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How to Teach English

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How to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) – for newbies

Here’s the challenge, how to explain what us TEFLers do in the classroom and how you can do it too.

In less than million words?  Maybe impossible, but we will try.

First know that teaching English is not rocket science and that there is a specific methodology that truly helps your students learn English.  Without it you are usually wasting their time and money. And you are being a fake teacher.  Because you can speak English, does NOT mean you can teach English.  Many of us who started out without TEFL teacher training  saw a huge difference in the performance of our students as soon as we got some real training.

Here’s how it works. Here is how to teach English as a foreign language.  And know that teaching EFL is different than teaching English to students for whom English is their native language.

Here we go . . . these examples are for a simple “conversation” class, where emphasis is on the students using language as much as possible and talking to each during the class.

First we need to motivate our students, so we are going to talk about something that interests them, usually using language functions, such as Asking and Answering Questions about ________.  Fill in the blank.  Ask your students what they enjoy talking about.  Sports, music, movies, celebrities, their job, their hobbies?  If the lesson is focused on what they like to talk about, they will likely pay better attention and they will retain (keep) what you taught for a longer period of time.  It will stick in their brain.

Okay, so now we have their attention…

Once we have a good topic, we put it into an EFL lesson plan using EFL teaching methodology. Done deal!

Not quite that easy.  TEFL methodology and lesson planning is usually where we plan exactly what words and phrases we are going to teach the students.

First,  we plan how we are going to present and teach that new language to them using the ask/answer topic we decided earlier. Often this is several rounds of listen and repeat so they can practice listening to the language and practice the pronunciation. If you have studied a foreign language before, you know that it can sometimes sound like confused noise – no words at all.  But after you listen several times, you start to get it.  The second or third or even fourth time, you start to hear the individual words.

Then we have them practice asking and answering those same questions back and forth with each other using exactly what we taught them earlier.

Next, we plan how they will practice what we have taught them. That will help them get comfortable with the language and help them remember it.  That usually means just having them practice ASKing and ANSWERing (remember functions from above) the questions and answers we just taught them.

For this section we will give them a few extra alternatives for practice, once they feel comfortable with the basics that we already taught them.  We just add a few variations of the questions and answers and they practice those. Easy!  Here it is important that they TALK A LOT.  That means student talk. Not teacher talk.  The teacher is not the star in an EFL classroom.  The student is the star.  It is a student-centered classroom.

Finally, in the last stage of a lesson, we have the students apply the language we taught them, that they just practiced and now we have them talk about their own life.  Their own interests, jobs, hobbies – using that new language.  Here they produce some new sentences using the pieces we gave them and that they practiced before.

We taught it, they practiced it and how they create new usages of the language to talk about themselves.  Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?  It creates motivation and helps the student retain the language in their long-term memory.

There you go.

How to Teach English

That’s how to teach English as a foreign language.

Of course, before the start of formal teaching of a class you might play a word game using the language you taught in the previous class (to help them remember and retain that language) and at the end of this class you might play a word game using the language from the current class.   It’s good to have a bit of fun at the start and end of the class so people arrive and depart happy and laughing.  It helps motivate your learners.  Of course, the stuff in the middle can be fun too!

That’s the quick and dirty basics how to teach English.  On this website you will see a huge amount of FREE TEFL training material to help you get past the basics and become an excellent teacher.

Just one last fast thing: Look back over this article and see that we have underlined and bolded THREE words: Present, Practice and Produce.

One of the most common TEFL methodologies is call PPP, from Present, Practice and Produce.  NOW, without really trying you have have learned and understand more English teaching methodology than 50% of the (untrained) English teachers out there in the schools.

I hope you see from just this short little article, how even just a little bit of TEFL training can really improve your teaching skills.


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