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I asked, you all answered! This week, I will share some strategies that I use in my English class in my internship.
I am not a certified teacher. I am a college student participating in an internship in which I lead an introductory English class. I am simply sharing some of the strategies I use in that classroom that I find helpful. Also, some of the strategies I am using are specific to the regulations of my internship; different strategies apply to different environments.
I did film some short videos in which I provide examples of strategies I use in the classroom. Unfortunately, I cannot embed them into this post. However, you can watch them on Instagram under "IGTV" videos!
Last Saturday marked my third session teaching introductory English to students from South and Central America! In those three weeks, I have already learnt so much about TEFL or teaching students for whom English is their second language. I was also so excited to be called “Teacher Meghan” by my students for the first time!
In my classroom, there is usually a second “teacher” with whom I work with to teach the lesson of the week. The class meets for one hour every Saturday morning and the majority of the preparation is completed beforehand by other staff. However, my partner teacher and I are responsible for relaying the lesson to the students and (equally as important) create a loving, welcoming environment.
So, I began to research strategies for teaching TEFL. After testing out some of my favorites, I found that my students felt more comfortable sharing and had an easier time understanding what I was communicating and asking of them. And after leading a class alone for the first time, I was surprised and thrilled to find success in leading a productive class on counting!
Now, I want to share some of the strategies I have learned with you. I hope these bring you as much joy as they have brought me.
1. Total Physical Response
To learn about some possible strategies for how to use Total Physical Response in an online classroom, watch the video from Teacher Kristina!
To watch examples that I use in my English class, click here (link to Instagram)!
2. Be aware of culturally specific vocabulary
When you are teaching English as a second language, it is crucial to be aware of culturally specific vocabulary. If you teach only vocabulary that is used or recognized by your culture, then your students will have a more difficult time understanding what you are saying and will not learn valuable vocabulary that is from their culture.
For example, if you are leading an alphabet lesson and are teaching ESL students words associated with each English letter, use words that are commonplace in their culture, not yours. If you have children who speak Spanish as their first language and have South or Central American heritage, do not associate “p” with the word “penguin” because they may not recognize what a penguin is. Instead, you could associate the letter “p” with the word “parrot” or “pig,” two animals that can be found in that area of the world.
3. Learn About the Cultural Background of Your Students
By learning the cultural background of your students, you are taking the initiative to learn more about who they are and how to best support their needs in the classroom. When you are cognizant of your students’ cultural backgrounds, you can adjust your classroom environment, curriculum, and teaching style to be inclusive and respectful. Ask parents how they would like to see their culture represented in the classroom and how they would like to see their child supported.
Remember that culture has a significant influence on identity. Educate yourself to be more inclusive and respectful in your classroom.
4. Always Take Them Seriously
Note: I couldn't say no to a Gilmore Girls reference!
Learning a new language is scary. Students want to feel comfortable in a setting where they are trying something new and speaking a new language. So, it is crucial that teachers take students seriously to support their language development and self-esteem. If a teacher were to laugh at a student’s mistake or not approach corrections to language appropriately, that student may not feel as comfortable with sharing the next time they are asked in fear of being teased or shut down.
I always try to start with the positives when I am giving feedback on a student’s response. I say something like “I like how you _____” before I build on their skills to boost confidence and to balance out the feedback. When giving feedback or corrections, be encouraging and supportive, so students don’t get discouraged or get the wrong impression of your message.
5. Model Steps Appropriately
When teaching new vocabulary or sentence structure, I find it helpful to model the word/sentence first before asking students to repeat it.
This allows them to hear an example of a conversational exchange and gives them more time to process the new information/language.
If you would like to see me give examples of how my co-teacher and I model in our English class, click here (link to Instagram).
6. Hands-on Activities
When students apply their knowledge hands-on, their brains become more stimulated and they are more likely to remember the concept because they have made a personal connection with it.
That’s why I ask students to search for something they would like to show to class, so they can apply their knowledge. This strategy has worked extremely well in both the counting and possessives lessons. I discovered that students took more out of the lesson and seemed to find it more enjoyable when they brought something of their own to the table. When the students counted each other’s items, they started building stronger connections between one another and were able to create more personal connections to the lessons.
Here’s how we used hands-on activities in past lessons:
Students looked for objects around their house that they could show the class. I then asked one student to count the number of objects a different student had and to respond with “[Student’s name] has [number] [object name].” For example, “Marta has five pencils.”
Students looked for objects around their house that they could show the class. I then asked one student the question “Is that your [object]?” to which they would respond with “No, that is his/her/their [object].”
7. Use online tools to help assist students and their language needs
Since my internship is virtual, I can use only online resources. However, online resources are a great option if you want to add variety and interactivity to your lesson. Some tools that I find especially useful include:
In the “Sources/Additional Resources” section of this post, I have attached the two YouTube videos I have used so far in my English class.
8. Speak Slowly and Increase Your Wait Time
When teaching a new language, it is imperative that you utilize these two strategies. Otherwise, your students will have an extremely difficult time understand what you are teaching or asking of them.
First, you must talk slowly and with purpose. When you do talk slowly, take advantage of the slow speed and enunciate the syllables, phonemes, or other subcategories of language that may not be picked up when speaking fluently. Furthermore, try to count out the words you use in each sentence.
Sentence structure or syntax is an extremely important element of language and differs between languages. So, counting out words in a sentence brings attention to articles or expanded contractions in sentences.
Second, increase your wait time and be patient with your students. When learning a new language, the brain goes through a three-step process before you respond (if the teacher were to ask a question):
When going through this three-step thought process, it takes a significantly longer time to answer a question than it would be in a first language. So, it is recommended to increase wait time to at least 10 seconds when you wait for a student's reply.
In fact, other cultures are naturally more accepting of longer wait times than in the U.S., so it may be acceptable to wait up to 20 seconds before students become uncomfortable. So, give students ample time to think and process before you move on or provide help. Wait time encourages independent learning and thinking!
9. Be Enthusiastic
By being enthusiastic when you are teaching a new language, you create a more encouraging, welcoming environment, so students feel more comfortable sharing and responding in class.
To watch how I use enthusiasm in my English classroom, click here (link to Instagram).
10. Differentiate - and Use Multiple Modalities
How do you keep things interesting in a classroom? Mix things up! Children find joy and interest in new things or concepts. So, try presenting information in different ways or through different modalities to maintain their interest while solidifying a concept.
For example, I use a variety of different online tools when I present one topic in my shared virtual classroom. These tools can include Bitmoji classroom, quizlet, online games, Google Slides presentation, songs, and online book activities. It also helps to toss in a hands-on activity into the mix to build knowledge away from the screen.
However, if you are a TEFL teacher who is teaching in-person or hybrid English classes, you could expand your presentation of material to dramatic play, an art activity, or include books into your curriculum and lessons.
Differentiation in the classroom supports the different intelligences or strengths represented in your classroom. So, differentiation should be unique to your classroom to support the unique needs of your students.
To learn more about differentiated instruction, click here.
NExt week's post: TBD
What would you like me to discuss in the next livestream? Leave me a comment with your suggestions!
Last week's post: The Power of Children's books (part 1)
In last week's Facebook Live, I started a new series in which I explore different topics surrounding children's literature. In the first session, I discussed the connection between children's literature and multicultural education. To watch the Facebook Live recording, click here.
Click on the links below to explore the sources mentioned in this post!
. . .
12 Ways to Support English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom
Teaching English Language Learners: Strategies at Work
Ten Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners Online
6 Essential Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners
Extending the Silence
Teaching the alphabet to ESL students is different than teaching the alphabet to students for whom English is their first language. Watch this video by Teacher Michael, and listen for any differences in rhythm from the traditional ABCs song.
For our counting lesson, we stopped at the number twenty. I chose this video because it had the number written as a word (in English) next to the number symbol.
Watch the video below to more examples and strategies of TPR by Teacher Michael!
If you like to shop for school supplies on Amazon, check out my Amazon Affiliate links! I earn 10% of what you buy, I will donate half to a charity (ie. UNICEF, BLM), and you don't need to pay any extra!
Leave me a comment!
If you like this post, have any questions, or have ideas on how I can improve my blog, leave me a comment below! Your input is always appreciated. As always, thank you for your support.
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Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.