Teaching the same types of classes every day is not only draining for the teacher, but also for the students. It is a great idea to build a routine in your classes, as this helps to build rapport, however, before too long, students can start to crave something else. Teachers need to learn to recognize when classes are starting to dip in enthusiasm and find new ways to engage their students. Of course, this needs to be balanced with real language acquisition, to keep the school happy but also to maintain the connection with the language. In this article, we will talk about a few alternative classes teachers can present their students that are interesting and engaging, but also provide a break from the everyday monotony.
One obvious way to break-up the routine of class is to change environment, and this is easily done by taking your students outside. You can have your normal classes outside, but it is more fun to take the students out for a special activity or on a field trip. Taking your regular class outside is a simple way to change the atmosphere. Of course, you need to take the weather into account, and if your students are children, make sure you are following your school’s processes for fieldtrips (usually including permission slips). Also prepare the resources you need beforehand, as you don’t want students juggling books and stationery while walking around. You can prepare things like information sheets that you have students fill out or provide them tasks that involve them speaking English. Remember to keep your eyes on the class. Field trips are a great idea every now and then. By calling ahead and planning the trip with the venue, you may be able to get a tour for your students (and you are allowing the place to prepare, which is only courteous). In an EFL environment, it may be more difficult to incorporate English language into the places you visit, so once again, preparation is the key.
If you ask your students which areas of the English they would like to improve, they typically mention speaking, listening, and pronunciation. It is easy to mould a lesson around these skills (and sub-skill, respectively) that engages students and keeps everyone happy. To create a lesson which focuses on speaking alone, a teacher can provide topic cards and pass them around groups for discussion. The teacher then monitors each group for correct language use. If you have access to the internet in the classroom, you can also run full class discussions with unlimited resources at your fingertips. Listening classes revolve around the listening material. Allow students to analyse sources they find interesting, such as pop songs and movie clips. Dictation activities can seem boring from an outside perspective, but if the material is strong enough, students enjoy the challenge. Pronunciation lessons need to be completely introduced and set up, so students know what they will be focusing on. Good pronunciation is a skill that takes time to build, so students shouldn’t expect huge results in one dedicated lesson.
Another way to give students a positive way to practice English, without the typical class atmosphere is to have a ‘presentation day’. It is important to give students plenty of time to prepare for this day by setting them tasks that are appropriate to what they have been learning in class. This type of lesson can take the form of a “show and tell” style class, where students bring in objects from home and present them to the class. This can be fun, but other students can start to lose interest if they are not participating. If you can turn it into a discussion on the object, that is much better. You can also prepare group presentations which are not as stressful for the students presenting and are more interesting for the audience. If you work together with your co-workers, you can do class presentations for the whole school; an activity everyone enjoys.
You can always throw in an extra lesson which just deals with something interesting in an interesting way. Many teachers prepare a “getting to know you” lesson for their first class. This can be pulled out every now and then when your class has new students or when you are covering another teacher’s class. But it can’t be your only ‘go-to’ lesson. Teachers will develop their own lessons around different interesting concepts. You can create a lesson which explores ‘flavour’ (by allowing students to taste different foods in class), ‘animals’ (focusing on verbs and subject verb agreement), ‘gender roles’ (which can get heated, so needs to be monitored) ad even ‘rhymes’ (if their language understanding is good enough).
There are limitless ways to change up your English lesson and keep things fresh. We would love to hear your suggestions for any more ‘alternative lessons’ you have found that work.