TEACHABLE MOMENTS IN THE EFL CLASSROOM

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Teaching English as a Foreign Language is not rocket science, right? You walk in to the EFL classroom, have a bit of a chat, talk about language and then you leave the EFL classroom. Boom. Happy English-speaking students. Right?

Wrong, wrong wrong. And if you thought that’s what it’s like then maybe you should think again about choosing TEFL as a job option. Teaching English is so much more than teaching the language. Being a TEFL teacher is so much more than being a teacher. Teaching English is considering grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, discourse, genre, formality, culture – the list goes on. TEFL teachers are teachers, cheerleaders, dictionaries, encyclopedias, therapists, motivational speakers and magicians.

Magicians?

That’s right. Being a TEFL teacher means being a magician. Not that we’re saying it’ll take a bit of magic to help your students speak English but because TEFL teachers need to be able to think on their feet. They need to be able to adapt their lesson plans at a minute’s notice, be able to conjure up activities out of thin air and be able to make magic happen in the EFL classroom.

How to make magic in the EFL classroom

The first step is to identify those moments in your lessons which are perfect teaching opportunities. Of course these may take place during your class as per your lesson plan. When you plan an EFL lesson you try to create situations which would bring about teaching and learning moments – the aha moment.

On the other hand, there are usually a handful of moments during a lesson which are unplanned but which can be exploited to make an effective teaching moment. These moments may have nothing to do with your lesson. It is up to you as the teacher to identify these moments and maximise their teaching potential.

How to identify a teachable moment in the EFL classroom

For example, say you are teaching a football-loving class and it is the World Cup. You have planned a lovely lesson but the students come in and start talking about the previous night’s game. They are animated and interested and they’re all talking at once. Instead of shushing them and moving on to the lesson, why not dedicate some time to talking about the game? You can see where the conversation takes the class and decide on a teaching point as you go along.

How to make the most of teachable moments in the EFL classroom

  • Don’t worry if the moment takes away from your lesson. Sometimes these moments are more effective than the lesson you have planned anyway. This is because the moment has captured your students’ attention naturally so the engagement is already there.
  • Let the students take charge. The moment is effective because the students are interested. Let them guide you as to how you can manipulate the moment into more than a conversation.
  • Don’t disregard your teaching principles entirely. Always bear in mind how you can relate the moment to your students’ learning journey. Find hooks that will relate to language issues that can be dealt with.
  • Know when to stop. Getting carried away is great but make sure you end the moment when necessary. Don’t try to suck blood from a stone when it is clear the students have taken all they need or want from a conversation.

In a nutshell, keep your eyes open for teachable moments in the EFL classroom. Sometimes they can present you with perfect teaching and learning opportunities which you would otherwise not have had.

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