Teach English in Xiaoshui Zhen - Hengyang Shi

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One common problem the EFL teacher may confront in the classroom is a group of learners who are confused, intimidated or anxious. In a word, classroom stress has the potential to significantly hinder the prospects of a successful learning experience. What are some techniques the teacher can employ to overcome this obstacle or to prevent it from emerging in the first place? A useful way to begin answering this question is by referring back to the two videos presented in unit 10 of this TEFL course. In the first video, one sees a classroom of confused and stressed-out learners who disengage from the lesson at hand. In the second, there is a palpable difference in the learners’ level of engagement that corresponds to a more relaxed classroom environment. To what can we attribute this marked improvement? The stress evident in the first video arises for several reasons but can be traced back to the teacher’s own stress. He appears unsure of himself, rifling through his notes, mismanaging the whiteboard, spending too much time turned away from the class and failing to provide clear instructions. not His body language and voice convey agitation instead of calm; in response, the classroom’s discomfort turns to apathy and disinterest. The rudimentary pieces of an ESA sequence are in place, but they are unable to achieve a smooth and comprehensible flow, which appears to be in part the result of inadequate lesson planning. In effect, the teacher never overcomes the initial stress caused by his demeanor and inadequate preparation. By contrast, in the second video, the teacher enters with a positive and confident manner that he manner that he maintains throughout. The atmosphere is light-hearted but focused; there are smiles from both the teachers and students. The teacher establishes a rapport with the learners by addressing them by name, and his confident but easygoing manner transfers to the class in general. The lesson follows a clearly defined ‘straight-arrow’ ESA pattern that at each stage has the pacing and level-appropriate language use to keep everyone engaged. The study stage employs a gap-fill exercise that relies on simple, readily identifiable situations like going to a restaurant, driving and going to the zoo. That simplicity and familiarity allows the students to make sense of the lesson in a meaningful way and experience the pride of their progress. Throughout the course of eliciting responses, the teacher does not make the mistake of overcorrecting. By the time the learners enter into an active and productive task in the final stage of the lesson, they are well-equipped to participate. Along the way, they have learned about modal verbs (the grammatical topic of the lesson), but they have gained this knowledge in a way that emerges organically from its integration into the ESA sequence. The lesson to be learned from this study in contrasts is that preparation and attitude are the two key ingredients in a recipe for avoiding stress in the classroom. They feed off one another insofar as good preparation enhances the teacher’s command of his or her lesson, which frees him or her to act with spontaneity and ease in class. In turn, this positive attitude transfers to the class as a whole, increasing their receptivity to the lesson as well as their interest in communicating in the foreign language with one another. Here, one cannot overstate the importance of a solidly prepared lesson plan, one which does not function as a script to follow, but more as a dress rehearsal where the teacher can imagine the lesson unfold before it begins, and in so doing, anticipate any problems that might occur along the way. Ideally, when the teacher walks through the door of the classroom, he or she should be free of stress, and able to give full attention to the task of making language learning fun.