Problems of First Lessons and How to Overcome Them
Challenges are inevitable especially if you want to be successful at what you do and teaching EFL is not devoid of them. In fact, teaching English as a Foreign Language can be very much exciting but also very challenging as it comes with lots of problems. Among these problems are what to do for the first lessons and how to get students motivated for the EFL course. These problems like many others have solutions and this essay seeks to highlight the problems and provide some practical solutions to them.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Belinda S.
First impressions are the most lasting
What to teach for a first lesson can be very problematic sometimes and as the proverb goes, “First impressions are the most lasting”. First lessons are very vital in building a lasting rapport with the students, set the pace for the course and at times influence students’ attitude and participation in class. Classes may be new, where students do not know themselves and so will need to get to know themselves and establish rapport among themselves or may be an existing class where students are very familiar with themselves and may even be familiar with EFL teaching. No matter the kind of class you are meeting for a first lesson, it can be very challenging and EFL teachers must be able to overcome that and create a conducive atmosphere for both teaching and learning.
Overcoming this issue
Now, this is how to overcome this problem. Firstly EFL teachers are advised not to use the course books for the first lessons instead develop some activities for the lesson. (ITTT lessons on troubleshooting). In as much as the course book is essential, developing the students’ interest in the course is very essential and activity lessons have proven to be good ways to nurture students’ interest in learning English as a Foreign Language. This activity must, however, be one that is geared at finding out about the students’ individual English levels, establishing rapport among the students in a new class and between the teacher and the students, finding out about students’ needs which will help in planning lessons for the future.
Some of the activities that EFL teachers can have for their first lessons include;
• Pass the ball game. In this game, the teacher gets a small ball to class and for the start describes himself using two sentences. He then tosses the ball to a student and asks him or her a question about himself. The student with the ball answers the question and adds another sentence that describes himself or herself and also passes the ball to another asking the other a question too. This goes on until everyone in the class has had the ball. It is ideal for the teacher to be actively involved in this game as it gives students the opportunity to get to know the teacher too.
• A similar one is the “I want” game which is mostly adopted for an existing class where students know themselves basically their names. Here, the teacher starts with an example using three sentences to describe himself or herself. He or she then calls the first student to also describe himself or herself using three sentences after which the student uses the preamble “I want” and calls the name of another student to do the same. This continues until everyone has described himself or herself in the class.
• Moreover, the teacher can also prepare a set of questionnaires for the students to interview each other and give feedback. Students will gather some requisite information about each other with the help of the questionnaires. Each student will be made to share his or her findings with the class after the survey.
These are among very few practical ways to help solve the problem of what to teach for the first lessons. The most important thing to note however is getting an interesting activity that will help you to know your students and establish a good rapport with them.
Getting your students motivated
The next problem is how to get students in the mood and motivated to use English. Most EFL lessons are held after students have had a series of classes and are often exhausted and less enthused. Their motivation is minimal and it’s the duty of every TEFL teacher to get the students in the mood and motivated to follow the lesson.
Warmers are what do the job of motivating learning in students as they present a comforting atmosphere for studies and get students in tune for the lessons ahead. They are usually short, fun and communicative activities that are aimed at motivating students to use English and get them prepared mentally for the lesson. Warmers according to the International TEFL and TESOL Training lessons on troubleshooting are especially useful if they can be linked in the Study phase of the lesson.
Some few warmers that teachers can use for their lessons include;
• Tongue twisters which are good pronunciation warmers can get the class excited and ready for the English class. Teachers can put up words whose sounds present some problems to the students and get them to practice in a fun way.
• “Pass the sentence” is an activity where students whisper short sentences until it reaches the last person who will write the sentence on the board. This is very interesting especially with how the sentences change by the time the last person writes it on the board. The teacher can use vocabularies he/she intends to teach that day or as a recap use those that he/she taught in previous lessons to form the sentences.
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In conclusion, as Niels Bohr said “Every great and deep difficulty bear in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it”. The above problems, when viewed in a positive way and handled well, can bring out the best in us and make our TEFL career successful.
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