How to teach beginner adult classes successfully

Help, tips and advice in teaching English

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How to teach beginner adult classes successfully

Unread postby webmonkey8 » 05 Dec 2004, 16:00


last week I taught a class consisting of 5 Japanese beginner adult students. The focus is for them to learn and increase their conversation skills. However, the class was so quiet it was so energy draining from me to ask more and more questions just to get them talking. They are all SO shy, which is a problem for English conversation. I find that a lot of Japanese people are very shy when it comes to speaking English, especially when in a classroom where there are other students listening. What is the best way to get them to talk more? I already tried to split the class up in the 2 groups and get them to ask questions to each other about various topics, but it was extremely unsuccessful! It was so frustrating for me. A couple of them look like they don't even understand the words that are coming out of my mouth and one of them looked like she was frustrated that she couldn't understand anything.
So, if you can give me some advice, I'd really appreciate it! :D

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How to teach Japanese beginner adult students.

Unread postby Lucy » 09 Dec 2004, 16:21

I know it's not always easy to do communicative activities with Japanese learners. My experience of Japanese culture is one that is very hierarchical which makes communication with superiors difficult. They also seem reticent about voicing their opinions in public. A teacher needs to be sensitive to these factors. Try to avoid using debates and activities that involve voicing opinions until you feel your students are ready for it.

Get what information you can about your students' jobs, backgrounds or any other factor concerned in status. Then use your knowledge of Japanese culture to group students. If you speak Japanese, or know somebody who does, find out whether certain set phrases are used in any communicative activity that you introduce. You can then give the students the English equivalent or allow them to use Japanese for these phrases. If you show that you're culturally sensitive, you've already removed one barrier to communication.

You can try the following two activities to get students speaking.


Write a dialogue on the board before class. Use comprehension questions to make sure the students understand it; this can also be done in writing. For real beginners, you can also check understanding with questions in Japanese. Split the group into two teams; the teams are person A and B in the dialogue. Practise the dialogue as a whole class, with one team repeating person A's statements after you and the other team repeating person B's statements. If you do this as a whole class, it gives the students a chance to practice the language in a safe environment. Nobody is listening to them or judging them.

Continue repetition of the dialogue until you think the students have mastered it. In the first lesson, you might choose to divide the class at this point and have them continue reading the dialogue in pairs.

For a more challenging activity, you can start removing some of the words from the dialogue, either during choral repetition or when they're working in pairs. Students continue reading but with fewer and fewer words until only a skeleton of the dialogue remains. You could even remove the entire dialogue.

In a future lesson when you feel the students are ready, you can elicit the dialogue from them or use one that they have written themselves.


Put your students into pairs and give them a speaking activity to do. There is one large difference here: instead of speaking, students write. The first person writes down what they would like to say, the second responds in writing; and so on. When the dialogue is complete, the students can read it in pairs. My experience is that Japanese students focus on accuracy; so you could go around correcting (or helping students to auto-correct) dialogues before they start reading them aloud in pairs.

You can use these two activities on various occasions for different dialogues. Once students are familiar with them, they should gain more confidence and start to speak more freely. You can then start introducing other speaking activities. Also pitch any speaking activity at a level below what your students can produce in writing. If an activitiy is easy, there is more likelihood that your students will speak. Remember also to praise and encourage any effort your students make.

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