Upon entering an English school, students are greeted with a slew of standard English greetings. From the simple “Hello” and “How are you?” to the more colloquial “What’s new?” or “How ya going mate?”, students are immediately immersed in English. English classrooms are the place for English immersion: the walls have English posters, the book shelves are lined with English novels, comics, movie, and the coffee tables are covered in English magazines and newspapers. Not to mention the fully fluent English teacher, greeting them.
This is how I have run my classroom since 2007, however recently I read an article about the importance of an easy beginning to English lessons. I found this article in an English newspaper (published in Japan) and it gave me some great ideas. The main point I liked in this article was about not overwhelming the student with English as soon as they enter the school. The author of this article said she like to greet her students with simple English, bring them in to the classroom, offer them a drink and then let them copy the lesson from the whiteboard, hand in homework and so on. Simple, relaxing tasks which don’t immediately overwhelm the student with heavy or fast conversational English. They have just stepped through the doorway, out of their Japanese life and into your English school. They need a few minutes to adapt, before serious learning and conversation can commence.
So the message I took from this was simply to start easy, don’t push your students too hard right from the start. Warm up, stretch, relax, and then begin. A simple greeting, some simple questions, maybe an easy writing task or a quick reading or review exercise. Start slow, build up, and coach towards a goal of confident English speaking.
Try it next lesson and see if your students appreciate an easy warm-up before a challenging English lesson.
Edward, Smith’s school of English Otsu