My very first
Planning First Lessons - for teachers; How To Choose An English Teacher - for students; Personal Experience - Ulyana Nazarova.
PLANNING YOUR FIRST LESSON
Even teachers with years of teaching experience behind their back may feel a traitorous weakness in the knees when they have to teach a class or a student for the first time. The reason is not that you won’t be ready, but because you don’t know the audience yet, and what they will react to best and what they may dislike. Hopefully, the tips listed below will more than help you feel confident and ready for every eventuality.
If you are working for a school, they are likely to have some basic information about your new students. In the best scenario, they will have taken a placement test and gone through the interview, so ask for this, if you haven’t been given it yet. However, when you work with adults, they may be reluctant to go through any sort of placement and may only provide you with their own level estimation. But that is at least something.
There is no need to enumerate all your credentials and years of experience, the students will be able to get those from the school management. Unless they specifically ask for it, of course, but in that case, try to be brief and to the point. Prepare a short presentation of your qualifications and methods you use, that will take no longer than two minutes.
What the students are usually more interested in is the teacher as a person. Many teachers’ all-time favorite way of introducing themselves is through this game:
- draw or print pictures that illustrate some aspects of your life. It can be a camera if you like photography, a bloody knife if you are a horror film fan, or a flower pot if you have a green thumb. The higher the level of your students is, the more intricate the hidden message can be. For example, a guitar may symbolise the fact that you have one collecting dust in the corner after having failed at learning to play it.
- arrange the pictures around your name or photograph on the board and ask students to guess how the pictures are related to you. They may ask simple yes/no questions, or debate it in groups before presenting their verdict to you.
- alternatively, you can simply write words or phrases instead of using pictures, but where is fun in that.
- after all the pictures have been guessed, ask students to create similar charts about themselves and continue playing the game. It may be wise to set the time limit for every person, or the game may stretch way beyond the time designated for the lesson.
Break the ice
The game described in the previous paragraph actually serves the double purpose of breaking the ice AND introducing you. Another great game to play is “Two Truths, One Lie”:
Write three facts about yourself on the board, but make one of them a lie. The harder to guess, the funnier. Ask students to discuss which fact is a lie and after they guess, give them a chance to write three facts about themselves in a similar fashion. This game is bound to get everyone laughing and talking in no time.
Find out more
It is almost impossible to achieve anything without having strong inner motivation. Adult students will come to you already being motivated, but it is important to find out by what exactly. The majority of them will have vague or external goals, which will drive them to study for a little while, but not long enough. If the time allows, ask students to close their eyes and imagine a situation, where they suddenly realise they can speak English. Get them to describe the scene in detail, saying where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. They may picture themselves giving a presentation in English, or chatting with friends in a London pub, or just reading their favourite book in the original. Now you know, what really drives them. The next step is to set a preliminary deadline, say, a year or two from now, and write it all down. You may even ask your students, what they can do on their own to achieve that goal faster - start preparing short speeches for the lesson, watching short movies or cartoons, writing comments on Instagram, or something else.
Discuss the program
One sure way to establish rapport with your students is to be transparent about everything. Show them your study program in the first lesson and discuss it together. Ask your students what topics they are most and least interested in, what they are not so confident about, and what they would love to study first. Make sure they have a copy of the program that they can refer to.
Set class rules
Devoting at least 5 minutes to discuss the rules will help you prevent possible conflict situations and disturbances in the future. We wrote more about it here.
People love stories, and even more so, they love being shocked or surprised. Incorporate some fun stories and tidbits about the language into your lesson and students will love you. For instance, you may tell them about why there is no second person singular in modern English and where it went leaving only “you”. Or that names for days of the week come from names of ancient gods and that is why they are capitalised. Or even that there used to be no word for “boy”, and there was only “girl” meaning a child or a young person of either sex before the 15th century (approximately).
If you are teaching an offline class, there are certain ways you can show that you are confident. Body language is extremely important in this. Firstly, don’t hide behind a chair, laptop, or a table - walk around the class, come closer to your students, or even perch on the side of the table - in short, OWN the room you are in. Secondly, hold something in your hands, to avoid their restlessness, such as a pointer, chalk or a pen.
What are your first classes like? Do you use any of these ideas or maybe you have a trick of your own? Let us know in the comments, for sharing is caring :)
How To Choose An English Teacher: 5 Tips From An English Teacher
Some English teachers are experts and have perfected their methods over years of teaching experience. Others have simply found that online English teaching can be a quick way to make some money while they’re stuck at home because of COVID.
It can be hard to know who is a real, legitimate English teacher, and who is just someone who speaks English and thinks they can make some money teaching it.
1. Decide whether an English teacher is actually for you
I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating: Not everyone needs formal English lessons. There are lots of people that are successful in learning English completely on their own.
Sure, it takes a bit more effort to be an independent English learner, and it can be hard at first to design your own English immersion course. But once you develop your system for learning it can absolutely be as effective as hiring an English teacher.
So here are some questions to consider when deciding whether to hire an English teacher:
Do I learn best with more structure?
Is this the best use of my money? Or should I invest in other English learning resources?
Am I going to make the best use of it?
What am I actually trying to improve?
My advice: Be sure that taking English lessons will actually be worth the time and money investment for you.
2. Decide on 1:1 tutoring vs. group lessons
Another decision is to think about whether you want a one-on-one lesson or group lessons. In one-on-one lessons, you get lots of speaking time and the class is focused on you. But they are more expensive. In group lessons, you share the costs with everyone else. But you also share the talking time and the teacher’s support.
Which one is better for you depends to some extent on what you’re looking for and how you like to learn best. But the research does show pretty clearly that one-on-one tutoring is usually more effective than traditional classroom methods.
My advice: If you’re going to spend the money on an English teacher, go for one-on-one lessons.
3. Don’t be misled by a large Instagram following
Teaching English online has turned into a battle of influencers. You’ll now find foreign language teachers all over YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram with massive followings.
While social media can be a useful place to go looking for qualified English teachers, don’t mistake a large following for being a skilled educator. There are a lot of factors that make someone successful on social media that are different from those that make them a successful English teacher.
The converse is true, too: just because someone has a small social media following doesn’t mean they’re a bad teacher. Indeed, some of the best teachers I have ever worked with have a tiny or zero social media presence.
My advice: Don’t mistake popularity on social media for teaching skill.
4. Most people don’t need a native-speaking teacher
English learners tend to believe that native speakers make better English teachers. I understand why that belief exists. If a person speaks English fluently, they must be experts on the English language—right?
It’s true that native speakers are experts at some things. They know a lot of slang and informal uses of English. And they can model their particular accent perfectly, including connected speech.
But there’s a lot more to English than slang and connected speech.
In my experience, native English speakers tend to be worse when it comes to understanding and explaining grammar. When you ask about why we say something like we do, you’re much more likely to hear native speakers respond, “It just sounds better.”
My advice: Do not look only for native-English speakers as teachers. Non-native English teachers can be just as effective.
5. Try to find someone with qualifications
Instead of basing your decision about the quality of an English teacher on their social media following or their native language, look for the qualifications that they have.
Good English teachers will be trained in English and in teaching. There are several qualifications that English teachers can obtain. Some are more thorough than others.
Some teachers actually have a Bachelor's degree in English or Education. These are the most well-qualified teachers. The next best qualification is the CELTA, which is a certification awarded by Cambridge University. Then there are other TEFL certificates. Unlike the CELTA, the TEFL isn’t a single accredited certificate. It’s more like an umbrella term that can refer to a number of different certificates awarded by a number of institutions. Still, having some sort of TEFL certificate is a good indicator that a teacher knows what they’re doing.
If a potential English teacher doesn’t have any qualification, you probably want to keep looking.
My advice: Look for an English teacher with an English teaching qualification.
What are you tips for choosing the best teacher?
My name is Ulyana Nazarova, I'm studying Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication at HSE. I dream of opening my art gallery for friends in an apartment from the old architectural fund of St. Petersburg.
The first lesson is always a rather delicate moment. You come to a boy or a girl, to a kid or a teenager and you have the task to please yourself so much that through sympathy for you, the student acquires sympathy for the subject being studied. Yes, I am convinced that in tutoring, the personality of the teacher is more important than what exactly he teaches.
We always come to students who have a specific request: school curriculum, Olympiad tasks, or the most streamlined "just for yourself". No matter what we do, it's always a story about interaction, which must begin with showing a lively interest in your student. I never come to my first class without a gift. I bring symbolic little things like a cute notebook or a pack of stickers. I smile a lot, I ask the student what he is interested in and why he needs classes with me. Of course, his parents have already given me the answer to the last question, but the child always wants to feel that what he says is important. It is important for me not to lose my teaching authority in this atmosphere of mutual trust. Despite the active participation in the interests of the student, I still set the distance, telling about my experience and necessarily naming the age. My student should not just like me, I should also be a constructive critic for him.
When it comes to tasks, I try to combine classical training of basic language skills (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) with an interactive online environment. I am a supporter of generational theory and think that it is not necessary to take away the phone from the zoomers in class. They should be taught to use it not only for entertainment but also to get the necessary, useful information. I always have colorful tests in Kahoot!, interactive whiteboards in Miro, Quizlets for simplified vocabulary memorization, and a list of sites with cartoons and TV series in the language being studied. The time of dry book pages is not the time of a new generation of children. They will come to them themselves when there is interest, and now my task is to make the child's studies as comfortable as possible for him, to conduct this study in an environment familiar to him.
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