Published 24th April 2018
Immersion classrooms are the norm in the EFL field. In an immersion EFL classroom, the lessons are taught completely in English. Most of the time the teacher does not speak the students’ first language so it is not even possible to use translation during the lesson. Though immersion classrooms can be stressful for learners, especially in the beginning, they have been shown to be very effective.
It can seem quite simple to conduct English lessons in an immersion environment – simply speak English! It’s not always as easy as that, though, because your students may be resistant to always speaking English. They might get tired of having to think about everything before they speak, they may want to communicate as best as they can i.e. in their first language, or they may not know how to say what they want to say in English.
As a result, it is important to cultivate a good atmosphere in your classroom which encourages your students to speak English. There are a number of things you can do to achieve this. At the same time, there are a few things that you should avoid doing:
What NOT to do in an immersion classroom
Speak your students’ first language
Using translation in the classroom is not the problem and there are many ways translation can be very useful. But, as the teacher, you need to speak English all the time. There may be times when you feel it would be easier to switch to the students’ first language – introductions, instructions, explanations – always use English. Your students may find it hard at first, especially if they are lower level learners, but they will survive and their English will improve much more quickly as a result.
While you should speak only in English, this should be done as simply as possible. There are many ways to introduce yourself or give instructions or give explanations, but you should use the simplest way for your level of learner. Repeat yourself often and make sure your students are following your meaning before moving on to the next point.
Talk at your students
Even though they may not understand every word you say (though hopefully they understand most of it), this doesn’t mean you can spend your whole lesson talking at your students and letting them absorb your language. You need your students to be interactive in your lessons and prepare activities which encourage participation from your students. Bear in mind that you need to keep your activities aimed at the right level – if they’re too easy or too difficult your students will lose interest.
Immersion classrooms are very effective in teaching English as a foreign language if they are set up correctly. Make sure you are aware of the many different do’s and don’ts of the immersion classroom to make it the most effective space possible.