Teach English in Dayou Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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A motivated student has definitely greater chances to succeed than a student without motivation. The question is: how to motivate students? This is probably the key issue for an EFL teacher. Above all, we need to consider the audience we’re dealing with: How old are our students? What is their level of English? Is it a classroom or one-on-one instruction? Where do they come from? On the one hand, young learners build their linguistic skills quicker than adults because they are not afraid to make mistakes and are open to any teaching approach. On the other hand, apart from a few exceptions, adults may have stronger motivation. Most of the time, young learners study English because they are told to do so while adults choose to learn it for work, travel or other personal purposes. We have thus to keep in mind that the motivational considerations of young learners depend on us teachers. Fortunately, they often seek our approval. Positive responses are crucial to them and rewards such as smiley or stickers can often work as powerful incentives. Consequently, a teacher has to be highly caring to help build and encourage young learners’ motivation. We should also consider that they have more curiosity than adults but can be easily bored so it is important to provide them with fun games and frequent change of activities. That being said, some adults may either not come to learn willingly since they could be obliged by their company to attend an English class. In that case, the enjoyment level of an adults’ class is as determinant a factor of motivation as the immediate usefulness of what they are taught. Regarding the level of English, we won’t encourage a beginner and an advanced student the same way. Again, the latter might be highly motivated while the former needs to be praised and supported. In one case we have to be challenging and to push the learners to take responsibility for their own language learning and in another case we would rather focus on what is easy not what is difficult. We won’t motivate individual students and large classes the same way either. When it comes to private lessons, it’s somewhat easier to combine in our teaching what our learner wants and what we think he needs. In all cases we need to know their needs, aspirations, and interests. A needs analysis is invaluable to plan our future lessons and find the right way to get our students’ attention. Besides, different cultures have different approaches to learning and we must motivate our students accordingly. In Asian countries, for instance, students are more likely to be diligent about learning and respectful to their teacher, which is definitely a strength we can rely on, but it also means they might sometimes lack in creativity and willingness to communicate so we’ll have to develop sophisticated strategies to make them talk. Once a teacher understands why and how his students learn English, and if they choose to do so or not, it becomes far easier for him to focus on the interest or pleasure they could find in it and thus motivate them. Let’s now examine how to organize our lessons to involve the students effectively. Firstly, we have to consider the tremendous significance of the “Engage” phase. It would be highly inappropriate to start directly our teaching with a “Study” phase without warming up our students. To arouse their interest we can start by sharing information between partners, using various materials, playing fun and short games that can be linked to the next phase of the lesson. Adults and multilingual classes also have life experience to bring in the classroom, making it easier to build rapport and start with interesting discussions. Secondly, as for the “Study” phase, we shouldn’t present directly what we want to teach. If we want to involve students as much as possible we’ll have to start by eliciting, i.e. by asking thought-provoking questions. To keep our student motivated we need our study activities to start relatively easy in nature and become progressively harder. Students are often disengaged because they lack confidence. Overcorrecting them is something to highly avoid. A good teacher has also to remember that praising the students is equally as important as correcting, if not more so. Thirdly, the last part of our lesson should be dedicated to make our students communicate as freely as possible. In this “Activate” phase, in order to make them dare speaking it is important that we don’t correct them at all. Amongst many activities, role-plays are a good way to reduce internal inhibitors since it can be easier to personify someone else. Last but not least, apart from the content of the lesson, the atmosphere and the resources of the classroom as well as the behavior of the teacher are also crucial in order to properly ensure that lessons are enjoyable and stimulating. As for the classroom arrangement, it should first reflect the identity of the group. Young learners will love to decorate it to make it their own. The setting also has to allow the teacher to control his students effectively and to make it suitable for them to work in pairs or groups. It will help the teacher to avoid unnecessary talking times and the students to feel at ease when it comes to communicating. As far as resources are concerned, obviously all English classes are not equipped equally. We don’t need much to create stimulating classroom props though. Household waste can be more than enough. Of course internet and connected games can sometimes be of great support to motivate students, especially amongst the young learners. Finally, an efficient behavior for a teacher starts with smiling and being positive, a good eye contact to establish good rapport, a clear voice with variety of projection, gestures to convey the meaning of language, showing personal interest. A good teacher should also really bet on the visual interest added to his lesson. Approximately 65% of the population are visual learners! In conclusion I would like to insist on the fact that motivating doesn’t mean to be an entertainer of sorts; a teacher can also be low-key. The thing is to inspire confidence and to know when to leave the students alone.