What are the Most Effective Methodologies for Teaching Beginner Students?
In my experience gained the past few years, one of the most challenging experiences for me was to effectively teach beginner students. Since all my students were absolute beginners (learners who have had no contact with English at all), I had to find ways to make the learning effective, differently to teaching false beginners, who have some form of understanding of the English language.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Alida K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
To further add a challenge to my teaching methodologies, all my learners were very young.This essay attempts to describe the most effective methodologies I applied when teaching 2-3 yr old absolute beginners.
Good lesson planning is always a good start. Best is to present only one concept at a time ie “My name is Alida”, instead of “Hi my name is Alida, and what is your name?”. The latter presents two different concepts, my name, and your name. By presenting one concept only, the learner can repeat the phrase and later repeat a similar phrase that sounds similar.
Teaching using circle time proved to be most effective for these young learners. The learners and the teacher are on the same level and can almost meet eye to eye. Learners are encouraged to each sit on their pillow by receiving the learning resource ONLY once they sit down. The resource is put on the pillow by saying the learner's names out loud and individually. “One for Peter, One for Carin”
Stick to visual and aural presentations instead of linguistic concepts since the absolute learner has no understanding of the linguistic concepts. As a rule, children learn through visual and aural stimuli anyway, hence you have a good chance of being effective by using pictures, gestures, and actual items such as a toy car instead of a written word “car”. Use exaggerated hand signals and body movements (such as pointing to yourself and say “I am Alida”) and encourage the learner to repeat. It also helps to develop specific hand signals as codes to replace certain linguistic concepts. For example, my elbows are lifted and my hands are turned backward-pointing at me, which means “I am talking”. And I say “My name is Alida”. I will then ask the question “Is your name, Alida?” At the same time, I direct both my hands towards the learner, it means “I expect you to repeat or you to respond”
To gain the specific attention of a learner, it worked well to physically (very lightly though) touch the learner on his/her head. This is followed by a very clear word and hand movement to indicate what is expected.
Approach to Teacher’s Behavior
“Be patient but firm” is the ultimate key to effective teaching. The teacher must continuously repeat instructions, followed by the same facial expressions, the same hand, and body movements until the student responds positively. Giving in or allowing the learner to receive gratification WITHOUT achieving the target, will send a message to the learner that he/she can get away with NOT achieving learning outcomes.
Some readings indicate that it is beneficial for yourself to learn a few words and concepts in the native language of the learners. The benefit is intended to build rapport and make the learner feel more at ease. However, my experience was exactly the opposite. The minute the learner realizes that you do understand their language, even though it might be limited, they rely on your understanding of their language and do not experience the need/urge to learn the new language. They tend to take the easy way out.
In closing, I believe that theory guides the teacher with good pointers, methods, and activities. Matching this with your own experiences and methods that fit your personality and style, results in the most effective learning. The teacher needs to have good insight into the different learning styles and development processes of young children. The key is to adapt the content and methodology to fit the development stage of the young learner. The learning is as effective as the confidence portrayed by the teacher in applying these methodologies.
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I have found the most satisfactory moments in my teaching career, with these young absolute learners. Their progress is quick and visible, making teaching a rewarding task.
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