Published 23rd April 2019
The difference between teaching and teaching well can often boil down to something as simple as personalising your EFL lessons. This is a key factor in getting to know your students and their interests in order to tailor their learning experience and materials to suit their interests and needs.
There is nothing worse than planning a coursebook reading on the Kardashians and announcing it to the class only to be met with a deafening silence and blank stares. Not everyone will share the same interests or be able to relate to a topic they know nothing about or, alternatively, have strong opinions about. For this reason, personalising your lessons is important to create an environment that fosters learning and maintains interest.
While you don’t need to be best friends with your students, it’s important to establish a good rapport, especially if you’re teaching adults. There are easy ways to get to know your students without socialising or spending time with them outside of the classroom and without it feeling forced.
Tips for personalising your EFL lessons
Encourage classroom conversation
In the classroom environment, encourage conversations with your students around topics that are completely unrelated to the lesson. This will give you a glimpse into their personalities, sense of humour, interests, hobbies and work life. Take time to talk about their weekend activities, ask about their families, and find out their opinions on current events.
Personalise classroom tasks
If certain learning materials are centred around discussing topics such as cricket or rugby and you’re unsure if your students know anything about these topics, try changing the topic to sports in general. Or, if you know your students enjoy movies and popular culture then widen the scope of conversation to ensure they can maximise this learning task in the classroom.
Know why your students are here
Finding out why your students are learning English is important to know from a teaching perspective as you can tailor their learning material to suit their needs. This can be determined using a needs analysis, but this can often deliver very generalised information. Reasons such as I want to learn English for my job, or I need to read better are popular reasons. By finding out what your students’ learning objectives are you’ll be able to plan activities that help them meet their language goals.
If your students are studying at university and need to be able to deliver presentations, you could find out what subjects they are taking and coordinate a few lessons so that they can practise both the language they’ll be using as well as the art of presenting to a group of people. Helping to build their confidence in this regard will make your lessons real and specific to your students’ needs.
Personalising your EFL lessons shouldn’t require you to rewrite the coursebook or alter your teaching methods entirely. Instead, by learning more about who your students are, you’ll be able to tweak your existing materials to make your lessons more relevant, interesting, and entertaining.