Many of my ESL students here in Japan are older adults in a small group or private lessons. Many have studied English during their junior high and high school years and were taught English with the Grammar Translation Method and the Direct Method.
They have not had much experience actually using the language, so I find that many students are very shy and are afraid of making mistakes when speaking English, which holds them back from trying to improve their conversation skills.
To help them break out of their shell, I reassure Beginners that their sentences don’t need to always be grammatically correct.
I encourage them to try to get their message across by using all the vocabulary words they know and by using body language. Their effort to TRY to communicate is the most important.
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Increasing Student Confidence with Class Presentations
Class presentations are very effective with Beginner students because they gain confidence in speaking in front of other people. I make quick notes during the presentation to add a Q&A section so they can practice conversation skills after they tell their story. If I teach a small group, then I ask the other students to prepare a question so they listen actively and practice their speaking skills.
The students bring photos of their grandchildren, fliers of museums they’ve visited or movies they have seen, newspaper clippings of articles that interest them, or sometimes “omiyage” or small gifts or souvenirs from places they have visited. The students enjoy this time each week so much that we often go beyond the one-hour lesson!
Using Authentic Material
Choosing a textbook is difficult with English Conversation lessons for one-to-one students or small groups. A textbook is a good guide to teach or review grammar topics that students need at their respective levels, but it often makes the class dull.
Supplementing the textbook with video clips, music, or articles about current topics increases student interaction and confidence! The class presentation activities mentioned earlier are also a great way to get to know my students and find authentic material that they enjoy.
Maria Enderle enrolled in OnTESOL’s 120-hour TESOL / TEFL certificate course with Business English specialization.