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5 Essentials for Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL, Tips

Teaching English as a Foreign Language is a career that encourages conversation and repetition.

It can also centre around experiences that introduce new vocabulary or allow learners to revisit previously learnt words.

Sometimes it is hard to think of ways to bring in new vocabulary, so we’ve done the hard work for you.

Read on to find out what essentials you can use to help Teach English as a Foreign Language in your TEFL classroom.

Music and rhyme

Nobody is immune from forgetting things, from your lunch to where you left your earphones- we all forget things from time to time.

But memory isn’t an issue when it comes to music and rhyme.

Songs you haven’t heard in years come on the radio and you can recite them word-for-word.

The reasons for this are twofold, according to Dr Glen Finney, and relate to motor memory and the cadence of the songs.

Singing is an activity and as such allows you to access motor or procedural memory, the same thing that allows you to ride a bike without sitting on one for years. This is more like long-term memory, allowing you to recall information stored years prior, such as the lyrics to songs.

Repetition and rhyme also help us remember, due to the cadence or rhythm of songs.

Using song and rhyme is therefore an excellent way to help learners gain and retain new words. Plus, it’s a lot of fun and can lift the mood.

A true win-win for everyone.

Word mats

Word mats are an excellent physical tool that non-English speakers can keep with them to see and use new words.

On a standard word mat, the keywords will usually be placed in a grid with an image or picture adjacent to it, to demonstrate the meaning of each word.

Each word mat tends to be themed, for example, you might have a bank of nouns that can be found in the supermarket or festive words for the run-up to Christmas.

These physical tools help learners understand the word when it is new to them and can help build more association when they know the word more fluently.

It also gives them the correct spelling, which they can use when writing English, and can be used independently, which raises self-confidence.

Word mats are available to download and print on teaching websites across the internet, usually for free, or you can easily make your own, which is especially helpful if you are studying a more niche topic.

Labels and stickers

Labelling and name stickers are good for learners who need help learning the names of features or objects they see frequently.

They can be used throughout the classroom, their home, and even communal areas such as dining rooms and libraries.

Revisiting or revising labels regularly will give students a chance to move the names of objects or places from their short-term to long-term memory, which can help with retention.

They can be bilingual if learners are old enough to read independently so they can read the label in their mother tongue and see the English equivalent next to it.

You can download and print ready-made labels from many teaching sites, but you may find that creating homemade labels with your learners is a great way to introduce new words and create discussion around them.

Food and drink

Food and drink are excellent ways to create memorable experiences and bring in new words.

While care will need to be taken with allergies and intolerances, tasting new things, especially if not common in their own culture, can bring about excellent opportunities to introduce new vocabulary.

Basic introductions to new foods and drink will offer a chance to learn new nouns and discussing textures and preferences will present new adjectives, which can then be built into sentences.

You could create custom word mats for children to use to scaffold this activity, use labels to sort foods once tasted or use mind maps and whiteboards- the options with this activity are endless.

Games and imaginary play

Imaginative play and games allow for new vocabulary to be brought in, and older vocabulary to be refreshed.

It also provides situations that you might find hard to mimic in the classroom, for example, building sites or police stations.

Using toys for games and imaginative play is a simple, easy way to prompt new settings for play, allowing children to extend and recap their vocabulary without the need for elaborate displays and setups- saving you bags of time!

Start your TEFL journey today!

Like the sound of these activities?

Does teaching English as a foreign language sound more exciting than your current job?

Here at TEFL, we can help you on your journey, from getting qualified to starting your very first job.

Our TEFL courses are perfectly designed to give you the experience and qualifications you need to walk into your classroom with confidence.

After completing your TEFL course, you can use our TEFL jobs resource to find a teaching job in countries across the globe and find your perfect fit.

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