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How I Enhanced My Teaching Skills With a TEFL Course

How I Enhanced My Teaching Skills With a TEFL Course | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The best thing I learned from the TEFL course cannot be explained in one thought or topic sentence because it was significant. However, for this essay, I will narrow it down to one concept. I am an experienced licensed teacher from the United States, but there is always more to learn. In the United States, I would have one or two students in my class each year that were not native English speakers. So, the idea of teaching a classroom of students where all the learners are not native speakers is new to me. I was unfamiliar with ESA's acronym (Engage, Study, Activate) until I took this course, and I appreciate this concept the most. ESA was the best thing I learned from this course.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Brad A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Teaching Methodology

ESA helped me rethink my approach to explicitly teaching ESL learners. This concept got me in the right frame of mind away from the traditional parts of a lesson plan I taught in public schools in the United States. Traditionally, I would use a format of Introduction, Procedures, Guided Practice, Independent Practice, Review, and Assessment. There are similarities with ESA, but overall, it's a different teaching model.

How to Engage

The first phase is the Engagement Phase. I like the idea of engagement with the students or eliciting information from the students to immediately get them talking as soon as they walk in the classroom door. I know for some students, this can feel like a scary or frightening experience. For these students, some alert to what is expected in the classroom beforehand may be beneficial. Once in a small group of five high students in an informal setting, I had a student burst into tears when asked to tell us something about herself. I will never forget it because she taught me a good lesson that day. She was also shy in her native language. However, we spoke privately after class, and I gave her a basic handwritten syllabus that helped her remain calm and more confident in the future. I believe this Engagement phase is crucial for getting the students speaking and helping them psychologically overcome their fear of a new language. For more outgoing students, this may never be an issue, but there is some fear of failure or embarrassment for most students, especially in many Asian cultures.

The Engage phase should not just get the students talking, but it should focus on a specific topic chosen by the teacher. The teacher will write the students' vocabulary, not the teacher, and write these words on the board to hear the world and see the story written and rewritten phonetically to help them with the correct pronunciation. The Engage phase is always whole-group and may include games like Fizz Bizz to motivate the students and keep their attention focused on the lesson.

How to Teach

The second step in ESA is the Study Phase. The Study Phase has two parts. The first phase uses the vocabulary words written on the board by the teacher from the Engagement Phase. These individual vocabulary words are discussed for meaning and pronunciation, and this is a Teacher-Student centered activity.

The second part of the Study Phase is to check for understanding. The teacher will use gap-fill or fill-in-the-blank or a matching activity matching a word to a picture. Lastly, unscrambling a sentence from the incorrect order to the correct order may help students check for a higher level of understanding.

How to Practice

The third phase of ESA is the Activate Phase. The purpose of this phase is to put the student's new vocabulary into a realistic setting that allows the students to use the language in a real-life situation. This a time where students can feel like, "Wow, I am speaking English! I can do it!" This should help the student's self-confidence as well as be a fun time for them. Roleplay is an excellent example of a game the students can play. For example, one student can play a sick person's role, and another student could play the part of the doctor's receptionist answering the phone or a nurse or the doctor. Also, surveys like a mill drill can be used where students mill around the classroom and complete the study asking other students questions. Lastly, for more advanced students, a debate format can be used on a specific topic to have the students realistically use new vocabulary.

The students learn new words and vocabulary in the Engage Phase and learn how to pronounce them and what these words mean. In the Study Phase, they increase their understanding while allowing the teacher to check their knowledge. Lastly, students put these words to use in a real-life situation like a native speaker.

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As you can see, this is quite different from my traditional non-ESL method of teaching. Therefore, the best thing I learned from this TEFL course was the ESA or Engaged, Study, and Activate phases of teaching students that are not native speakers.

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