How to Teach English: Tips for Teaching Private or Group Conversational EFL/ESL Classes
Be Prepared: even for a purely conversational class, at minimum bring a pen and paper (to write down mistakes) and some conversation topics. While sometimes a conversation will flow organically from 'What's new?' into something interesting, it's good to have a list of about four or five interesting questions for when there is a lull in the conversation. Having a dictionary can also be helpful.
Don't Talk Too Much: although some students are happy listening to their teacher's wonderful English, they can do this at home with YouTube. In class, keep your talk time down and aim to have the student(s) do 70% of the speaking. Ask open-ended questions instead of Yes/No questions. Use a "Tell me more" approach. In group settings, have students talk together, while you play the role of a moderator. Guide the conversation without becoming the focus of it.
Balance Your Correction: use a combination of correcting students as they speak and writing down their errors on paper. Too much correction when the student is speaking can be discouraging and disrupt the flow of conversation. If the student is making many errors, note the major mistakes on paper while listening. Review the mistakes at the end of the conversation.
Don't Be Afraid to Say You Don't Know: if you can't answer a tough grammar question, tell the students you'll look into it and get back to them. Students will appreciate your effort and honesty. You will also benefit as a teacher by learning about what you can't already explain confidently.
Review: the problem with no-textbook conversation classes is the lack of structure. Topics change each week and students quickly forget what was previously covered. To alleviate this problem, review the most important mistakes/vocab/pronunciation issues from the previous lesson at the beginning of the next class. If you're already noting down the student's mistakes in class, have him/her keep these notes and bring them next class so you can review them. After a certain number of classes, make a quiz on all past key language items. (You can also ask the student to make sentences with the new vocabulary items in the notes as homework.)
Care: students enjoy class more if they feel you are interested in what they say. English class can have therapeutic value because it gives students the opportunity to speak with someone who actually listens. While being attentive as a teacher, be supportive and understanding as a human being.
example of rough notes from English conversation class
- Matthew Barton / EnglishCurrent.com
Related Article: Using General Conversation to Teach Different Levels