How to be an Effective EFL Teacher


Would you like to be an EFL teacher and Teach in Japan?

We are honored at How to Teach English in Japan to be able to publish David Martin`s informative article. Martin has written some great textbooks that are fun to use. I can`t recommend his books enough! I am currently using some of them at a Japanese university and at Kevin`s English Schools. Martin of course spent many years himself teaching English in Japan and knows Japanese students very well.

"So if the university really wanted to make valid tests it would do two things. One, it would make a database of high ID questions which I am in the process of doing. Two, it would put listening portions on all of their exams as these are consistently of higher validity, although we can also make bad listening questions as well. It`s kind of logical that reading and listening passages would give us better tests because they present a meaningful context that mirrors most real language use. Answers for the individual grammar and vocabulary questions are mostly memorized in cram schools and thus can be gotten right, without really knowing the meaningful use of English very well."

--Tim Murphey, The Tale that Wags, p. 16-17.


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Minamiashigara-shi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan
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Picture of Japanese bamboo by Richard Baladad


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by David Martin

Over the short history of the ESL/EFL field various methods have been proposed. Each method has in turn fallen out of favor and has been replaced with a new one. Audiolingualism, functionalism, communicative paradigms, and now the fad is "task-based syllabuses." In his critique of the task-based syllabus Sheen (1994:127) points out, "frequent paradigm shifts in the field of second and foreign language teaching have not resulted in significant progress in language learning." Since no method has been proven to be more effective than another, many teachers have jumped on the "eclectic" bandwagon. Common sense would have this as the best available choice since variety is the spice of language.

(EFL Teacher Photo: Cherry blossoms by Richard Baladad)

Other than considering method, what can the EFL teacher do to ensure success? What follows are some DOs and DONTs that I have found to be very useful in teaching EFL in Japan. None are revolutionary; these are principles I didn't necessarily learn in ESL graduate school, but should have been taught.


1. EFL Teacher: Learn your students' names.

This cannot be overemphasized. You will be able to control your class better and gain more respect if you learn the students' names early on. If you are one who has a poor memory for names, have all the students hold up name cards and take a picture of them on the first day of class. On the second class, impress them by showing them you know all their names.



2. Establish authority from the beginning.

Expect your students to use English 100% of the time, and accept it if they only achieve 95% usage. Do not let them get away with speaking their mother tongue to communicate with their partner. Deal quickly with inappropriate conduct in a friendly yet firm manner.



3. Be overly prepared.

If you don't have a clear lesson-plan down on paper, then make sure you have a mental one. You should know about how long each activity will take and have an additional activity prepared in case you have extra time.

To Page 2, Grammar Lesson Plans

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