The Best Thing I Have Learned From My 120-hour TEFL/TESOL Course
I have now taken both ITTT's 120-hour TEFL/TESOL course and the additional course for teaching young learners. Both courses have been very beneficial, and, although it is difficult to narrow the benefits down to one "best" thing, one of the most helpful things I have learned is the idea of reducing teacher talking time and increasing student talking time. I have found this concept to be particularly valuable as I prepare for a future TESOL position, and I have been very pleased to find that it has benefited me in my current teaching job in an American classroom, as well.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Erin S.
Course content effective for real world
First, and most directly, the idea of frequently engaging students in speaking is useful as I am preparing to travel to Vietnam within the next year to teach English. It has been my experience in the many times I have visited that country that people are eager to learn English and will expect their time with me to make a difference in their ability to do so. In the context of a foreign language classroom, I now understand how crucial it is for students to actively use the language they are learning.
I studied French in high school and college but never felt confident speaking because I was able to hide behind my listening, reading, and writing skills and was not expected or required to use the spoken language frequently. Therefore, the coping skills I used to do well in the class had the unfortunate effect of my passing several levels of French without actually being able to speak it. The irony is not lost on me now.
The thought that Vietnamese students coming to me to learn English might complete their course without being able to speak it is a substantial motivator for me to be as effective as I possibly can in engaging them in the use of English in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Encouraging them to speak from the very beginning and establishing an environment where they feel safe experimenting with the English language will help avoid the situation I myself experienced in learning a foreign language.
Positive effect on teaching style
The second – and somewhat unexpected – result of coming to understand the importance of reducing teacher talking time and increasing student talking time is the effect this concept has had on my teaching style in my current classroom. I am a teacher of literature and history in a small private school in the United States.
Because I am in only my fourth year of teaching, I am constantly seeking ways I can improve my techniques and help students engage more in their learning process. I had been staunchly following advice my "old-school" retired teacher father had given me that I was "not there to entertain the students." I had mistakenly come to believe that lecture-based lessons were good for the students because this teaching format forced them to discipline themselves to pay attention in order to be accountable for the information they were required to know. In reality, engaging students is far more important than entertaining them, and doing less talking so that they can do more talking is one very significant way to engage the students so that they assume a more active role in their learning.
The benefits of encouraging students
The goal in taking any class is for a student to be able to use the knowledge the teacher is offering. In a foreign language class, this imparted knowledge is the ability to use the language proficiently in everyday interactions with other speakers of that language. Therefore, a classroom in which the teacher expects and encourages students' participation through eliciting responses and giving immediate and ongoing feedback to both correct and build confidence as the language is spoken is not just a helpful idea but an absolute necessity.
When speaking is embedded within the culture of the classroom, students more quickly lose their inhibitions while they gain the practice they need to go from the classroom to real-world use of the language. Although reducing teacher talking time in order to increase student talking time may seem like common sense, before taking these ITTT courses, it was not something I personally connected to the success or the failure of students in learning a foreign language or any other subject matter.
I am grateful for all of the practical information I have gained through these courses, but this one concept has caused a significant shift in thinking for me that I know will make me a more effective teacher both now and in the future.
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