Top Five Tips for Novice Teachers
Thorough preparation is the key to a successful lesson. You need a lesson plan with sufficient detail to guide you through the stages of the lesson, but you should be flexible in the way you use this. You should also make sure that all your materials and activities are prepared. When teaching vocabulary, it’s one thing to know what the words mean, and quite another to be ready to give clear and accurate definitions. When doing a listening comprehension activity, ensure that you have the correct answers yourself, and that you’re prepared to explain them.
Adjust the pace of the lesson according to the needs of the learners. If you rush through the activities too quickly, they won’t have time to absorb the new language. On the other hand, if the pace is too slow, the learners will get bored. In order to make your timing flexible, make sure you have some optional activities in your lesson plan which can be omitted if time is short, and have some filler activities which you can use if you have time left at the end of the lesson.
Focus on the learners
|Focus on the learners|
As long as you’re well prepared and confident that you know your materials thoroughly, you’re free to focus your attention on the learners. Try to look at your lesson plan and handouts as little as possible, so you can maintain eye contact with the learners. Be aware of what they’re doing at all times. During a listening activity, you should be monitoring the learners, not reading the audio script. During pair and group work, monitor effectively, notice language areas that you want to include in feedback, and make sure you’re always available to provide help and support.
Mind your language
|Mind your language|
As a language teacher, you have many roles. One of the most important is to provide comprehensible input for your learners. You need to provide a model, speaking clearly and audibly, writing legibly and accurately, and your language needs to be adapted to the level of each class. With an elementary class, make sure the language of your instructions and explanations is suitably simple, but avoid using unnatural or exaggerated stress and intonation. With an advanced class, avoid over-simplifying, but make sure your language doesn’t become too challenging. Be alert to the learners’ reactions, ask questions to confirm understanding, and encourage them to seek clarification whenever necessary.
Forget about the old-fashioned metaphor of the teacher as an actor on stage. A lesson isn’t a performance, a lesson plan isn’t a script, and the learners aren’t an audience. You can learn from observing other teachers, emulate some aspects of their teaching, but don’t try to imitate a persona that doesn’t match your own style of teaching. Instead, develop the potential that you have within you, listen to feedback, reflect on your teaching so that, in the words of Penny Ur, you will become the best teacher that you can be.
© Peter Beech 2016