My teaching tips and reflections in this post are inspired by some insightful blog posts I have read recently. While pondering the advice that I found useful to EFL teachers, I tried to be a discerning observer of an exceedingly complex ELT picture painted by the confluence of teacher, students, subject matter and the multiple contexts in which they interact.
Just be you!
Be adventurous: reflect, inquire and experiment new teaching methods and strategies, and develop your own teaching style.
A teaching method we use depends on our English language proficiency level, our values and attitudes, and our pedagogical knowledge and practical skills. One of the most desirable qualities of a good teacher is their enthusiasm and willingness to improve their teaching techniques. Introducing and applying a new more effective method entail a proper teacher training and support. If we are, for instance, committed to concepts of learner-centredness and autonomy, we must (know how to) help our learners to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to plan their own learning activities, monitor their progress and evaluate their outcomes.
*School leaders should play a key role in encouraging and advising teachers about high-quality professional training. They should also do their best to develop a school culture of high standards, where team work and collaboration among the colleagues is a norm.
Be genuinely interested in your CPD
Read about pedagogy and research, go to conferences and courses, look for inspiration online (ELT blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc.) where you can find out about new philosophies, new methods and strategies, new ideas… Share your experiences and insights.
Most English teachers do not go to conferences, seminars or courses; still fewer take time to read about pedagogy and research. Lack of time and low pay are mostly the reasons. Preparing and teaching lessons, attending meetings and doing some other unpaid work for school usually take up all teachers’ working hours, often more. Many teachers do not see the point of continuing professional development as their employers do not promote or encourage PD. Also, many teachers have a stereotypical image of researchers as living in an ivory tower, and tend to feel that only working teachers could have credible opinions about good teaching.
*Good teachers are interested in reading the research as they find that personal professional experience gained in the classroom and based on intuition (even when enriched with discussion with colleagues) is never enough. (Penny Ur)
“Evidence-based education is the idea that research of various kinds should be used to inform decisions about teaching and learning. It is conceived of as an alternative to teaching practice that is guided by intuition and/or experience.” (Jonathan Firth: What is evidence-based education)
Provide your students with lots of opportunities to practise English
“Research findings on interlanguage development undermine the credibility and viability of explicit language teaching, synthetic approaches, and PPP.” (Geoff Jordan)
Provide your students with interesting activities in your classes where the language is used communicatively and spontaneously. Recommend some good sites for learning English: podcasts, blogs, e-magazines, YouTube clips, and books and materials they can find in a library, etc. Get students to choose the topics they like to deal with, and bring their own materials/ texts, or get them to do project work, create their own tasks (help them to make reading comprehension questions/ tests/ quizzes, brochures, etc.). Use English almost all the time in your classes and react to linguistic problems as they arise, thus respecting the learners’ ‘internal syllabus’.
Understand and explain to your students that language evolves and rules change. Please read about this here:
Be fully in the moment in order to really see what is happening in the classroom.
Raising awareness of classroom processes and focusing on learning in the classroom require advanced level of proficiency and good pedagogical knowledge (classroom management, lesson planning, syllabus design, observation/ reflection, etc.).
*Good teachers are skilled at observing students in class, analyzing what they see and providing intelligent response (they completely grasp the reflective process of teaching/ learning in the classroom). They are, also, good listeners who are deeply engaged in understanding what students have to say through words, gesture, and action.
Enjoy the silence
Silence is an important part of the learning process
Most teachers feel uncomfortable about the periods of silence in their classes, as the atmosphere of a constant buzz of conversation filling the air is generally associated with dynamic and interesting classes.
Silences are part of the learning process: e.g. a teacher asks a question, students are *silent*, a student raising her/his hand answers the question, the teacher asks the students if they agree/disagree, *silence*, the teacher asks a few random students to respond, students are *silent* and engaged in thinking and making their own questions in order to make clarifications, questions inspire discussion, teacher gives an explanation, etc.
Silence provides time for students to think how to formulate their statements/ questions or how to respond in L2, so we should be patient and wait for 7-8 seconds to give them time to think and respond. Students can use silent thinking periods to think about what they have just read for gist/ in order to summarize it; or they can jot down questions for a teacher, or give the class feedback to a teacher.
*The periods of silence in the classroom remind me of the rests, intervals of silence in pieces of music which are part of beat-length units. A rhythm and melody of the composition depends on the silence between the notes. If there were no rests there would be no music. Silences make the language classes more dynamic and harmonious.