The main goal of our ESL program is to make sure our students are proficient in speaking and listening during everyday interactions and conversations. Since our class size is smaller than most ESL schools, we use that to our advantage to get to know our students’ needs. In a small group ratio, the teacher is more of a moderator than a lecturer. The teacher’s role is to introduce the topic or lesson and then let the students discuss it with their peers in a comfortable learning environment. The teacher should be speaking 30% of the class time and the students should speak the other 70%. We use the material in the textbooks to spark conversation and allow it to veer off topic occasionally. The most important thing is that students are listening and speaking. For example, if the class is going over housing in the book, the teacher asks them questions about it to get them more engaged. Such as, “What kind of house do you prefer to live in?” Sometimes the teacher may have to direct questions to quieter students, while other students don’t need any invitation to speak. Like any classroom, if we get to know our students strengths and weaknesses we will know how to better help them learn.
Writing on the board: Often in classrooms, teachers write everything they say on the board. However, at OLS we encourage our teachers to spend more time sitting with their students discussing the material rather than lecturing on it. Sometimes the board can be beneficial - use it as a resource, not a crutch. For example, if a new word comes up in conversation and students want to see it spelled out, it is helpful to write on the board. Just make sure to emphasize the pronunciation of the word so they know how to listen for that word when they can’t see it.
Correcting students: When students are speaking in class, it is our job to make sure they are using correct grammar and vocabulary. If they practice speaking incorrectly they will create bad habits. However, teachers should not overwhelm students by constantly correcting them. If that happens, they will become insecure and confused and will not want to speak at all. Therefore, the teacher must find a delicate balance. A great way to correct students is to repeat their phrases or sentences back to them the correct way. If they say, “I got on the car this morning,” the teacher can simply reply, “Oh, you got IN the car this morning?” This is a more subtle and polite way of correcting students. Over time the teacher will learn students’ habits and common mistakes. Speaking confidence is more important than grammar usage, but the teacher should correct frequent mistakes that impair the listener’s understanding. Pronunciation is also crucial because most students are misunderstood based on their pronunciation mistakes rather than improper grammar usage.
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