Acknowledging Different Challenges With Learning
I have been teaching English in Taiwan at a local elementary school, grades 1-6 with three different co-teachers since the end of August 2018. One of the biggest challenges I have faced so far is the fact that each student is very different, and all have different learning abilities and struggles with learning English.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Aria T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
What Causes Challenges in The Classroom?
There are many different reasons why students may be reluctant to learn English or why they are struggling as a few units explained. Often, students are fearful of making mistakes and lack confidence in the classroom. This is something I have seen a lot during my time here. The way English is taught at my school, there is usually only one correct answer, and if students don’t answer exactly how it is written in the book, they will be marked wrong. And if they are constantly being corrected and told they are making mistakes, they will, of course, be more intimidated by the subject. This shows the importance of creating a comfortable environment from day one, and being patient and know how to correct students in an effective, thoughtful way.
My Personal Teaching Experience
The main LET I co-teach with and I were both new teachers at our school this year, and something we should have done more at the beginning of the year was spend more time doing ice breaker activities and building rapport with our students. I recently went on a teaching observation in another city and something so incredible to watch was when students would be put on the spot to answer a question, and they were nervous, other students would support them and tell them they could do it. Whereas I typically will see students laugh or ridicule another student if they don’t know the answer. This student peer pressure can also lead to students being reluctant to learn or struggle with learning.
All Students Are Different
Going off the fact that each student may have different challenges with learning, it is important to offer different styles and activities of learning. Some students may thrive by learning one way, while it may be more challenging for others. It is vital to teaching using different techniques, such as worksheets, group games, writing activities, listening, etc. This gives all students a chance to try different learning styles and see which one is best for them. In addition to this, it is key to learn about not only each student but the whole class dynamic as a whole. We have two classes in each grade, except for 6th at our school. And each class is very different.
Often, team competition games are used in the classroom because it is a more active way of learning and can be very fun for students. But this isn’t always the case. For example, these kinds of games work well in one of our 4th-grade classes but don’t work in the other. In the class where they don’t like to play these games, there are about 3 students out of 20 who are engaged and understand English, while the rest are checked out and struggle a lot. These 3 students are always the ones answering questions and participating. This is another challenge, how do you help students in a class with such varying levels of English?
Team Building Within the Class
A few other co-teachers and I discussed how it is important to try and encourage those higher-level students to help the lower level students, and maybe during group games, assign a particular role to the lower level students. For example, give them a “director” role, who gives out jobs to the other group members. This allows them to take a head position without the intimidation of having to be very strong at English.
Being a teacher requires you to be very aware and understanding, and acknowledge there are going to be different learning challenges in the classroom, especially when it comes to learning another language because that can be a very intimidating task. But to help with this, teachers can start building those relationships and establishing a comfortable environment from day one.
Teachers should be warm and welcoming and make it clear to the students that it is okay to make mistakes. Additionally, offering multiple learning styles and using different resources appealing to different students, and learning about your students/classes, can help you target what is going to work best for each class or student based on what challenges they are facing.
Also Read: Benefits of Speaking a Foreign Language
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Each class, student, type of class, etc. are going to be different and will have different struggles when it comes to learning, but it is vital to understand these differences and be thoughtful with how you are teaching your students, trying to target these challenges and do the best you can with helping them overcome them.
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