Saturday, 10 November 2012

How to Teach English as a Second Language

Here is my secret to teaching TEFL:

 ‘The 3 C’s, the 3 G’s & the 3 R’s’

And They Are:

  Confidence / Creativity /  Continuity
Gratitude / Generosity / Games
Relax / Repeat / Review

Confidence: You must ooze confidence, it might sound cheesy but study the teachings of some of the great self help guru’s of America: Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and watch how confident they are, emulate them. I’m not talking about buying into their spiel (hell no) I am just saying watch their body language and voice patterns. These guys are three of the best salesmen around.

Realize that you must also be a salesman and adopt some well known salesman techniques, like never taking no for an answer, pitching your product (the English language) and tricking the customer into doing what you want (students speaking good English).

If you can become confident in the class room the children will pick up on it and respect you. Teach the students to be confident, teach them the concept of confidence, and make a game where they get rewarded for being confident. Give them an affirmation “I am confident and I can speak English” then make them take it in turns coming up to the front and shouting this line confidently in return for points. Tell them to keep saying this affirmation to themselves. I did this every week for a whole semester and I added a little bit to the affirmation every week. That way the students were constantly filling their subconscious minds with the idea that they could speak English confidently. By the end of the semester my students were taking it in turns to come up to the front of the class and say:

I am calm, confident, relaxed and cool

I can easily and confidently speak English

I am a genius and an amazing student

I can speak, read and write English perfectly

I Respect my ability to speak English and I confidently share it with other people 

I am completely fearless when it comes to speaking English

I can easily stand here and talk English for hours

When I speak English I am so good that people think that I come from England

I can do all of this because I am an amazing genius

The more arrogant, loud and cocky they said the lines the more points and rewards they got. Oddly, even though they didn’t understand what they were saying most of the time, after a few weeks they became amazingly confident. Also the ‘naughty’ children loved this task because they could legitimately be arrogant and swaggering saying the lines with a naughty ‘attitude’; either way they became more interested and confident in speaking English.

Creativity: Read Tony Buzan’s books. Tony is a first class revolutionary in the field of education who has, through studying creativity and the human brain, created many amazing ways of developing and increasing creativity such as mind mapping. I use mind mapping to plan all of my lessons. With creativity and knowledge of how the right and left brain works you will see how to teach your students how to be creative.

If you are creative you will be able to design amazing classes and games, tailoring your lessons uniquely to your students. Creativity is true genius and everyone can be a genius. Teach your students that each and every one of them, no matter what disadvantages they might have, is a genius.

Continuity: Continuity is so important. How would you feel if you went into work and your boss had forgotten everything you did last week and without rewarding you or paying your salary simply put you onto another job? People love continuity, they love to follow a story line and they love to see something develop over a long period of time.

Keep team scores going for months, keep class jokes going, keep competitions, performances, a way of speaking, marking, rewarding and behaving going for weeks on end. Don’t change your reward scheme. Don’t move the goal posts or forget past success.

Kids especially love continuity and structure because it shows that there is meaning in the world and that you as their teacher can be relied upon and trusted. Continuity helps the students to feel comfortable and helps them to be confident.

Continuity does not mean repeating the same lesson plan format again and again. Keep the bulk of the lesson new, fresh and creative but have a thread of continuity with the overall plot or direction of the learning curve. Don’t let the classroom become stale but don’t forget the key building blocks of your classes: scores, teams, and what the students learnt in the previous lesson.

Always pick up from where you left off and then your classes will develop a dynamic thread of energy and have a life force of their own, they will become like easy flowing streams of learning and enjoyment.

Gratitude: “Ignore it when a student does a little thing wrong and say thank you every time a student does a little thing right.” Be genuinely grateful every time a student even attempts to speak English. If you do this they will stop doing things wrong and start doing things right and they will definitely start speaking English. If you ignore them when they do a little bit of good and shout at them or get annoyed when they do little things wrong they will hate you and they will make a habit of being negative.

I know from experience that gratitude is the key to success. Would you do something for someone if they kept shouting at you and didn’t say thank you when you gave them something they wanted? (Now little things that are wrong, I believe, should be ignored. Major things should definitely be corrected but still with an attitude of gratitude.)

Generosity: Take money out of your salary and buy simple rewards for your students. It doesn’t have to be much, just a 5 baht lollipop will do. Print certificates for them. Arrange soccer matches or picnics in the school for them if you can. I spend 1500 baht a month on rewards. 1500 baht is an absolute bargain for the level of control it gives me over my students. They know that the games, the speaking, the performances and their hard work will actually produce physical results. There is a point to what they are doing.

If you only have a few students definitely find out what they love most and reward them with that. The greater and more suited to the student the reward is: the more the student will perform and actively get involved with learning.

Would you work for nothing? Would you enter a competition if there was no prize? Rewards along with continuity are a winning strategy for dealing with discipline.

Also be generous with your time, put time into lesson plans and extra curricular activities and you will be rewarded with respect from the staff, parents and students.

Games: From the second I get in the classroom I am a game show host and all my students are performers in a big game of let’s learn English. Everybody likes games, they are fun! Nothing goes unrewarded, everything earns a point.

Take at least three weeks developing your classes into cohesive teams. Teams with identity who want to win at any cost. Make your class a big game of ‘come on down’, ‘the price is right’, ‘wheel of fortune’ or ‘jeopardy’; make it an X Factor or Pop Idol audition where the best teams progress through greater and greater reward systems. Being on a game show is a fantastic way of using the English language and body language.

Once you have teams and every thing is a game you can say things like: ok the first team to: write a story, copy this text, tidy the room, read this book, answer these questions, stay quiet etc ,etc, etc will win 500 points or whatever your reward system is.

Games, points, continuity and rewards absolutely destroy the need for any discipline.

Relax: Study teachings by people like Sogyal Rinpoche, Alan Watts, Osho and Kelly Howell, and learn how to meditate and relax (or read my book). Learn how to cultivate genuine inner peace; this will affect your presence in the classroom. Your body language will put the children at ease.

Tell the children it’s ok to relax and that nothing is too serious. Forgive them if they make mistakes or are rude. Laugh along with them a little bit. Make them laugh. Light heartedly make fun of yourself and them. Show them that you are an amazing teacher who is so good that you know that they are going to learn English even if they are naughty! Show them that you can be a bit naughty too and it’s ok. This has the bizarre effect of making the naughty kids relax and stop being naughty!

Watch comedians like Bill Hicks, Eddie Izzard, and Billy Connelly. They are naughty and cool but you can tell they have heart and that they care. Learn how to adopt comedic body language.

Relaxation isn’t being like jelly it’s about being poised. In the classroom I try to be 50% relaxed, aware and spacious, 25% in charge, wise, serious about the subject and teaching, and 25%  funny, compassionate, open, free and forgiving.

Repeat: Repeat procedures, this is a little bit like continuity but it has the effect that the students subconsciously tune into certain things about you. Hand gestures that tell them to be quiet, facial expressions that tell them you don’t believe them, writing the date, writing the team names and scores, do these type of things the same way every lesson.

Also repeat means to get them to repeat what they have learnt again and again. I used to teach the concept of a question mark. Every time I wrote a question as I got to the question mark I would say “what goes here”. After two or three weeks every time I wrote a question by the time I got to the end of writing it the class automatically shouted “question mark!” That way they learnt to always use a question mark and I never made the mistake of not using the question mark. Little quips like this work really well for getting students to remember.

If a sentence you are teaching has a language element from a previous class make a point of repeating that part and getting them to notice that they have already learnt it. Repeat intonation, pronunciation, and body language as much as possible. Even if it seems boring and you know they know a word or a piece of grammar, repeat it again and again. Make it humorous and a part of your game show. Have catchphrases like a game show host, kids remember them.

I used to shout in a wild voice: “Whoooooooo can draw a crazy monkey?” as I was going whoooooo I would run from side to side swinging my arms and as I got to the word Monkey I would pull my ears and pout my lips. The kids loved this and would charge at me to get to the white board marker so they could draw a crazy monkey. I would then give the kid who managed to get the marker and draw the monkey some team points. I would then repeat the gesture and ask them to do more and more complex things.

Every time I want the students to be quiet I count to five on my fingers with my hand in the air, if they aren’t quiet by the time I am finished I start taking away points. After a few months of this I simply put my hand in the air and the students automatically start to be quite.

Review: Every now and then stop and review what has been taught. This is part of repetition and continuity but it is also a good way of seeing if the students are actually retaining the knowledge and indeed if you need to totally re-teach a piece of language.

Make tests, games, discussions and team performances that review everything that has been taught. Spend a whole lesson getting the students to remind you of everything you have taught them up to that date. I did it as a game once. I told them that I had bumped my head and forgotten what I had taught them. I then proceeded to try and remember and made lots and lots of mistakes. They began correcting me and telling me what I had taught, I rewarded them each time they managed to remind me and by the end of the class we had reviewed everything I had taught from the previous 3 months.

If you would like detailed information about how to create any of the following themes, subjects or concepts please email me and let me know.

*   Getting kids to speak / building confidence.

*   Making successful teams.

*   Creating an element of competitiveness.

*   Getting the students motivated to win.

*   How to teach the perfect tense.

*   How to deal with really naughty children.

*   How to get a class of 50+ naughty 12 to 16 year olds absolutely silent and hanging on your every word

*   How to memorize the names of all your children.

*   How to teach awkward words with body language alone.

*   How to teach a whole class without even opening your mouth.

*   Meditation, relaxation techniques for in the classroom.
* Teaching TEFL in Thailand.
Also if you have a particular problem please ask me and I will see if I have any solutions.