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4 Steps to Giving Fantastic Instructions in the ESL Classroom

The countdown to the arrival of our 2022 cohort of new Chatteris Tutors has begun! As we gear up for our three week training period, Chatteris’ own Emily Brazier reflects on a vital classroom management tool.

“Ok class, right, listen up. Isaac, are you listening? Isaac? Thank you, that’s better. Ok, so, we’re gonna be discussing cities in this lesson, so you can tell us all about which cities you’ve been to and which you wanna visit. So, I want you to tell your partner about a city you’ve been to, you know, one you liked and have a lot to say about. Tell them all about the best bits, what you recommend and so on. Understand? Oh, and don’t forget to talk about any negative things about the city too, ok? Right, off you go! No, in pairs, in pairs… that’s it. Tommy, with Yanny please.” 

And the class breaks into neat pairs, quietly discussing the advantages and disadvantages of their favourite cities for the next 10 minutes… or not. Any teacher will be able to imagine what would follow – stunned silence or chaotic rabble. Anything but engaged learning. 

The manner in which a teacher communicates with their students is reflected right back at them by their learners. At Chatteris, whether we’re leading a phonics lesson or a teacher training workshop, we know that good instruction giving is central to the success of any lesson. That’s why we’ve pooled our experience and perfected our 4 step process for giving fantastic instructions.

Step 1: Get students’ attention

Don’t shout into the void. Save your energy and your words until all eyes are on you. 

We like to establish ‘attention grabbers’ at the start of the school year. This might be a chant that the class repeats back to you, such as “Eyes on Miss Emily”. Incorporating movement provides you with a visual cue of who is focussed – try swapping the chant for a clapping pattern or pairing it with an action. These call and response methods demand an active response from students, shifting their focus from their friends to their teacher.

Step 2: Give clear and concise instructions

So you’ve got their attention, now to maintain it. 

A class helper wandering round the room giving out worksheets is a sure-fire distraction, so deliver your instructions before handing out any materials. Stand where you can be seen and heard, project but don’t shout, and speak slowly, in level-appropriate language. For lower proficiency classes, visual aids can be a lifeline – reinforce your words with gestures or display your instructions on the board, illustrated with graphics.

Step 3: Demonstrate

First we tell them, then we show them. 

Display a ‘supersize’ worksheet on the board, do an example role play with a student, or start the activity together as a class. Demonstrations reinforce your instructions and can be especially useful for visual and kinesthetic learners.

Step 4: Check comprehension

“Understand?” “Yeah.”

Ask your students if they get it and their answer will inevitably be yes, even if they’ve spent the last 10 minutes doodling. Assess your students’ understanding of your instructions by asking specific questions such as “How long do we have to answer this question?”, or elicit a demonstration – “Point to your partner”.

And there it is, our 4 step process for giving instructions. 

Now, who can give me an example of an attention grabber?

Are you looking to begin your career in teaching English as a foreign language? To receive extensive training and classroom experience, join us as a Chatteris Tutor. 

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