Published 18th April 2017

As a TEFL teacher, there is nothing quite as satisfying as seeing your students learn. The feeling of pride and accomplishment when a student passes an exam or does well on a test is awesome, but there are many learning moments within the classroom during EFL lessons which can be just as fulfilling, if not as obvious.

These are commonly known as aha moments.

An aha moment is not confined to the EFL classroom. It is defined as any moment in which a person suddenly reaches clarity or comprehension. An aha moment is the moment you see the cogs turning in your students’ heads and then the light of comprehension comes into their eyes, the moment when people naturally go aha!

The funny thing about aha moments is you can never predict when they will occur and you can never plan for them. Obviously we want an aha moment in every lesson (so we can be sure our students are learning!) but no matter how much we wish them into being, an aha moment is dependent on the student. All we can do is make the best possible learning conditions and hope that these moments take place.

How can you do that?

Pay attention to mistakes

Often students will make the same mistakes, possibly because the error is fossilized or perhaps because they are not aware that it is a mistake. Keep your ears open for these as they may turn into the perfect teachable moment. If you can identify clearly what the mistake is and clarify why it is an error when used in the way it was, your students should hopefully be clearer on the issue.

Explain correct answers

When doing an exercise or activity in class, sometimes some students will get the answer immediately while others will get the wrong answer. Instead of highlighting the correct answer and moving on immediately, ask one of the students who got it correct to explain how they got there or how they knew it was the correct answer. Hearing another learner’s explanation can go a long way toward comprehension.

Ask leading questions

It is much more likely for a student to have an aha moment if they do the thinking for themselves. Simply giving them an answer does not give them the chance to process the language. If they figure it out for themselves, it is more likely to sink in and make connections with their other knowledge.  You can help them get to this point by asking leading questions and letting them reach their own conclusions.

In fact, what you will find is that doing all of these things will make your classroom more learner-centred. If you let your students take charge of their learning, your classroom is more likely to entertain regular aha moments.