ESL Grammar Lessons

ESL Grammar Lessons and Listening

14. Don't neglect the teaching of listening.

by David Martin

It is the opinion of many ESL experts that listening is the most important skill to teach your students. While listening to each other and to the teacher will improve their overall listening ability, this can be no substitute for listening to authentic English. As much as possible, try to expose your students to authentic English in a variety of situations. The best way to do this and the most realistic is through videos. Listening to audio cassettes in the classroom can improve listening ability, but videos are much more motivating and culturally loaded.

15. Turn regular activities into games or competition.

Many familiar teaching points can be turned into games, or activities with a competitive angle. A sure way to motivate students and liven up your classroom.

16. Motivate your students with variety.

By giving a variety of interesting topics and activities, students will be more motivated and interested, and they are likely to practice more. With more on-task time they will improve more rapidly.

17. Don't teach linguistics.

Language and culture are inseparable. If culture isn't a part of your lessons, then you aren't really teaching language, you are teaching about language.

18. Don't teach phonetics.

By all means teach the more important aspects of pronunciation, but don't bombard the students with minimal pair drills that cannot be applied to real communication. They don't really understand the meaning of any of those minimal pairs you teach anyway, do they? A more rational approach would be to teach pronunciation in context, as necessary. For example, if you are teaching a section on health, teach syllable stress with sickness words: fever, headache, backache, earache, constipation, etc.

19. Don't leave the learners in the dark.

Explain exactly what they are expected to learn in a particular lesson. Make sure that students know what they are doing and why. The lessons should be transparent to the students, with a clear organization.

20. Be enthusiastic! Don't do it just for the money.

You don't have to be an actor or clown, but students appreciate it when the teacher shows genuine interest in teaching. Teachers who are jaded with EFL would do best to hide it, or consider moving on to another profession.

21. Show interest in the students as individuals.

Treat students as individuals, not subjects. Don't patronize or talk down to them; talk to them as you would any other person. Only in this way will true communication take place.

22. Allow opportunities to communicate directly with students.

Students want, more than anything, to talk with the teacher. Don't overdo pair and group work to the point that they haven't had a chance to interact with you, too.

23. Allow time for free communication.

For speaking this would mean allowing time for free conversation, for writing doing freewriting, for reading allowing time for extensive pleasure reading, and for listening, listening for entertainment sake.

24. Use humor to liven up the class.

Make it a habit to get the students to laugh at least once per lesson.

25. Show an interest in the students' native language.

This is especially important in the monolingual classroom. Ignoring their L1 causes some students to think (erroneously) that you don't respect them. If possible, use the L1 periodically as part of the lesson. If nothing else, it will show the students respect, and may loosen them up.

26. EFL Teacher - Don't have pets.

This is extremely hard to avoid, especially when a student is more outgoing or interesting than others. Nevertheless, try to call on and attend to students as equally as you can.

27. Circulate.

Move about the classroom. At times sit with groups and monitor, as well as joining in on the communication. At times walk about, listen and observe.

28. Make your instructions short and clear.

Demonstrate rather than explaining whenever possible.

29. Speak up, but don't break anyone's eardrum.

If the students can't hear you, you are wasting your breath. Not as bad, but still annoying is the teacher who thinks s/he must speak louder to be comprehended. Research has already proven this to be false.

30. Don't talk too much.

Depending on the subject, you should be talking from about 5% to 30% of the lesson. For speaking or writing, more than 10-15% would probably be too much. Most lessons should be student-centered, not teacher-centered.

31. Don't talk too slowly.

How do you expect your students to understand real English if you don't speak at a fairly natural speed? Oversimplified and affected speech will hurt your students in the long run. Shoot for moderate complexity and more repetition if needed.

32. Be sensitive to your students.

Watch their faces and reactions. Do they understand you? Are they interested or bored? Try to be aware of what is going on in your classroom at all times. If you are starting class and one student is still talking, try to gently get him/her to stop. If you are sitting with a pair of students on one side of the room, try to be attentive to what is happening in other groups as well. There may be a group across the room that is confused and doesn't know what to do.

33. Don't be a psychiatrist.

Shy, introverted students are not going to change their personalities overnight in order to learn English. Give these students opportunities to talk in small groups, but don't expect them to shout out answers in front of the whole class.

34. Respect both "slow" and "fast" learners.Language learning is not about intelligence; the important thing to stress is that the students are improving.

35. Don't lose your cool.

If you do, you will lose hard-won respect. Even if you have to go so far as to leave the classroom, do it in a controlled manner, explaining to the class or student why you are unhappy with them.

36.ESL Grammar Lessons - Be frank.

Praise your students when they are getting better, and encourage them when they are not doing as well as they can.

37. ESL Grammar Lessons - Be a coach.

At times you must be more of a coach than a teacher. Push the students to write those few extra lines, to get into their groups faster, to extend their conversations.

38.ESL Grammar Lessons - Be fair and realistic in testing.

Teach first and then test; don't test things that haven't been taught. Also, remember that the main purpose of language is communication. This means that when marking a dictation portion of a listening test, for example, a "What [ ] your name?" response should get nearly full points because the listener has demonstrated full comprehension.

39.ESL Grammar Lessons - Don't over-correct.

For example, when correcting a narrative composition at low-intermediate level, it doesn't make much sense to correct mistakes with relative clauses. Likewise, if your class is practicing simple past tense, don't correct article usage at the same time. If you think a student can correct their own mistake, don't supply the correction for them, rather allow for some self-monitoring.

40.ESL Grammar Lessons - Be reflective.

Think about your own teaching. After each lesson is over take some time to reflect. Was the lesson effective? What were the good and bad points? How could it be improved?

41. ESL Grammar Lessons - Keep in shape.

EFL teachers don't have to become jaded with teaching. Get into it. Look at new coursebooks and teacher training books to get new ideas. Share your ideas with colleagues. Go to conferences.

42.ESL Grammar Lessons - Laugh at yourself sometimes.

There are those times when nothing goes right despite our best intentions. We must be humble enough to admit to ourselves and to our students that we just messed up.

ESL Grammar Lessons - REFERENCES

Sheen, Ron. (1994). "A Critical Analysis of the Advocacy of the Task-Based Syllabus," TESOL Quarterly 28 (1): 127.

About the How to be an Effective EFL Teacher Author:

David Martin works for EFL Press, a publisher of some very good textbooks for students learning English in Japan. I recommend them!

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