“A good language teacher should have three qualities: knowledge, fluency and method. The first two are important but what actually distinguishes between good or not so good teachers is the last one.”
Here are some tips you can try to be a good language teacher:
1. Show off your best asset
No, I’m not referring to your chiselled face, voluptuous curves, and especially not your bank account. I’m talking about your personality. When you’re teaching a grammar point that you know is boring and the students will switch off over, lighten up, smile and become an ‘Edu-tainer’. As an ‘Edu-tainer’, your task is to keep them interested and attentive. Be funny, amusing and light hearted while at the same time teaching the dry-as-hell topic. You can throw in jokes, be a little bit irrelevant at times, just turn on the charm and keep them from falling asleep on the desk.
2. Be a little unexpected
One little gem I like to use in the classroom when teaching a boring topic, is to keep them thinking. Instead of feeding them the answers or elicit the answer out of them, I like to keep them on their toes. One such method is to give the students an answer to a question that is incorrect, and see how long it takes the students to recognise the error. Being unexpected means that they must always be thinking, and they are not going to find themselves anticipating the answers.
3. Tell a story
If you are explaining a grammar point, why not keep your students amused and educated with a story. This is a good way to keep their attention while explaining some of the more dull aspects of grammar. Great for children and lower-level adults, a well-known story such as The Hare and the Tortoise are the best choices. Using a short story that the students know provides the students with a picture and connect the grammar with an event in the story.
4.Take the tabloid approach
One nifty little way to liven up any lesson is to use the lives of celebrities to explain a grammar point. To do this, find out about a local celebrity in the country, find out who they’ve been dating, associated with, previously dated, been married to, been embroiled in some form of scandal, and create a time line while explaining the tense.
Example: Tom Cruise was married to Nicole Kidman (Past tense – Finished Action, They’re divorced
Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes after he had divorced Nicole Kidman (Past tense, finished action / Past Perfect – the first action to happen in the past).
No matter what the topic, taking a popularist approach by using celebrities in a class is always bound to entertain while adding a sense of realism to your lesson.
5. Be practical
I am personally a big advocate of teaching English that students will find beneficial and useful in their jobs or their lives. One way I like to do this is to try to use practical examples wherever possible. It is incredibly simple and can even be improvised on the spot. An example is explaining tenses by throwing a pen. By actively going through the motions, saying the sentences and explain the points while doing it, you can keep your students attention on you while teaching them the grammar point. For topic specific tasks, another great way for students to learn vocabulary is to create a presentation. One example is a class Fashion Show to talk about clothes and accessories or a role-play to practice vocabulary and phrases related to food and dining.
6. Use the news
English language newspapers are fantastic for students to learn about English as they generally use simple words and provide an example of what’s happening around the world that the student’s may already know in their native language. This allows them to easily connect the times and even some of the more difficult vocabulary in the newspaper article, while the timing implications of a the events of the news article can be used to describe tense. Newspapers are a good introductory activity for any class, as they provide a real-life vocabulary source that can then progress into a discussion, before getting into the grammatical deep-end. See ‘How to Teach Current Events to ESL Students’.
7. Play a game
Have you ever been in class and noticed that the following exercise in the book was a typical ‘fill in the gaps’ or something that you knew would send the students far away into a dreamlike trance? Well, this is the point where you can tell the students to stop everything, put their pens down, close books and stand up. Students love competition with each other, and any activity where two teams can be created and scoring is involved is a sure-winner with any tasks. Instead of having the students complete the activity in the book, in silence and on their own, they can learn and have fun at the same time by working together as a group.
On the other way around, the followings tips are things you have to avoid to be a good teacher:
1. The Disciplinarian
The Disciplinarian is very strict and loud. He may lash out with an angry command when frustrated, upset, or disappointed with students. Talking out of turn and being late are completely unacceptable in his classroom even if there might be a reasonable excuse. Nothing is ever his fault even when students are unclear on directions and he is reluctant to repeat himself. Students tend to be afraid of The Disciplinarian and therefore are less likely to speak up in class. He all but shatters their confidence even when covering basic material that students are familiar with. In his classes students have to pay attention and avoid attracting attention.
2. The too friendly Friend
The Friend is easygoing and lenient. His lesson plans are designed to be fun and active so that students can enjoy the learning process. He tries to relate to students and sometimes even succeeds. He will never challenge students to step outside their comfort zones or embarrass them by asking them to repeat, develop, or change their answers. Students really enjoy having The Friend as their teacher but are often less productive than their peers due to lack of discipline and focus. Students are not driven to work hard because they meet endless praise in the classroom regardless of performance.
3. The Shy Guy
The Shy Guy (or Gal) is too timid to be put in front of a classroom. He often speaks so softly that students sitting in the back of the room must ask for things to be repeated. This teacher lacks the self confidence to assert his authority and therefore students are unwilling to give him the respect a teacher deserves and disregard instructions. This teacher lacks even the most basic classroom management skills and cannot keep students in check. The Shy Guy leaves class each day feeling defeated and students prey on his weakness by further insulting him. Even generally well behaved students will act poorly in this teacher’s classroom because there is no real consequence for their actions.
4. The Lecturer
The Lecturer believes that if he repeats something enough times, students will understand what they are being told. Rather than rephrase or test comprehension, the teacher requires that students just repeat exactly what he said. If this teacher is a non-native English speaker, it is likely that he will lecture almost exclusively in his native language. When students struggle with material, The Lecturer will start speaking more loudly as if this will somehow help the situation. ESL students with this type of instructor will suffer from lack of speaking practice and will often not comprehend the meaning behind their words.
5. The Timewaster
The Timewaster likes to dominate speaking time and regularly holds one-sided discussions about topics completely unrelated to the lesson. He will half-heartedly attempt to engage students in material that is neither relevant nor interesting to them and upon failing will simply continue along the same path. As classes with The Timewaster often end without getting to the main point of the lesson, students will feel as if they are not gaining anything by attending classes and become frustrated with how their time is being spent. Particularly driven individuals will do well through self study while the rest of the class will be sorely deprived of the education they need.