This article is for people who teach English to adults. I have little experience teaching children and am sure the points listed would be very different for children.
After almost a lifetime of teaching using different methods, I can safely say there are a few points we should consider to teach English effectively.
- Find your preferred method(s) or create your own. You will only teach effectively if you believe in the method(s) you are using. Experiment, mix and adapt. Learn as many methods as possible and work on different ways of using them (one at the beginning, another at intermediate level, etc.).
2. Students learn faster when they are interested in the subjects. I once used a formal method to try to improve a student´s fluency. At one point, we deviated from the subject and started talking about his son, who was suffering from a disorder. Although I had to remind him constantly that he should stick to English, he managed to talk for a full hour, non-stop, in English, while I sat, listened and asked the occasional question. I have never seen a happier student in my life. Experiences like these make students feel pleasantly exhausted, like we feel after hours in the gym, and that they have learned something, which is the goal of all our efforts!
3. Reinforce the basics, always. There is no point using videos, magazines, songs, flashcards and all the other resources available to us if our student has not mastered the basics. If an advanced student is making simple mistakes while talking, it will be very, very hard to correct them. Students love new vocabulary and learning new tenses, but we must resist the temptation to expand without a solid foundation. If you don´t want to bring beginner’s resources to class, ask questions in the simple tenses or using simple structures or use complex vocabulary in simple ways that force the student to use the basics. Don´t be afraid of repetition. As in the previous case, the student will leave the class feeling he or she has learned something.
4. Create special activities for special requirements. If your student has fluency issues, focus on improving fluency. The same goes for pronunciation, grammar (same as above, back to the basics), but not so much for vocabulary unless the student has no other language problems. In the case of vocabulary, focus on topics and merge them with the special activities.
5. Do not focus too much on explanations. Make all grammar explanations quick and to-the-point. Use lots of examples instead of blabbing on for hours about rules and exceptions (which are way too many). Show them how it works and then continue to practice as soon as possible.
6. Set an approximate deadline for each level. Students need a goal and they need to feel they are reached that goal, even if we slap them with another one in rapid succession. If preferred, use official tests. If not, create your own or prepare a test-oriented conversation class. Provide feedback whenever possible. Use a framework as your guide if necessary. Oh, and don´t turn up at class with a huge coursebook. If you use a coursebook, divide it into sections so the goals seem more achievable.
That´s about it. Love what you do and do it well!
Do you have any tips or experiences to share? If so, please leave a comment.