Top Tips for Teaching English to Beginner EFL Students
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As a teacher who teaches English as a Foreign Language you can never be sure who you are going to be teaching. You could find yourself teaching Young Learners or teens or adults, students or CEOs or doctors, Chinese students or Iranian students or Brazilian students, Beginners or Intermediate learners or Advanced learners. It really is a lucky packet and we need to be prepared for all situations. Today we’re going to focus on a learner which is often the most dreaded of EFL students: the Beginner student. So here are our top tips for teaching English to beginner EFL students.
If you’re not sure what classifies a student as Beginner (or any other level), then take a moment to familiarize yourself with the CEFR. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a rating system used to ascertain what level of proficiency a learner has in a language – in any language, not just English. For each level, there are specifics regarding what the learner can and can’t do in terms of their grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and fluency. Because of these guidelines, we are able to classify our learner by their level and assign them to the correct class.
Top Tips for Teaching English to Beginner EFL Students
Being in the correct level is important for a learner. If a lesson is too far above a learner’s level, they will understand too little to take anything in. They will not only be lost but they will feel demotivated as well. If a lesson is too easy for a learner, they will be bored because they won’t be learning anything new. Knowing a learner’s level allows us to prepare appropriate lessons for our learners, with appropriate materials, so that our lessons will be effective. They are also a handy tool which can be used by more inexperienced teachers to know what language structures their students should already know and which they are ready to learn.
The difficulty comes in when our learners are at Beginner level, when they are at the beginning of their language learning journey, when they have so much to learn. How on earth do we teach Beginner learners, especially if we don’t speak their language?
What is a Beginner learner?
According to the CEFR, a Beginner learner should be learning only essential vocabulary. This is usually related to family, household objects, place names and basic adjectives. They should be familiar with basic personal pronouns and should be able to construct simple sentences and ask simple questions. They will speak slowly, with hesitations and false starts, and their pronunciation might be affected a lot by their first language.
Bear in mind that these days there are very few learners who fall under the Absolute Beginner category. Absolute or Zero Beginners know, well, absolutely no English. Because of the day and age we live in, it is highly unlikely that any of your learners would have had zero exposure to English or would know no words in English. At the same time, there are many students that fall under the False Beginner category. This is a student who seems to know a lot of English but it is a very surface level picked up from the media. In actual fact, they likely know chunks of language rather than being able to independently produce the language themselves.
Translation and the Beginner learner
Considering Beginner learners don’t really understand much of what you are saying, many people think that Beginner learners need translation to learn English. After all, this is how English-speakers usually learn foreign languages. But while translation can be a good tool in the EFL classroom if used effectively, we actually try not to use it as much as possible. Instead we prefer to use the immersion method of teaching, as this has been shown to be a very effective means of language learning.
So if your learners can’t understand you and you don’t use translation, you might be wondering how on earth we can teach them English. Well, here are a few tips to help you feel more comfortable teaching English to Beginners.
Read more: Using translation in the EFL Classroom
Watch your language
This is not what you think! When teaching Beginner learners you need to make sure you grade your language appropriately. This means slowing down your rate of speech, but also choosing your vocabulary and grammar structures carefully. You should speak in short, simple sentences, and use repetition when necessary. You can also use body language to reinforce what you are trying to say.
Repetition, repetition, uh, repetition
With Beginners you will need to take things slowly. Not only with your speaking but with your lesson too. When presenting new language you will need to drill the language so that your learners can learn how to pronounce the word properly; this will also help with retention. Then, you will need to play games and do activities to consolidate the language. Finally, you will need to revisit the language regularly in order to make it stick.
Visuals are everything
Remember that when we teach we have a lot of teaching tools at our disposal. We have whiteboards, flashcards, projectors and books. Images are (for the most part) universal. Because we are teaching lower level vocabulary, it is easy to find visuals which support our target language. If we are teaching cat, it is much easier to explain and understand when taught alongside a picture of a cat. When teaching, find pictures which can solidify the concept you are teaching for your learners, but make sure they are clear and unambiguous.
Don’t forget the realia
We just said that visuals are everything. But what’s even better is realia. Realia are real objects that you bring into the classroom. As before, if you are teaching cat, you can bring a cat into the classroom. With a real object there can be no confusion about the target language you are teaching. Plus, using realia makes the lesson that much memorable for your learners. Okay, so a cat is probably not the best example! But you get the idea.
Keep it learner-centred
It’s beneficial for students of any level to be involved in the lesson, but especially so for Beginner learners. Beginner learners are at an important point in their learning journey. If they are able to take control of their learning, they will grow in confidence and their learning will progress faster than otherwise. Possibly the most important tenet of teaching English as a Foreign Language is that we don’t spoon-feed our learners. We elicit language and ideas from them throughout the lesson, and we try to help them figure things out for themselves.
Get them talking
You might think that Beginner learners can’t speak at all, but that’s very far from the truth. They might not have the language to say what they want to say, but they most certainly have something to say! Your job as the teacher is to provide them with the language and the situation to allow them to speak as best they can. The bottom line for all our learners is communication, so this is what we want to help them to do. Give them tasks which are not too difficult, make sure they are fully prepared, and give them time to think about how they will complete the task.
If all this seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry! This is why you do a TEFL course! A TEFL course will prepare you to teach any kind of learners. It will teach you how to recognize your learners’ levels and show you how to create lessons best suited to them. Use these tips and you’ll soon be teaching Beginners like a professional! And remember, experience is the best teacher!
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We’ll only market other organisations’ products and services if you have said it is OK for us to do so.
You can ask us to stop sending you marketing information or withdraw your permission at any time.
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD retains personal information in line with our corporate retention requirements. Your data will be stored within the European Economic Area (“the EEA”) (The EEA consists of all EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). However, in some circumstances, part or all of your data may be stored or transferred outside of the European Economic Area (“the EEA”). You are deemed to accept and agree to this by using our site and submitting information to us. If we do store or transfer data outside the EEA, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that your data is treated as safely and securely as it would be within the EEA and under the GDPR. Such steps may include, but not be limited to, the use of legally binding contractual terms between us and any third parties we engage with, and the use of the EU-approved Model Contractual Arrangements. If we intend at any time to transfer any of your data outside the EEA, we will always obtain your consent beforehand.
Right to access personal information
- Under the law, any individual has a right to ask for a copy of the personal information held about them. This means that you can ask for the information that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD holds about you. This is known as the right of ‘subject access’.
- When making a request you will need to give us:
- a request in writing (by post or by email)
- We may need to ask you to provide:
- proof of your identity
- proof of your home address
- any information that we reasonably need to locate the information you have requested (for example details of the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD offices or staff that you have had contact with and when)
We will not start looking for your information until we receive all of the above. In order to submit your request, or for help making a request, please contact us.
Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.