Published 12th January 2017

When you do a TEFL course to become an English as a Foreign Language teacher, there is a lot of focus on teaching. Seems obvious, right? But there is a slight problem here. Teaching usually brings up ideas of how to teach grammar versus vocabulary or how the teacher should manage the class or what the teacher should be doing during the lesson.

Teachers often forget that they are not teaching English, they are not teaching coursebooks, they are teaching students.

The focus of any teacher should not be on what they are doing or how they should be teaching but on what the students are doing and how they students are learning. Making this shift in mindset is not so easy, though, as traditionally we are stuck in teacher-centred practices. Handing over control of the classroom to the students can be frightening.

But this is, in fact, how students learn. They need to be in control of their own learning experience in order to learn more effectively and be able to learn to use the language. The teacher’s job is to direct their learning and guide them through the experience, not to do the learning for them.

How do you do this?

Stop lecturing

There is often no need for the teacher to stand at the front of the class and explain something for an extended amount of time with very little input from the students. When presenting or explaining language, involve the students. Ask them leading questions, rather than simply giving them the answers. There might also be opportunities for the students to do the research themselves and so teach themselves or each other.

Don’t give so many instructions

Often as teachers we have a certain way of doing things which we want our students to follow. Instead, let them do things how they want to. Give them the problem and ask them to solve it, anyhow they want to. This encourages creativity and group work.

Stop talking so much

There is no need for the teacher to be talking the whole lesson. In fact, if you are quiet you will find that the students fill the silence with their own talking. Provided this is on topic, this is fine. Keeping quiet also means they cannot rely on you to give them answers immediately – they will need to think for themselves and work with their classmates to find the answers they need.

If you follow these three tips, you will find your students taking more control of the lesson. You might feel a bit uncomfortable at first but the more they do it, the more you will realise how much this will benefit their learning.