Teaching English Tips: How To Be A Successful Teacher

If you’re interested in moving abroad for a job teaching English, you’ll likely find that it’s quite different than being a teacher or tutor for native speakers. However, before you move to start your new career, consider brushing up on some tips to help you become a better teacher. These aren’t the only ways to become successful, but they can certainly help your students learn the language.

Tip #1: Speak Entirely In English

If you’ve ever tried to learn another language, you know that it can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to go back and forth between your new and native tongues. Studies have shown that immersion classrooms are more successful, mostly because students are forced to switch their brains over to the new language. If your students are just beginners, they may have problems following along so make sure that you write down any necessary information, such as homework assignments. Students may need to look up a few words in a translation dictionary before they truly understand, and having the instructions written down will help ensure that they can complete the assignment at home.

Tip #2: Encourage Everyone To Speak Up

Instructors aren’t the only ones who should be talking throughout the class. Students should feel free to speak to each other, without worrying about being mocked for making a mistake. Learning a new language is difficult and everyone needs to actually say the words in order to be effective in their new language! Don’t let a few outspoken students run the class though. Teachers should make an effort to call on each student at least once a session to ensure that everyone is progressing as they should.

Tip #3: Require That Students Write In English

Have you ever met someone who’s fluent in another language, but they can’t read or write it? These are often people whose families speak other languages, but they learn another in school. To help your students become successful in all parts of speech, make sure they write, as well as read and speak in the new language.

Tip #4: Make Teaching English Fun

Your class will learn better when they’re having fun, even if they’re adults. Nothing will put your class to sleep faster than a dry, boring lesson. Instead, use games and other teaching gimmicks to make the lesson enjoyable for yourself and your class. Pictionary and charades are especially fun, as well as spelling bees and 20 questions. If you notice that your class prefers certain games to others, try to adapt them for different lessons. Or, ask your students to come up with their own game to teach the class — when they’re directly involved in their own education, they’ll be more likely to be successful.

These aren’t the only ways teachers can be successful when they’re teaching English to non-native speakers, but they’re certainly a good start. If you can, connect with others who are teaching English and work together to share ideas and strategies that will help you — and your class — to be successful.

New Teacher Tips on Teaching ESL Students From Kenneth Beare’s ESL Guide

ESL guide for About.com, Kenneth Beare talks about his work as an ESL (English as a second language) teacher and educational writer.

Dorit: Kenneth, thanks so much for participating in today’s interview. What is your background in ESL?

Kenneth: I worked as an ESL teacher for 20 years. I started teaching in Germany in 1984 and continued in New York City for the New York Association teaching Russian immigrants of the former Soviet Union vocational English, as well as in Italy in the 90s.

For the past ten years I’ve been developing English language teaching materials for special courses administrative purposes. I haven’t been teaching for the past five years. I also work as a content creator and consultant for English language development products.

With regard to my work at About.com, I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. Since 1997, I’ve developed thousands of pages of curriculum free of charge for ESL teachers and students to use.

Dorit: Your answer actually leads me to my next question. What are some of the primary needs and concerns of ESL students and teachers who visit your site?

Kenneth: 60-70% of the students want to improve their communicative skills in speaking. They also come with a more traditional mindset when it comes to learning English and love the traditional quizzes on a wide variety of topics.

The ESL teachers are using industry specific dialogues such as specific situational content at the dentist office which has become a huge hit. ready to go lesson plans are also very popular with teachers. I also have requests for EFL learning and teaching resources and I will point people to those resources.

Dorit: How do you see the development of online language teaching and learning?

Kenneth: I’ve been involved in a number of startups and I’m amazed by the lack of entrepreneurial spirit with regard to online language teaching. Teachers need to be aware of how their online personalities come across. You have to engage and help and create a relationship. That is where I see the future of online language training moving.

On the other hand, students expect teaching to be traditionally taught online. With regard to my online content development, I’m not sure if what I’m doing always makes sense pedagogically. We will be at a turning point ten years down the road as people grow into the technologies.

Dorit: Yes, it’s certainly is interesting food for thought. What are you thoughts about teaching needs common to both EFL and ESL teachers?

Kenneth: Often the meeting point between EFL and ESL is when teachers teach vocational materials involving shared materials and setting similar instructional goals. Language chunks and standard phrases, and particular jargon to various areas are all part of this development of global English. The cultural consideration of the status of English should also be taken into consideration as English is used more and more as a lingua franca. It is also important to take other issues into consideration such as needs analysis as students recognize their own particular learning goals. For example, are they learning English to successfully perform in a job?

The needs analysis is very important and that dictates your curriculum, your teaching purpose and finally, determines success.

Dorit: The same needs analysis is also important for teachers, right?

Kenneth: Yes. You need to have instructional objectives in order to achieve goals and in different cultural classrooms, teachers need to think about this. Adding materials and completely going off on your own shows on one hand that you are a motivated teacher but too often, teachers do not set appropriate cultural standards for the needs of their students. For example, do students need and want to learn about British culture in an EFL setting?

In high school, a lot of students wanted English learning material on a global level that opened itself to contextual communication such as discussing what is happening in Iraq now.

Dorit: Well we’re out of time for now but I’m sure your information will be very helpful to ESL and EFL teachers and students if it hasn’t been already. Well, thanks so much Kenneth for your time and participation in this interview. I always enjoy speaking to passionate teachers and educational writers like you.

Kenneth: Thank you, Dorit.

Teaching English As A Foreign Language – 7 Tips For Using Popular Movies

Movies and Videos in the EFL Classroom

If you’re looking to expand the role of movies and videos in your EFL classroom, what better way to expand the learners’ communicative skills, grammar and vocabulary than by using clips from popular movies? Try using these seven tips for stimulating learner motivation while enjoying a favored pastime of children and adults alike, watching short scenes or clips from popular movies.

1. Use pre-viewing activities

Before the video, warm up your learners to the theme and grammar using pre-viewing activities. A variety of these might include puzzles, photos and images, short games like “concentration” or TPR activities, a story or anecdote, or activating the schema of the learners’ in a number of other ways.

2. Have learners complete a chart while viewing

While they are watching a short video or movie segment you might have the learners fill in key information in a chart. Items like names of characters, occupations, family relationships, clothing and settings can be easily recorded this way. This allows the learners to focus more on the communicative aspects and less on actually writing.

3. Select a grammar point repeatedly demonstrated in the movie clip

There’s no need to leave grammar out of a video-based lesson or stage. If a useable grammar point or structure is repeated or prominent during the movie clip you plan to use, all the better. Just remember to pre-teach that grammar or structural element, even a class or two before the video, so that it will be recognizable in context.

4. Have a list of six to eight lexis

Select a list of from six to eight or ten vocabulary words, idioms and expressions from the movie clip or video you plan to use. Pre-teach these during the pre-viewing stage of the lesson. When the learners then hear them used in context during the video viewing session, the lexis will have added impact.

5. Make use of visual input

A popular movie clip is an audio-visual experience, so use it as such. While learners are watching and listening for general and detailed spoken information, include visual aspects for them to skim and scan for as well. How many? How much? When? Where? Who? How and why are good starters for capturing visually-presented information from the movie clip or video segment.

6. Allow learners to select their preferred movie clip

It can be quite a dilemma. There you have perhaps two or three or more movies from which to choose, but you’re not sure which your learners would prefer. So I have an idea, do you choose, let them do it. Take three movies for example, show the learners only the first five minutes of each, and then let them choose which they’d like to work with. If you have a clip in mind from each of the movies, show each clip and give them a choice. You can work up your activities and lesson stage plans confident in having your learners’ interest and motivation.

7. For post-viewing discussion:

If not addressed during pre-viewing activities, now is the time to talk about favorite actors, actresses, similar plots and stories from other movies, and what might be different or better outcomes for what as seen. Stage re-enactments, altered dialogues and plot twists your learners might come up with. Be imaginative, be creative, be bold or even funny, but get them communicating about their experience.

Prepare a Worksheet

You can prepare a one or two page worksheet to be photocopied and used by the learners for the video session. Alternatively, learners can copy the format into their notebooks. Just be sure to plan your pre-viewing, while-viewing and post-viewing activities well and your English language video clip-based lesson is sure to be an award-winner.

Grammar Teaching: Implicit or Explicit?

Based on my 15 years of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teaching experience, the statement “grammar teaching should be implicit, not explicit” could be argued both for and against. Whether to teach grammar as an extracted focus of ELT (English Language Teaching) or more passively as an inductive, integral topic has been the theme of countless debates on the part of institutions, professors, grammarians and language researchers for decades. Grammar is the branch of linguistics dealing with the form and structure of words or morphology, and their interrelation in sentences, called syntax. The study of grammar reveals how language works, an important aspect in both English acquisition and learning.

In the early 20th century grammarians like the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas and the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen began to describe languages and Boas’ work formed the basis of various types of American descriptive grammar study. Jespersen’s work was the fore-runner of such current approaches to linguistic theory such as Noam Chomsky’s Transformational Generative Grammar.

Chomsky, who studied structural linguistics, sought to analyze the syntax of English in a structural grammar. This led him to view grammar as a theory of language structure rather than a description of actual sentences. His idea of grammar is that it is a device for producing the structure, not of a particular language, but of the ability to produce and understand sentences in any and all languages. Since grammar is the means by which we can understand how a language “works”, a definitive study of language grammar is essential to language study.

Strictly explicit grammar study however, and even grammar-focused lessons are often not communicatively based. They can therefore be boring, cumbersome and difficult for students to assimilate. The strict teaching of grammar / structure, except with students of the Logical – Mathematical or Verbal – Linguistic multiple intelligences, can be frustrating and highly ineffective.

Grammar teaching should be implicit

In the early 20th century, Jespersen, like Boas, thought grammar should be studied by examining living speech rather than by analyzing written documents. By providing grammar in context, in an implicit manner, we can expose students to substantial doses of grammar study without alienating them to the learning of English or other foreign language. I also agree with this implicit approach of teaching grammar. The principal manner in which I accomplish this is by teaching short grammar-based sessions immediately followed by additional function-based lessons in which the new grammar / structure is applied in context.

The hypothesis is that adult language students have two distinct ways of developing skills and knowledge in a second language, acquisition and learning. Acquiring a language is “picking it up”, i.e., developing ability in a language by using it in natural, communicative situations. Learning language differs in that it is “knowing the rules” and having a conscious knowledge of grammar / structure. Adults acquire language, although usually not as easily or as well as children. Acquisition, however, is the most important means for gaining linguistic skills. A person’s first language (L1) is primarily learned in this way. This manner of developing language skills typically employs implicit grammar teaching and learning.

Grammar teaching should be explicit

This does not exclude explicit grammar-teaching entirely, however. Some basic features of English language grammar structure are illogical or dissimilar to speakers of other languages and do not readily lend themselves to being well understood, even in context. In cases where features of English grammar are diametrically opposed or in some other way radically different from the manner of expression in the student’s L1, explicit teaching may be required.

Aspects of English language grammar that may offer exceptional challenge to EFL students include use of word order, determiners (this, that, these, those, a, an, the), prepositions (in, on, at, by, for, from, of), auxiliaries (do, be, have), conjunctions (but, so, however, therefore, though, although), interrogatives, intensifiers (some, any, few, more, too) and distinctions between modal verbs (can, could, would, should, may, might, must). Phrasal verbs also present considerable difficulty to Spanish speakers learning communicative English.

Some students also are logical or linguistically-biased thinkers who respond well to structured presentation of new material. Logical-Mathematical and Verbal-Linguistic intelligence learners are prime examples of those that would respond well to explicit grammar teaching in many cases.

Based on my English language teaching and on my second and third foreign language learning (L2, L3) experience, an exclusive approach using either implicit or explicit methodologies is not as effective as utilizing one or the other of these approaches as required. Although it is essential to teach elements of language and develop communicative abilities in our students, there is no one best way to introduce and provide practice in them. Young learners have more natural facility in acquisition, while adults may benefit substantially from more “formal” language learning. Learning styles and intelligence strengths are also a significant factor.

There are many generally accepted ways of introducing the sounds, structure and vocabulary of English, including colloquial forms of conversation and the four basic communication skills. Grammar provides for “communicative economy”. Grammar teaching should be implicit, or explicit, as teaching / learning conditions may dictate helping to minimize the student response teachers fear most, “Teacher, I don’t understand.”

Note: Academic references for this article are available on request.

Related language learning and teaching articles in this series available online include:

“Learning a Language: 6 Effective Ways to Use the Internet”

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“Six Quick Tricks for Learning a Language”

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“What’s the Strangest Thing you’ve Ever Eaten?”

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“What Makes a Person Intelligent?”

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Teach English in Colombia: Grappling with Grammar, Gold, Guns, and Guayaba

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7 Steps to Better Business English: Choosing a Business English Training Program

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English Only in the EFL Classroom: Worth the Hassle?

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