One of the biggest frustrations of teaching English is when your learners don’t do anything outside of class.
When a learner starts taking lessons, they say the right things and seem motivated. But this initial enthusiasm usually disappears after a few weeks.
I feel that as teachers, part of our job is to inspire our learners to do more, and to think about how we can help our learners to stay consistent over the long-term.
This is something that I’ve put a lot of emphasis on over recent years. In fact, I even have a course for English learners helping them specifically with this.
And in this post, I want to share four ways that will help your learners to consistently do more outside of class.
Please note: This is specific to teachers who teach one-to-one online, but the following can be adapted for traditional group lessons too.
I believe it all starts with a conversation and a plan.
Set Expectations and Come Up with a Plan
I believe one of the biggest reasons why intermediate speakers don’t become advanced speakers is because they don’t comprehend exactly what it takes to reach this level.
Taking two lessons a week and then doing nothing else will mean little progress. It takes much more than that to achieve a higher level of English.
You can approach this by doing two thing: Firstly, ask your learner what level they want to have and when they want to reach this level.
For example, you might have a learner who has a B1 level. And after talking about their goals, they say that they want to have a C1 level by this time next year.
This is definitely achievable, but they will most likely have to make some changes and do more. Therefore, the second thing to do is to come up with a daily learning schedule and general plan to ensure they reach their goal. Additionally, helping your learner get into the habit of using English on a daily basis will make a big difference.
One thing to bear in mind is that you need to make this sustainable and fun. If you ask your learner to do too much too soon, they will most likely feel overwhelmed and lose motivation.
They need to get into the habit of learning – and enjoy what they are doing – to keep this up over the long-term.
Do Things that Interest Your Learner
Making things relevant to your learner is incredibly important if they are going to do more outside of class.
A small percentage of English learners will keep up with grammar exercises and course books over the long-term; the majority need to do something that really interests them.
One way to do this is to have your learners send you things that they have enjoyed reading or watching in English.
One of my students was really interested in personal development. He read a lot of articles in his native language on this topic, so I encouraged him to learn about this in English instead.
We found a bunch of blogs and videos together, and he sent me articles that he enjoyed on a regular basis. I then created a lesson plan around what he sent, something that after doing a few times, didn’t take me too long to do.
Additionally, I encourage my learners to subscribe to YouTube channels and blogs that interest them. Getting this regular email with a link to an article/video in English gives them a reminder to do something in English. And because this is something that they enjoy, the motivation to read/watch something is stronger.
Set Long-Term Projects instead of Homework
Mark Barnes gave me the idea to this during our interview.
In a nutshell: you let your learner decide on a long-term project and you then collaborate on this together.
I did this with one of my learners last year; he wrote a book on a topic that he was interested in, and we used Google Drive so that I could correct his English and give feedback.
Using this approach gives your learner more authority over what they do, and again, because they decide what it is they want to create (a project, a video, a book, a presentation etc.), and in the area of their choosing, they are doing something that is relevant to them. And something that they are excited about doing.
Connect and Communicate with Your Learner
This means that you can send reminders about your lessons and keep the communication flowing with your learners outside of class.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on communicating with your learner. A simple Tweet or email a couple of times a week will only take you a few minutes. And what this does is shows your learner that you care and that you are invested in their learning, and it will also send them a small reminder to do something in English.
If you want to make this more involved, like a daily email or support, then you can make this an added extra on top of the lessons that you offer.
But I’ve found that the more I communicate with a learner, the more they ultimately end up doing. And this is especially true with learners who need direction with their learning.
Over to You
Setting expectations, coming up with a plan, doing things that interest your learners, giving your learner more authority over their learning, and keeping the communication flowing will help your student do more in English.
What tips do you have to encourage your learners to do more outside of class?
Leave your comments below!