Have you noticed how much more effort we now need to put into giving instructions? It can be because of low bandwidth, or because of the whole unfamiliarity of the medium, or simply because everyone is a bit tired and frazzled – but it seems that there’s never going to be a better time for this link: “Teaching Online: Giving Instructions in an Online Class” at Eltcampus. It’s a description of one of their workshop, done in a lively and practical way, with a lot of best practice examples. So, what do we do? Use the chat, use reformulation, have the students photograph instructions, use L1 (they have an interesting rationale for that). For more ideas, check out the original post.
By the way, it’s always good to remind ourselves of the basic rules of giving instructions in any medium.
Matt Miller from Ditch That Textbook wrote an interesting post about helping learners with poor Internet access. While a lot of the tips are geared at asynchronous learning, some of his advice can be very useful in our Zoom era! For example, I never thought to decrease my camera resolution; also, Matt makes it particularly clear that instructions should be boarded, not just said out loud.
Do you have any other tips?
Here’s a nice account by a practising teacher of how classroom management helps to make the lessons more effective and creative. You can develop hand gestures, special stares and have routines, but above all – be consistent.
P.S. An example of a cool end-of-lesson routine I once posted: Mystery trash.
Don’t you just love ‘quick fixes’? Take that cool teaching idea into the classroom as soon as you hear it – or read about it on the OUP blog. Here’s a great collection of techniques for random grouping, which is your favourite? I really like ‘what’s your favourite food’ because it feels so cosy, and ‘words from the unit’ for maximised usefulness – and you?
Here is a great infographic from ELT-Connect about 10 tips for giving classroom instructions: a useful refresher that can find itself on the wall of a teacher’s room or in a newly-qualified teacher’s folder. It has keywords, clear explanations, examples of activities and even justification of why each tip works.
My favourite tip is No.9, “Never Assume” – good for lots of other situations, too! And which one speaks to you the most?
There is a new story on the Azargrammar Teacher talk blog: Tamara Jones describes her first experience of teaching complete beginners. She mentions her preparation for the new level only in passing, but in fact it is impressive: attending a professional development session, researching teaching advice online, talking to her mentor. Even well-prepared though, she faced unexpected difficulties and had to find solutions which she shares in her post. For example, insufficient use of modelling instructions tended to lead to absolute chaos, so she had to demo activities several times to make sure all students can perform the activity later. Obviously, this made each activity longer and she found herself overplanning.
There are a lot of other useful observations in the post about teacher talk, revisiting old activities, the enjoyment of learning something new. Definitely worth a read!
Here is a rather funny take on the life of a full-time teacher with all its frustrations: it’s a set of three ‘recipes’ describing typical situations related to food. For example, the teacher was so busy and/or worried and/or hungry that they didn’t have the time for salad which had been waiting for them in the fridge for a week! Sounds familiar? Certainly does to me.
Seriously though, the recipe posters could be put on the staffroom wall or even discussed with students and adapted to their particular jobs. Some people say understanding humour is the biggest sign of language learning!
An all-time favourite of mine, the EFL blog Tekhnologic has a two-part series of posts about using visual symbols in teaching:
Hieroglyphics for Teachers: Graphic Communication in the Classroom
Hieroglyphs for Teachers: Part 2
You can read about the concept (it’s apparently suitable for all levels, though I would recommend starting with elementary or pre-intermediate learners) and download printable icons which are less dramatic than this Lascaux painting, but very handy if you want to give clear and memorable instructions, encourage students to speak and, in a pinch, remember what you were planning to do next!