Teach English in Fengyi Zhen - Bazhong Shi

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If you are a fortunate ESL teacher, you will have a class that is full of students, who are ready to learn, and enthusiastic for any activity presented to them. However, this doesn’t always happen, and sometimes your job is to teach English to students, who are not interested in learning English.. My own teaching situation is the latter, where I teach at a Japanese high school where the foreign language students must learn is English. As a result, about 50% of classes have unmotivated students. In my own situation, there are also other external factors influencing student motivation. My school is a lower academic high school, which means most students will not go to college, and will most likely not use English in their future jobs. There are other outside challenges that I can’t control like family issues that influence the academic behavior of the students too. Although there are these challenges presented, what I can control the classroom environment. From this experience, I have found three motivational techniques that help motivate students to learn English. The first technique is to create a reward outside of receiving a good or passing grade. About half of my students do not really care if they get a good or even passing grade, because they have become so used to failing exams and receiving bad grades. To challenge this, I have made Point Cards for my classroom. The students receive points in their point cards if they win a game, answer questions correctly, or complete journal writing. The point is usually a sticker or stamp that is placed in their card. After six points, the student can play against me in a game of rock, paper, and scissors to win candy. The students love candy and enjoy receiving the stickers. The Point Cards are a good visual to remind students of their participation and success, and to keep going to get more treats. Their Point Cards are always kept with me to prevent students from filling them up with stickers from outside and for them to not lose them too. So far, it has been successful, and something that I encourage teachers to create in their own classroom. There can also be adjustments made like the reward doesn’t have to be candy but a homework free pass, or extra points on a test, or choosing a preferred activity to do in class. This can be adjusted for older students like adults, by instead of having stickers, it can be a checkmark with marker. The cards are flexible enough, so that they can be designed and altered to suit the class’s needs. Another technique, is to establish a consistent and comfortable classroom atmosphere form the beginning. For most people, and especially children and teenagers, consistency is important. The way teachers can do this and what I have done in my classroom, is to write the objective of the lesson or what is going to be taught in class, and a class schedule of activities on the whiteboard. This way the students have a visual of what is going to happen in class and what they are going to learn. Teachers can create a comfortable classroom atmosphere by establishing rapport with the students early on. It is important to use ice breakers and warm up activities to make the students friendly with each other and the teacher. Doing individual, or general group corrections rather than singling a student out, especially in front of other students, will make students feel more comfortable and encourage taking risks like answering questions and speaking in front of others. Also, praising students is another great way to encourage students. My students often don’t hear a lot of praise, and crave attention, so when I give praise, they really enjoy it and try to engage more in the activities. Lastly, teachers can use their student’s interests to help teach English. Although, my students are unique individuals, they are all around the same age, 15-16 years old, and live in Japan and so they have some similar interests or experiences. In the beginning of the class, I had the students fill out a survey of their interests, like hobbies, favorite characters, TV shows, celebrities ect. Using this knowledge, I created extension activities around some of the things they have expressed their interest in. For example, sometimes I use celebrities they know in my PowerPoints as examples for grammar points. I have also created some English games based off of videogames like Mario Kart. I have made a Guess Who game using famous characters from Japanese anime. These kind of activities make the students want to participate. I also focus a lot of activities around school life, or hanging out with friends, since for teenagers those are the two main focuses in their life. This technique can also be adjusted to the needs of the class. For example, if you are teaching business English, there can be focus on the industry that you are teaching. Most importantly though is to be creative with your lessons and try to think of ways to make them more appealing and interesting to your students. From my own classroom experience, these three techniques really helped motivate my students who normally wouldn’t participate in the classroom. However, every classroom is different and unique, so teachers need to learn what works for their classroom, and customize it around their students. With this consideration, and using the techniques I have described, ESL teachers can motivate students easily.