1-Introduce the vocab bag
Getting your students to do homework can be challenging. An easy way to force them to learn is by starting a vocabulary bag. At the end of every class give your student little papers and tell them to write words, idioms, grammatical structures learnt in class on those (I usually give 2 or 3 to each student). Keep those papers in a folder or plastic pocket.
The next class, have your students take papers in turns and give you definitions, synonyms, examples… If they don’t remember, explain what they mean again. By doing that every single day, they will automatically remember the things that come up regularly Once they know a papers very well you can take it out that way you can focus more on the new words.
Do it at the beginning of the class, that way the students that are always late don’t miss out on the correction of homework, the students that are here on time keep on learning and you don’t have to go over the correction of homework every time a new student walks in.
2-Always do a little cool-down activity at the end of the class
Learning English is a long and difficult process for most students. They don’t always enjoy coming to class and often come out exhausted.
Do a little fun game at the end of the class. Try to reinforce what you have taught them that day. Imagine you taught your students about the present perfect; you could play Never Have I Ever with them.
Make sure these activities are fun as this is the last thing they will remember doing in English class. That way they go home happy and pleased with your class.
The more fun your students have the quicker they will learn. They will be eager to come back to class to play and you are still doing your job of teaching and helping them to improve.
3- Have your students repeat what you have taught them
The cool-down activities and the vocabulary bag are great way to reinforce what you teach your students but you should also elicit things from them.
Whenever you review something you should have them tell you what the grammar point or the vocabulary is. If your students can reproduce the knowledge that means you did your job…they know it!
If you have a mixed level class, that allows you to challenge the more advanced students without overwhelming the lower ones.
4-Get your students moving
If like me you teach early and late classes, your students are not in the mind set for learning. They are tired and just want to be somewhere else. Wake them up by moving. Whether it is going around the room for the purpose of an activity or coming to the board to write corrections it always does the job. It allows them to stretch their legs, that kind of invisible barrier between teacher and students disappears and it is a nice change to that traditional stay at your desk two hours and listen to the teacher structure.
5-Trick your students into doing exam parts
Most students are signed up for exam preparation classes… but they don’t want to do exams. Simple right?
How can they prepare for the exam without actually doing exams from time to time? You have no other choice but to trick them.
Let’s say you have a B1 class preparing for the Cambridge exam. Don’t tell them you are going to do Speaking Part 1. Turn it into an activity where they have to learn a specific amount of things about their partner. Here is a chart I created you can use for this purpose. Speaking Part 1 Board
With a B2 class you could have them practice the use of English part 3 buy playing a different version of scatergories and using word classes as categories. Here is the template I created for it. Word Class Scategories
6-Don’t “favour” anybody
But when I say favour I don’t mean to like a student more that another one…that’s human nature. What I mean is don’t spend more time on the weaker students or just the more advanced students. Mixed level or abilities Classes are tough but you MUST keep the more advanced students challenged and the weaker ones in the loop.
To do so, create workshops in the class that target different things your students might need and circulate between workshops. You can also pair a stronger student with a weaker student so that the stronger student reinforces what he knows while the weaker student learns from the other.
7-Be organised and show it.
After teaching for a few years, you can easily wing a class. But that’s not something you should show your students.
You should always have a lesson plan (printed, hand written, in a notebook) and keep them all. Have the lesson plan next to you in class and tick things you have done as you go. You students will then realise you know where you are going with your lessons and that you have a plan for their learning.
Keeping old lesson plans also has 2 great purposes.
The first one is that you can easily find what you have taught and what is still left to be taught. A student could also come to you and ask you for what you did the day he wasn’t there and you can answer the question easily.
The second is that if some students complain about not doing something (usually “not enough” listenings) you have proof with your lesson plans. You can also show that student that if he had come on X day he would not have missed X activity and that you did your job like you were supposed to. It is rare that you need your lesson plans for this reason… but you never know.
8-Write down interesting vocab from listenings
Teachers tend to correct writing during listening. And it’s true that if you do so you don’t have so many writings to take home.
But I have realised that going over the vocabulary in the audios is extremely useful to the students
In any exam, audio clips are usually played twice. So I actually listen to the first time and write words I think they don’t know on the board. Before playing the clip a second time I go over the words on the board and we continue with the rest of the activity.
This is a good way to make the listening task more accessible at the beginning. Once the exam date is closed, go over the vocabulary once the task has been corrected, so as not to give them help they won’t get in the exam.
9-Always assign homework no matter what
Just do it, even if it is just a little bit! Whether your students do it or not…you have done what you are supposed to and it can’t backfire.
10-Put the most challenging/boring things at the beginning
This kind of goes hand in hand with the cool-down activity at the end. Remember, you want your students to leave the classroom thinking “that was such a great and fun class” vs “this class was so difficult and boring”.
I usually put grammar and listening activities at the beginning and keep speaking, vocab and coolers for the end. The way they feel about the class at the end is the impression they take home with them!