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Ways to Spur Students in ESL Courses

Ways to Spur Students in ESL Courses | ITTT | TEFL Blog

As an English teacher, it is quite common to encounter high achievers, those who are so inspired and self-motivated in learning English, as well as low achievers, those who find themselves with no interest or goals in class. About the former group, there are always ways to encourage them in English learning, while for the latter, the teacher really has to think over and over before taking appropriate actions.

I have always had to think of ways to encourage students in my teaching practice because the majority of students from my class are far from being excellent in English. The top student currently only scores 6 in IELTS. Therefore, it takes me much effort to arouse their interest first, without which the task of enhancing their productive and receptive skills cannot be carried out smoothly. Luckily, the learning of TEFL courses sheds light on me, and I could combine what I have learned together with what I have tested to be successful in past lessons.

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

Teaching Pronunciation First

It is quite important and common for Chinese students to memorize the Chinese meaning of English expressions before getting to know their pronunciation, part of speech and usage in sentences. In other words, Chinese meaning always comes first in English learning. As a result, many students get bored by memorizing the word spelling by rote because they do know how to pronounce them, nor do they realize the importance of pronunciation in helping them memorizing spelling. Therefore, mastering the phonetic knowledge before reciting the spelling is cognitively correct. For instance, for the initial several classes, I would teach students how to pronounce vowels, consonants, diphthongs, speech organs, place of articulation, and manner of articulation with the aid of examples.

For special phonetic circumstances, for example, /t/ is pronounced into /d/ after an unvoiced constant, I would ask students to read first and then point out the mistakes. I would ask them why they pronounce “student” into ['s du dnt] rather than ['studnt]. They would then realize that they have always been pronouncing this word correctly, but they have no clue why they pronounce in this way till they get to this phonetic point. After students grasp all the phonetic points, they can read through the new word lists according to the phonetic symbols without any difficulty. Meanwhile, they find reciting English words easy by trying to spell the alphabetic letters according to their pronunciation. This method really makes English learning easier and more encouraging than before.

two students reading

Also Read: Can non native English speakers take a TEFL course?

Various Teaching Methods

A meticulous lesson plan, by combining activities with specific teaching contents and objectives, puts students in a situation where they can learn, do exercise and apply what they have learned. Methods like role-playing, story-telling, riddle-guessing make students fully engaged in English classes. For instance, I ask students to walk around one chair with the flow of music. Once the music stops, they grab the chair. Those who miss the chair would probably fall down. Through this interactive activity, students bear these two phrases “miss the chair” and “fall down” clearly in their mind, without me giving any further explanation. In another class where we were supposed to be at the engage phase, I made a WeChat video call with my student Yolanda, who was studying in the UK back then. We had this instant face-to-face communication via the internet, and that led me to my topic of that class, which was “the influence of the internet to our daily life”. My students participated in this class actively. They come up with their daily stories like paying online, booking tickets, and taking part in distance classes. As a result, that class was really productive, with students coming up with various positive and negative impacts of the Internet.

Also Read: 6 Ways to Help Chinese Students to Master Pronunciation

Setting up an English-only Class Environment

To establish students’ English thinking patterns, it is crucial to set up an English-only class environment. In my class, I would speak every word as clearly and slowly as I can to make myself understood. In this way, students are forced to listen to me carefully, because grasping the meaning of English utterance is much more difficult than that of Chinese. When they encounter a word or phrase that they do not know, I would explain it with gestures, facial expressions, or simple words. They would try to guess the meaning and I would give them compliments like “You are excellent or amazing” once they got the meaning right. Gradually, they would find that immersing in an English environment is not that challenging.

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The path of teaching is endless, which means a teacher should always seek for innovation. There are tons of methods for encouraging students in the class. Trying them out and finding out what caters to students’ current learning proficiency is the most important thing.

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