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Stuff All EFL Teachers Should Know

English only in English class by Leon Butchers


Most teachers would agree that ideally only English should be spoken in English class. However, in practice this is often more easily said than done. It’s easy to see why students struggle  – young minds whir away 24/7 in their native language, so suddenly changing into English mode is somewhat akin to a right hander being told to only use their left hand for an hour a week! For me, mastering this aspect of classroom management is still a work in progress, and one that I have to re-deal with periodically. First year students are the most challenging, but there are plenty of “hard nuts” with ingrained bad habits that will unconsciously chatter away in their native tongue seemingly no matter what you try! Looking back, I became much more effective at managing classroom chatter over the years and these days it is rarely a problem. I would like to share a few insights gleaned through my own experiences, trial and error, study and conversations with other teachers.hands-raised-photo

Be consistent, realistic and patient:

Make your expectations clear from the start, but be patient – it can take several months of consistent effort before students really get it. I prefer to gently lead students in this direction by making them feel good about the challenge . i.e. I’m always sure to praise students in front of others when they make a good effort to use English. I point out (non English) chatter, without going overboard to the point where it affects flow. In other words – don’t spend a whole lot of time and energy trying to achieve this goal overnight, but gently push kids in the right direction.

Students can also be trained to catch each other out. If you use the phrases “English only please!”, or “Don’t speak Japanese, please!”, your students will start using them too with a little encouragement. It can also help to periodically get an assistant to address your students and their parents in their native language about what you are doing and why it is important.

How to break a hard-core chatterer:

A while back, I had a ten year old student that was a hard core chatterer. Seemingly no matter what I tried he would freely babble away in Japanese moments later. He had been studying for a few years, and was doing okay overall. The problem was, all the other kids in the class were trained to only speak English in class, yet this one boy just didn’t get it! One day I had a flash of inspiration that fixed the problem within a fortnight: I walked into class and placed fifteen points on his desk (in my lessons with younger kids, I often reward kids with points that can be exchanged for goodies at the school shop. Sure, there are some pros and cons to this approach, but I’ll leave that for another article…) Anyway, fifteen points was more than a lesson’s worth of reward. The boy was delighted and confused. His peers were jealous.  That lesson, every time the boy spoke Japanese, much to his horror I took away a point. By lesson’s end, he’d lost all his bonus points and was a little upset. The next lesson however, when I put ten points on his desk, I was only able to catch him out a couple of times all lesson, and he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face! The following week, I only gave him five bonus points, and he kept them all! He got it, and never looked back!

An English lesson in English!

It’s really satisfying as a teacher to have your class free from foreign chatter. Students will learn faster and importantly practice engaging their brain in English, too. Parents are impressed, too! I strongly recommend making the process fun – appeal to students’ love of praise, and their competitive and fun-loving natures. This gets much better results than entering into a battle of wills. If you go about things the right way, you will reach your goal smoothly and naturally. If you feel like you are continually battling students over this issue or this aspect of classroom management is eating into too much class time, chances are you need to try a different tack.  Best of luck! I’m interested to hear of other teacher’s experiences and thoughts.


Leon ButchersLeon Butchers is the creator of the best selling AGO card game series. Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand he has taught English in Japan for over ten years.

Teaching Pronunciation that Matters (by Nina Septina)

Nina on guitar

Pronunciation is like an art to me, and I’ve always enjoyed it. It is like learning how to play guitar, where we have to figure out when to use different picking strategies or strumming patterns to produce the desired sounds. In pronunciation, we also need to use many different techniques and tongue positions in our mouth to produce the right sounds. Another similarity is that we’ve got to know when to change how hard or softly we should hit the guitar strings when playing a song. The same thing happens when we have to figure out how hard or how soft we should stress certain syllables in words, or some words in sentences when speaking. Finally, there’s the use of rhythm as the main component that shapes the flow of the song, just as it also shapes the flow of the speech in pronunciation.

Parking Lot Archaeology: An engaging angle on teaching academic English (by Ron Campbell)

Every car tells a story

“Every car tells a story; all you have to do is listen”

It’s become something of a cliché, but every teaching situation presents its own unique set of challenges. However, my challenge wasn’t all that unique – in fact, it was pretty well-worn itself. My students were falling asleep as I tried to guide them through science readings and lectures in preparation for the TOEFL.

What I’d like to offer you here is a brief review of a class project that seemed to catch my students’ interest and got them deeply involved with academic material.  This one simple exercise opened a wide door into helping students interact with abstract material and getting them to build a set of experiential and critical thinking tools that they could call on later when trying to understand and appreciate other technical topics in English.


Classroom Management with EFL Students (by Natalie Britton)

On the first day of school in Busan, South Korea, I stood at the front of my class five minutes before the bell rang waiting to greet my new middle school students. After seven minutes had passed, I was about to go and search for my class when I heard a loud rumble coming from the floor above. Suddenly, three dozen pairs of feet came running into the classroom attached to three dozen pairs of flailing arms and three dozen shouting mouths. Stupefied, I stood frozen and looked on, wide-eyed, as my classroom was ripped apart by thirty-six wild monkeys.


Relax. Repeat. Remember (by Jason R. Levine)

“Daddy, play it again!” my four-year-old daughter said.

“The same song? Again? (We’d already listened to it nine times in a row.)

Later that night, we would read the same storybook three times straight.

Young children want us to repeat songs and stories. They like to point at things, like pumpkins, and tell us, “I know what that is. It’s a pumpkin,” when they know that we know that they know what it is.


Steps to Success (by Charlotte Mooney)

I use Steps to Success to motivate and track student achievement in a variety of areas.If you can measure it, you can track it using Steps to Success! Here, I’ll use  the example of teaching vocabulary about food to intermediate students who are able to write in English. For students at the pre-writing stage see see ‘adapting Steps to Success for non-writers’ at the bottom of the page.


What Every Teacher Should Know About St. Patrick (by Patrick Jackson)

Note from Barb: Patrick first wrote this for Teaching Village in 2011, but it’s such a great post for St. Patrick’s Day that I decided it was worth sharing again :)

The real St. Patrick is shrouded in a deep mist (like many of his followers). Legend has it that he brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle while simultaneously banishing snakes.  Both these are clearly true. We still have some Christians and no snakes in Ireland. But what can language teachers learn from this Fifth Century Zero to Hero?


XXIII Rules for Student-Centered Language Teaching (by John F. Fanselow)

Note from Barb: 25 years ago, John F. Fanselow published Breaking Rulesencouraging teachers to really see what was happening in their classrooms, and then considering alternatives. John’s work had a powerful, positive influence  on my own teaching, and I’m thrilled that iTDi is working with John to offer a truly unique five-week course starting in November: Breaking Rules Live. It’s a rare opportunity to work interactively with someone who is certain to challenge your thinking, revitalize your teaching, and inspire you as an educator. (more…)

Four Skills and Five Senses (by Anna Musielak)

Blog of the month
Two weeks ago the director of my school announced that the teachers should organize a “family” lesson. Kids could bring their parents, grandparents and relatives to accompany them on the lesson to observe how their little ones learn and interact. I have to admit – I was a bit worried and well… stressed out. I’ve organized shows and performances for parents and families and I’ve had teacher-parents meetings. But I couldn’t imagine how to have a lesson with parents and relatives observing pupils (who would definitely be stressed) and watching (and probably silently judging) me of course….I decided not to overthink it and as I didn’t have a lot of time to “prep” my pupils just do what I normally do hoping it would go well. (more…)

New song worksheets from Marsha Goren

In her previous post, Teaching Songs and Chants in the Classroom, Marsha Goren shared a set of worksheets she had created to accompany the songs on the first GiggleBellies CD. This morning, Marsha sent me a message and attached a new set of worksheets to go along with the second GiggleBellies CD. (more…)