Teaching English in England: Providing context in lessons and benefiting students
English is the language of business and of the global economy. It is the most commonly used language among foreign language speakers and as a result, when speakers of different foreign languages come together, English is used as the common tongue.
There’s no ‘quick fix’ when it comes to learning a second language, and this is no different for those learning English. Having said that, English students in the right environment, with the right attitude, who invest their time, remain patient and stay dedicated fair well through the learning process.
It’s the environment that I’d like to look into today. Moving abroad and teaching English in a foreign country appeals to many – and with an ever-growing demand and the opportunity to see the world, it’s no wonder why! The necessary qualifications (including TESOL, TEFL and CELTA and in some cases an Undergraduate degree) and an inclination to experience a different culture are all that is needed to begin a career – or even just a year-long stint – as an English Language Teacher abroad. If seeing the world isn’t high on the agenda, but teaching English is, doing so in England is just as rewarding while you see students are afforded the opportunity to continue learning outside of the classroom.
Many nationalities, just one classroom
If you’ve ever tried to learn a second language, you’ll know that it’s more than just picking up grammar rules and understanding the subtle differences in spelling or pronunciation. It’s about understanding another culture and about immersing yourself in patterns of communicative speech. It’s about providing context and drawing on both the differences and similarities between languages and ways of interacting.
When teaching English as a second language in England the likelihood is that your classes are diverse, filled with multiple nationalities, languages and abilities. Not only are you as the teacher therefore working with many different cultures, but so are your students. What better way to help them prepare to live and communicate in an unfamiliar culture than by exposing them to many?
Providing context inside and outside of the classroom
A good English language teacher will structure lessons to encourage students to communicate rather than simply stand at the front of a classroom and dictate to them. Using a communicative teaching approach in lessons is widely acknowledged as one of the most effective as it helps students practice conversation and applying grammar rules in mock-real-life activities. A textbook or a rule drawn up on the board at the front of the classroom provides only the foundation of a lesson, and is built on with creative, active and engaging lesson plans covering presentations, group role play and open discussion, but the real value comes in practising what’s been taught outside of the classroom.
Authentic opportunities for students to practice their English are far more readily available when being taught in England. Even if they are not living with an English -speaking host family, simply going shopping means they are surrounded by English-speakers and the signage and marketing materials (especially in larger supermarkets) provide another dimension to their learning. The English newspapers are also a valuable tool with short, adaptable articles to read and a variety in language use that is difficult to replicate in the classroom.
English language teachers in England should encourage their students to explore the surrounding area to ensure they have a more rewarding experience while visiting. A national park, especially one with a historic connection, can be an entertaining day out, but a lesson covering the origin and events at the park provides reading material and application of understanding.
Socialising in English to improve learning
Regular social and extracurricular activities help a class to get to know each other, and therefore creates a more open learning environment in the classroom. At the New College Manchester, for example, regular excursions to the city’s landmarks (including the football grounds, parks and galleries) are organised to tie-in class content and allow every level of learner to experience the city. Learning a language in context helps fully engage the student, touches on their emotions and allows them to approach English in a natural setting.
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