Where do I start with teaching a class of beginners?

Help, tips and advice in teaching English

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Where do I start with teaching a class of beginners?

Unread postby meghangrove » 02 Sep 2005, 08:23

Dear Lucy,

I've just started a tefl job in a school in south korea. The kids are no problem at all as most of them are of a level that i have taught before, but my school has just said that once a week they want me to teach a class of local housewives.

I am happy to do this but they are all complete beginners and my director says that nobody can speak any english apart from maybe 'hello!'. I dont speak any Korean. They want me to teach them enough to survive a holiday in an english speaking country. But i will have to do all the basics first. Where and how do i start? Help!!!

Meghan :)

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Class of beginners

Unread postby Lucy » 04 Sep 2005, 19:05

Dear Meghan,

You could start by teaching vocabulary. A good way to do this with beginners is by showing pictures of the items or by taking the items into the classroom.

My guess is that your students know more language than the director is saying. Most people know words such as: television, video, cassette. You could choose to work with language like this or another subject, e.g. objects often found in the classroom. Show a picture or the item to the students, say the word clearly yourself and then have students repeat in chorus. Wait a while before asking students to say something alone. Repeat this as often as necessary until you feel students have an understanding of the words and can remember most of them. It’s important to focus on correct pronunciation at the start. If your students are learning English to go on holiday, speaking, pronunciation and listening will be important factors in the lessons.

It’s important to follow this up with a written phase where students copy down the correct form of the words presented. They should also have a written exercise to do in class or for homework.

When they have some vocabulary, you can choose a structure to work on. Good examples to start with are: “What’s this? – It’s a _______” “Is this a ____? – Yes / No” Have you got a _____? – Yes, I have. Or No I haven’t” After presenting and practising the structure as a whole class, students can work in pairs or in groups to practise further. While they’re doing this, you can go around and listen to them or help out where necessary.

Other things to cover in early lessons are numbers and the alphabet. The alphabet is good because it can help students get used to the sounds of English which will help them with their pronunciation.

Beginners need a lot of practice of new items. It’s important to recycle and revise any material you present. Don’t assume that because you’ve worked on something one day, your students have mastered the language point. You’ll need to go slowly with beginners at the start and this will require patience. I’m sure you have loads of this if you work with children. Humour also helps things along as it is a good way to relieve tension or stress.

These are some ideas for starting off. Please write in again if you would like some more suggestions. Try to get your students working with a course book as this will provide structure and make lesson planning easier for you.

Good luck!


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