Teaching the students
During your time in Nepal, you will gain a lot of teaching experience, learn to work creatively with few teaching materials and see your students‘ English improve. The English teacher accompanies the lessons you teach in class. Ideally, you plan and reflect each lesson together so exchange about different teaching ideas and methods can take place.
Inspiration to learn
Being taught from a foreigner often means that the students experience English as a tool of communication for the first time. Trying to get in touch with someone from outside is an excellent motivation to learn the language. A volunteer can give insight into another country and culture in a truthful way. Curiosity to learn about someone with a different background is one of the most natural motivators to learn a language.
Inspiring the next generation to teach
Teaching interesting and fun classes can contribute to the students’ attitude towards learning a new language and might even inspire them to become teachers themselves one day. Students will remember the way they have been taught. They can use this knowledge to plan their own lessons, which will benefit generations to come. In Nepal, not every teacher visits a university. Therefore, their experiences as students might be the primary resource for teaching methods.
Teaching students you do not have a common language with is a challenge. Here are some general tips to make your volunteering time an enjoyable and beneficial experience.
Meeting the students‘ needs
The types of exercises and methods you are using should match the students’ English level. Therefore, observe some English lessons to gauge the level of proficiency before teaching yourself. However, be aware that you will rarely teach a homogeneous learners‘ group. While some students could be challenged, others might be bored. To counteract this imbalance, you might want to design different materials which meet the various proficiency levels. Dividing the class into multiple groups by their proficiency levels can be helpful as well. This approach is very beneficial as it involves volunteer and local teacher(s) at the same time and caters to the needs of all students.
Use/Introduce classroom phrases:
Classroom phrases are short sentences which help you to give instructions to your learners as well as helping them to ask or inform you about something. They may be crucial for your communication with the class as you lack a common language. Introduce the essential phrases in the first lessons and add more as you go. There are many examples of how you can implement classroom phrases in your English lessons (entering the classroom, going to the toilet, starting exercises, beginning and ending the lesson, etc.) We have compiled a list of classroom phrases for you in the Materials Section. Putting up a poster with a picture for each sentence helps the students to remember them. They can also glance at it if they are unsure.
Make them talk:
Motivate language use by providing chunks of speech to practice with a partner. Try to incorporate songs, rhymes and role-plays. Those do not have to be an entire theater play but rather situations like Going to the market, Talking about hobbies, etc. Provide dialogues, make sure the meaning is understood, the pronunciation is clear and then let them practice. In the same vein, do not overcorrect. Perfect grammar and pronunciation are not the goal but rather fluent, comprehensible speech.
Check for understanding:
Reading and repeating in a chorus is a common practice in Nepal. This approach may increase the students’ speaking time but does not make them understand the words they are saying. Make sure you do not limit yourself to this method. Instead, focus on comprehension in your English lessons. Students understand their own, their classmates‘ and the teachers‘ words. There are many many ways to help your student understand new words and to check if they remember them. Here are three methods we find very useful in English classes.
- 1. Visualizing (see below)
- 2. Classroom phrases (see above)
- 3. Total physical response (TPR):
Total physical response is a simple and effective method to check for the students‘ understanding. It is especially useful for the beginners level. The teachers‘ instruction is followed by a physical response from the students.
Advanced Classroom Phrases
Teacher:"Please close the window."
Student: Gets up and closes the window.
Only if he/ she knows what a window is and what „close“ means he/she will be able to follow the instruction.
Learning body parts and movements
Teacher: "Clap your hands if I point on my nose."
Students: Some clap their hands, others do not.
This way you will get immediate feedback if the topic your working on was understood or needs to be repeated.
Implementing TPR in your teachings helps to create a more active, joyful lesson and speaks to kinesthetic learners.
Visualizing can be done by simply drawing the protagonist of the song on the blackboard, some handicraft work, using movements and body language or bringing objects to class. Before ritualizing a song or rhyme, make sure you are able to transport the meaning of it. Visualizing is an important and powerful tool. Visualizing more complex matters and things might be difficult. Therefore, make up your mind on how to transport meaning before teaching.
Teaching with a local teacher and/or a fellow volunteer can be quite beneficial, especially when materials and
equipment are rare.
Acting out dialogues
Perform dialogues with your tandem partner and use them as listening comprehension exercises. Seeing gestures and facial expression helps the students to understand the context. The teachers‘ dialogue can serve as a role model and be practiced and presented by the students as a next step.
Having a teaching partner opens the possibility to read stories and visualize them simultaneously. In this method, one teacher reads the story to the students while the other teacher draws the story‘s protagonist and surroundings on the board. Drawing a picture while reading helps to minimize confusion. The students always know the subject/object that is being drawn is the one talked about at this very moment. Doing it live, instead of drawing to a recording, makes it possible to synchronize reading and drawing speed.
Give the students time (silent period):
Even if communication is the primary goal of your English teaching, do not expect your students to speak a lot from
the first day on. For many of them, it is new to talk English freely. At the beginning of language learning,
language is received but not produced, similar to a child learning its mother tongue. This time is better known as
the silent period. Therefore, allow students enough time for listening before producing language themselves. The
length of this silent period varies. Motivate your students to speak but do not force them. English lessons should
be joyful and not stressful.
Do not be frustrated if your students are quiet in the beginning. Learning takes place even if they do not articulate their progress. If you allow the students this silent period, you might be surprised when they come up to you all of a sudden asking you questions in English.
Using English in real situations is key to understand the language as a medium of communication. Initiating a
project together with the students helps to encourage them to talk outside of classroom situations.
A few project ideas
- theater workshop
- initiating correspondence with a pen friend (use social media and messengers)
- organizing intercultural festivals
- environmental projects: collecting garbage, build dust bins, cycling day, upcycling the waste around the school
- sports activities: soccer, volleyball or other tournaments