Teaching in English

     So many methods, so little time.  When it comes to teaching a second language there are as many methods, strategies, and tips as there are institutions and students.  As I waded through the research in order to write this article, I became a little overwhelmed.  I had tried many, heard of some, and was completely unfamiliar with others.  I decided to include the ideas that I thought worked the best for me while I was teaching.  These ideas might or might not suit your needs when it comes to the unique characteristics of your classes.

     In this article, we will look at grammar-translation, total physical response, and the communicative methods, memory, cognitive, comprehension, metacognitive, affective, and social teaching strategies, and some teaching tips such as preparing extra activities, engaging students' senses, and making listening and speaking a priority.

     Keep in mind that you need to have flexibility when it comes to the teaching practices that you use.  Just as no two students are exactly the same, no two classes are either, so be ready to adapt your ways to your students' or classes' ways.  If you run short on ideas, take a peek at the links at the bottom of this article.  They include many more methods, strategies, and tips that you might want to try.

English Teaching Methods

     A method is defined as a particular form of procedure for approaching or accomplishing something.  Methods are especially systematic.  They establish orderliness of behavior, action or systematic planning.  Therefore, a teaching method is a systematic plan or procedure to approach students with in order to teach them.

     Three of the most widely used English teaching methods are grammar-translation, total physical response, and the communicative approach.

     Until recent years, the Grammar-Translation Model (GTM), a teacher-centered method, was widely used to teach second languages.  When using the GTM method, the teacher would get up in front of the class and write a grammar structure on the board.  The teacher would explain the structure and perhaps provide some useful vocabulary before giving the students some fill-in-the-blank exercises or a passage in the target language.  

     Students would sit in quiet as they completed the exercises or translated the passage.  The only speaking occurred when a student had a question about a word or a phrase.  The teacher would help with the translation.  No real attempt was made to verbally communicate in the target language.

     Believe it or not, this method is still widely used throughout the world.  Teachers still teach the target language by explaining things in their native tongue.  Students are still placed in rows and told to listen to explanations and then fill in exercises in a book.  No wonder these students are ill-equipped when it comes to actually using the target language in the real world.  

     Now that we've looked at what isn't so effective at teaching students a second language, let's take a deeper dive into some methods that work a bit better.

Antonyms and Opposite Actions Multiple C

Antonyms and Opposite Actions Multiple Choice English Worksheet

Airports and Hotels Magic Square Spanish

Airports and Hotels Magic Square English Worksheet

     Total Physical Response (TPR) is a teaching method that works well to teach vocabulary and verbs, especially to children.  This method focuses on the connection between physical movement and language acquisition.  As kids learn the language on the go, TPR is a very effective method to get kids moving in order to associate words with movements.  Singing songs such as "Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" where students touch the body parts as they move or the "Hokey Polky" where students learn to move their body parts according to the words in the song helps the students to learn inductively.  

    Grammar is not necessarily taught overtly while using the TPR method.  The students are introduced to grammar structures through their exposure to different phrases.  By responding to the command, "Sit Down!" students learn that sit is an action or verb and down is a direction or preposition. 

     The total TPR process emphasizes learning through movement.  As kids have a lot of energy it is a great way for students to learn while they blow off some steam.  Use your students' endless supply of energy to your advantage.  Use some TPR after they have had to sit for a long period of time while studying other subjects.  Get your kids up and moving around the room so they can begin to learn the target language in a more natural way.  Keeping them on their toes by using the TPR method will keep you on your toes as well!

     The last teaching method that we will consider here is the Communicative Approach (CA).  This method is probably the most universally accepted and widely used method for teaching languages today.  It focuses on both written and oral communication and the curriculum is usually organized by vocabulary topics.  

     CA emphasizes learning the different functions of communication such as describing things, comparing things, asking and answering questions, and making requests.  It also uses problem-solving techniques and assigns tasks to students that get the students to communicate with each other and the teacher.

     Even though oral and written communication is emphasized, the CA method also focuses on reading and listening when appropriate.  Grammar is not taught in isolation but is learned alongside vocabulary in the context of real-life situations.  By de-emphasizing structure and error correction, students learn to develop accurate speech through repetition and using words or phrases frequently.  Students go on to develop language fluency by using the language in a natural way rather than analyzing it.​

     Activities in the communicative classroom will include problem-solving and negotiation techniques that help students to compose dialogue which they will use while they perform certain tasks whether the activities are real or just pretend.  These activities might include acting out a role-play about going to the movies, creating a story out of a group of pictures, or comparing the individual pictures in a group.  No matter what the activity is, the objective of using it should be to get the students talking with each other, in order to establish communicative competence.

Friendship Conversation Worksheet CP.jpg

Friendship English Conversation Worksheet

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Teaching in English Strategies

     Now it's time to examine some strategies for teaching English as a second language.  As with methods, there are many, many, different strategies when it comes to accomplishing this task but we are going to focus on three of the most useful ones.  They are memory/cognitive, comprehension/metacognitive, and affective/social.

     One of the oldest strategies that teachers have relied on is memory.  In many ways, the students with the best memories still win.  However, students with not so good memories can still find ways to remember things too. 

     Rather than simply reading and repeating a word, students can commit vocabulary to long-term memory by creating word-meaning maps.  These maps help students to construct mental linkages much like real-life situations do, thereby helping the students to retrieve the information when it is needed.

     Another way to trigger the retrieval of memories is to construct a link between the word and a sound, image, body movement, flashcard, location, or other mechanical means.

     Another method to get students to remember things which involves the use of the brain is the Cognitive Strategy (CS).  The CS uses reason by analyzing things.  This helps students to form internal mental codes that can be revised in order to understand and produce the target language.

     Internalizing the target language is achieved in direct ways by reasoning, analyzing, outlining, summarizing, practicing, and taking notes.  This can be done in many ways but one of my favorites is to play a video and get the students to take notes about the words that they don't' recognize.  When the video is over, help students with words that they didn't know.  Then have students practice using the words in real-life conversations.

Beach Activities-Things Study Worksheet.

Beach Things and Activities Study Worksheet

     Some teachers show students how to use the Comprehension Strategy (CS).  The strategy entails trying to guess the meaning of words by looking at them in context.  When students read something, they try to replace unknown vocabulary with words or phrases that they already know.  When students listen to something they look for nonverbal cues in the conversation to guide them towards the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary.  

     Some teachers like to get students to use the Metacognitive Strategy (MS).  With this strategy, students are responsible for planning, arranging, and evaluating their own learning process.  Students must facilitate their learning experience by gathering materials, arranging a study schedule and place.  Students must also monitor their own work for mistakes and evaluate the success of completed tasks.  

     Some activities that are a part of the MS are observing native speakers of the target language, practicing the target language in front of a mirror, and crosschecking with Google to find the correct pronunciation of words.  Students are also encouraged to play games like scrabble, fill in crossword puzzles, and take notes on how native speakers communicate in the target language.

     Teachers can also show timid students how to be more comfortable about speaking the new target language by adopting the Social-Affective Strategy (SAS).  This strategy teaches students how to control their feelings and attitudes while in social settings.  A social situation might include anything from asking a simple question, to having an actual conversation with someone, to facilitating interaction between themselves and others in the form of a conversation.

     The SAS strategy encourages students to speak in the new target language even when they feel nervous or are afraid to do so.  Students are encouraged to remind themselves that it is normal and therefore okay to make mistakes.  They need to tell themselves to be confident in the face of new circumstances.  Reassure students by telling them that they can ask for clarifications if they become necessary during a conversation with a native speaker.   The SAS method is all about growing student confidence when it comes to producing the new language.

Imperatives Conversation Worksheet CP.jp

Imperatives English Conversation Worksheet

Body Parts Spanish Legal Size Photo Card

Body Parts English Card Game

Teaching in English Tips

     There are literally hundreds of tips for teaching English as a second language to be found with a simple Google search.  I narrowed them down to a few that I have seen work effectively in English classes no matter what kind of students you have, their age, their level, or the group setting.  A savvy teacher should always have extra activities at their disposal, use activities that engage the senses, and make listening to and speaking English a priority in the classroom.

     Having extra activities on hand in case you move through your plans more quickly than you anticipated is not enough.  Teachers must have a good-sized tool bag of interactive resources that get and maintain students' attention for the period of time they are designed to be used in.

     Research shows that children are only capable of maintaining their attention span for two to three minutes for every year of age they are.  So an average seven-year-old might be able to maintain a respectable level of attention for around fifteen to twenty minutes.  Keep in mind that children's attention spans can only be maintained if the activity is deemed interesting to them.  

     So what kind of activities can a teacher keep on hand to get and keep their student's interest?  There are many options but I like to use music, games, and videos the most. 

     Try handing out the lyrics to a popular contemporary song.  Play the song while your students read along.  Have them circle any unfamiliar words.  When the song is finished, define the unknown words for your students.  Listen to the song again to increase understanding.  Finally, if you have access to a projector, play the karaoke version and have students sing along.  I have seen even the most stoic student eventually get involved when the whole class is clapping and singing.

     Playing games is a fantastic way to get students' attention and keep it.  Try to find games that can be completed in under twenty minutes.  If by some chance you run out of time, don't worry.  A winner can be determined with most games by who is the farthest in the game or has the most cards when time is up. 

     Videos are another great classroom tool.  Now, I'm not talking about playing a video for your students to fill some time while you check out your Facebook account.  I'm talking about playing them as an interactive activity.  Play the video with the target language subtitles visible and follow the music activity procedures above.  With the last step, instead of having students sing, you can have students read the subtitles out loud like they are taking the place of the actors in the video.

    Whatever activity you decide to use just remember to keep things moving.  The last thing that you want in a classroom is boredom.  Keep your students engaged so you don't find them staring blankly out the window waiting for the bell to ring!​​

Health and Personal Hygiene Video Worksh

Health and Personal Hygiene English Video

Quantifiers Conversation Comic Presentat

Quantifiers English Conversation Comic Presentation

     Another way to keep your students engaged is by entertaining their senses.  Most students are very ill-equipped to use language to talk about language.  So leave those kinds of activities for the professional teacher workshop you might host someday and give your students activities that they can hear, feel, touch, and even smell and taste.

     In other words, try having some good ole' fashioned fun!  As mentioned earlier, you can always bring games into the classroom but they only cover some of the senses.  So why not bring in activities that cover the rest.  Take some time to go outside and look at the birds and smell flowers or bring in some chocolate chip cookies for your students to sample.  Give them the recipe and ask them to take it home and make some.  

     Puppets are another super fun way to get students to engage their senses.  I have over twenty puppets that I hand made to bring into the classroom.  Every term my students can't wait until it's their turn to write a script and perform it in front of the class.  I've even had other teachers ask for permission to come and watch and eventually, you guessed it, to borrow my puppets!  Everyone loves puppets.  You can get away with so much more with a puppet in your hand and so can your students.  Many times this is all a shy student needs to tip their confidence in a positive direction.

     If you don't have any puppets or time to make them, try using stuffed animals.  They can be used as props to teach your kids to talk about how they feel, sound, and move.  They are a great way to teach many language points especially prepositions of movement.

     Even if you don't have any stuffed animals you can always use things in the classroom to engage your student's senses.  Be creative.  Ask your students how they would feel if they accidentally stapled their fingers together or tasted some glue.  Not to encourage them to do so, of course, but my point is, do something to engage your student's senses.  It will go a long way to provide a more natural, meaningful, and memorable learning environment for them.​

     The final tip I have for you is probably the most important thing in this entire article and I cannot stress its importance enough.  Why?  In my experience, until a language comes out of a student's mouth, very little practical use of the language has been achieved. 

     How can we get our students to produce the target language by speaking it?  They must first listen to it and comprehend it.  Just like small children learn their native tongue, language students must listen, listen, and listen some more before they are ready to try out the new language.  This will help engage the natural language development process and not place undue pressure on students to perform in the second language before they feel ready.  

     By focusing on spoken language instead of reading and writing or filling in worksheets, your students will learn to speak.  Sure, reading and writing are important language skills too, but speaking may become too difficult for students to master if the skill is not encouraged early on.

Present Simple Tense Verb Be Conversatio

Present Simple with Verb Be English Conversation Order Card Game


     We looked at a wealth of information in regards to teaching English as a second language in this article.  We discussed new and old teaching methods such as grammar-translation, total physical response, and communicative methods.  We also introduced some teaching strategies such as memory, cognitive, comprehension, metacognitive, and affective-social.  Last, we went over some useful teaching tips like preparing extra activities, engaging students' senses, and making listening and speaking a priority.  

     All in all, the most important thing that I would like readers to take away from this section on Teaching in English Ideas is to be flexible, to never say never, and to always be open to new ideas.  This will not only help your students to stay interested and engaged during your classes but will help you to be the same as well.

Reference Links

Beach Things and Activities Spanish Lega


Computer Technology Spanish Conversation


Clothing Items Spanish Crossword Puzzle.


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