Teaching outside the box

This post is also available in: Spanish


Today Paul shares with us his thoughts about how to improve the teaching methodology. I am grateful to Paul who helped me to improve the English version of my posts; we have known each other for more than five years and we have shown our perseverance in trying to improve our language skills. Now we are friends. Thank you Paul for all you do.  

What is the most effective way to teach English? This is a question that has haunted English teachers since the dawn of chalk and blackboards. Some teachers will claim to have mastered the art of teaching, but I reckon those very same teachers will still preside over classes that totally bomb and simply not admit to it.

Despite having over ten years of teaching experience myself, I have struggled recently with a group that are, for want of a better expression, stuck in limbo. They have been in our teaching system for a long time and all five of them don’t appear to be any closer to reaching their primary objective, that is securing the coveted B2 level. On the surface, they should be self-motivated and determined to succeed given the importance of having a B2 level for their future endeavours, but the opposite would appear to be the case.

They traipse into class with their earphones in and take an age to put away their mobile phones and take out their books. They assure me that they have done the homework but inexplicably they can’t ever seem to locate it in their folders. They should be actors as they are able to turn on and off a look of surprise like a tap especially when their homework doesn’t materialize for the third successive time. Surprise, surprise! So, after a few weeks of struggling through exam based activities and seeing little or no improvement, I decided to create lessons tailor-made to each students likes.

I would say the resulting classes have been a tremendous success. These classes have invigorated the students and they have learnt a lot more about each other and me. The rap battle we had recently has broken down any barriers that there were between us before. But, despite this, I am torn. They may be engaging more and hence learning more but, are they ever going to learn the specific skills required to pass a First Certificate exam? Even those who have mastered the art of teaching may struggle to answer that one.

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