Making your directions clear in the TEFL classroom is a vital step in becoming a good teacher. If you don’t give clear instructions then the whole class is going to be left in confusion.
How, then, to be clear? Step 1 is to grade your language according to the ability of the students. You will be teaching a variety of students who are not always from the same country. Therefore, speaking in English is a necessity, irrelevant of the level of the class. Even if they are all of the same nationality, speaking only in English has several benefits.
Grading: Novice learners
Giving rambling instructions filled with idioms and phrases to a group of novice learners will destroy their confidence and be about as useful as a chocolate teapot. Instead, speak slowly and clearly with short sentences that convey exactly what you want them to do. Do not, however, be patronizing or condescending. Striking a balance between being understood and being clear takes time and practice.
With lower level learners, you may need to demonstrate what you want them to do, along with verbal instructions. Use the white board to illustrate the meaning of such words as ‘choose’, ‘underline’ and ‘write down’.
Gestures also play a vital part in communication. A bit of forethought will help you to plan ahead for gestures to indicate such things as working in pairs, verbs such as listen, talk etc., and even tenses such as past, present and future.
With elementary students, it is generally beneficial to talk as little as possible. That may sound surprising, but talking more actually opens up more possibility for confusion. Use simple, short sentences.
1. Grade your language by the ability of the learners
2. Novice students need simple, clear instructions
3. Use gestures
4. Use illustrations
5. Fluent speakers allow you to be more carefree in your instructions.
6. Prepare your instructions in advance
7. Make sure you have the attention of the entire class before giving instructions
8. Do not be patronizing by talking too slowly or loudly
9. If instructions are not understood by the entire class, explain them again with a demonstration of what you want them to do and using simpler terms
10. If instructions are not understood by only one or two students, explain it again to them while the rest of the class continues with the activity
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