In the blog I wrote before this one (which you can read about, here
) I talked about how student attitude is an important factor of success in learning a foreign language and went on to talk about one contributing influence, the 'student/teacher relationship'. In this blog, I will be talking about the second influence, 'classroom atmosphere'
Although there are no specific teaching techniques to make students feel that they are doing the right thing in learning a new language, there are ways for you to make them feel welcome in your classroom:
A lot of British teachers (being quite staid in nature) may find it unnerving to be asked, what they seem to be, personal questions by their students. However, it's natural for your students to be inquisitive and ask questions such as 'Where are you from?', 'How long have you been teaching?' etc. and, because of their culture, they don't find it intrusive - some will even go so far as to asking if you're married. Obviously, it's up to you as to how much information you want to give them but, do bear in mind that they're more than likely asking in order to be able to 'know their teacher'.
Take the time to learn how to pronounce your students names correctly. Ask them to say their name. Listen carefully and repeat it until you know it. If a student's name is Juan, make sure you do not call him 'Jooann'.
You need to remind students that it is okay to ask questions and not feel as though they are interrupting you. Some students from certain cultural backgrounds might feel this pressure even more so, make sure they know that it's a good thing to ask questions. Frequently ask students throughout the class if they have any questions. A student might hold a question until the end, even though it would be helpful to get the answer immediately so, try to encourage questions from your students on an on-going basis.
If it looks like your students are more comfortable talking to other students than you, encourage them to work together - pair the more confident students off with those less confident in order to encourage talking.
When asking questions to gauge if a student has understood what you've said, some students may not answer voluntarily or ask for help if they didn't understand. They may smile and nod, but this does not necessarily mean that they understood. Get them to give examples so that you know that they have understood, and if they haven't, give them an example first and ask them to give you another. If they still don't understand, don't pursue it if it looks like they're feeling uncomfortable as it can make them feel under pressure which will in turn cause unintentional "mistakes".
Include students in a non-threatening manner. Some students may be apprehensive about speaking out in a group and might be afraid to make mistakes in front of their peers. Their silence could also be a sign of respect for you as an authority – and not a sign of their inability or refusal to participate. It is, therefore, necessary to show encouragement and get them to understand that it's okay to make mistakes.
If you lack confidence in what you're teaching your students will sense this and it could cause them to lose their trust in you. The same goes for honesty. If you're asked a question that you don't know the answer to try not to waiver, instead, tell them it's something that can be discussed in the next class. Be prepared that you will make some mistakes, but don't lose face, laugh at them or ignore them instead. We all make mistakes, the question is how we react when we do make them. Also, being nervous makes your voice drop and your speech faster. This betrays lack of self-confidence, and students will lose interest. Be aware of this, slow down and speak up.
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