Any teacher who has spent some time teaching in schools (especially in Asia) soon realises that small class sizes are somewhat of a distant mirage - a myth that only a fortunate few who work at international schools have the opportunity to experience. Many government schools often have class sizes that regularly exceed 50 students! Imagine teaching 50 fifteen year-olds who have no interest in English. What would you do to capture their attention and get them interested in English? Teachers should draw on their own experience as a learner and recall the teachers who had an impact on them when they were the age of their students. The boring French teacher, who droned on and on about masculine and feminine words, was not really awe inspiring and generally sent students to sleep quicker than you could say ‘bonjour’. It is the teacher who is a little eccentric, unpredictable and, ultimately, inspiring who manages to capture the attention of the students.
In this article, we will try to cover some useful tips on how to inspire senior high school students and their toes, while providing them English skills that they can use in real life.
Here's How You Can Become A 'Pro' High School ESL Teacher:
Give them what they want
If you want the best result from stubborn high school students, the most effective technique is to give them exactly what they want. If they want games, then give them games! The great part about giving students what they want is this can be used as a bargaining tool in order for you to get them to complete work. Senior high school students can be difficult to enforce discipline, so one fantastic way is to negotiate with them. If they complete the required exercises, then they can play a game at the end of class! When it comes to exercises that can be a little ‘dry’, edit them so they can talk about things that your students are interested in. Find out about some of their favourite pop stars, movie stars and base the exercises on that.
If possible, stay away from the grammar!
In many cases, it is the task of a local English teacher to teach the grammar. Your task as a native speaker should be encouraging students to use the language.
Don’t focus on grammar, keep the emphasis on communication. Of course, if a student makes a grammatical error on a regular basis, do correct them. However, provide usable examples of the grammar within context that the student could use, not out of a textbook.
Don’t be predictable
Predictable teaching means that students very quickly switch off and continue with their own thing. Keep them focused on what is happening in the classroom by being a little unpredictable. Try asking ‘trick’ questions or saying ‘Good Afternoon’ in the morning. This tests their English and checks that they are tuned in. Speak loudly, speak softly, just don’t be boring and monotonous.
Have a laugh!
Be prepared to laugh at them and laugh at yourself. Students generally respect a teacher who they can have a joke with. Generally, this works in the favour of the teacher, as most ESL/EFL teachers cannot speak the L1 of the student. If the student can joke to the teacher using English, well hey! They are using English! When you have a laugh and a joke with them (in English), then you are providing them with English, albeit in the form of a joke.
Make it real
One thing that we find works really well is to throw away the grammar books and get the students to work on a skill that they could use later in life or with their further education at university. Ongoing projects are a great way to teach language that is used on an everyday basis, and helps them build on language structures that they may eventually involve in the workplace. Some projects that help build on real life English include:
- Work as a group to plan a company, then present;
- Research and report on what’s happening in another country;
- Devise an advertising campaign for a produce;
- Work as a group and plan a travel itinerary around the world – decide as a group where you would go and what you would do.
The psychology of a fun class
Starting off with a game and ending with a game is what we refer to as a ‘Sandwich of Fun’. By starting with an activity and ending with an activity, students generally forget about the ‘boring’ grammar exercises or reading activities.
Set fair rules with their input
When you set the rules with the students, you create a fair environment where the students can voice their expectations of the teacher. If all of the students agree to the rules of both teacher and students, cooperation should be easy to maintain. Also set some fun rules as well, for example, make it a rule that students should answer the question ‘How are you?’ with anything other than ‘I’m Fine’.
Focus on students who want to learn
Often when faced with classes where 46 out of 54 students don’t want to learn, it’s a good idea to put the activity on the board and then focus on assisting those students who want to learn. Without totally neglecting the needs of all students in the class, simply assist those students who really want it. Focusing on a student who doesn’t want you help takes valuable teaching time away that could be used on providing assistance to a student who truly appreciates and wants to further their English skills.
Practically any teacher has the ability to become an inspiring teacher to senior high school students; it is simply a matter of walking into the classroom with the right attitude and by following the above tips and tricks. Even with more difficult classes, teachers can still be an inspiration to their students and provide them with a set of useful language skills that will stay with them forever.