Teaching EFL to absolute beginners

Teaching EFL to absolute beginners
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If you are a newly certified EFL teacher, after completing a course such as the EBC TEFL courses, there are some things you will need to take into account for your future classes. One is the English level of your students. You may find the case where your students are all absolute beginners, people who have barely had any contact with English.

Truth is, in our globalised world many people have had at least some exposure to the English language, whether through the Internet, the TV or the media in general, or some have even studied the language in the past. You could also be in a situation where your students may not be absolute beginners but the often referred to as false beginners.

In any case, look at these tips on how to teach EFL to students taking their first steps in the English language!

Don’t assume anything and ask

1. Don’t assume anything and ask

The first thing you should do when in your EFL class is to ask your students why they want to learn English. Remember you will need to adapt to your students, and not vice-versa. Knowing their goals and motives will make you orient the tasks towards what they want to achieve.
Consider that they are just beginning with English, do not assume and take for granted they will know even the most basic things because maybe they will not!

2. Work on tasks and real-life situations

You will not learn a new language if we focus on isolated knowledge leading nowhere. Humans use language to communicate, and languages are the tools we use to perform tasks in our daily lives. We use language to do the shopping, to meet with our friends, to greet new people, to talk to our classmates…language is the way we must accomplish things. When approaching the teaching of a new language, we need to think that the students need to learn based on real-life tasks so that when they learn something new, they will be able to DO something with it.

Real-life situations

3. Start with the basics

When someone is learning a new language, what they should know first? The colors? The numbers? There is not much they can make out of that information in a real-life situation, even when they have just started learning the language. The first thing they will need to know is how to greet and introduce themselves. There will come a time when you will be able to introduce the numbers, the colors, the foods…learn to prioritise what they need the most to communicate.

4. Build on what they have previously learned

This is really important. When learning a new language, we need to be reviewing what we have previously learned so our learning is continuous, and we leave nothing important behind. It is a good idea to start each lesson by briefly reviewing what they learned the day before. Sometimes it will be necessary to do a bigger review and re-using already taught language structures within new contexts. For example, let’s say your students are learning how to ask for directions on the street.

  • María and Pablo are walking down the street when they run into Claudia, a friend of María.
  • María introduces Claudia to Pablo (a nice way to review how to introduce others) and then Claudia asks them for directions.

Street

5. Rome wasn’t built in a day

This means learning must be progressive. In the end, learning is like building a house. You wouldn’t put the cart before the horse, wouldn’t you? Starting from the basics, the tasks will have to be more complex as they keep on learning.

6. Closed tasks/Open tasks

As well as being progressive, the tasks will have to be firstly closed (that is, those which don’t leave much space for the student to create more elaborate answers) and they will have to be more open as the learning goes on.

7. Celebrate their achievements

Learning languages is not easy. It requires consistency, hard work, and willingness to learn from mistakes. Your students will probably undergo a phase in which they will feel that their learning is stuck. For this reason, it is very important that you positively reinforce them and celebrate their achievements, even if they are small. They need to know you are supporting them and that they are being taken well care of. There is no better way than learning than with a positive, encouraging atmosphere!

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