Teaching Groups of Beginners
I used to be a Mountain Guide, I have worked all over the World. I have often found myself with my clients in a mountain refuge where we would stay the night before making a summit bid the next morning. These refugees, usually found in remote and wild places, are manned by a Guardian who looks after the refuge, provides a dormitory bed for the night and cooks a hearty evening meal. The mountaineers who stay come from all over the World and everyone sits together on long tables, sharing food and wine and friendship.
English is not always the common language but it would be the language we would try to use on our fellow diners. I can recall many a hilarious evening trying to make ourselves understood by a series of rough sketches on bits of paper, mimes that would have everyone collapsing in laughter and singing parts of songs to use the known vocabulary. These things worked well and now I see that it could be said that in our way, we were teaching English.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Kevin A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
So, how did a bunch of different nationalities get on so well and were motivated to communicate? And how can we relate this to motivating our students? Well, in the teacher motivating student scenario, the teacher will need to be positive, charged and acting as a role model. Someone who can quickly build a quick rapport. That was certainly my job as a guide. I wanted my clients to have a good time and to leave the next day with wonderful memories. I wanted them to think well of their experiences, to come back for another trip and pass on their recommendations - that was my motivation.
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Just as in a classroom, the seating played a part and I would encourage my clients to sit in amongst other people. Naturally, people would want to stay with whom they know so encouraging my clients to get up and offer others a glass of wine or to start singing a song would often be the start of breaking the ice. Sometimes it would be me who would have to make the first move so showing instead of telling. I might often get a conversation started, and kick start if it stalled but client talk time was what I was looking for.
Conversations need to be kept simple with easy to talk about subjects; football engages everyone, and simple vocabulary often repeated to drill it into common use. Of course, the wine helped but laughter is the best tonic. Encouraging my clients when they succeeded in being understood or when their foreign counterpart repeated the words they had been using. The rise in vocal volume would indicate how everyone was growing in confidence.
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Fun is what we were having, an essential ingredient, and despite having to get up in the early hours to make our summit bid, people often stayed for more. Friendships were forged and that success could be evaluated with the ease that was evident in these conversations, grammatically incorrect most of the time but speaking English nonetheless. Swapping contact and social media details was also a measure of how the lesson had gone.
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As teachers of English, we need to have a good knowledge of grammar and all the things we have studied on our course but we also need to think of our own life experiences and perhaps bring those into play in our teaching.
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