At first you might get frustrated when students speak their own language in class. Keep this checklist in mind and it may help.
- Always present yourself as an English speaker, right from the start.
- Don’t be tempted to lapse into the students’ language to explain, regain control or reply to a question. Patiently reply in English.
- Don’t be tempted to slow down.
- You may feel put off when they call to each other in their mother tongue What’s she saying?” Use pictures, gesture, facial expression and rephrasing to get your message across.
- Lapsing into quick explanations in their language will undermine your role. Tuning-in will take time! Keep at it!
Activities to encourage English
Here are more ways to create opportunities for simple communication in English lessons:
- Start each lesson by asking students about their week, weekend or previous evening. Talk about yours in a natural way: “Did anyone see that funny film on TV last night?”
- Ask students about their area or information you may need to know. Simple requests for help, such as: “Does anyone know if there is a bank open on Saturday here?” Ask for suggestions for places to visit . Even with beginners, opportunities can arise: ask for the time, the date, how to get to places nearby etc.
- Ask for explanations in English whenever students are able. This stretches students.
- Involve students in board work, asking them to spell aloud a word you are writing, inviting younger learners to complete a summary, write a question or correct a mistake on the board.
- Avoid asking “Do you understand?” Try to get more comments with questions to check understanding: “Why is there an 's' on this verb?” or “Can you pronounce this word?”
- Get students to refer to an English-English dictionary (take your own if necessary). Play games involving definitions (eg. Guessing a described object; animal, vegetable or mineral?; or What’s my line? with job descriptions.) Do simple crosswords with clues.
- Play games where use of the mother tongue loses points for the team.
- Practise and encourage all common classroom requests: “Can I have another piece of paper?” or “May I go to the toilet, please?” - Students may not use English requests amongst themselves but insist they do with you.
Encouraging students can eventually pay-off. If they enjoy your lessons, their attitude to speaking English will improve over time.
By Clare Lavery