5 Tips for ESL Teachers in the Classroom
Nov 28, 2011 English as a Second Language (ESL) 2997 Views
One of the greatest hindrances to ESL coaching is Teacher Talk Time (TTT). Teacher Talk Time is the amount of time that a teacher spends talking in the class. Since a tradition English class to English speaking students is often dominated by teacher explanations, many teachers think that this should also be the case in an ESL classroom. However, the opposite is true. The less a teacher talks usually the more effective the teacher will be in an ESL class.
Let's examine how an ESL student listens to English. First, the student will hear the English. There is a mental process of translating the English into the listener's native language. If he can translate it right, then he will understand. Then a response has to be formed. Usually the response is formed in the native language and then mentally translated into English. This ongoing process is mentally draining.
The following are some guidelines to help minimize TTT in the classroom.
1. Give simple and clear instructions.
There should be a separation between ESL teaching and ESL instructions. The purpose of the teaching is to convey knowledge, and the purpose of the instructions is to help the student learn the knowledge. For the ESL student, both can be difficult. The ESL teacher has to be careful not to mix new knowledge with new instructions. Here is an example.
"Okay, let's review a word that we learned last week. Yesterday, we discussed the word chase, and I know you remember the meaning, but I just want you to let me know what the meaning is. You do remember the meaning of the word chase as we discussed it last week don't you?"
This is a classic example of way too much teacher talk time. There is a good chance that the ESL learner will not even know what the teacher is asking. The teacher will get a strange blank stare from the student and think that his teaching skills have failed. Instead this dialog could be much simpler.
"Let's review. What is chase?"
This is simple and easy to understand. It concentrates on the knowledge and not the instructions. Here is another example during an online lesson.
"I would like for you to put your mouse curser on the red hat please."
Yes, it is still simple, but it could be much simpler. Instead consider the following:
"Where is the red hat?"
Instinctively, the student will use his mouse to find and point to the red hat. The less TTT the better.
2. Be consistent with your instructions.
Consistency will also help the student focus more on the knowledge than on the instructions. For young learners it is imperative to develop a list of instructions to use in the class.
- Turn to page...
- Stand up.
- Sit down.
- Point to the...
- Please repeat.
- Read with me.
- Read after me.
This list is just a few of the many simple commands that can be used during class. Using the same command over and over again will increase the ability of the student to respond correctly. There are many ways to say, "Please stand up."
- Class, I would like for everyone to stand up.
- It is time to stand up on your feet.
- Please get up out of your seats.
- Everyone rise to your feet!
Each of the above sentences varies in difficult for students to understand. Instead, simple commands with consistency will help the students follow the flow of the class. It is not the job of the ESL teacher to impress the students with an incredible knowledge of English. A disciplined teacher will strive to stay consistent with simple, easy to understand, instructions.
3. Don't keep a running dialog of events happening in the class.
Sometimes, an inexperienced ESL teacher will say, "Okay class, we are going to play a game. The game is called Simon Says, and it is a very fun game." Instead of telling the students what you are going to do, just do it. The ESL teacher should avoid commenting on every event that happens in the class. Dead time during class is quite acceptable. These pauses give the student's mind a chance to rest and refocus on the primary material being taught. Consider the following running dialog during an online class.
"Okay, I think our connection might be cutting in and out a little bit. Now where did I put that document that I wanted to show you. Oh yes, here it is. Just a second as I pull it up. It's loading. Sometimes it takes a little while, but we should be able to continue in just a second or two. Okay, there we go. It is almost ready. There. Please look at the picture on the left..."
Sometimes this happens because the teacher feels insecure about dead time in the class. The teacher thinks, "If I am not teaching then I am not doing a good job." Instead the ESL teacher must understand that every word must be important to the learning process. Avoid running commentaries.
4. Do not lecture.
Again, listening to a foreign language requires a lot of concentration. Typically, the 1 or 2 students in the class that have a high level of English will participate in a lecture. The class turns into a conversation between just a few students. The other students get lost in the conversation and give up. It is very frustrating for an ESL student when the teacher only focuses on the top 5% of the class. For online classes, the student will often just agree with what is being said without understanding what is being said. If the student wanted to listen to a lecture, there are many online English videos to watch. Most ESL students want a chance to interact with a lot of speaking time.
5. Prepare statements and questions before class.
When an ESL student hears a statement or a question, often there is a word or two that is not part of the ESL student's vocabulary. Let's look at a simple example.
"Where is your favorite place to go in the evenings?"
If the ESL student gets hung up on the word "favorite," he may not hear the rest of the sentence either. A second later the ESL student remembers the meaning of the word "favorite," but the rest of the sentence is lost to his understanding. A wise ESL teacher will repeat the question exactly the same way as the first time - including tone, speed, and volume of voice. Writing down sentences and questions ahead of time will increase the ability of the teacher to repeat questions and statements accurately. Also, it will allow the teacher to examine the sentences and questions and refine them according to the student's level.
Learn how to become an online ESL teacher: http://www.ilesi.com/for-teachers/teaching-a-language-online-for-profit/
For great ESL resources for both the student and the teacher go to http://www.ilesi.com. ILESI stands for International Languages Educational Services Inc., and has established English training centers all over the world.