TEFL Teaching beginners

Teaching beginners is one of the most interesting and ongoing training as a teacher will keep on discovering other techniques in order to capture the understanding of the beginner, rather to make the beginner understand. The term ?beginner? may not mean all the students are in one category, they are categorized as follows:

The absolute beginner- these are students who don?t know English at all. (htt:// there are a number of things to keep in mind when teaching someone who has had no prior (or very little) contact with the language, you need to carefully choose what you present, for instance, types of needs that needs to go into planning a lesson: If I begin the lesson with, Hi my name is--------.What?s your name? I am presenting three (!) concepts at once

*The verb ?b?

*Possessive pronouns ?my? and ?your?

* subject and verb inversion in the question form.

It would be much better to the students if I began lesson with, Hi, I am-------- and then gesture to the student to repeat a similar phrase.

The false beginner-these are students who have been exposed to English before but are only able to produce a bit of simple structures. When teaching false beginners you can be a bit more adventurous in your approach to teaching. Make allowance for the different levels of your false beginners? class. Since false beginners will have had some English at one point in the past and this can cause some problems.

*Some learners will really know more than they admit, with the passing of time might become bored with some of the basics.

*Some learners might be false beginners because of inherent learning problems.

In such cases give more advanced learners more difficult tasks. Give more advanced learners extra work in class and at home. Consider different learning styles.

The adult beginner- these are students who are highly motivated in that they have made a decision to learn English.

The young beginner- these are students who lack motivation in that they haven?t made any decision to learn English but are somehow forced to because they are in school and English happens to be one of the subjects to be learned. The other reason is that it may be the decision of the parents that they are learning English. As a result they happen to be slow learners compared to adult beginners.

The beginner without Roman alphabet- these are students who need a lot of basic literacy skills. Such beginners need a lot of practice in reading and writing as this will help them to understand the concept.

Teaching beginners requires a teacher who is dedicated, patient and caring. In this case such a teacher should be one who is ever prepared and plans lessons according to the ability of the students.

With reference to Robert O ?Nell?s Kernel one 1978 htt:// / there are two basically different approaches to teaching beginners:

1.-select simple structures and vocabulary

-move to the next step slowly and carefully

-emphasize accuracy throughout.

2.-select only according to strict functional criteria -present & practice variety of structures and vocabulary in one lesson.

-emphasize fluency rather than accuracy.

Teaching beginners requires special skills and psychology: as a teacher its important to know which skill to use at what stage and you also need to understand your students by identifying them as some may lack to understand because they have sight problems or hearing problems.

Be aware of your students? needs: as a teacher you have to be counselor, who tactfully finds out what problem the student may be facing who seems not to progress. You will find that a student who is lacking in certain areas especially young beginners will be affected in case they are lacking parental love and if they basic needs are not being met. As you find out you will be in the position to counsel the student and offer whatever help you can, by doing this you will be motivating the student who will have the desire to go on.

Have clear and realistic aims: As you prepare your lesson know what you want to achieve at the end of the lesson and what you want your students to know. Its not ideal to give too much that won?t be understood, but its important to know at what pace your students are moving so that you decide whether to give the too much or too little.

Be as visual as possible: You have to make sure that you are in the position where you can glance at every student. This will allow you to target those who not concentrating . You will capture there attention by giving them a task.

Take care with your board work: a board with a lot of irrelevant information will confuse your students. Arrange your work on the board in systematic manner. Writing should always be clear not a mixture of capital and small letters. Always check your spellings to avoid students copying wrong things.

Use choral repetition: the use of choral repetition helps the learners to capture and to practice easily in terms of sentence correction and pronunciations.

Use pair and group work: this allows every student to participate and this brings a free learning atmosphere as students are free to help each other. This will also help you to check English communication by student to student and it will also increase student talk time.

Ask lots of questions: this will enable you to check the pronunciation problems and bring in correction. You will also be able to check if there is correct use of the tenses. Students should be encouraged to speak English in class as much as possible. No matter how you know the students? mother tongue, as a teacher don?t use it as this will kill the idea of teaching and learning English.

Possible problems

How can you help weaker learners? pair them with stronger students and give them extra work to allow them to catch up.

What can you do with a mix of real and false beginners? In such a mixture even false beginners need to practice more basic structures too.

What if you can you cannot get through the material? Its important not to rush, it can be saved form revision purposes and another time. The ideal is not to finish but to the students understand.

What if students cannot understand the tape? play it again . Listening skill take time to develop and student should gain as much exposure to different accents and speech patterns as possible. If the students can?t understand a number of listening, the teacher can use the tape script.


A student who is highly motivated has a greater chance of success than a student without motivation. The teacher should ensure that the lessons are enjoyable, interesting, varied and useful in order to maintain or build that motivation. In this case do not over correct. Be sensitive to your students and respond to them as individuals. Create a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. Praise and encourage your students and make sure you focus on what is easy, not what is difficult. Explain your methods.

According to Tips to remember when teaching beginners

*Make sure personal connections come first ? before teaching any aspect of language get to know each student individually.

*Use interruptions as Teaching moments that trump whatever lesson you planned- if a student arrives late, use that as an opportunity to allow the class to discuss public transportation, numbers or as a review of time.

*Try to minimize the students? cognitive burden- when teaching beginners its best not to write a lot of information on the white board and have students to copy it down while you continue to explain concepts.

*Feed their stomachs sometimes, not just their minds- watch for cues that your students that your students may be hungry and share snacks together as a class.

*Try to meet students half way- make an effort to learn words or phrases in the students?L1. They will appreciate your effort to learn their language and they will see you more as a partner in the learning process rather than someone who has all the answers.

*Avoid using books that are too childish- even though your students are at the beginning level, its important to utilize or create material that is relevant to an adult.


Robert O ?Nell?s Kernel one 1978 htt.//


Author: Shally Simwanza

Date of post: 2007-01-08