Teaching absolute beginners in English is feasible and one of the most gratifying levels. It can be a Burden to be assigned to teach a class of complete novices, especially if the course is monolingual and you don’t speak the language or if the class is multilingual and the sole common language is English. Here are eleven suggestions for getting your beginning English students off to a strong start in their language-learning journey.
1. Keep Directions Simple
When speaking to a group of students, especially a new group, the temptation to use your most diplomatic words in explaining an activity might be vital. Indeed, nobody enjoys being impolite. A student who communicates no English at all or only a few words won’t comprehend or appreciate the politeness of, “OK, so now what I’d want you all to do, if you don’t mind, is just to get up for a moment and come to the front of the class.” Oh, and don’t forget to bring your reading material. How about if we all did that?
Use just the fewest words feasible, supplement verbal cues with appropriate gestures, and divide up lengthy sets of instructions into manageable chunks to ensure everyone understands what is expected of them. The words “please” and “thank you” are sufficient for politeness. “Everyone, please take a book. Raise your feet. I’d like you to come here right now. Much obliged.
2. Give Them Time to Listen Before Speaking
Your pupils will likely want to begin speaking exercises immediately. Don’t force students to talk before they’ve had plenty of opportunity to listen to you using the language (though this doesn’t mean you should just be rambling on at the front of the classroom; with beginners more so than with other levels, you have to consider what you say and grade your language accordingly).
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
The sounds of a new language are complicated for novices to grasp. Thus it is essential to drill and repeat these sounds repeatedly. Even though reviewing the same lines over and over again might be tedious, it is necessary. If you want to ensure your intonation is natural and your related speech pieces are correct, consider back-drilling a new sentence. This involves breaking the sentence down into manageable units and then building it back up, working retrograde from the end of the sentence to the beginning. Deconstruct “Would you want a cup of tea?” as an illustration. Would you want a cup of tea?
4. Set Classroom Language Early
Language in the classroom: Could you perhaps talk more slowly? Precisely what must we do? I just don’t get it, sorry. A definition would be appreciated. While “How do you say… in English?” is more commonly linked with working with young learners, it is also helpful for adult learners just starting. Even in the most welcoming and comfortable of classroom settings, the prospect of being asked to speak in front of your peers or to explain something you don’t understand can be intimidating to language learners. Providing students with classroom language at the outset of a session is a great way to ensure they can participate actively and succeed throughout the course.
5. Stay Away From Jargon
Not understanding how to use the structures or phrases they relate to renders knowledge of them useless. How to say something? Not by telling them but by demonstrating. Define the situation in as much detail as possible (visual prompts work well). Check their understanding by giving them questions designed to reveal any gaps in their knowledge; never ask, “Do you understand?” because
(a) most individuals are too polite to admit they don’t get something to pretend they do, and
(b) a pupil could think they call it when they don’t.
6. Remember Your Kids Speak Their Language
This may seem like a bit of detail, but it’s easy to forget that the person speaking bad English is a thoughtful human being who is probably quite fluent in their native tongue and is only trying to express those thoughts and ideas in English.
Since the first letter of the alphabet and the first letter of the verb “to be,” education has focused on fostering communication. As educators, we need to avoid the Me-Tarzan-You-Jane approach to teaching, which bastardizes the same language we are trying to teach, and instead focus on being patient and proactive listeners, alert to the specific reasons errors are being made while filling in the gaps in less-than-perfect communication. Instead of dumbing down our language, we should carefully grade it so that it is understandable without losing its naturalness, rhythm, or spirit. We should make every effort to engage in meaningful conversation with our students and pay attention to what they have to say.
7. Get Ready, Get Ready, and Keep Talking
While it’s essential to do things slowly when teaching novices and to recycle and repeat words frequently, teachers shouldn’t undertake the same activity twice, especially within the same class. Don’t go into a category without having thoroughly planned out how you will introduce a new language, how you will verify that the students have comprehended it, how you will practice it, and how you will deal with any misconceptions, and without a wide variety of activities at your disposal. More misunderstanding is possible at this level and cannot be easy.
Remember that the pupil’s lack of language resources prevents them from having anything more than simple interactions, unlike at higher levels when you can count on emerging dialogues (though in time, they will). As a result, it will be up to you to sustain their interest in continuing the conversation.
8. Visualize New Vocabulary Using Diagrams
Start with your ‘nads and work your way down to your toes. These are much simpler to highlight on a happy stick figure rather than to list out in a dictionary. Visual aids are like a double whammy for the mind. Students may learn new vocabulary and have fun doing so by coloring or embellishing pictures.
Using visual cues like highlighting, underlining, and circling is a typical practice among adults for remembering bits of information. So that young children may begin to form mental images of how words and sentences in English could seem, the same basic notion underlies the creation of visual diagrams. Students will have an easier time sifting through their stacks of papers to find the learning tools they need if they are organized by color and image.
9. Encourage Grammar Mnemonics
If students need to create a mnemonic device in their original languages or translate complex concepts into more straightforward English phrases, the result is improved memory! With the help of memory aids, your young students may retain even the most difficult English spellings and grammatical rules.
This mnemonic “-I before -e, unless after c” is helpful for students of English at all levels. Once your kids recite it on cue, you may be assured that they will no longer make careless i/e spelling errors. (If you’re still stressed about figuring out how to teach English to kids, an excellent place to look is vital ESL resources.)
10. Intersperse Talks Throughout the Lecture
Tell me about your weekend activities. Vocabulary directly applicable to the student’s interests and experiences may be introduced through natural conversation. By asking a standard question right off the bat, students may begin formulating their responses even before class has begun.
As pupils work attentively to distinguish between I and me, you may also mix in some side talks if you’re dealing with a class rather than a single student. You can get kids talking about everything from their lunch plans to the outcome of the latest soccer game.
11. Games Break Up Solo Study Periods
Play in early schooling is as essential as salt and pepper on chicken wings. As you may recall from your own TEFL training, games are a fantastic way to sneak learning into the curriculum, and this is especially true for young students. Those that demand movement allows kids to release pent-up energy, while games that are more meditative and challenging provide a mental workout. One is useless without the other; they are inseparable.
I hope you appreciate this final stage. This is the most challenging grade to teach, but it also has the potential to be one of the most rewarding. If your students enjoy their first exposure to the language, feel confident and inspired to continue. You can see them progress from knowing nothing to a few words to learning a few sentences and structures to hold rudimentary conversations; then, you will have helped pave the way for their future success.