Students just starting their English studies risk being overwhelmed by new material.
Showing them that lessons can be fun and that they can perform well is important to get them engaged in and positive about your classes. Your curriculum should be designed with this in mind so be sure to dedicate plenty of time to each section. If students are doing better than expected, simply use the free lesson period to review or better yet, have fun with a cultural lesson or holiday activity.
How To Proceed
Lesson Material Especially with beginners it is important to go slowly. There is a steep learning curve at the very beginning of their studies especially if you are the first to introduce them to the Latin alphabet. Try to introduce manageable chunks of information and do not add in more information until your students are comfortable with what they have already covered. This may mean that they are not able to understand the purpose of learning certain things initially but perhaps after a few lessons on a topic, you can help put it all together and then they will be amazed at how much they have learned. For example, in one lesson you may teach your students the words I, you, he/she/it and what they mean but they cannot make sentences with this vocabulary until you give them some verbs to work with which may not be appropriate until a later lesson.
Teacher Talking In the classroom you will also have to slow down your talking speed. Students are never going to understand you if you are talking a mile a minute. If you assist a teacher who is not a native speaker and would like you to speak at a normal speed, you can speed up slightly but a normal speed would not be appropriate for beginners. At the intermediate and advanced levels, you may speak more rapidly as their grasp on English increases and they can follow you better but it may still be challenging for them. When you do choral repetition or drill exercises, be sure to enunciate clearly and be loud enough for the entire class to hear you. It is often difficult for people to understand you, if your mouth is hidden from view which is odd because your students are supposed to be listening but even so, try to direct your attention towards your students, as opposed to the blackboard for instance, when you are talking to them and hold flashcards at an appropriate level.
Practice Choose practice activities that are simple, easy to understand, and easy to explain. Using lots of words that students don’t recognize to explain how to do a practice activity is only going to further confuse them. In many cases a demonstration may be your best option. As your students improve, you can introduce more complex activities but if an activity ever takes longer to explain that to complete, it is not worth doing again. Practice activities should revolve around students having the opportunity to speak English so even worksheets should be used for that purpose. After a worksheet has been completed, ask for volunteers to read the questions, translate the questions, and give the answers. Try to involve as many students as possible and give them continuous positive feedback.
Have Fun Language studies give students the opportunity to learn in a different way. English should not be taught the same way Mathematics or History is taught. There is no room for lectures because luckily as the teacher, you already know how to speak English while the students really need to practice more than anything else. Getting students to communicate with you and each other in a positive creative environment should be the goal of every language teacher. You can incorporate many different games into your lessons and with lots of miming and role plays students will probably laugh at you, in a good way, on more than one occasion. Taking the focus away from grammar rules and focusing on communication will encourage them to try their best, which is all you can really ask of them.
Students just beginning their English studies have absolutely no idea what to expect so it is beneficial to you and all their later English teachers to help them enjoy it by encouraging them and showing them that learning another language is not an overwhelming task.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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