EFL TEACHERS! DO YOU MAKE THESE NINE MISTAKES IN CLASS?
YOU TELL THE STUDENTS TOO MANY THINGS.
This is what I also call the “saying out loud things that you should just keep to yourself” syndrome. It goes something like this: you say to your class, “OK, so we’re going to play this game, but we’re going to use the board instead of these cute little photocopies I had planned to give you, but I can’t give you as the copier is broken. Sorry about that, but these things happen, and well, we need to adapt and adjust to what we have… OK… Oh, I’ll need another marker because this one is not working properly…” And it goes on and on and on… Over time, it becomes irritating for your students. You are supposed to check your materials before class and organize alternatives if need to. Your students don’t need to know all that. Your students don’t need to know all the problems the school has.
YOU COMPLETE THEIR SENTENCES FOR THEM.
Your student says, “Swimming at the pool is…” And you jump in and say, “fun?” Sometimes the teacher is the eager to continue the class and doesn’t give students enough time to come up with the right word or answer. Students need time. If you jump the gun and complete the answer for them, you’re taking away their opportunity to prove to you just how much they’ve learned. Also, consider that it could actually annoy the student. What if, in the situation above, the word the student was actually looking for is “boring”?
YOU ASK THEM IF THEY UNDERSTAND.
Many teachers ask their students whether they understand what they have just explained. Students answer, ”yes” most of the time. Just imagine when the entire class looks at you because you said, “no.” I always went home and asked my parents to explain it to me. If you want to check for comprehension without having to put students on the spot, ask open-ended questions with what, where, when, and why. As your students have to describe something, you will learn whether or not they understood.
YOU ECHO THEIR ANSWERS.
A student says, “I work at a restaurant.” You say, “You work at a restaurant. Great! You work at a restaurant.” Your echoing the student’s answer does nothing but increase teacher talking time. Second, if you do it immediately after your students speak, you may be interrupting their train of thought and may even cut them off from whatever else they were going to say. What if your student was about to tell you what he does at the restaurant? When your students have finished talking, just give some positive feedback such as, “Great!” or reply with a “How interesting!” Your students may even add more information to it.
YOU DON’T CHECK WHETHER THEY’VE UNDERSTOOD YOUR INSTRUCTIONS.
So, you give your instructions quickly and say, “OK, let’s get started!” This is usually when students start whispering to each other things like, “What did she say?” or “What do we do now?” Always check to see if they’ve gotten your instructions straight. Ask the class, “OK class, so what do we do first? And then? Good! You may begin.” If it’s an exercise they must complete, it’s a great idea to do the first two or three questions with a beginner EFL class together as an example. If you teach a more advanced class, it’s just fine to have the students explain to you what they have to do.
YOU GIVE THEM CONFUSING INSTRUCTIONS.
This mistake goes hand in hand with the previous. Try to use words you know they will understand. Would you mind opening the book to page 17? This is the gerund, part of the grammar of Level 3 in English. This group has just started learning English. Use simple language, remain consistent, and use gestures. Give them steps that are easy to follow, and if you can number them, so much the better.
YOU CAPITALIZE ALL WORDS YOU WRITE ON THE BOARD.
When I observe classes, a lot of trainee teachers write on the board or in activities the following:
After the teaching practice I ask them why I wrote those words down for feedback. Most of the trainee teachers have no idea why. When I tell them that those words should not be capitalized, they say, “Oh yes.”
EFL students look up to their teachers for guidance and quickly acquire incorrect spelling. So please watch your capitalization rules.
YOU CONFUSE LISTENING WITH READING
What I often observe is that the teacher gives the EFL students the text to read along. This is not developing listening skills. This is reading. When we practice listening skills, the EFL students should not have the text in front of them. If teachers feel they must facilitate the understanding of the text in a better way, they should predict more unknown or difficult vocabulary and teach it upfront.
YOU PRACTICE LOUD READING ONLY.
Natural reading is silent. We do not sit in public transportation and read our text out loud. Loud reading serves to check on the student’s pronunciation. I cannot say that I read the first paragraph and my student the second to make us both busy in class. If my students need loud reading (in beginning classes), I must read the sentence first to give them the proper pronunciation again. Loud reading in advanced classes would be appropriate during the intensive reading stage when students practice proper sentence stress (as an example).
With an MA in TESOL, Adriana Blumberg has been teaching prospective English teachers for more than 25 years. Her TEFL graduates teach English in all corners of the world.