Teach English in Wangyefu Zhen - Chifeng Shi

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Learning English as a second language requires one to express themselves in ways that, at first, may not make sense to them. For an increasing number of young learners around the world, English may be part of their regular curriculum and thus not a “choice.” For these reasons, students’ stress about learning and practicing a new language in front of their peers may outweigh their motivation to acquire the language. Thus, finding ways to minimize stress in the ESL classroom is a crucial component to any teacher’s method and strategies for English instruction. One of the best ways to reduce learners’ stress is by intentionally creating an atmosphere in which students feel that making mistakes is an opportunity for growth and should be encouraged rather than reprimanded. Some helpful strategies to achieve this is prioritizing confidence-building by crafting attainable target language, praising students and thoughtfully correcting mistakes, and incorporating students’ interests and motivations into the curriculum. An important step in reducing stress in the English classroom is to acknowledge each student’s feelings and understand them on a collective and an individual level. If an English teacher is meeting a class for the first time, they must gauge the students’ level of English, their motivations, their energy, and where their strengths and weaknesses are and incorporate this information into their lesson plans and approach. Then, a teacher should craft attainable language objectives for the students. An attainable goal is one that, although may be new for the students, is scaffolded in light of the student’s level, ability, and interests. For example, when crafting a unit on “directions,” a teacher can first drill a limited set of vocabulary words and use it throughout the grammatical portion of the lesson rather than always incorporating new words in every lesson. If students are struggling with one portion of the unit, whether it is the vocabulary or grammar, a teacher can circle back to these points and use engaging activities or drilling methods that do not make students feel that they are a hindrance to the classroom. If a teacher senses students’ stress, they can begin and end the class with brief, easy activities in an area that the students have already mastered in order to begin and end the class on a positive note. In addition to creating attainable target language, reducing students’ fear about making mistakes and receiving feedback can help them focus on confidence-building. Teachers should be careful about when and where they should correct students in the lesson. For example, during a daily warm-up activity with greetings or a song, the teacher may not want to focus on correcting students so that the lesson can begin with students feeling motivated and capable. In addition, frequently working in groups and pairs can help minimize stress about having to perform in front of one's peers. The teacher can also intentionally make mistakes in the student’s native language, or try to demonstrate an interest in their native language, in order to connect with students and humanize their position as an instructor. Most importantly, teachers must give opportunities for weaker or shy students to demonstrate their abilities or perform in the areas they excel in so that they can receive positive feedback and build their confidence. Thus, teachers must be careful to develop a classroom environment for mixed-level abilities and make all students feel that they are a positive contribution to the classroom environment. Lastly, stress may not just stem from lack of self-confidence, but also in disinterest in English as a subject. In these situations, teachers must be careful about how they tailor the course material to the audience. Pairing grammar lessons with interesting vocabulary and engaging materials based on student’s interests is crucial. For example, young children may be interested in learning about food, animals, and basic things that they can relate to. During the engage or activate portion of the lesson, students may want to learn about foreign animals or foods that they are either familiar or unfamiliar with. Older learners, however, may be more focused on learning about life in a foreign country or how they can use English in their future careers or everyday life. Even if students aren’t interested in English itself, incorporating other subject areas such as science or media can spark their curiosity and keep them engaged even if the English portion itself does not motivate them. Also, if course material is suited to their interests, students may be distracted from, or able to overcome, their internal fears about learning a new language. In conclusion, minimizing stress and maximizing confidence and interest is more than necessary for the English classroom; it’s the only way students can utilize a new language in the real world. ESL teachers ought to create a classroom environment in which students are more focused on achieving beyond what is expected of them than the potential of making mistakes. Creating attainable targets, connecting with students’ interests and abilities, and developing engaging activities are just a few simple but effective strategies to help minimize stress.