How to Teach English: Advice for New Teachers

how to teach englishOne of the most challenging things for an English teacher is creating lesson plans that are both interesting, and keep the children engaged. Of course, schools will have a curriculum to follow, but it falls on the teachers shoulders to come up with additional work, quizzes and activities to fill the many hours in the school day. For the most part, there are not enough resources and often teachers struggle to come up with materials. If you’re feeling stuck in this situation, you’re not alone, so check out this course on how to teach online and discover how the professionals are doing it.

Whether you are a private English tutor, a school teacher or a college professor, you need simple and easy ways to teach your students, to support their continued learning. As you begin teaching English, there are some basic principles that you need to follow in order to be successful.

Begin with teaching the alphabet and the different sounds of each letter, as well as simple numbers. Build on this with teaching your students to learn how to spell the days of each week, and month, and other simple words. This vocabulary can be taught with flash cards, and simple stories, but if your audience is adults be sure to keep the children’s stories to a minimum. The hardest part of learning a language is the vocabulary, before moving on to simple phrases like “good morning” and “good night.” It’s at this stage a lesson plan will help wonders, so if you’re still winging it perhaps you need to try this course on learning business English. In addition to giving some great advice, it teaches you how to create lesson plans and improve your overall teaching skills.

Once you’ve got your lesson plan together, teaching for the most part is simply following through the different examples and exercises, and making sure that you’re explaining each concept as you go. The key is to not leave any child behind, so keep an eye out for any that may be struggling with the work. If it’s a certain student that continually needs extra attention, consider talking to them about it outside of the classroom, and recommend additional tutoring to help their grasp of the basics.

Once you’ve been working with your lesson plans for a while though, it can become a little robotic. This is the exact opposite to what is required for a successful classroom’s learning, so read on to discover a number of different tips that you can use to help teach your class English. Be sure to adapt these as required for the needs of your class, and their maturity levels. These are primarily directed at teachers with younger students, but you can apply the principles behind each to any level of student as you teach them English.

Immersion

Try to fully engage your students in a range of fun activities before you have them tackle the tough English content from then textbook. This technique is called immersion, as you are having your students use English informally, which helps them to practice and remember what has been already taught.

This could be as simple as some creative activities like painting, music composition, a role playing drama, anything that requires active participation from the class. In addition, it gives their energy levels a quick boost, adding to their excitement before they get stuck into something a little more boring (like doing questions in their textbook). It also gives them a fun forum to practice their vocabulary, and access their full imagination which is a very effective engagement technique. For more mature students you could play them an episode of a sitcom or a ted talk, and ask them to analyze different parts. Don’t be afraid to stop it partway through and make sure everyone is keeping up. To get adults accessing their creative juices, have them make something, whether its a catchy jingle or a company slogan, they’ll enjoy this type of practice.

The key is getting your students thinking outside the box, whilst using their English skills to do something a little different, and a little fun. They’ll remember it all much better, and will also enjoy the lesson, even if you follow it up with the traditional textbook work.

Tip: Do a fun activity before you tackle a hard one, and make their practice exciting.

State the Purpose

Without knowing why you’re participating in an activity, it’s difficult to get excited about it. Always communicate the reasons why you’re reading a particular book, or doing a certain writing exercise so that your students know the importance of their work. This is a key component when you’re getting them interested in learning English.

If your class is struggling on this point, especially if they’re sick of endless grammar and sentence exercises, why not have the kids send a letter to their favorite author or put together an article for the school newsletter? This will greatly impact the quality of their writing, when they know who it’s going to be produced for, and that someone is actually going to spend time reading it. This also works for mature students, have them reach out to someone they admire, and compose a letter entirely in English. There are many different channels where you can send mail to celebrities, authors and even prisoners, which can make for a much more enjoyable writing exercise than simply endless questions and answers.

Taking the kids version a step further, you could also use the children’s stories to put together a published work. Have each class put together content for their own book. Pick fun themes like spooky stories, or animal adventures, and have them also paint the pictures to accompany each story. You can then turn the finished product into a published work, which can be given to parents of the class for them to enjoy the work their children have produced.

Tip: Give your students a reason to produce high quality work (primarily that someone else is going to read it!)

Use Interruptions to Your Advantage

Take the chance to build on any situations that happen, so you can discuss with your class current topics and events. Students enjoy this immensely.

If a student arrives late, use this as an opportunity to talk about buses or public transportation, or if a student has pictures of his parents, use it as a base for a conversation on families. The goal is to be spontaneous, as your students will better remember real life conversations about things that actually matter, over the content of their English textbooks. It also gives them practice at having conversations, which is a key part of learning English that they need to master.

This is far better than a structured lesson plan, so long as you keep the conversation on track, and it is teaching them new vocabulary as you progress. Be sure not to stray off-topic too long however, but even a short 10 minute conversation can be fantastic at getting a class re-engaged.

Tip: Use real life examples to reinforce the theory you’re teaching, and make classes interesting.

Brainstorming

This is an exercise for the teacher to do themselves, or with a couple of their fellow teachers. Looking at the curriculum of their English class, as well as the other classes in the school, brainstorm and come up with both the reasons why certain aspects are being taught.

Building on this you can also brainstorm as many fun ways you can think of for each topic to be taught. The results will be even better if you build common ground for teaching with the other teachers, because the best activities that really get students engaged are the ones that are planned in advance. It’s even better if you can forge a common approach across multiple subjects. This course highlights the benefits of sticking to a common ground and teaching only one core skill at a time.

Tip: Brainstorm ideas with other teachers, so all staff know why the students are being taught the way they are.

Create an Inspirational Environment

To really engage students in their learning, you need to have an environment that supports both their creativity and imagination. Having access to a wide range of books and authors will help stimulate a love of reading, especially if there are designated areas of the classroom that make it enjoyable to sit and read in. Displaying the children’s work on the walls is another great way to reinforce the atmosphere you’re trying to create. For mature students try to make the learning space as comfortable as possible, and you’ll keep their attention for longer.

Tip: Create an environment that positively supports learning English.

Encourage Peer Assessments

Have your students receive a clear set of marking guidelines, and get them to evaluate each other’s work. What kid doesn’t like checking and correcting another’s work? You can have them look at their own, or other students homework, because the best way for them to learn is to apply the concepts you’ve taught them, themselves. A final benefit of this one is more personal, but as a teacher watching your kids learn from each other is immensely rewarding.

Tip: Get the students to evaluate each other’s work, and apply their learning by teaching.

As your students get more advanced, you need to adapt your teaching methods, and ensure the classes keep up. One of the easiest ways for your teaching to be ineffective is that you’re continually going over the same topics – again and again. If your students are progressing, try this course for some pointers on grammar, and get their brains back in thinking mode!

Ultimately, teaching English is a skill that can be learned with a little effort, but to be truly great you need to spend time analyzing what is and isn’t working in your specific classroom. Some teachers work better under different teaching styles, so experiment until you find the best way to teach your class English. If you’re feeling a little stuck, this recent post covers the many ways you can teach online, so check it out and try the tips we’ve covered here today. You’ll be so proud when your students start making progress!