TIP #1: TALK TO THE STUDENTS AS THOUGH THEY’RE YOUR BEST FRIENDS
I often have to remind trainee teachers just to talk to the students. It comes more naturally to some people than others, and it can be difficult when you’re being observed (and focusing so much on the content of lessons.)
Sometimes, I even ask trainees to forget their plan for the first 5 minutes of a lesson, and simply chat to the students for that time, with no other agenda, as if they were in a café.
I recently watched a tutor’s “demo” lesson on Zoom, and was initially surprised by how much time she spent building rapport by chatting like this. Later, because I was so impressed at the subsequent student engagement in the lesson – which, by the way, used only the most basic tech (just a Word document, and some pictures) – I reflected on how worthwhile these initial minutes had been.
This might seem seems obvious, but it isn’t always – because CELTA trainees tend to have their linguistic lesson aims as the focus of their attention. The fact is that it’s good to talk to students not just at the beginnings and endings of lessons, but throughout – getting them to react to texts; reflecting on the value of activities, and how challenging they were; finding out more about their views and opinions in feedback. This isn’t a decoration; it’s at the very heart of communicative language teaching.
I heard this latest iteration of the “talk to students” advice from Rachael Roberts on her Switch Off Stress – Switch On Success professional development course, and it originated with Roger Hunt: “I tell trainees to tear up their lesson plans and imagine they’re just going to chat to a bunch of their best friends for an hour.”