How can I help beginners remember what we study?

Help, tips and advice in teaching English

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How can I help beginners remember what we study?

Unread postby Frauke » 01 Jun 2006, 11:22

Dear Lucy,

I'm very frustrated. I teach English at a company in Spain. My students are complete beginners, aging between 30 and 55 I would guess - 5 in total.

I do really simple stuff, mainly new vocab connected to easy sentences which help them to use the new vocab (e.g. people description with She's got dark hair, she is tall or food together with I like, I don't like, etc). I play games such as bingo, memory etc so they have to use the new stuff over and over again.

I only teach 2 hours once a week and they forget everything from one week to the other. Vocabulary as well as pronunciation. I pronounce one word a thousand times and they still don't get it right - not even repeating it straight away. I do back-chaining, and then it works, but 2 minutes later it's forgotten.

I don't know what to do. It takes so much time to prepare the classes (flashcards, etc) and I feel there is no reward whatsoever.... :cry:

Can you help please? THANKS!


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Beginners don't remember anything

Unread postby Lucy » 09 Jun 2006, 13:44

Dear Frauke,

First of all, I apologise for not replying sooner. I have been away on holiday.

I can understand how you feel. It sounds to me as if you are doing everything possible to help these students learn and they aren’t making progress.

Beginner students need a lot of repetition and lots of opportunities to practise. You say you are covering these aspects of teaching. It also seems that you are putting a lot of effort into finding new ways to present and practise.

You are fully responsible for the teaching side of the equation and it seems to me that you are doing a good job. You are only partly responsible for the learning side. The students have to accept part of the responsibility for learning.

When students come to class for 2 hours once a week, this is sufficient to maintain their level. If they are intermediate level, this can work. However, for beginners it is not enough. I suggest you talk to your students about classes. Ask them what they think about their progress, how much they have learnt, etc. They might realise themselves that they are not advancing. If they think they are making progress, you will need to tell them gently but clearly that you don’t agree. You can then talk about the reasons why they are not learning. You can mention what I said above and can ask if any of them work outside the class. Explain to them that spending ten minutes a day studying is more productive than one hour once a week. I’m sure all of them can find ten minutes a day to work on their English. It can simply be a case of reading over class work on the bus! They can also do exercises on internet or with CD Roms, it’s important that they enjoy the work they do alone.

You could also check whether it is possible for you and them to have classes twice a week (one or two hours each time). This would also help the learning process.

Best wishes,


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