TEFL California

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This is how our TEFL graduates feel they have gained from their course, and how they plan to put into action what they learned:

S.H. – U.S.A. said:
In many aspects, I have gained a great deal of knowledge in the field of Teaching english as a Foreign Language. Some of the main areas, in which I have made the most strides, are in understanding the complexity and subtly of the grammatical structures, catering to the students’ needs, and effective lesson planning. Even though as a language learner myself, I am surprised at how many grammar structures I have never noticed that I use or understood how I use them, especially in the area of the verb tenses. Despite english being my native language, it is still difficult sometimes to explain or even feel the subtle differences that various structures suggest. Even though the differences are sometimes subtle, they can make a big impact on how a sentence is interpreted. The modal verbs are a good example of this. There are so many implications behind each modal verb. With the sentences, “You should do your homework” and “You have to do your homework,” the listener knows that in the latter sentence, he/she has no choice even though both sentences discuss something about “doing homework.” The uses of tenses really opened my eyes as well. Before the course, “I have lived in Germany for 5 years” and “I have been living in Germany for 5 years” sounded exactly the same. The emphasis in the latter, however, is on the time frame or duration, in comparison to the first example, in which the emphasis is on the action. As speakers, we are able to use these tenses to our advantage and be able to express ourselves as accurately as possible. In the classroom, I will make sure to point out these subtleties and make them recognizable to the students. It is important that not only do the students know about the grammatical structures, but also can use them in the correct context. Many activities are helpful in showing the meaning of a grammatical structure. For example, when storytelling, the three past tenses past perfect, simple past, and past continuous are used side by side. When students tell a story in the past tense, they can see how these forms contrast from one another and be able to use them in their own speech accurately when speaking freely in the world outside the classroom. I have not only gained a more in depth understanding in the area of grammar, but also in classroom management and organization as well. One of the most essential points learned was how important the students’ needs are and how a teacher can cator to their needs. A teacher can hand out a needs analysis, for example, to pinpoint the students’ needs for learning english, especially in discovering when and how the students use english in their daily lives. This tells the teacher, which vocabulary or language structures that the students need the most. Tests, surprisingly also help a teacher find out the needs of the students because the results allow the teacher to see if the materials have been absorbed up to a specific point and if review is necessary. Also, tests can place students in classes, whose level is most fitting so that the students get the most out of the course. Another important way to construct lessons around the students’ needs is by finding out what the students’ interests are. If the class revolves around what the students like to talk and hear about, it makes several aspects of the class better. The students will naturally become engaged in the learning process. Also, because the topic will be familiar, it can encourage students to speak more in class because they will feel more confident in their opinion, which equals more practice time and gives the students more opportunity to experiment with the language. Lastly, the structure of the ESA lesson plan was a new concept for me. From my past language learning experiences, I never had the opportunity to have a teacher that used this method. The Engage stage is the phase that is most often forgotten or is placed at the end of the class rather than at the beginning. It is an effective stage to have at the beginning of the lesson because it gets the students involved right away and creates energy in the classroom before jumping into the Study stage, which is the more common stage in classrooms. In the ESA lesson plan, the students get practice in both fluency and accuracy as well. In my past learning experiences, the emphasis was on accuracy. I remember traveling abroad for the first time after learning the target language for four years and not being able to put together a sentence, but I was able to write the language fairly grammatically correct. Because this can happen when the students’ learning experience is only focused on accuracy, it is important to devote time to fluency as well, which is practiced in the Activate stage of the lesson. When the students practice fluency as well, they can see the importance of using correct grammar as well as seeing how all the vocabulary and language structures fit together as a whole. It also helps the students retrieve the vocabulary faster because the only focus is not on the grammar but rather on meaning. Everyday at the start of class, I will make sure to get the students involved right away and make sure I close the lesson with an activity that allows the students to use the language more freely, so that there is a balance of skills being practiced.