Don’t Be Afraid to Tell ESL Students All Your Secrets

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I live a very “meta” lifestyle. I teach new language teachers how to teach meta-language. This means having each and every lesson I conduct in our TEFL course placed under my students’ microscopes so they can dissect the guts of my methodology. Rather than cower at the thought of this intense scrutiny, I embrace their critical evaluation. In fact, I encourage it. I make my techniques known to my students so that they can begin to recognize them, discuss them, and hopefully one day use them.

Perhaps your ESL students will never become English teachers themselves; however you may still want to clue them in to the techniques you will be using throughout the course. Doing so may set the learners up for success in your lessons by helping them to see the purpose behind the stages of your plan.

Below are two examples.

In our course, trainees adhere to a few select lesson formats depending on the aim of the lesson. In a listening or a reading lesson, we encourage the teacher to clarify vocabulary from the text as well as to plan gist and detailed comprehension tasks, in that order. Some of our regular ESL students may recognize this pattern, but why not discuss this strategy with them anyway? In doing so, we may see that they perform better in gist tasks when they know if they should be skimming or trying to understand every word.

Error correction techniques may be something you discuss with learners at the start of your course. Tell them you will be correcting them, but not every mistake and not all the time. Explain the difference between accuracy activities and fluency activities and how you will correct during each. My German students would request that I correct every single mistake, and rather than leave them disappointed or frustrated with me I helped them to understand my approach.

Let me know if you have tried this. What other types of technique could you share with your students?

May 10, 2012