From experience of teaching workshops and training courses, I have come to a few conclusions about the role of the teacher in the ESL classroom. Therefore, I thought it best, on starting this blog, to begin by talking about a teacher’s role in the classroom and how it has changed in recent years. It is believed that long gone are the days of the Teacher being a fountain of knowledge that should be the centre of all learning. It is important that a teacher sets an example by showing a good understanding of the area of study so that it is valued, but the quantity of subject knowledge is not so much the key requirement for a Teacher but more a prerequisite that is used to achieve greater objectives. This may be due to technological advances or just a change in the Teacher-student dynamic. I believe this to be true as a Teacher nowadays is not so much a provider of information, but more a link between the acquisition of knowledge and its application to a context with which the student can relate (HERE). But the question is, just how do I do that?
What a Teacher must focus on is ensuring that each learner achieves the learning objectives to the best of their ability (HERE). A teacher must give classes that have a clear focus, a flexible methodology that ensures understanding of all of the learners in question, a process of evaluation (evaluation being the process with which teachers check that their learning objectives are achieved and to what degree. A Teacher should adapt their methodology based on this) and engaging activities that capture and maintain the interest of the learner. By doing these simple things the Teacher will find their work far more enjoyable and will notice an improvement in class participation, behaviour of students and achievement (grades or understanding).
I think the core of what makes a Teacher successful comes from the quality of their classes. The key to this is preparation (HERE). A teacher should have a clear plan for each class that is part of a long term plan that is both adequate for the level being taught and relevant to the learner’s lives. I cannot stress more the importance of level, the level of the activities in class needs to be challenging but achievable (with clear differentiation based on individual abilities). It is very challenging to make sure that all learners understand the objectives of each class, and particularly difficult in the teaching of ESL. The teacher needs to find a way of communicating this, whether it be visual or transmitted through a set curriculum.
I personally have a clear written curriculum based on learning topics (HERE). All students receive a written copy of the learning goals at the beginning of each unit and individual class objectives and shown visually on the board and communicated verbally at the beginning of each class. I also make sure that all classroom activities (speaking, listening, reading, writing, vocabulary) have a clear focus that learners can see are based on achieving the main learning objectives. Your students will appreciate the simplicity of this no matter what level. I also adapt learning objectives based on a process of reflexive teaching and communicate this process with my students.
The activities in the classroom need a balance of routine and creativity; students need to see the reasoning behind each task (applying it to a particular skill or part of assessment). This will help with motivation and the students will find it easier to express themselves. It is very important to ensure that learners gain confidence and do not feel stress as this will impede progression. I personally go for a variety of tasks using all of the key skills, which are all aimed at the same objective to capture the interest of the maximum number of learners possible. My suggestion is not to be afraid to try new things, the simplest of tasks can be fulfilling if approached with the right attitude.
So, to sum up, as a Teacher you should follow the following steps:
- Clear learning objectives
- Clear continuity and progression based on level (flexible based on reflexive teaching)
- Encourage participation (HERE) by making it relevant, this will promote confidence, creativity and individuality.
- Clear evaluation strategies HERE (communicate changes to learning objectives based on this)
Good luck in your future teaching; I look forward to your comments.