My interpretation of Smith’s School of English Instructor Training 101: becoming a teacher takes years, but to coach students to confidence takes care, support and a good environment. After years of coaching English both at Smith’s School of English in Ohtsu, Shiga and at a big chain school in Kusatsu I have learned that the key to confidence is DIY: Do It Yourself. Trying to teach someone something completely new is extremely difficult. But coaching that same person to confidently use what they already know is far easier and more efficient, and the key to that is eliciting language.
Take a simple expression like “How about you?” Ask your student a simple question, and then [with gestures] encourage them to ask you. Most will either repeat the question or say “and you?” Now, ask them again and this time tell them to ask you in a different way. Repeat until they say “How about you?” If not, write “___ _____ you?” and have them fill in the blanks.
How about “After you”? Offer a bowl of candies to your students, and when they reach in, you reach in so that your hands bump. Do this until the student understands that you are trying to elicit something. They will say something using the word “you”. Write “_____ you” on the board and encourage them to figure it out. Once they have figured it out, the next time they start to say something, interrupt by starting your own sentence. Again, do this until they realize what you are doing. et voila! Another easy way is simply trying to elicit today’s date!
Once students learn that they can Do It Themselves, their confidence increases tenfold. Teaching new things is difficult, but eliciting language is fun and it allows students to feel good about themselves. Most people claim to be poor at remembering new things, but it’s not about memory at all. Learning how to figure out what to say allows you to never have to remember, but rather develop your skills at problem solving in the form of stringing words together to make sentences, expressions, idioms and questions.
Giving someone the answer doesn’t help them to learn. As a university student studying math, the most frustrating times were when a professor assigned a problem and wouldn’t give us the answer. But we never would have learned to do it ourselves with confidence had they simply given us the answer. Giving away too much is refered to as “spoon-feeding” and develops dependence on the instructor, rather than the confidence we seek to inspire. Eliciting. A key teaching technique: it works. For more on information, I recommend reading Teaching Tip 12 on TEFL.net
Edward, SSE Ohtsu
Nice post and I could not agree with you more on that last paragraph. That philosophy of not simply giving everything away but rather facilitating an environment whereby the person has to struggle a bit in order to achieve their goal is key to many aspects of life, not only teaching.
Al Bartle says
Everything you say is true. DIY is so important for anyone who really wants to succeed. Of course in our business, it helps to know that we are not alone and that we are part of a dedicated team of individuals. There is great synergy in belonging to Smith’s School of English Franchise. Keep up the good work!
Al, SSE Okamoto