As promised, this post will be about solutions to anticipated problems in the English language classroom in relation to:
- classroom management / learners / resources
More posts will follow on suggested solutions to anticipated problems related to other areas of teaching, e.g. reading/listening, grammar, speaking, etc.
You must remember that the two lists below are not exhaustive, and each solution can and should be adapted to the learners’ needs and, obviously, your own teaching context.
The solutions in these two tables below are pro-active; in other words, they are part of your lesson planning and preparation. However, there are solutions that cannot be prepared beforehand; this is simply because there are problems that cannot be foreseen. But, that’s expected! (excuse the pun)
NOTE: If you have any specific anticipated problems in mind which have not been listed below and you have not been able to solve so far, feel free to leave your comment and I’ll do my best to help!
So, without further ado…
Problems & Solutions related to the theme/topic
|It is not interesting to the learners.||· If you cannot change/skip the text/unit, add some sort of authentic material, e.g. a short video, a short newspaper article, etc to give it an interesting twist.|
|The learners do not know much/anything about it.||· Build on the learners’ knowledge by giving them the information they need to deal with the tasks in the lesson; again, this could be done through short exercises based on topic-related texts, videos, news stories, etc followed by interesting discussion activities|
|It is outdated.||· Change the parts which are outdated replacing them with something current, e.g. different visuals, etc
· Create activities for the learners to practise their speaking by talking about how this outdated topic is different presently, whether this change has been good or not, etc.
Problems & Solutions related to class management / the students / resources
|There are disruptive students.||· Give these learners a goal/responsibility, e.g. the ‘group secretary’ responsible for reporting to the rest of the class, collecting answers from the rest of the groups, etc.|
|There are shy students.||· Ask these learners to work in groups/pairs so that they have a chance to participate with their peers rather than with the teacher.|
|The instructions to an activity are complicated / long / confusing.||· Break the instructions down into meaningful chunks by eliciting rather than telling
· Break the activity down into different parts, i.e. first writing a set of questions and, then, participating in an interview using these questions.
· Ask simple questions to check the learners are following and have understood
· Demonstrate what the learners need to do
· Give examples
|Classroom equipment, e.g. IWb, laptop, speakers, etc might not work.||· Arrive earlier to double-check everything works
· Have print-outs and additional handouts to give the learners, e.g. the slides you were planning to show during the lesson
· Have a copy of the transcript of the listening text you would be using so that you can read it out loud yourself
|Odd number of learners||· Avoid participating in the activity as a student; instead, prepare more role-cards to facilitate a group of 3, or
· If you have a pairwork activity of Students A and B, create a group of 3 so that 1 learner can be A and 2 students can be B in that group.
|Lack of a homogenous group in terms of level, e.g. very strong students for the level and very weak students for the level in the same group||· Vary the kinds of practice activities; for example, give weaker learners more prompts in speaking/writing tasks.
· Vary your feedback and correction, e.g. give more information to weaker learners, less info to stronger ones.
· In speaking/writing tasks, pair weaker students with stronger ones so that they can help one another
Alexander has been an English language teacher for 14 years, during which he has taught in a variety of teaching contexts. He obtained his Cambridge CELTA Certificate in 2006 and his Cambridge DELTA Diploma in 2009. He is currently doing his MA in ELT distance course at the University of Reading.
Since 2010, Alexander has been working as a CELTA Tutor at CELT Athens and has also worked as a CELTA trainer in China and South Africa. He is also a Cambridge Delta Module Two tutor.
He is the blog author of ‘To the CELTA and Beyond’ and has written articles for Modern English Teacher and ELT News.