We can always improve our communication in the classroom. Here are 5 key tips when it comes to communicating with beginner level students.
1. Less is more
One of the biggest mistakes newbies make in the classroom is filling silence with speech. As a new teacher it feels natural to talk lots, but in a classroom lots of teacher-talk-time means less student-talk-time and students don’t learn another language just by listening, they need speaking practice.
I often see new teachers make their students’ lives harder by speaking too much in the classroom. After a while, students stop listening because, well, they’re overwhelmed. It’s exhausting to have to process that much information. The solution? Speak less. Get to the point. Your students will thank you.
2. Grade your language
Beginner English learners are easily overwhelmed with new language. I’m sure anyone who’s learned another language can relate to the feeling of listening to someone using complicated vocabulary and quickly getting lost. In the classroom we need to avoid this.
Strip out the following from your speech: long multi-syllabic words, colloquialisms, most phrasal verbs, long-winded sentences. Instead of asking “OK guys, do me a solid and fetch me your homework” think about how that can be said in a simpler way. Empathy is key here. Putting yourself in your students shoes will help immensely.
3. Show AND tell
A lot of TEFL trainers advise new teachers to “show don’t tell” when explaining new concepts. This advice definitely aligns with ‘less is more’ but it doesn’t help the students acquire new language. A select few instructional words with your demonstration will go a long way to helping establish a common language for explanations. Which brings me on to:
4. Establish classroom English
This is the holy grail for a teacher of a beginner class! Having students understand language like ‘listen’, ‘write’, ‘turn to your partner’, ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’ and respond to those instructions is invaluable. Instead of it taking 5 minutes to set up a new activity it’ll take 30 seconds which of course means more time for teaching and more student practice.
5. Use a trigger
OK so this only really applies to working with young students but part of great classroom communication means getting students to listen. So use a trigger to silence them. What’s a trigger?
A trigger is a simple signal that you use to tell the kids it’s time to be quiet. It can be fingers to lips for 10 seconds. It can be a clapping pattern. The most important part of a trigger though is that the students must focus and repeat it back to you. Once they have that, use it often to maximize it’s effectiveness.