What You Need To Know When Teaching Beginner Students
2019-03-15 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences
From the 60-year-old successful businessman who has never studied English to the third grader who is learning it for the first time in a school setting, each student has their own motivation and background. Their unique experiences will dictate what they bring to the table and be a factor in their success or difficulty in learning English. Understanding what brought the learners to the classroom, will help a teacher tailor the lessons to be most beneficial to her students. This includes understanding their culture to a certain extent, specifically as it relates to faux pas or misunderstandings that could arise in the classroom setting.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Lindsey D.
Defining the Difficulties
Beginners who are in a school setting often do not have a choice in learning English as it is a school requirement. This can make keeping them engaged difficult as their motivation will also be lower. However, using varied teaching methods, activities and games as well as establishing a rapport and fostering a friendly and fun environment can combat this.
Another difficulty with beginning learners is their unfamiliarity with the subject matter. With a low comprehension level and small vocabulary, communication with the students can be difficult, especially when sticking to using English rather than their native tongue. Acknowledging that they are likely to have a limited vocabulary and understanding of grammar, it is important to understand the level of English comprehension in your classroom. Taking this into consideration, a teacher must use language while teaching that is understandable to her students in order to communicate clearly but also allow the lessons to be challenging enough to keep the students interested and learning. This can be helped with the use of visual aids and mime. Resorting to using the students’ native language could be very harmful and is not advisable.
As well as every level of learners, beginners need practice in all aspects of language learning including receptive skills, such as reading and listening, and productive skills, such as writing and speaking. The teacher must make sure not to neglect any of these aspects of teaching while preparing lessons.
Encouraging participation in each of these aspects will employ may different resources and techniques including drilling, worksheets, listening exercises, and written materials. Created materials and games are likely to be useful at the beginning level as authentic material may often prove too difficult. Grammar is important at every level; however beginners will not be able to grasp the finer points or more difficult aspects until a teacher has provided them a firm base and helped them to improve their familiarity with the language.
You Might Be The Only Source Of Authentic English
For students who are beginners and are learning English in their home country, the teacher may be one of the only consistent sources of authentic English. As a result, the teacher should be a model of correct pronunciation and proper grammar for the students. The teacher may also be a good source of cultural information which can help the students understand how the differences in language can relate back to differences in viewpoint or traditions. But, the teacher should avoid putting the focus on herself, encouraging the students to engage with the material and participate as much as possible. Teacher talking time should be the minimum to allow the students to practice and gain confidence in their knowledge and use of the language.
Are you ready to teach English abroad?
While teaching beginners offers many challenges, the rewards are also great. The improvement of the class will be measurable and may be more marked than with higher learning levels. Also, as children have a sponge-like ability to learn and retain language, school-age beginners will be especially rewarding.
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