The Most Common Learning Techniques As Observed By An ESL Teacher
My biggest takeaway from my TEFL certification course with ITTT is the topic of learning techniques. Learning techniques vary depending on race, gender, age, cultural background , past experiences and several other variables of the students involved. I will describe my personal past experiences in regards to the subject at hand.
I would like to take a moment to thank the ITTT staff for putting together this highly informative and enlightening TEFL program. It is well written, easy to understand and well organized for new and experienced ESL teachers alike.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Svetlana V.
Visual vs. Auditory Learners
One of the first things I learned during my 60-hour TEFL course was that children are divided into two basic learning groups. Some kids are visual learners and others are primarily auditory learners. On occasion, there are also children that are a combination of both learning styles.
The Auditory Learner
Auditory learners are easily detected in the a classroom setting. This can be done by tapping the blackboard a couple times with a ruler or other hard object to create a small sound. You will then instantly see a reaction from the auditory learners. They will instantly zero in on you and usually give you their undivided attention focusing and anticipating your next move. They will at this point stop interacting with other students and listen carefully.
What I have found out that works with these particular students is chanting and repetition of words or phrases. These children also love to hear stories and will listen carefully. However, it is sometimes necessary to elicit a response from these children at the end of the story as they often are eager to listen to another story.
Also read: 11 Fun ESL Activities for Young Learners
The Visual Learner
Visual learners, on the other hand, are a little harder to detect in an online classroom but usually will position themselves directly in front of the computer screen with eyes focused only on you waiting for instruction intently. The key to keeping the the visual learners engaged is to keep them visually stimulated. I usually utilize the chat box in the online classroom showing them images of what I am trying to get them to learn. For example, I have found that the word "chase" is a little challenging to teach to Chinese students. To get them to understand the meaning, I show them a picture of a puppy chasing a ball or a photo of two children chasing each other.
With visual learners, it is usually best to have props ready to keep the lesson flowing smoothly as I noticed that sometimes the children can lose their focus on you if there is a break in the visual stimulation stream of events.
This is a big one. My first observation on the subject is that girls usually speak a lot more than boys and usually start at a younger age. They also learn much faster and superior linguistic abilities come naturally to them. Boys, on the hand, usually need encouragement to speak about a particular subject or experience that interests them. This trend I have come to see continues on to a later stage in life as well.
I have worked with Spanish-speaking students located in close proximity to the American border and these students will pick up words and phrases that can be described, for lack of better words as "Spanglish", a combination of both languages retaining a heavy Mexican accent. Chinese students, on the other hand, have very limited access to English speakers and will usually take on either an American or a British accent depending on their teachers. They also very rarely use slang, even though there is a growing trend towards "Chinglish".
Also read: The Most Common Problems Students in China Face When Learning English
I have found that new students are much easier to teach and I often have a better learning experience. However, older students or students that were taught by local Chinese teachers tend to be the hardest to teach. They very often have a heavy Chinese accent that is in most cases impossible to break. As an example, I usually will ask "What grade are you in?" and the response which has been ingrained in them from a very young age will be "I am in grade 2”. This is what has been drilled into them and again it is very hard to undo I have come to find.
Willing vs. Unwilling Students
We have all heard the phrase "You can lead a horse to water but you can not make him drink it." This certainly applies in the classroom setting as well. There are some children who try to soak up as much English as they possibly can while some children loathe learning. Some have started out being active participants but have been burned out by demanding parents or teachers to the point that they lose the drive to participate in the classroom.
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