Whether you’re a regular here on the blog, or you’ve done one of our courses, you might not know that we have run live weekly webinars.
The most recent series of webinars have been hosted by Carl Cameron-Day, one of our highly experienced and qualified tutors here at The TEFL Org.
With a wealth of experience teaching across the world, Carl knows all about the challenges faced by new TEFL teachers. He’s taught in countries such as China, Sri Lanka, Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and also online, so if anyone knows the field, it’s him!
Across 4 webinars, Carl explains the challenges facing students across the four basic language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking English. In these webinars, Carl gives some great advice for TEFL teachers, using his years of diverse experience around the world to give fantastic background and ideas for lessons.
So what did we learn in each of Carl’s four webinars? Let’s recap!
Carl tells us that listening classes are rarely advertised, but that students should prioritise listening as a key language skill.
45% of our time communicating involves listening, as opposed to the time we spend talking, comprehending and deciphering what’s actually being discussed. When learning a language, it’s so important to learn how conversations flow, what emphasis is put on certain words and sentences, and – in general terms – how the language is spoken.
Key skills from listening exercises include:
- Listening for context/gist
- Listening for signposts
- Listening for detail
- exam listening skills
It’s all about real-world scenarios; this can include listening to what’s being said on a TV programme or in film, for example. Carl then gives us a great listening class plan, involving pre-empting what an audio clip will be about from context, then a more detailed question, followed by a speaking or writing activity.
Carl says it’s very common for students to mean “pronunciation” when they mean “speaking”. Students want to learn to “speak like a native speaker” – but what does that mean?
Our tutor believes that it’s vital to find out the fundamental challenges to a student’s ability to speak English. What nationality is your student, for example? Specific language speakers will have particular difficulties with parts of English, like vowel sounds.
When it comes to teaching pronunciation, Carl believes these are some of the key areas to focus on:
- Listening is important
- “minimal pairs” (when a word changes meaning based on how it’s pronounced)
- A student’s awareness of vowel and consonant sounds
- The physiology of pronouncing words
Carl explains that reading is an absolute fundamental for learning English at a high level. Most EFL exams, Carl says, obviously involve reading, and it’s the best way to boost vocabulary, as well as being the best way to know how well a student is developing.
Through reading exercises, including textbooks, novels and online articles, students get to grips with understanding words and phrases in particular contexts. This is important for real-world use, for example, deciphering article headlines, or looking up a resource for information on a particular topic.
Carl advises on two methods of teaching. The first is ‘top down’ reading, looking at a piece of text in its totality rather than going through word-by-word. In doing this, a student can pick out words and phrases they know, as well as using illustrations for context clues. A student can also place words and phrases in a wider context, for example how they might fit into a publication or a website.
Then, there’s ‘bottom up’ reading, which involves a more thorough investigation of particular words, lettering and phraseology. This is crucial for learning punctuation, tenses and many other important facets of the English language.
Finally, Carl tells us about the challenges students face when they’re keen to write in clear, properly articulated English. This is, of course, vital for exams, including the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Or, on a more domestic level, English exams at any level of schooling.
Not only that, there are specific challenges students face if, for example, they’ve moved to an English-speaking University. Or, they work for a business where English is spoken by clients, and they’re writing a proposal, or correspondence.
Carl says to focus on the biggest challenges facing children and young adults. For an English writing exercise, for example, students can:
- Concentrate on handwriting
- Keep it personal (write about something they know)
- Focus on spelling and punctuation: proper nouns, starting sentences correctly, etc. is important to nail early on
For teachers, Carl explains, it’s about patience and properly explaining things. There are habits and practices within language learning that seem natural to native speakers from an early age. However, in writing a different language, it’s easy to miss key parts of putting a language into text.
It’s all about patience.
Resources for TEFL teachers
Carl’s excellent webinar series is just one of the many offerings we have for TEFL teachers, at whatever level of experience.
For example, there are a full range of lesson plan guides, apps, virtual classrooms, grammar resources, videos, Facebook groups and more to find on this blog post. On that page are useful links about creating your own lesson materials – and we’d recommend using the advice from Carl’s webinars!
We also have a suite of TEFL resources for teachers, too! With our downloadable resources, you can teach Business English, try TEFL games with your students, buy whole lesson packs and much, much more!
After all, it’s not just about getting your TEFL certification. It’s about what comes after; the victories, the challenges and the methodologies you need to succeed at teaching English as a foreign language.