Teach English in Chengdong Zhen - Taizhou Shi

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Speaking English is without any doubt, the number one, best way to learn English. Speaking builds confidence and creates opportunity. A significant problem faced by students in an ESL classroom is a teacher who loves the sound of their own voice. A teacher who spends a significant proportion of the session, speaking limits student speaking time to answering a few basic questions. This is a heinous crime. A teacher who is guilty of disproportionate teacher talk time (TTT) is guilty of stealing students’ all too few opportunities to develop their understanding of the English language. Most serious of all a TTT heavy classroom can be really boring. Bored students do not learn. Students who are bord do not participate and stop paying attention. Boredom in a classroom is a sure-fire way to prevent students from advancing in English. A classroom that offers more student talking time (STT) will make lessons more enjoyable, more student-orientated and much more interesting for students. STT leads to greater understating, retention and above all else, more English. While some TTT is required and relevant, a teacher must be patient and let the student arrive at their desired destination by any route necessary. The teacher should act as a guide, only ensuring students do not stray too far off the path. Therefore it is important for teachers to reduce their TTT as much as possible. There are a number of strategies available to eliminate unnecessary TTT. In the early phases of a lesson, a teacher should spend more time eliciting information/answers rather than explaining. Explaining rather than eliciting is a common mistake. Even experienced teachers default to explanation rather than elicitation and discovery. Success is a journey, not a destination and the doing is often more important than the outcome - Arthur Ashe. Teachers need to get students talking, not give them a lecture. If students are forced to listen to endless TTT about (for example) grammar, they will never learn how to apply it to everyday life. Rather than presenting a verbose description, teachers should show pictures, mime, use realistic flashcards, personal photographs etc., after all a picture is worth a thousand words. It will often be the case that ‘showing’ rather than explaining, will be more understandable and the ‘answer’ more accessible for students, especially with lower levels. People usually like talking about themselves. A great way to get students to open up, talk more and reduce TTT is to ask students personal questions about themselves. I find asking students about their travels is one of the easiest way to get students talking. Relate these conversations back to the topic of the day to demonstrate how students can use them in their daily speaking. It can make a great segue into that lesson’s topic. The study phase is often the one area where students may be provided little opportunity for speaking, however this does not have to be the case. A teacher should always refrain from answering their own questions and give students the opportunity to reply to her/his questions. Ask – pause – give a hint, if it does not work immediately – give another hint and another and another one after that. Given enough time (and hints) students will produce the correct answer. It is morally wrong to underestimate them. Active phase and instructions. Teachers often use too much TTT when giving instructions. Teachers should first speak the instruction and then write down the instructions. Writing the instruction prevents the teacher from repeating the instructions again and again. Having the instructions written on the board allows students to view the instructions and begin the exercise without having to listen to teacher’s improvised ramblings. Wherever possible the teacher should always seek out opportunities for more student-student speaking time. Therefer, after instructions have been provide have students complete the tasks in pairs or groups. Encourage your students to talk to each other and report back to the whole class (not just the teacher). A further opportunity for teacher to NOT talk, is when students are working alone or in groups/pairs, do not talk. The teachers should not disturb students from their extremely precious student-student talk time. Silence during the lesson is something that many teachers think they should avoid by any means. However, silence is sometimes OK, as long as students are active. Students need time to complete their tasks and silence can assist in the thinking process. Interrupting this thinking time will hamper the students understanding of the material. Teachers who talk too much are the bane of the ESL classroom. It is every teacher’s duty to stop talking and give students the chance to develop their own understanding by practicing and producing as much English as they possibly can. Utilisng some of the strategies suggested above, will help ensure TTT is limited and STT is maximised. Leaving students confident to seek out opportunities to speak English outside of the comfort and safety of the ESL classroom. After all, to produce confident English speakers is the ultimate goal of every student, teacher and school.