Published 22nd December 2015
In the world of English teaching and English learning, there are a number of different levels which reflect our students’ levels of fluency, ranging from Beginner to Proficient. There are different methods and approaches to teaching the different levels because learners at different levels have different needs and abilities. As a TEFL teacher, you will find that you will probably have preference over which level you teach; just like our learners are different at these levels, so too are the teaching styles, so some teachers suit and enjoy teaching Intermediate while others may enjoy Proficiency classes.
At the two extremes of the continuum, teaching Beginners and teaching Proficiency are the two levels which seem to divide teachers the most. If you enjoy teaching Proficiency you probably don’t like teaching Beginners and vice versa. Teaching Beginners may seem especially daunting if you don’t speak their first language as you may be wondering how exactly you even start teaching English to someone who knows nothing. So here are a few ideas on how to teach English to Beginners.
Even if your learners don’t have the words to communicate in English, they will understand pictures. Using visuals is an easy way to communicate meaning. English vocabulary can be related directly to the picture and the meaning should be clear. Using materials creatively means that they can be utilised to convey not only vocabulary but grammar too.
You must remember that at this stage, everything is new to your learners, so there is the very real danger of information overload. At this stage, you will find your learners learn very quickly and so they will also be excited about absorbing this new language. However, in order for the language to stick and be utilised properly, don’t go too fast. Make sure your learners have a good grasp of the language before moving on to another structure. Give them lots of situations in which they can practise the language.
Don’t be patronising
You might find yourself teaching adults who are Beginners. This can be quite odd since we naturally expect Beginner learners to be Young Learners. This is, of course, not the case and we need to be prepared to teach more mature learners very basic English. What this means is that you may need to spend time on very basic language with your learners and this can be frustrating because you may feel awkward teaching such simple structures with older learners. While it is important to always consider the age of your learners, at the same time it is necessary to remind yourself of their level and focus on that rather than their age.
Whether you enjoy teaching Beginners or not, you will probably find yourself with a class of Beginners at some point in your career. Have fun with them and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they will improve.