5 Tips for Teaching English to Beginners

Students just starting their English course might feel overwhelmed by new material.

Show them that learning English can be fun and that they can perform well and they are going to to stay engaged in and positive about your classes. Your curriculum ought to be designed with this in mind so make sure to dedicate plenty of time to each section. If students are doing better than expected, simply use the free lesson period to revise the material or even better, have fun with a cultural lesson or holiday activity.

  1. Establish Classroom Language Early On

    Classroom language – Can you speak more slowly? What do we have to do? I don't understand. What does… mean? How do you say… in English? – is usually associated with teaching children, but it really helps with adult beginners as well. No matter how friendly and relaxed you make your classroom atmosphere, learning a new language can still be daunting, especially when you feel you're not completely following what's going on, or that you might be called on to say something that you don't feel ready to say. It's much better to equip students early on with classroom language that will help them navigate the lesson smoothly.

  2. Lesson Material
    Especially with beginners it is crucial to go slowly. There is a steep learning curve at the very beginning of their studies, in particular if you are the first to introduce them to the English alphabet. Try to introduce manageable chunks of information and do not add in more information until your students are comfortable with what they have already covered. This may mean that they are not able to understand the purpose of learning certain things initially, but maybe after a few lessons on a topic, you can help put it all together and then they will be amazed at how much they have learned. For instance, in one lesson you may teach your students the words I, you, he/she/it and what they mean but they cannot make sentences with this vocabulary until you provide them with some verbs to work with which may not be appropriate until a later lesson.

  3. Teacher Talking ( TT)
    In the classroom you will also have to slow down your talking speed. Students are never going to understand you if you are talking a mile a minute. If you assist a teacher who is not a native speaker and would like you to speak at a normal speed, you can speed up slightly but a normal speed would not be appropriate for beginners. When you do drill exercises, be sure to speak clearly and be loud enough for the entire class to hear you. It is often difficult for people to understand you, if your mouth is hidden from view, which is strange, because your students are supposed to be listening but even so, try to direct your attention towards your students, as opposed to the blackboard for instance, when you are talking to them and hold flashcards at an appropriate level.


    What's the easiest way to explain the meaning of a word? Show it! Classrooms may be fully equipped, but they can't hold everything. If there's an item or object that you want to show your students to help them remember the word for it, try showing them a picture. Flashcards are an invaluable resource for teaching or revising vocabulary. They can be easily downloaded or created online.

    At the beginner level, some students' faces go blank when they are asked to answer a question. Teachers can avoid prolonged silence and prevent their students from feeling embarrassed by providing them with a picture. They can break the ice by asking the students to describe what they can see in the picture.

Bear in mind that, unlike with higher levels, you can't rely on conversations developing simply because the students don't yet have the linguistic resources to engage in anything other than simple exchanges (though in time they will). This means that the onus will largely be on you to keep them talking.

4. Practise

Choose practice activities that are simple, easy to understand, and easy to explain. Using lots of words that students don't recognize to explain how to do a practice activity is only going to further confuse them. In many cases a demonstration may be your best option. As your students improve, you can introduce more complex activities but if an activity ever takes longer to explain that to complete, it is not worth doing again. Practice activities should revolve around students having the opportunity to speak English so even worksheets should be used for that purpose. After a worksheet has been completed, ask for volunteers to read the questions, translate the questions, and give the answers. Try to involve as many students as possible and give them continuous positive feedback.

Beginners need lots of repetition and drilling, especially as they get to grips with the sounds of their new language. It might seem boring to go over the same sentences again and again, but it is necessary. When practising a new sentence, try back-drilling, breaking the sentence down into manageable units and then building it back up, working backwards from the end of the sentence to the beginning; this helps to ensure that your intonation is natural and that you get elements of connected speech right. For example, break down “Would you like a cup of tea?” as follows:

tea > cup of tea > like a > like a cup of tea > Would you > Would you like a cup of tea?

5. Have Fun

Language studies give students the opportunity to learn in a different way as we learn languages to interact and communicate with other users of a given language, so that is why English should not be taught through lectures for instance, like Maths or History can be taught. Getting students to communicate with you and each other in a positive creative environment should be the goal of every language teacher. You can incorporate many different language games into your lessons and with lots of miming and role plays students will probably laugh at you, in a good way, on more than one occasion. Use songs and authentic videos appropriate to the level of your students' language competency. Taking the focus away from grammar rules and focusing on communication will encourage them to try their best, which is all you can really ask of them.

Enjoy this level. Students just beginning their English studies have absolutely no idea what to expect so it is beneficial to you and all their later English teachers to help them enjoy it by encouraging them and showing them that learning another language is not an overwhelming task. Although in many ways the hardest level to teach, it can also be one of the most satisfying. Seeing your learners go from knowing nothing to knowing a few words to knowing a few sentences and structures to being able to hold basic conversations can be incredibly rewarding, and if they enjoy their initial exposure to the language, and feel confident and inspired to continue, then you will have helped pave the way to their further success.

Tags elt,teaching english,a0-a1level,tips on teaching english to beginners

Joanna Kawrow 05-07-2017

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