a physical language school that also offers online classes, which you might teach from home or from the school itself. For online companies that advertise a wide pay scale – make no mistake, even experienced teachers are likely to start off at the bottom pay grade.

Platforms for Teaching English Online

There are a number of teaching platforms, and it’s good to shop around. Some platforms might be more difficult to get accepted onto, but if it’s a more professional company, it’s worth the slog. Some will have more potential students than others, minimum weekly hours, different class lengths… there’s lots of research to be done.

Learnlight is a good company to go with if you’re a newbie, but this upside for beginners is the downside that stumps many experienced teachers – to start off with, you need to undergo an extensive online training course, including several Skype meetings, before you teach anything at all. This training is also unpaid. But once you’ve finished that, this is a company that will find you plenty of students within your contracted hours. Materials are provided, and for an experienced teacher, these classes require almost no prep. There is some paperwork though!

Verbling has a bustling community and there are message boards where both students and teachers can ask questions to their peers. Verbling has a wide price range and it’s easy for teachers to set a price, and also to change prices in general or for certain students. The Verbling platform is quite easy to use, and they have their own chat technology – Verbling Video – which you use on the website to conduct lessons. Verbling is a good choice if you have a very small number of available hours per week because you can choose as many or as few hours as you want – just bear in mind that the more limited your schedule is, the less choices there are for students.

VIPKID has over 200,000 students on their online teaching platform, taught by more than 30,000 teachers in one-to-one classes. In 2017, Forbes ranked this company as number one in a list of 100 work from home companies. The students are Chinese children aged 4 – 12. Lesson plans are provided. Each class is about 30 minutes, and the minimum commitment is 7.5 hours a week for a 6 month contract, with peak availability. This platform seems like it’s really well put together and would be a great choice for first time teachers.

For a list of many more platforms to consider, read this blog post.

Teaching Tips and Materials

  • For resources, check out websites like the British Council, BusyTeacher, the iSLCollective, Breaking New English, etc.
  • Youtube has thousands of short videos you can watch with your student in an online class. Ask the student to turn down the sound, and rather than listening to the audio, they can describe what they see while you take notes to correct afterwards. There are also countless websites that gather films for this purpose, such as the Film-English
  • Before the class, think up conversation topics or browse online for ideas. In the initial classes, you should spend some time getting to know your student so that you know things that they’re likely to want to chat about

Summary

Teaching English online isn’t for everyone, but for those teachers who can make it work, teaching online is a fantastic opportunity to take your job wherever you go and be in charge of your own teaching schedule. Most teachers just do a bit of online teaching on the side of their day job (which may or may not also be teaching!) but there are those who manage to make a full career out of online classes. The opportunities are endless, so get stuck in – you never know where it’ll take you.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a freelance writer and TEFL-trained English teacher who spent five years teaching in Asia. She specialises in travel writing and writing for children, and has a penchant for knitting. Celia is the author of Knitted Sushi (easy knitting patterns for beginners) and Ben and Maki – Let’s be Friends (an English/Japanese bilingual picture book). To contact Celia about freelancing work, check out her Upwork profile or contact Celia through her website.

Teaching English Online: The Beginner’s Guide, Part One

POSTED ON May 22nd  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

It’s estimated that roughly 1.5 billion people are learning English as a second language (for everyday use) or as a foreign language (to use for pleasure, holidays or work). An increasing number of people are learning and practising their English online rather than in a traditional classroom. As a TEFL teacher, teaching online is a great resource to be tapped into, and it’s not uncommon for language teachers to continue teaching English through online channels after they’ve finished a stint of teaching abroad. In this article, we’ll take a look at the benefits (and pitfalls) of learning and teaching English online, and find out how you can become a part of this expanding network.

Why learn and teach language online?

  • One of the greatest reasons that students choose to learn online is that they have access to teachers who they would not otherwise be able to make contact with. People who live in small, rural areas might not have access to a native speaker in their hometown. This is also useful for people who want to learn obscure languages, who might be limited if they want to learn an unusual language like Twi, Catalan or Xhosa. Finding a tutor online gives you much more choice. Similarly, a teacher is not bound by their geographical location when trying to find students
  • Learning a language online is usually much more flexible than traditional methods. Language schools local to you might not be open on the days and times when students want to learn or offer classes at times to suit them. Learning online gives students unlimited opportunities to pick something that suits
  • Unlike traditional classrooms, teaching and learning online enables you to take the lesson with you. If you’re off on holiday or a business trip, you don’t necessarily have to cancel your class – as long as you have an internet connection, you’re good to go
  • If you want to teach English part-time, you might struggle to find a school that will hire you for the hours you like. However, if you teach online you can often manage your own timetable. If you only want to teach English for an hour a week, that’s up to you!
  • For students, learning online is often an attractive choice because costs can be much lower than in traditional classrooms. Without a room to rent or too many physical materials, it keeps costs down for the teacher too

Downsides of online teaching and learning

  • The internet, the computer, technology… the arch-enemies of the online English teacher. Technological failures are part and parcel of teaching online. Really, if you don’t have a decent internet connection and a reliable device, think again – even with the best technology, things can still go wrong and, trust me, it’ll drive you nuts
  • The vast quantity of teachers online gives many choices to students but can make it hard for newbie tutors to get off the ground. Also, some students will just want the cheapest – this means they’ll plump for non-native speakers who offer super low prices, without reflecting that the teaching quality will probably be reflected in the price
  • Good things cost money!’ as my online student used to say – she understood that, for her goals, only a native teacher would do. It can be difficult for online teachers to set a good price for their lessons. A good piece of advice is to start low – but only so low that it’s still worth your time. Once you’ve had a few good lessons (and, depending on the platform you use, a few good reviews and ratings) hike up your price. You can also charge more depending on your experience and qualifications.

How to teach English online

Each student will be different regarding what they want from their class, but there are a few general methods that you’ll become familiar with. A Conversation Class will be relaxed, probably without much prep work, and the student will be at least B1 level, probably higher. Conversation students just want to have a chat. Sometimes you can go with the flow, sometimes you’ll have to prepare some ideas for conversation starters.

Grammar Focus lessons will focus on a particular grammar point that the student is struggling with. Perhaps you’ll send them some reading or questions to do before the class, and then during the lesson, you can go through the answers together.

A Review Class student might have other English lessons in a traditional classroom, but want a bit of one-to-one tuition on the side. They might want to review work from their classroom textbook or go over material that they couldn’t keep up with in class.

Coursebook students will want to follow a structured program, often with a physical book that they have in front of them. There are countless textbooks available worldwide from Amazon etc, and the student might even recommend the one they want to follow.

Most likely, your students will be a combination of these things – a bit of conversation, some grammar, help with particular questions… you never know what you’re going to get!

Summary

For details on the three different choices when it comes to teaching English online, a list of platforms to consider working on, and some handy links for online class materials, continue on to part two of this guide to teaching English online. Or you can check this out.

Want to improve your teaching? Check out our Teaching Tips blog. Or get a job teaching abroad with Saxoncourt Recruitment.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a freelance writer and TEFL-trained English teacher who spent five years teaching in Asia. She specialises in travel writing and writing for children, and has a penchant for knitting. Celia is the author of Knitted Sushi (easy knitting patterns for beginners) and Ben and Maki – Let’s be Friends (an English/Japanese bilingual picture book). To contact Celia about freelancing work, check out her Upwork profile or contact Celia through her website.

English Pronunciation: How to Teach It and Why

POSTED ON May 15th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

In today’s world, English has become an international language that people from all parts of the world use to communicate with one another. To enable their students to use and produce this language effortlessly and smoothly, it is important that teachers include pronunciation in their lessons and pay attention to pronunciation.

In an average classroom, a teacher has limited time to deal with all aspects of language such as grammar, speaking and listening comprehension, writing and vocabulary. Pronunciation often gets neglected; there is simply not enough time for it. This will lead students to thinks that pronunciation is not important because, after all, it is something that will not be tested.

However, pronunciation is very important. If the students are to speak English fluently and understandably, communicate and understand both native and non-native speakers of this language, they are going to have to be able to produce language that is understandable because, otherwise, their communication will suffer or, ultimately, fail.

What is Good Pronunciation?

When one thinks of good pronunciation, the first thing that comes to mind will most likely be sounding like a native speaker. What is wrong with this belief? First of all, there are numerous varieties of the English language: different dialects, slang, jargon, which makes it difficult to pinpoint how ideal pronunciation would sound like. Secondly, no matter how hard they try, the majority of learners trying to master a certain type of pronunciation model they prefer will most likely never achieve that goal. This is especially true for learners who are not exposed to English in their everyday lives and for adult learners.

If trying to achieve that perfect model of pronunciation is a mistake, what would be a solution?

Teachers should advise their students to set goals for themselves that are more realistic. Having an accent that would give away what country or part of the world you come from is not a bad thing. What is important is that students learn to speak in a way that the majority of listeners will be able to understand, regardless of whether the listeners are native or non-native speakers of the language.

Setting Goals for Pronunciation

While it is important that the students don’t set goals for themselves too high, it is as equally important that they don’t set them too low either.

Teachers can understand basically anything and anyone; that is what we are trained to do. However, if students become too pleased with their pronunciation and believe it is good when, in fact, other listeners might not be able to understand what the speaker’s intentions were and what message they were trying to convey, that is not a good thing. Thus, it is of great importance that teachers don’t set the bar too low when it comes to their students’ pronunciation.

Accuracy vs Fluency

When teachers try to help their students with pronunciation, they usually focus on stress patterns, intonation and sounds. The goal of this type of training will, undoubtedly, be accuracy.

Accuracy means being able to properly produce sounds and, when they are focused or produce a certain sound or a word in isolation, most students will be able to do it accurately. But in a real-life context, there are many more factors that students think about, such as grammar and what they want to say.

However, that is only one aspect of good pronunciation. Fluency is as equally important as accuracy, and it is something most teachers that teach English as a second language have in mind as a goal for their students.

If your students are able to produce words, sentences and convey meaning in English and do it in a way that is smooth, without too many pauses to think what the appropriate term or tense would be, that is when we speak of fluency.

Seeing that both fluency and accuracy are important when speaking, as in pronunciation, it is advisable for teachers to pay attention to such activities that would practice both. For fluency that would be speaking exercises where not all sounds would be perfect but the speaker would convey meaning to the listener, and for accuracy – exercises with the emphasis on producing sounds, words and grammatical units accurately and correctly.

Things Teachers Need to Know Before Teaching Pronunciation to Their Students

  • It is important that teachers have knowledge of stress patterns, intonation and the physical aspects of producing sounds – how the mouth moves, where the tongue goes, etc.
  • The ability to predict what errors might occur, why they occur and how to correct them if there exists a need for correction.
  • Teachers need to be knowledgeable of a variety of methods available for teaching pronunciation. Different groups of students may not have the same response to one method. It is, thus, important to be able to see what suits your students best. Recognize, adapt, overcome.

Basic Principles of Teaching Pronunciation

  • Including listening comprehension exercises into your lessons is a great technique that teachers can use, besides just repetition drills.
  • Highly technical explanations can be difficult for adult learners to understand and remember, let alone younger students. Simple demonstrations followed by a lot of practice and repetition will yield better results. Lessons need to fit the students’ level of understanding.
  • Teaching your students how to become independent learners is one of the best things you can do. Once they leave school, they will face pronunciation difficulties on their own. By teaching them to listen to a model of speech, imitate it and keep an eye on their pronunciation, teachers will enable their students to be autonomous learners and help them in their future learning.

Teaching pronunciation is not easy and it takes time. Teachers shouldn’t expect their students to be able to master something right away after being introduced to it. Pronunciation teaching requires coming back to the same time thing over and over, giving lots of directions and continuous practice.

About the Author

Milica Madić, freelance blog/article writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.

 

Using Real-World Materials in the Classroom

POSTED ON May 8th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

I love using real-world materials when teaching English. Authentic materials are plenty and easy to find. Whether it is news articles for reading lessons, realia (real-life objects) to make learning new vocabulary more memorable or playing the latest hit song for listening practice, including real-world examples has many benefits.

For some ideas on how to use music in your English lessons, check out our blog post on the subject.

Why might you want to use real-world materials in your classroom?

Real-life examples help to accustom your students to how the language is really used out of the classroom. Think of how a real conversation between native-speakers might differ from a pre-recorded dialogue. A real conversation will likely be faster, less clear or perfect and have more filler words and sounds than a scripted chat. By exposing your students to real-life examples, you are preparing them for what’s out there.

While textbooks, language recordings and other pre-prepared teaching resources are tremendously helpful, they are not always readily available. If you find yourself teaching at a school with limited resources, you will have to prepare most of the teaching materials yourself. This is where real-world materials will truly be indispensable. The internet might be the first place you’d consider when looking for teaching resources, but there are alternatives. A local tourist information centre might have information brochures available in English, certain products could have English labels, some restaurants might have English menus and a nearby museum or a historic site might have English information signs. You could even involve your students by asking them to look out for authentic English texts and bring them to class. You could then plan a lesson based on the materials your students provided.

Real-world materials are also worth considering if the context of the teaching materials you do have is not very relevant or interesting to your students. If you are teaching a group of Korean teenagers, they might enjoy talking about Big Bang or BTS more than Yoko Ono and John Lennon. If you are teaching adults or older teenagers, a lesson on CV writing might be very useful and appreciated. There’s an informative video on the topic available online if you do decide to help your students with their CVs. Knowing your students interests and reasons for learning English will help you decide what real-word examples to centre your lesson around and make your lessons more personal.

Real-world Tasks to Try with your Students

Photographs and comic strips from newspapers can make fabulous real-world teaching resources. If you are looking for a writing lesson, you could ask your students to write a serious and a humorous caption for each of the photos. Similarly, you could bring in comic strips with blanked out speech bubbles and ask your students to fill them in. Then let the students wander around the classroom to read the captions and comic strips of others. Towards the end of the activity, you could show the students the original captions and comic strips.

For a speaking activity involving photos, pick a big and detailed photograph and cut it into as many pieces as there are students in your classroom. Give one piece of the photo to each student and get them to describe what is on their piece, without showing it, to others. Only once a student finds another student whose piece, they are sure, is adjacent to theirs should they show their pieces to each other. The objective is for the students to reconstruct the picture based on the descriptions of the individual pieces. You could then have a group conversation with your students about what is happening in the photograph.

You can base a fun reading and speaking lesson on restaurant menus. Give your students time to familiarize themselves with the menus. If the dishes in the menu are accompanied by a description, you could cover the dish names and get your students to guess what the dish is based on the description. For example, ‘bread dipped in egg and cinnamon batter and fried till golden brown’ is French Toast. For a latter part of the lesson, divide your students into ‘guests’ and ‘waiters’ and get them to practice the dialogue, get the ‘waiter’ to check the order with the ‘guest’. You could try to collect some menus from local establishments to make thing a bit more personal.

Field trips and lessons outside can be very memorable and enjoyable for both children and adult students alike. If your school allows it, consider taking your students out of the classroom and teaching them English in the real world. You could take them to a museum, library or an art gallery, window-shopping, to a zoo or a park, a café or an ice-cream parlour to name but a few possible destinations. If your school is in a remote location, take your students on a short nature walk and teach them the English names of the plants and animals and other surroundings. Such outdoor lessons are also great if you would like to try your hand at Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) methodology.

Want more like this? Visit our Teaching Tips blog and check out our Language Learning Tips. What are your thoughts on using real-world examples in your classroom? Please share with us on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Author

Aleks Kaye completed a blended CELTA course, while working full-time in Student Support at a university in the UK. She is currently spending a year in Canada with her husband David. You can read about their adventures at daleksabroad.travel.blog

Teaching Tips for Challenging Students

POSTED ON April 24th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

We’ve all had students who were challenging in one way or another. Perhaps they’re a bright child who feels bored in the classroom or someone at the other end of the scale who struggles to keep up. Maybe a child has trouble paying attention or just likes being the class clown. Whatever the reason, challenging students are a fact of life for teachers all over the world. Here are a few top tips to enable you to teach well, even to the most challenging of classrooms.

  • Breathe. This is always the number one rule for challenging students. Whatever the situation is, breathe.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. If an altercation arises between two students, don’t automatically assume it’s the ‘troublemaker’ who’s in the wrong. All too often, a ‘naughty’ student who is trying to change their ways will continue to be the scapegoat, which only discourages them from behaving better.
  • Listen well. All students, even challenging ones, want to know that their opinions are valid and matter. Listening to your students will promote good behaviour across the board.
  • Don’t punish harshly. If bad behaviour needs punishing, take your time rather than acting rashly. Waiting until the end of the class can sometimes be more effective than immediately dealing out punishments.
  • Give the student an opportunity to correct what they’ve done. Rather than saying ‘you emptied the bin all over the floor, now you’ll have a detention’ you could say ‘would you please pick up that rubbish you threw on the floor and then we can move on’.
  • A new day is a clean slate. Just because a student displayed challenging behaviour before doesn’t mean that you should have your guard up and expect it in the next class. Give students the chance to genuinely turn over a new leaf.
  • Watch your words. Rather than telling a ‘bad’ student to be more like the ‘good’ classmate, tell your ‘disruptive’ student that they should mimic their classmates ‘positive’ work ethic.

(You can also get more on general classroom management here.)

Conclusion

If a student persistently displays challenging behaviour, seek advice from your supervisor. Perhaps this student has something stressful going on at home, or an underlying issue which needs to be addressed. There are numerous ways to deal with challenging behaviour, but the most important thing is for you to breathe, remain calm, stay professional and not to give up.

Do you want more articles like this? Be sure to visit our Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a TEFL teacher and freelance writer living in the UK. She spent five years teaching English in China and Japan and now teaches Skype lessons to students around the world. She writes pedagogical articles, travel guides, and stories for children.

 

Setting Homework for Adult Learners

POSTED ON April 18th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Homework isn’t just for school children. Everyone can benefit from it, no matter the age. Read on for some tips on how to effectively set homework for adults.

The benefits of homework are numerous, from consolidating knowledge, through giving students time to work through things at their own pace, to encouraging students to use English outside of the classroom. When managed well, adults will gain as much, if not more, from set homework as school pupils.

To find out how one English teacher used homework to elicit more enthusiasm and participation from his adult students, check out this inspiring blog post.

Motivation

Adult learners generally have strong intrinsic motivation when it comes to language learning. They have their personal reasons for wanting to learn the language and are keen to succeed. You can use homework to help your students to meet their language goals. When setting the homework, explain to the students, what skills or language points they will practice the task.

Frequency

When deciding what and how much to set for homework, keep in mind that your adult students are likely to be a busy individual with jobs, families and other commitments. If you plan to set homework several times each weak opt for shorter activities requiring little time to complete. If you want to set longer homework, consider giving your student more time to turn it in.

Variety

Just like children and teenagers, adults like variety. Alternate the tasks you set as homework and do not be afraid to set homework that is creative or unconventional. Worksheets and writing tasks can be great, but why not also ask your students to record an interview with a friend in English, set a reading assignment, ask them to watch a short film or listen to a podcast in English.

Homework set, but not returned

Even if you set homework that is fun, relevant and engaging, you are likely to find that for various, valid reasons some your students will not do their homework. It is therefore important to not rely on students completing homework for your lesson to work. Plan your lessons in such a way that the students who did not do the homework can still fully participate in the classroom activities.

Feedback

Do not neglect to give your students feedback on the homework they completed. Whether it is short verbal feedback or a detailed, long written comment, providing your students with feedback for homework is very important. Aim for your feedback to help your students know what went well and what they need to work on to improve their English.

Please share your thoughts and tips for setting homework for adults with us on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Author

Aleks Kaye completed a blended CELTA course while working full-time in Student Support at a university in the UK. She is currently exploring Canada with her husband David and blogging about it at daleksabroad.travel.blog

Activities for Teaching about Animals

POSTED ON April 10th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

All TEFL teachers have their go-to topics when they get a class assigned at the last minute. It’s good to have a few games and activities up your sleeve for when you need to teach at short notice, and if they have a similar theme, it comes across much better than as just a bunch of random activities. “Animals” is a great topic to pull out of the bag, and there is so much scope for learning. It works particularly well with younger learners, but this is a topic that can be taught to any age. In this article, we’ll take a look at some popular games, activities and ideas for teaching this popular topic.

Why teach the animal topic?

  • “Animals” is a universal topic – animals exist all over the world and are popular with younger learners because they often appear in books, songs and stories.
  • Even if the students are first-time language learners, they might know some animal vocabulary already. This comes from high exposure to the topic in their native language.
  • Generally, this is a topic that everyone likes. It’s not gender-specific, it’s not complicated, and it’s a great topic to have fun with.
  • There are loads of resources. A few minutes of searching online (or reading this article!) will yield enough material for a whole lesson. Check out our top activities below.

Think Outside the Box with Different Senses

For very young learners, a great way to teach animal vocabulary is to incorporate other senses. What noise does a cat make? How does a dog walk?  Using sounds can make it easier for young learners to understand, and TPR games are a great way to engage them too.

Scattergories

A party game developed in the late 80’s, this is a popular brainstorming game which can be used with any topic. Also known as ‘animal alphabet’, in this game students need to write down a word for each letter of the alphabet which related to the theme. So if the theme is animals, they might write: A = Alligator, B = Bear, C = Cat… You can make it more difficult by narrowing the theme, such as ‘Animals of Africa’ or ‘Animal Predators’. This works well for a warmer, review, or pair work.

Songs

You could play a different animal song every day of the year and still not run out of resources – there are endless materials online to make use of. To start you off, here is a playlist on Youtube to songs about animals, featuring PINK FONG and Super Simple Songs. My favourites are ‘Five Little Ducks’, ‘Baby Shark’, and ‘Did You Ever See My Tail?’. You can see a playlist here or watch a sample below.

 

Worksheets

Just because there are millions of animal worksheets out there doesn’t mean that you should bombard your students with them – pick carefully, and make them relevant to the class. Here’s a link to the hundreds of worksheets, colouring pages and craft ideas relating to animals on the Super Simple Learning page: https://supersimpleonline.com/resource-topic/animals-insects/

Make It Trickier

If you’re teaching older students and don’t want them to get bored with the same old topic, how about enhancing the theme? You could teach a lesson titled Predator vs Prey, or get the students to research an endangered species. There are plenty of online resources to do with environmental topics, or you could get the students to research extinct animals of the past.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a TEFL teacher and freelance writer living in the UK. She spent five years teaching English in China and Japan and now teaches Skype lessons to students around the world. She writes pedagogical articles, travel guides, and stories for children.