10 Ways to Keep EFL Students Engaged

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 students 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, and 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.

 

 

4 Big Lessons I Learned as an English Language Teacher

These days, I seldom teach. My days as an English language teacher may not be as active as it used to be. This is so because I’ve moved on to other pursuits, like writing and photography. Yet, I have gained much insight about language teaching, and in this post, I share my 4 important lessons as an English language teacher.

As I reflect on my more than a decade in the field, I’m glad for these precious lessons which I hope can help any aspiring English (or any) language teacher. Continue reading “4 Big Lessons I Learned as an English Language Teacher”

What Language Teaching Is for Me

I wrote the following piece when I was still teaching at the language school where my teaching career first began. That point in my life marked my Second Wind, and I wrote this for my batch of English learners whose English Reading proficiency level ranged from Low Intermediate to Intermediate, as a fluency activity. Hence, I included the new words and phrases they were learning at that time – bold and underlined.

Language teaching is as I have come to realize, many things. First, it is not a job, but more of a vocation for me. It is getting acquainted with different kinds of people coming from different backgrounds.

The diversity in cultures, nationalities, interests and traits of students add to the interesting world of my classroom; moreover, since I am teaching mostly foreign students. It is not only getting acquainted with the different backgrounds but also getting in touch with their deeper soul, their deeper humanity that tells me who they really are and where they are coming from in terms of attitudes, beliefs and feelings, too.

I have learned in the course of time that people from all over the world are generally similar with one another. We all have similar goals and visions, but we choose different paths; we express ourselves in different ways.

Language teaching is also being introduced to a whole new world each time there is a new student. No two persons are alike whether they are of the same race or creed; hence, it is up to me to initiate a very striking conversation that will help make my student feel at home with me, and I with him or her.

Small talks, then, are important in breaking the ice. It is not that easy because there are many factors that may affect our first meeting, like a student’s hesitancy or shyness, or even fears, his or her own expectations of what I as a teacher am supposed to deliver or give, and to think that I, too, always experience some kind of reservation or apprehension toward that person.

There is a saying that first impression lasts, but I make it a point to go beyond that because I believe in being flexible.

As much as possible, I try to give leeway or space for growth to my student. I do not place him or her in a box, except perhaps when my first impression is indeed positive. Through time, it proves to be correct and I want my student to continue with his or her positive outlook (attitude). Yes, one of my favorite saying goes this way, “we can always better our best.”

So, it is also up to me to recognize my student’s special talents & skills, and to focus on them in a very positive and encouraging way. Of course, I have to painfully point out his or her weaknesses or shortcomings, but only for them to learn from these mistakes.

A student shows signs of progress when he or she can already recognize errors or mistakes, and as a teacher, I, too, in all humility, must acknowledge my own limitations.

“To err is human” is an adage or saying that applies to everyone. Learning to respect each other is a significant virtue that each one should observe in class.

One must not insist on what one likes or thinks; one must not be domineering or arrogant, whether one is a student or a teacher. We are all the same; we are just in different positions at a given point in time, but we learn from each other.

It is also fun to discover the real person sitting in front of me. I recall the genuine affection and admiration I have gotten from many of my students with whom I have already forged sincere and lasting friendships, I hope. I remember them with deep fondness, and sometimes with poignancy.

I believe that these are the greatest blessings I get from my teaching… good friends and beautiful friendships that no amount of financial rewards can ever repay.

In the end, this is what strikes me most about teaching — perhaps, because I am a mother that is why I will always feel this way towards my students and this is what I will always tell anyone of them…

“And just like how a mother feels over

Her children’s relentless efforts to learn

Your struggles and pains are also mine

Your sense of fulfillment is my joy, too.”

(a verse from my poem: A Teacher’s Tribute to Her Dear Students 04.01.02