Teaching EFL students is fun and fulfilling, but can also bring plenty of challenges. One common challenge is keeping your English learners motivated and engaged. EFL students, young and old alike tend to lose interest or focus as lessons progress in difficulty, for instance. This becomes a hurdle especially for new teachers with zero or limited teaching experience.
I remember my own experience as a newbie teacher, when I’d easily be intimidated by the different personalities I met in class – be it one-to-one or small group classes. But as I eased myself into teaching day by day, I discovered strategies that helped keep my students on their toes, focused, and interested with our lessons.
Here I share 10 ways by which you can engage your EFL students, no matter what their age and language level.
* Recognize the learning styles of your students. Experts say people have their preferred learning style or technique. Some learn better by reading or looking at pictures, not just hearing or doing. Some do well by hearing and listening. EFL students with this style learn new words better by hearing the sound of the words and repeating them. They understand quickly when they read aloud. Some can learn better by doing. Hands-on activities, such as acting out a role, or drawing an image to represent a word, work best for them.
In my case, I’m more of a visual learner than tactile. I’m also auditory because I like listening to lectures or podcasts, with some background music to help me relax.
When you know your students’ particular learning style, you can adjust your teaching approach, lesson presentations, class activities, and homework to help them get the most out of your class.
See also this for more on learning styles.
* Do a student survey on the first day of class to gather data on this. You can download survey forms for this and other data about your students, or make your own questionnaire. The Perceptual Learning Style Questionnaire is one example. Another resource is the free online learning styles inventory test.
* Present lessons in varied forms. Use PowerPoint or any visual aids. Students today are digital.
* Avoid giving class lectures. Because you’re teaching language, your lessons can be activity-based, depending on the makeup of your students, size of class, and length of class time.
* Make your presentation short, concise then follow it up with activities. 15 – 20 minutes is a good length for one aspect of your lesson for the day. This is what I’ve also picked up from the conferences and workshops for teachers I attended. More than that can be boring or draining for students, especially the young whose attention span is short.
* Speak while writing on the board, and don’t show your back to them. Otherwise, they will do other things beside taking down notes or listening to you.
* Assign individual or group reports, or assign a lesson they will have to present to the class. It’s a great way to facilitate active, engaged learning because they get to use the language and you can ask their classmates to evaluate their presentation.
Now some teachers may or may not agree with me. But as I’ve learned the hard way, it’s better to increase student talk time vs. teacher talk time. Especially for your beginner or low intermediate EFL students, let them have ample time to practice new vocabulary, grammar points of the target language lesson for the day. Let your students speak more than you do so they can increase their oral skills and become more familiar with the lesson. This is a sure way to keep them engaged in their language learning.
* Use rubrics, to assess their performance. Give the rubrics as guide for them, too. Rubrics are useful as well for class participation (individual or group), homework, and quizzes to help you track, measure their progress, and write your student progress reports. Search online for appropriate rubrics.
* Be ready with extra activities. Play by ear too whether you can complete the lesson in one meeting – because more important are your reinforcement activities or follow-up tasks, such as drills and substitution exercises, or whatever you have to check on how much they’ve learned for the day.
* Document what goes on in the classroom. This is useful for doing Classroom Research, at the same time inform you on how best to proceed with your teaching.
Teaching English as a foreign language can be daunting, but with these pointers above, your students will love learning English with you. And through time, as you develop your own teaching style and learn what work best with them, you can discover your own ways to help keep their interest and engagement level at an all-time high.