No doubt if you are reading this, you are already a great teacher.
You may not have all of the information you need for the classroom, but your attitude is where it should be. The best teachers are learners as well. But what if it wasn’t information, exactly, that you needed to be successful in the classroom? What if the rules and patterns of English weren’t where you were lacking? What if what you really needed was to know more about yourself? In fact, tapping in to your personal strengths can make a big difference in your classroom. It can take you from great to stellar. Here’s how.
5 Ideas to Boost Your Teaching by Drawing on Your Own Personal Strengths
Are You a Creative Type?
Are you creative? Do you paint or sew or stitch or sculpt in your time away from class? If so, bringing that creativity to your classroom can have a great impact on your English as a second language students. Within the classroom walls, we tend to focus on the basics – reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary. Those things are good and necessary, but we can go a step further. Including creative activities in the classroom can be a great way to facilitate learning in your language students.
Try including music or art in your classroom instruction. Rather than using a standard writing prompt such as how can we improve grading practices in our school, try showing students a classic piece of art such as the Scream and asking them to use the painting as inspiration for a story or character sketch. If you are doing a cloze exercise, rather than having students listen to last night’s new broadcast, use a popular song and ask students to fill in the missing words from the lyrics.
Are You a Techie?
Today’s world in one that integrates technology at every turn, but sometimes the classroom can be a bit behind on the times. If you are technology minded, you can use your strengths in that area to make your classroom larger than life for your students. You’ll have a step up in the process if your school already supplies plenty of high tech gadgets for you to use in the classroom. Load your computer with links to websites where your students can take language quizzes, do listening and reading comprehension activities, or play language based games. Encourage your students to submit homework via email, and keep a class blog where students take turns writing posts for all to read. Have students record videos and podcasts and upload them for the world to see.
Even if you don’t have lots of technology on hand in class, you might have more than you think. Many students these days, especially teenagers and adults, have smart phones. Instead of insisting they put them away during class periods, encourage students to take their phones out. You’ll have access to the internet for your entire class. You can do many of the same things on a smart phone as you can do on a computer (I don’t have to tell you that) so have your students use their portable high tech devises in the classroom to make their learning experience even better. Don’t forget to assist them in connecting to your school’s Wi-Fi network so they don’t blow up their data plan, either.
Are You an Adventurer or Mover and Shaker?
Is it hard for you to stay inside all day every day? Perhaps you became a teacher so you wouldn’t be stuck behind a desk eight hours straight. There’s good news for you and your students. Language is for communication. And there is no better place for English as a second language users to communicate than outside in the real world. If you take the time to look around you (and your school) there are tons of places you can take your students to practice their English skills.
Take some time in the classroom to talk about how to order coffee and other drinks, then take your class to your local Starbucks or other java house to put their skills into practice. Do a listening comprehension at a local lecture or even your local courthouse (they are often open to the public). Have your students do simple surveys with strangers on the street. Think about what is near your school, and any way language is used in those places is a good way to get your students out of the classroom while learning English.
Are You a Free Spirit?
Let students learn independently. One of my favorite things to do in the classroom is to set up independent learning centers. They allow you to be creative in your activities and give students ownership in their own education. When you give students freedom to learn independently, think of yourself as a facilitator more than an instructor. Lead them to the right sources and let them discover truth on their own. Consider the discovery grammar method where you provide all the tools students need to, not surprisingly, discover grammar patterns on their own. Take some time at the beginning of each unit to ask students what they want to learn and how you can help them reach their personal educational goals rather than choosing everything you will cover on your own. Ask students what type of activities they like best and then do those things.
Are You a Geek?
Geek is the new cool, don’t you know? Really, a better term might be pop culture guru, and there are plenty of ways to bring that world into your classroom. Start with movies. You can use them for comprehension activities, writing prompts, sources of new vocabulary, speaking prompts, and all sorts of other activities. Pretty much anything you can do with a written piece, you can do with the language in a movie. How about games? Games are great for the ESL classroom. You can use traditional ones like Scrabble, Scattergories, and Pictionary, but don’t stop there. Try a game like Gloom where students have to tell a story as they play or a role playing game where players act in character and have conversations with each other. Not only will your students have a great time learning English, they’ll get a good dose of western culture while they’re at it.
We teachers don’t need to pigeonhole ourselves into one stereotype or another.
I just hope that this has made you think about what makes you unique as an individual, where your strengths lie. Then if you tap into those strengths and integrate them into your classroom, you may find that your teaching does more than go up a notch. You may see that bringing the best of who you are into your classroom makes your students the best of who they can be too.
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