Welcome to the TEFL Clinic. The TEFL Clinic takes up where the TEFL Primer left off. If you have moved beyond the stage of simply having a passing interest in the field of TEFL or are already a practicing EFL teacher then this section is for you. In preparing this section, we have tried to include both the theoretical (found under Teaching Knowledge) and the practical (found under Practical Teaching). Before reviewing the material contained in this section, however, the reader should keep a few points in mind.
First, teaching English as a foreign (or second) language is not something that can be learned from a website. There is no substitution for either (or both) training and experience, and though this section goes a long way to identifying and explaining some of the finer points of teaching English as a foreign language, it cannot be considered a training course in itself.
Second, and as alluded to above, though this section contains a lot of practical advice, ideas for teaching and activities to be tried out, it should not be assumed that these ideas and activities will work for everybody. Though they are good ideas and under normal circumstances should work, a lot also depends upon the teacher and his or her teaching style as well as the class being taught. As will become clear, not all classes will respond the same to any given activity. In fact, certain activities may be entirely inappropriate for certain classes. Though ‘fun and games’ in the classroom is a TEFL hallmark and can have as much to do with learning as the actual content of the game itself, some classes will consider such activities as little more than antics lacking any semblance of serious teaching. To each his/her own.
Third and lastly, this section of our site is being put together at this time. Therefore some pages may be ‘under construction’. The fact that a parent page is under construction does not necessarily mean that the daughter pages are likewise under construction. Some sections are being built from the top down and others from the bottom up. Go figure!
You have to crawl before you can learn to walk. These words are just as true for TEFL debutants as they are for babies. Before you go running off into a classroom full of eagerly awaiting students with a lesson plan full of activities, it might be best to sit down first and ask yourself two simple questions.
- What am I hoping to teach?
- How am I hoping to teach it?
If you have been lucky enough (or better stated wise enough) to have attended a TEFL course of any length prior to entering a classroom for the first time, then you will have certainly heard the words: methodology and approach.
A ‘methodology’ by definition is a body of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline. In this case, that discipline is teaching English as a foreign language.
An ‘approach’ refers to a particular manner of taking preliminary steps toward a particular purpose.
Before you venture into a classroom you should have some idea of how you are going to conduct yourself in the class. By ‘conduct yourself in the class’, I am not referring to any answer that incorporates the word ‘professionally’. In order to teach English as a foreign language, every teacher must understand exactly how s/he wishes to relate to both the language being taught and the students. After all, besides yourself, that’s all you have in a classroom. Also implied by this is how you want your students to relate to the language being taught.
Though there are many methods and approaches to teaching English as a foreign language, the one which has received the most press in recent years is the communicative approach. This is the approach taught by most TEFL training courses and schools. It is, in my opinion, the one approach which most teachers really have difficulty incorporating into their teaching. The reason is not that it is overly difficult. Simply stated, most courses are not long enough and so do not have sufficient time to teach their trainees how this approach relates to all the different aspects of teaching such as, but not limited to, teaching speaking skills, listening comprehension skills, reading skills, writing skills or even grammar.
Teaching is not simply an act of opening your mouth and letting words spew out. Teaching implies that these words should have meaning not just for you but for your students as well. Your words must let students know how they are to relate to the language that they are about to explore and in the best of cases learn. And so your words will and must differ in content depending upon what aspect of the language you are focusing on and what you want them to learn during the time you have them in class.
Given this, the Teaching Knowledge section of the TEFL Clinic has been put together. In reading through these pages, try to understand how you relate or should relate to the language that you are teaching (or are thinking to teach). Analysis is good before you enter the class and after you leave it- but never during. The time to think and understand is now.
Real EFL teaching is all about the nuts and bolts of classroom performance. For many, the communicative approach is the Holy Grail of TEFL. This approach forms the basis upon which you will teach new language to your second (or third) language students. If you have applied the approach correctly, then your students will already have understood that this ‘learn by using’ approach is both effective and (in the best of cases) fun. Because of this, they will not resist either your attempts to get them involved in the games and activities used in the modern TEFL classroom to teach them new language or the techniques used to reinforce that learning. And whereas games and activities involving teaching the four language skills: speaking, listening comprehension, reading and writing seem to make sense on some conscious level, even grammar can be taught in a fun way. If ‘grammar’ and ‘fun’ seem to represent a conflict of terms, then the ideas presented in this section may help to change your mind.
Learning does not have to be dull and painful. Unlike bodybuilding with its ‘no pain, no gain’ credo, learning a foreign language does not have to be synonymous with pulling teeth. And if you are finding that getting your students to learn new language is like the proverbial ‘pulling of teeth’, then quite possibly (note I did not say ‘absolutely’), the problem is your teaching style or your choice of activities. And though elaborating on ‘teaching style’ is beyond the scope of this section, the games and activities suggested herein may just find favour among your students. In any event, you have nothing to lose and your students have everything to gain.
Before and above all things, a teacher is expected to be professional. The company you work for expects it, your colleagues expect it and without exception, your students expect it. If there is one thing that you must learn, it is that you can never compromise on professionalism. Like respect, once lost, it is almost impossible to recover. Given the importance of professionalism, it is absolutely essential that you understand that professionalism does not start and stop inside the classroom. Indeed, it began when you accepted the position of English foreign language teacher, and though this is not meant to be a lecture, you must take stock of what it means to be a professional teacher, for only in understanding this will you be able to succeed in the year ahead.
Being a professional teacher is all about acting the part. The following list indicates the actions of a professional teacher.