Friday Short: Tips and Tricks

“Sarah is so pretentious with her bachelor’s degree and her Fulbright fellowship. She’s only been teaching two weeks and she’s already giving tips and tricks for teaching.”

You’re right.

Regardless, I have a few tips for teaching ESL/EFL learners that I’ve learned over the course of my training in the Georgetown College Department of Education and in the active classroom.

1 – Model everything. If you want your students to do an activity, you have to model it. Step-by-step, method-by-method.  We teachers call this “scaffolding.” While this can become tedious at times, modeling is critical for students to grasp and retain important material.  If you do nothing else right in your teaching career, learn to model everything.

2 – Keep words minimal. In and ESL classroom, it’s important to not speak too much.  I know this sounds silly, but it overwhelms students. If you took a foreign language class in high school or college, you may know how intimidating the sound of a foreign tongue can be.  Instead, try to (simply!) explain using pictures or other images. If using PowerPoint, also keep text to a minimum. I have found this works best.

3 – Straight to the point. In an ESL class, be straight to the point. Don’t use elaborate words, say what you want to say. For example, if you want your class to  be quiet, I have found that it helps to say “Stop!” or to count backwards. When teaching your topic, be as simple as possible with your language.

4- Enjoy your lessons. If you don’t enjoy teaching your lesson, then your students won’t enjoy it either. You’ll both suffer and then you’ll die. On the inside. If you’re able, teach important English language lessons using topics that you enjoy. If you like shopping, teach clothing words! If you like sports, do a sports lesson! Make it work for you.

Of course, this isn’t a definitive list, but these are methods that I have found that work in my classroom. Also, many of the lessons I learned during my undergraduate education training have come in handy (mad props to Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky). No, I’m not an expert teacher. However, these two weeks of teaching have taught me quite a bit about how students, particularly ESL students, learn and process languages.

Geon bae from a different kind of south,



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