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Teaching English to Beginners (those at the start of their language journey).

Recently I taught a group of English for Beginners for the first time in nearly 10 years!

I know that at the start of my teaching career, this level was difficult because I expected to be able to communicate with my students through mime and gesture, but the lessons never went the way I expected. For instance, the learners would be completely silent or constantly revert back to their own language.

Here are some reflections from my recent experience which have given me cause to adapt my practice:

1. Do not overload the students with new information. It is very easy to use lots of pictures instead of text and expect students to just know these. Or pick a grammar point and expect this to be ‘easy.’ Be realistic about your expectation of what students can achieve in a lesson. For example, I work on the less is more principal. If you are using a dialogue exploit it as much as possible. Focus on meaning, form and pronunciation as much as possible. Use what they know - ‘I like’ and ‘I don’t like’ to express their feelings on food is something which is universal.

2. Make sure you set up tasks where there is no possibility for ambiguity. It’s imperative that you choose a context that the students are familiar with so they can see the usefulness of what is being taught. The best context is the one in the classroom. What do the students need to do to make communication effective. Interact with the students naturally – drilling appropriate greetings and ways of saying goodbye worked well for me.

3. Ask for help! Is there anyone who you know who has taught this level recently? Do they have any suggestions for resources you can use? Another teacher suggested the students spelling their names to each other. This was a great way to also extend the students vocabulary when paired with pictures. For example, /eɪ/ is for apple, /biː/ is for banana and so on.

4. Never forget the importance of pronunciation. Make sure you model and drill target language before you get students to start producing. Simple dialogues are a great way to help learners with stress and intonation which will help the students sound more natural and create a positive impression of their spoken English. Some of my learners have very flat intonation which can lead to them sounding robotic. Accentuate your own pronunciation which will raise their awareness of the fact that in English the correct variation denotes excitement/friendliness.

Did you find these tips helpful?

Introduction to Teaching Course at Louth English Designed to help new or potential teachers be effective in the EFL Classroom

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