Spring in Japan. An ideal place to be in such a beautiful season! Why, then, do I have a cold?! I’ve been housebound for the last few days, unable to enjoy the warm weather and cherry trees.
I came across an interesting situation recently in my lessons. I was teaching the use of articles (a, an, and the) to a group of low-level learners. They failed to get it! How could this be?
What went wrong?
I had taught the same lesson to a similar group of students just the previous week and they had mastered it all too quickly. There was no massive intellectual gap.
I thought that the issue was grammar – they were bored. So I changed the subject and we did something more interactive. However, I was determined to get them to understand the use of articles. The following week I went back to articles. This time I explained it more simply, more slowly and with more examples. They continued with the exercises and this time they displayed a good understanding of the matter.
Students learn in many ways
Students at any age have massive differences in ways of learning. If one group of learners masters something quickly it’s no guarantee that another group, even if they are at a similar level of ability, will pick it up in the same way. You have to respect those small differences in the English classroom. The worst thing you can do is get annoyed, or make excuses for yourself. It’s not about your teaching ability – it’s about your students being able to speak English.
If they don’t get it
What do you do if your students are not grasping what you are teaching? Three tips:
1. Leave that material for the time and move onto something else. Before you teach it again, just check your examples and your explanations, and simplify them if possible.
2. Be patient – you may have to start again from the beginning, or answer a lot of questions from your students, but teaching English requires you to be patient
3. Change your approach – you might be proud of this lesson plan, it might be a work of art, but if it’s not getting the message across then it needs to be altered. Look for new materials and a new lesson plan to teach the same thing.