Published 10th November 2015

If you are ever worried about having an EFL class that does not respond to you or the material or that has nothing to say, you only need to do one thing: talk about them. There is one topic that anyone and everyone will be happy to talk about; we all love to talk about ourselves and our EFL students are no different. So try use this in your classrooms to make the content more interesting and relevant and to make it easy for your students to participate.

If you think about it, talking about recycling or crime or Brad and Angie’s new child is not always interesting (not to everyone) but also not easy, either if you don’t know anything about it or if you are just not interested. Why waste time struggling to get your students to discuss why we should recycle or what’s happening to the polar bears, when there is a much simpler way to get our students to talk in English. Relate the topic to your students in such a way that they will be interrupting each other to speak.

Sound too good to be true? Well it’s definitely not as easy as it sounds, because you don’t want to make some tenuous link from the content to the EFL classroom just for the sake of discussion, but it is possible if you give it some thought. So while recycling or crime may not be the best topics to personalise, many other topics covered by coursebooks are. In these cases it’s usually not too hard to find a way to connect the topic to the students and get them to speak about an otherwise random issue.

One good way to consider whether this approach can work is to try it yourself. Think about whether you can relate to the topic on a personal level at all. If you can, chances are your students can. Even though we may sometimes forget it, our EFL students are just regular people and if we remember this, then it is much easier to involve them in the lesson. Our students bring their life experiences and opinions with them into the EFL classroom and this is what we should utilise.

So before you jump straight into the coursebook, take a moment to consider the topic and your students. Try to relate it to yourself and think about what aspects of the topic you would feel comfortable talking about and discussing. Spend some time helping the students to relate to the topic and become interested. Then, when you move onto the language aspect of the lesson, your students will already be invested in the topic and will relate to the material much more easily. What’s more, if something is meaningful then it is more memorable so not only will your students enjoy the lesson more, but they’re more likely to be able to use the language outside the classroom.