Following up my previous post, I’d like to continue listing all those good habits which practicing teachers do automatically, but which might not be so obvious to young (or new) colleagues:
- Elicit continuously: There is a huge difference between my mother-in-law and myself when talking to my kids. She overuses modal verbs (you must do this or that, you can’t do this and that), while I continuously ask questions (can we do this? which one do you want: this or that? what color is this or that?). The same change language teachers need to make in their language use: instead of teaching/lecturing, they are supposed to elicit. As one of my colleagues would say: don’t talk longer than 20 second without asking a question (read his post here).
- Correct mistakes: It sounds obvious, but don’t take it for granted that every teacher does it. You should. Error correction makes the big difference between a teacher and a foreign friend. You don’t have to correct all mistakes, but you need to correct some, let’s say the most typical ones, from lesson one. Then with some extra reading, you can learn tipps and tricks when and how you can/should correct mistakes (post about it coming soon).
- Give task before listening/reading: As a native speaker of a language, you might be able to read or listen to something without any expectation, previous lead-in or comprehension questions and give a summary afterwards, but ESL students are not the same as you. Even at higher level, it might be difficult for them to just understand a text/track. They use the picture next to the text to make assumptions about its content and they need a reason for listening or reading. Just think that they will have to tackle accent/dialect and speed of speech of different speakers, tone and intonation which might contradict to the words, background noise, new vocabulary, tricky grammar structures, etc. All this in the fear of missing something out or misunderstanding a word. So help them and teach them help themselves. Analyse visual aids and the title, let them listen twice, asking them to listen for something specific each time. The first time something simple (number or intention of the speakers, the main topic of their discussions, ergo the gist of the text), the second time give them more questions. If you take a look in any of the modern course books, their writers follow the same methodology. Point out if the answers to the questions are in chronological order in the text and explain how to exclude incorrect answers to get the correct ones.
- Make sure they know the correct answer: You might ask a student for the correct answer in an open class feedback session and think that everybody else heard or understood it. But it’s rarely the case. Students talk to each other even in these moments, they might get distracted, are still checking the text for the answer or just can’t make the answer out. Therefore, repeat or even better make the answering student repeat the correct response loudly and clearly or write it onto the whiteboard. Working on a question and never finding out whether the answer was correct can easily discourage students.
- Make students take notes: It happens rarely that you have such a good structured book that you don’t need to add anything. Teachers usually have their own way of visualizing new structures and this is what they put onto the whiteboard. But it’s enough to think of a new lexical item with a trickier spelling pattern. Students might understand what you have written onto the whiteboard, but they won’t remember it after an hour or a day. So make sure that they take notes and copy every important detail from the board into their block notes. This is important also for adults, not only for Young Learners. Check, though, that they don’t copy everything from the whiteboard, be a guide for them and make clear what is important to have in their notes for a revision at home.
- Check homework: You might not always assign homework, but any time you do, clarify in what way it will be corrected. If the book has an answer key, ask your students to check their answers at home, this way you save some classroom time. If the answers are not given to the students, and the exercise offers limited options as correct answers (closed exercise), decide whether you can copy the answers for the students or write them onto the whiteboard before the lesson and ask them to correct it in the classroom. Also this way you save time, since you have to discuss only those questions that students didn’t get right. In case, the questions in the homework assignment are open, you will need to go through the possible answers with the students. You need to leave enough time for this in your lesson plan. Finally, if the homework assignment was free writing, you will need to collect these and prepare a feedback lesson/session. By the way, feedback…
- Give feedback also on written homework assignments and tests: There is nothing more demotivating than working on a homework assignment and not giving any feedback or just a superficial one: ‘Well done’ or ‘Try harder’ or 12/20. Stop for a second and think about this: your student found time in his/her maybe busy schedule or sacrificed his/her free time to do something you asked him/her to do. Have respect for this and find the time to correct these assignments as soon as possible (in my previous school one week was the max time allowed). The same for the tests: don’t only give your student the test papers with the result (e.g. 79%), but prepare a lesson or at least an activity which deals with the problem-fields. Try to get your students explain you and each other why one answer was not correct and reteach all points that were not taken in by the students before the test.