Forget What you Think you Know
This blog post is based on an old, but very helpful article from the New York Times: Forget What you Know about Good Study Habits. I’ll give the general overview of the article and then offer some specific applications for ESL/EFL teachers.
1. There is no such thing as “learning style (visual, auditory, etc.)”
2. There’s also no such thing as teaching style. There are few commonalities between teachers who create an effective learning environment.
3. You learn better if you study the same material in different locations.
4. Varying the type of material studied in a single session can have better results than studying just one thing.
5. Practice tests and quizzes are not just assessment tools but can actually aid in learning the material.
6. Consider studying language chunks instead of individual vocabulary words
How this all relates to teaching English
Teach Your Way
Any kind of teacher it seems can be effective at helping students learn. So, don’t feel pressure to teach any certain kind of way, but instead do what works for you. I would, however, caution that student-centered will almost always be best in a language class of some sort so do anything but the lecture-style. Lectures have been shown to be very ineffective for conveying just about any sort of material actually.
Check out this video about student-centered language teaching:
Even in a single 40 minute class, I’ll try to hit all 4 skills (speaking/listening/reading/writing). I try to do a different activity at least every 10 minutes, unless it’s a task-based activity of some kind that is more comprehensive in scope. Those classes that focus entirely on one thing, such as grammar or listening, have in my experience been a complete waste of time. I was bored, the students were bored and their brains weren’t engaged. It makes sense to change things up.
Quizzes can be Useful, but Dangerous
I did a biweekly quiz for one semester as an experiment. I think it was really effective in helping the students learn because nothing really gets information in the brain than having to know it for a test. And then I’d combine that with review every class, and the same material tested on the midterm and final exams. So maybe the students actually remembered what I taught them?!
However, my school uses student’s evaluations to a large degree when evaluating their teachers. Since most students don’t like tests, my evaluations were lower than other semesters when I had no biweekly test. I didn’t want to lose my job, so that was a short-lived experiment.
Get Your Students Moving Around
There are various ways to do this, including making them change partners, standing up and doing an activity such as this introduction survey, or going outside to do something like a photo quest. Free! 40+ ESL games and activities, delivered straight to your inbox: