TIPS ON TEACHING
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Teaching English as a Second Language
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Brooks Adams
Before I had decided on what my language vocation was (translation), I did foray into the world of teaching. It is a very rewarding field and you have the pleasure of influencing other people as well as meeting people from different cultures and getting to understand them a bit better! Anyway, I am writing this article to help others who would like to start in this business and are thinking of tasks such as developing lesson plans and lesson structures!
“Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task.” Haim G. Ginott
Living in a third world country, it was not easy to get materials, so I had to devise a lot of different ways of teaching my students and this involved an understanding of developing a curriculum. It is helpful to read or do research on curriculum development and teaching methods. Make sure that you have a set lesson plan, do not leave anything to chance, plan activities which would take up more than one hour and you will never run out of things to do in a lesson. A lesson plan is crucial to the success of the learning process. The lesson plan will be part of the curriculum which you will have developed, covering the period during which the lessons will be held (for instance, if it is over a 30 day period, the curriculum will have to include a lesson plan for each of those days). We are also living in very blessed times, because there is a whole world of resources out there on the internet, requiring just a little bit of patience on your part as you find what is most suitable for both yourself and the learner.
Level of competency of the student
“Teachers who inspire realize there will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how we use them.” Author Unknown
Before you start the lessons, be sure to find out from the student what their level is (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and how far they want to go. For instance, particularly with adult learners, they want to learn a language so that they are able to communicate when they visit the country.
To establish the level of the student, the best thing is to test them, as quite often someone will imagine that their English or French is intermediate, whereas it may be at beginner level! Or the other way round, if they are modest enough! Do not make the test intimidating, or this will deter the student from further learning. Rather, make it a simple test incorporating verb forms at the three levels, as well as the standard and slightly more difficult vocabulary. You may want to make it in the standard high school fashion, with multiple choice questions, or take a passage from a book and test their reading skills.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward
The best types of teaching methods are interactive, as I am sure you can attest to from your own experiences as a learner. The website http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/comteach.htm gives an excellent basic outline of the different teaching methods. The main ones are: the Lecture, the Lecture with Discussion, Brainstorming, Videotapes(DVDS), Discussion, Case Studies, Role Playing, Report-Back sessions, Worksheets.
“A teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom in the pupils.” Ever Garrison
You may decide to use any of the different teaching methods described above, however, it is important to understand about learning styles. Basically according to Felder & Solomon (http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm), there are four styles of learning: Active and Reflective, Sensing and Intuitive, Visual and Verbal and Sequential and Global. Have a look at this website for a concise description of each learning style.
“Teaching should be full of ideas instead of stuffed with facts.” Author Unknown
When teaching adults, remember that they are at a different level of maturity to children who are starting out and reading the ‘See Dick and Jane’ type of books. Make the lessons interesting and interactive, incorporating all the multi-media that are out there to use, such as CDs, books and DVDs. In each lesson, try to incorporate a little bit of grammar, conversation and verb practice, and do always give homework, but do not make it burdensome as most adults have gruelling work schedules and may drop out of classes if they find they cannot keep up.
Hints on lesson content and structure
“A good teacher is a master of simplification and an enemy of simplism.” Louis A. Berman
For instance, a preliminary lesson would be oral, with an introduction, ‘My name is...’ and a description of family/work, followed by a written conversation which will need to be read by the student, and then a discussion of the grammar. If at all possible, label the items in the teaching environment or classroom to help the student who is a visual learner.
Try to look at popular books, taking a passage from them, and reading it with the student, explaining what the text means as you go along. Useful assignments to give the student are listening to the news in English, or you can record the news and give it to them to listen to and write down in English. This helps with their English listening skills!!
Of course, students must have a good English dictionary and should be encouraged to bring it to the lessons and look up words. You can also give them certain words to look up and make sentences with, as this helps them to increase their vocabulary and understanding of the use of English, which is often contextual. There are also excellent English teaching websites which you can use, and if you wish, you could drop your students a daily email with a ‘word of the day’.
A reading list is also helpful, particularly if you have somebody who is serious about getting to advanced level. Try to find books which are easy to read, gradually going up to more difficult levels and you can even ask them to do book reports. Always explain what your expectations are, for instance, if you ask them to do a book report, give an example of what it should consist of, as you do not want to scare your students away by giving them school-like tasks!
A helpful exercise is to have a picture and ask your student to describe it. This is an excellent tool for developing articulacy and a wonderful vocabulary builder. You can accompany each picture with a list of vocabulary. Try to make the pictures relevant to an adult, eg. it could be of people in an office performing various tasks, or a family scene.
A lesson structure can look like this: Way in/recap of previous lesson – 10 minutes, oral – 15 minutes, grammar/classwork exercises – 20 minutes, homework tasks (explanation and review of homework) – 10 minutes.
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana
If the learner is a private individual, or a company, it is important to establish a basic contract, setting out the goal of the learner, the agreed rates and the conditions of payment. You may wish to be paid per lesson, fortnightly or per month. If it is per month, make sure that you have a list which sets out the date of the lesson, contents of the lesson and bears the signature of the student. This will help both of you to keep track of how far you are in terms of the goal of the learner, and will avoid misunderstandings about ‘when did we have that lesson again?’ or ‘we only had 5 lessons this month!!’. Realistically for adult learners a maximum would be 3 lessons of one hour a week – every day is too much for someone who is working full-time and will not give them time to do the homework tasks you will have allocated.
Of all the things I have done in my life, I think that teaching was probably the most stimulating, as I found that quite often I myself increased my own understanding of the subject as I taught it. Do not be daunted by the amount of preparation that is required. After a while, it becomes putzy and second nature to come up with complicated things like lesson plans! The most important thing is to focus on what the goal is and stick to it, making sure that the student always understands what it is you are trying to show them. In conclusion, I leave you with this mind-blowing thought: “Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions.” (Author Unknown)
By Carla Selyer