Rachel is from Australia where she had been working as a school teacher. She decided to take the four-week in-class course in Buenos Aires to further her education and opportunities to teach English to speakers of other languages. In her TEFL review, she speaks about her experience at the training center in Buenos Aires. Since she is a primary school teacher back home, she enjoyed working with local children during the course. At the same time, she also enjoyed teaching adult learners and highly benefited from the teacher trainer feedback sessions.
Below you can read feedback from an ITTT graduate regarding one section of their online TEFL certification course. Each of our online courses is broken down into concise units that focus on specific areas of English language teaching. This convenient, highly structured design means that you can quickly get to grips with each section before moving onto the next.
This final Unit for the TEFL course focuses on Troubleshooting. This includes the sorts of common problems you as a teacher may have in different sized classrooms or with the progression of your students. Before starting, all activity ideas are in the course materials. I won?t be re-writing these because they are already well written and are easy to refer back to.
In your first lessons, it is vital to establish rapport with each of your students, so as to set a standard for following lessons throughout the year. The 2 groups you can have are either:
1. New Groups ? Students don?t know each other and don?t know how an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) class works
2. Existing Groups ? Students already know and are comfortable with each other and know how an EFL class works
In a first lesson, don?t use the course book. Try doing activities that aim to:
1. Establish rapport within the class
2. Find out about the students to plan for future lessons (catering to their interests)
3. Find out the students? needs/aspirations with English, so you can meet the needs of the class
4. Find out each students English levels so you can potentially work more on the harder stuff
Warmers are those activities that get students who?ve just come into the classroom familiar with using English. They are short, fun activities that get the students excited and motivated, and generally in the mood to learn. Typical Warmers include:
3. Tongue Twisters
4. Memory Games
It is important to link them to the Study phase of the lesson, otherwise students may lose interest. If this isn?t possible, try games that go over what was recently covered.
You may get classes where every student?s at different English levels, which isn?t uncommon. The chances of this happening can be reduced, but not prevented. In case of mixed ability groups, you can:
1. Use Different Materials ? 1 activity is harder for stronger students, and 1 activity is easier for weaker students. Try to juggle between both/all groups
2. Same material, Different Tasks ? Stronger students get longer, more complicated tasks then weaker students
3. Don?t Do Anything ? Some teachers feel that they should stay at a steady pace so the gap between strong and weak students doesn?t increase. But there are dangers with this!!
4. Pair Stronger Students with Weaker Students ? Stronger students can help explain and clarify things with weaker students. But try not to let the stronger students dominate!!
Large Classes can be hard to control because of the amount of students and the difficulties in monitoring their performance. Be aware that clear instructions vital with large groups. To best combat all this, teachers can employ techniques such as:
1. Using Worksheets ? Each student learns something and doesn?t get left out
2. Pair/Group Work ? Maximising student involvement
3. Clarity ? Talk loud, make sure everyone can see what?s written on the board and give clear instructions
4. Choral Repetition ? Singing songs and repeating them daily/weekly/etc. can really drill things into the students? memories
5. Appoint Group Leaders ? Making classroom management easier. Use them to give out worksheets, collect work, keep control of the group, etc.
6. Dynamics ? Large classes are dynamic and dramatic. A larger number of students makes for more varieties of ideas. A teacher can use this to try make it a humorous, positive and involving class
The use of a student?s native language (L1), especially in monolingual classes, in EFL classes can make for some issues if you?re not careful. As we know, a student can help another student using their native language if they?re in a lower level, but higher level students really shouldn?t use it unless absolutely necessary!! To try avoid the usage of native languages, you can:
1. Make sure that activities are appropriate to the classes English levels and they have the necessary language to cope
2. Make sure explanations and instructions are clear to all class members
3. Encourage the use of English where appropriate. Native languages shouldn?t be ?banned? per-say, they must learn to use it when absolutely necessary, and never in speaking activities!!
4. Only Respond To English. If a student talks to you in their language, don?t respond until they ask you in English (kindly, of course)
5. Constantly Remind The Students. Over a period of time you can use encouragement/cajoling/reminding to get the students use to using English in the classroom
Reluctant students can also be a struggle (students that don?t want to participate). Check the productive skills unit for ways of encouraging students to speak. To hopefully avoid a reluctant student, you can:
1. Use plenty of pair work, making them try to talk in a safe environment
2. Use controlled practice, again the environment needs to feel safe.
3. Use Role-play, as some students find it easier to talk when they aren?t themselves.
4. Use a recording device. The student can record themselves speaking outside of the classroom, and you can listen to them to still teach them. This allows them to express themselves in a less threatening atmosphere.
Finally, Difficulties with Listening texts is a very common problem all students from all nationalities face. Don?t avoid these, you must get them comfortable with listening texts, otherwise it?s not ideal in the real world. Before jumping to conclusions, make sure the student isn?t struggling because of the quality of the tape or that the volume is too low, identify the problem is their listening skills. If this is the case, then refer back to the Receptive Skills unit for ways on dealing with this problem.
Another problem teacher?s face is when to move on. When the quickest student is done? When the slowest student is done? It?s generally best when a majority of the class is ready to move on.
If need be, have some word searches or something similar ready for the quicker students to do when they?ve finished a task. This keeps them learning and doesn?t get them bored.
So in conclusion, I have now finished my entire TEFL course? Scary!! Don?t stress about the common problems you?ll face as a teacher, just try work through them as best and as logically as you can. So, I?ve really got just 1 more thing to say before I move on? Hang on Japan, here I come!!!!!!!!