736. She's planning effcient classes

This is a post by a teacher of English and a reply by me. Published on the web site of British Council – BBC. Very interesting to read the articles http://www.teachingenglish.co.uk/


absolute beginners

Submitted by Marja Hewitt on 29 October, 2011 - 16:36


Would anybody be kind enough to point me in the right direction. I do not have teaching experience but have been asked to help a friend to learn English. I thought I would go for a walk with her and have simple conversations about our surroundings, but she doesn't understand the simplest of sentences, so we have decided to start from scratch. She is Spanish and finds certain English sounds a real challenge, but by repeating words and sounds she is improving all the time. I am looking for a teacher's plan and worksheets for an absolute beginner. Any suggestions are most welcome. Thank you in advance,

Marja Hewitt

Fernando Díez G...

Absolute beginners. Answer to Marja Hewitt

Submitted on 30 October, 2011 - 19:29

Hi Marja,

All right, let’s see if I can give you some helpful hints.

First, you’re doing great to teach English to a Spanish girl or lady. We here in Spain, as you may know, do need to really learn your (our, I’d dare to say) lovely language.

I’ve attentively read your post. Let’s see.

I don’t know your case, but here in Spain there’re lots of false beginners. We call so to those learners who know some, perhaps little, English and wish every year, every whatever time, to actually learn English. They say, Enough is enough, but they have no time, or something is more important now. The situation in Spain is changing nonetheless. As I’ve said, we must learn English, beginning from the case of applying for a job!

Your case, as you write is: she has no idea, you both walk and talk about the surroundings, she catches words, your commitment and hers as well about teaching/learning English are big! Good beginning all the same! I’d tell you:

1. It’s sensible she’d listen to you speaking in English, so she would sense the texture of English. You can repeat, say things, don’t worry she doesn’t understand...; she may seem she doesn’t understand, but this is part of Krashen’s Silent Period. Repeat single words to her; have her repeat, you both may have a small laugh at certain situations. Don’t worry you catch yourself saying like childish words and short messages. Little by little.

2. Use miming, slightly if you prefer so. Language is communication, and we accomplish this latter by language itself, and by body language.

3.Stop to talk and make her focus on something interesting in the street. You might, in a low voice, comment on some point: slowly, repeating, building upon words she already knows. She understands, I suppose, some words either because she already knows them or because those words have a cognate in Spanish, say for instance, traffic, lamp, garden, park, taxi; sorry, but right now I can only remember those so simple words. Stopping to talk makes her focus on the messages in a special way.

4SShe doesn’t understand a simple sentence. How about teaching a substantive and teaching a verb? Then, sort of you could say and have her say a simple sentence of two words.

5. I’d like to finish. Oh, the walkings should be really interesting to her. She wants to learn how you native speakers say things she every day sees. A possible syllabus or the kind? First have a look at this very web site, section of Learning English. Anyway: objects and people in the street, everyday objects in a house, objects in the living-room, daily routines, very usual verbs, determiners, numbers, colours, things of her favourite field or hobby – I think she’ll go fast in this topic!

I hope all this might be of any relevance for your classes. Smile and praise her hittings the target and her progress. Have fun.

At your disposal

Fernando Díez Gallego

Teacher of English and teacher trainer

Granada, Spain


/ Photo from: cbc ca. woman laptop. Obviously the girl of the picture is not Marja Hewitt


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