“Most of my students come to class because they ‘have to’. They ‘have to’ study English because their parents make them or because they need it for work. They see learning English as just another chore they must do. How can I make learning English a pleasure for my students?” *
Tidy up. Pick up the milk. Study English. For some students, it is indeed just another chore on their list. For some, it is “compulsory” (“Everyone in the company has to study”). For others, it’s a means to an end (“I need to pass an English test to study in the US”). They seem to have no joy in learning! But it doesn’t have to be a chore. Here’s how you can make English class more of a pleasure and less of a chore.
Here's How You Can Make Learning English a Pleasure
Connect English to Things They Enjoy
This is just one of the reasons you should take the time to get to know your students. At the initial stage of the course, you should find out what your students are passionate about, where their interests lie and what they hope to accomplish in the future, among other things. Use these interests to help them see how learning English can help them pursue their passions and dreams. Say they’re passionate about movies. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they could understand their favorite movies in their language of origin? What if they long to travel to Liverpool, the Beatles hometown? How much more enjoyable would it be if they could tour the sights and not need a translation?
Don’t Pile on the Homework
Homework is not construed as helpful. Homework is construed as the chore within the larger chore of having to take English lessons. It only makes matters worse if you pile on the grammar exercises and worksheets that are several pages long. Of course, it is essential for students to do homework, but why don’t you give them homework that really works for them instead?
Use Real, Updated Information
You’re teaching a business English class, and you happen to be looking at a fictional company’s organization chart. Why would students take interest in a company that doesn’t even exist with a CEO they’ve never heard of? Talk about real CEOs instead and the companies they run. Or have each student present a chart of how their own company is structured.
Capitalize on Their Skills and Expertise
Say you have to teach a topic you know very little about, like water sports, marketing or even music. Instead of floundering with a basic explanation of marketing (because, let’s face it, you’re no expert), let the marketing expert explain. Ask the kid who has tried every water sport on the planet to explain the difference between wakeboarding and waterskiing. What could be more pleasurable than sharing information about something we are experts at?
Keep the Atmosphere Friendly and Light
Start the class by asking students about their weekend, families or holidays. Never get right down to business! Give them an encouraging smile when they make a mistake or get tongue tied. Let them know it’s okay; we all learn from mistakes. Even though there might be tests and grades, the important thing is for them to relax and enjoy the learning process.
Balance Their Participation
Eager beavers who raise their hands all the time and don’t let others speak can really take all the pleasure out of a class for those who can’t get a word in. Make sure the eager beavers know they have to give everyone else a chance to speak, and encourage the participation of those who tend to be more quiet.
Celebrate the Differences
Few things beat the pleasure of being accepted in a group, despite any cultural or ethnic differences. Make your class a place where students of all nationalities and races can share experiences and information about their culture.
Studying doesn’t have to be a chore, if you make it a habit. And students should find out which study habits work best for them. Are they too tired to do homework after work? If they insist on doing this, it will inevitably become a chore. But if they form the habit of doing their homework over breakfast or on the train to work, it will be a much more painless task.
Lectures will, without a shadow of a doubt, take all the pleasure out of learning English. Who wants to sit there while you go on and on about the differences between the simple past and the past perfect? Don’t tell them! Show them! With examples, with games, with their own experiences. But try to keep the explaining down to a minimum.
But in the end, the only ones who can make classes more of a pleasure and less of a chore are your own students.
Students need to overcome the prejudice and all of the negative expectations tied to “going to school”. Prove to them that learning English can be a great adventure, one that will take them to places and show them things they never imagined.
* This question was sent in from a real ESL teacher, just like you! If you need any advice on a particular topic, share your question in the comments below. Or tweet your question to @busyteacher_org with the hashtag #ESLTeachersAsk. Your question might get picked and featured in an article!