Teaching English to individuals who are learning it as an additional language can feel intimidating. However, it can be done, even if your classroom has a group of individuals who speak Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish and other languages. You don't have to know one word of your students' languages to teach English, although learning the word for "welcome" is always a good idea.
- Skill level:
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Assess your students using an informal technique. Even in a beginning class, you will notice students listen to and speak English at varying levels of proficiency. Do not assume anything. Some students may have come directly from a rural part of their country and may not know how to hold a pencil. Others may already know a few common phrases but have no knowledge of the English phonetic system. Ask students their names and where they live. See whether they can write it down. This will give you an idea of the comfort level that each individual has with English.
Teach English to beginners in the following order: listening, speaking, reading and writing. In a beginning English class, you'll be doing very little writing. The writing that you do should focus primarily on English survival skills, such as writing names, addresses and phone numbers.
Use a technique called Total Physical Response (TPR). According to James J. Asher, who developed this technique, TPR is "a strategy to introduce the language through the use of commands and has students demonstrate their understanding through action responses."
Give students simple commands, such as "Pick up your pencil." Demonstrate the action that you are doing after you say it. Indicate that students should follow suit. Say the command again. Ask students to repeat it. This technique will enable you to teach vocabulary naturally.
Incorporate classroom-appropriate popular songs that have simple vocabulary into your lessons. Act out the song using your hand motions to create meaning, and encourage your students to do the same. Encourage students to sing the song after they have become familiar with it. The "Hokey Pokey" is an excellent song to teach body vocabulary.
Teach the alphabet. Many students will be accustomed to a different system of writing. Focus on a few letters at a time and include the phonemes that go along with the letter as well as its name. Let students practice writing the letters. Make flashcard games to give students the opportunity to practice naming the sounds that correspond to each letter.
Teach students to count to 100. Counting is a familiar activity that will help them to rapidly become accustomed to English sounds.
Tips and warnings
- Use plenty of pictures to show what vocabulary words mean.
- Like any students, those learning a second language may have learning disabilities, such as dyslexia or difficulty with auditory comprehension or short-term memory. Gauge students' frustration level and accommodate when necessary by allowing extra time or repeating instructions.
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