How to teach languages

  1. Choose the best method for you.

Not the best method for the student, but the one which fits you. Nowadays, we are focusing a lot on the student: Does he enjoy the lesson? Is this method the right one for him or her? My piece of advice is: Look for a method that YOU enjoy. A little bit exaggerated: It´s mainly you who should be enjoying all the proces. Sooner or later, the student leaves the classroom and enters his own world, his own work. You stay. It´s your job and you spend there more or less a third part of your life.

  1. Ask for your student´s motivation.

This one is definitely very clear in small groups or individual classes, but how about bigger groups? I think it´s the teacher´s job even in a group of twenty (and there are still schools in Prague which do not divide classes for the second language) to know the motivation of his students. And if they are not motivated, they sure have some hobbies or activities.

Just a little note on some personal stuff can do miracles. Perhaps you are explaining the present perfect and there is a phrase that reminds you of a hobby of one of your students. It´s just one sentence, but the fact that you know, that you remember and that you allow them to „bring their world in the classroom“ will be appreciated a lot.

If there are twenty students present in your class, it might  be difficult to memorise this kind of details. Make a secret list and before the lesson begins, you can have a look in your list and choose one or two students, whose motivation you can mention today.

  1. Never work as hard as your students.

Are you one of those teachers who are totally tired after the lesson? You feel very happy, but very empty in one moment? Be careful, it´s a way to burn out.

We teachers should involve the student as much as possible. It is HIS or HER responsability. Let them plan the lessons, work on projects that they later present either to you or to the group or at least allow them to choose their homework.

It may take some time before they get used to your methods.

  1. More input or more output?

Many methods are based on either a lot of input or a lot of output. Once the teacher is a master of communication, he will force the student to talk a lot. Which is great, definitely. But the student needs to have a lot of contact with the authentic language. On the opposite, there are many teachers who don´t like the conversational part so much and they do a lot of reading or even listening.

In my opinion, both of them – the input and the output – should be balanced.

  1. Have a plan and be willing to change it anytime

Remember what it was like to be a student. The students like some structure and order, they like even some routine , the way how you greet them every day, the way how you begin the lesson or maybe even what you wear. The teacher should be predictable a little bit, so that the student feels comfortable and safe.

On the other hand, there is nothing more boring than following blindly the lesson structure every day without being able to show some creativity or the will to try something different. The students like the structure, but they also like suprises.

  1. Recycle as much as possible

We all know that the difficult part of this job is to prepare the lessons – or in the evenings, or on Sundays, whatever. It is so difficult because it takes really a lot of time BUT also because nobody can see those hours and hours, nobody will ever appreciate it etc. One of the solutions is the recyclation, once you prepare an activity, make sure to be able to repeat it once needed. Many teachers have big folders with activities divided according to levels, skills, methods etc. I, personally, prefer to divide my materials simply: grammar/vocabulary/pronunciation.

Many activities can be adapted to a high scale of levels, some of them even from A1 to C1. For example, I have a sack with small everyday objects such as keys, coins, a passport, a driving licence, a flashdisk etc. The students love it. They do have something real in their hands, moreover the vocabulary is 100 % useful, everyone owns this kind of stuff and in some textbooks you would never find it. The activities are simply adaptable from beginners to very advanced students.

  1. Show them what to do at home (and I don´t mean homework)

Every teacher knows that one or two hours a week with a language is definitely not sufficient. It takes time to learn a language and the best what you can do is to study daily. Not much, but daily. Do you speak with your students about activities they can do daily? Funny activities they will enjoy?  I am often surprised by the lack of advice we give our students. Teach them how to study on their own, teach them how to use apps, how to write GoldList or how Mooveez works. Help them to find a penpal or a study buddy.

You can read this article in Czech.