Ideally, when non-native speaking students are studying English as a foreign language, they will have multiple English classes a week. With language learning, input is key. The more high-quality, meaningful input and interaction students can have, the more they are going to learn. So, the more time students can spend doing English activities, the better.
However, many schools have time or resource constraints that only allow for one lesson a week with their students. Is such a small amount of time in the classroom each week effective? Yes! But, you want to make the most out of the time that you have, and encourage students to continue studying even when they are outside of the classroom. Here are some ideas for you:
Input is king
If your students are coming once a week for an hour or so, that’s a very small amount of English input each week. Therefore, it’s really important to find ways for them to be exposed to English outside of class. Music can be one of your most effective tools. Songs will stick in students’ heads, bouncing around for days. And listening to CDs at home is an easy way for students to continue to get language input.
As students get older, they may be a little reluctant to sing in the classroom, but you can still make music a part of your lessons. Choose textbooks and other materials that have an audio/video component (like the Potato Pals or Everybody Up series) so that they will continue to learn with music.
Remember, if you want your students to listen to the materials at home, you need to communicate that very clearly to the parents. Make a listening schedule or assign tracks as homework so that parents know exactly what their children should be listening to. When you have open communication, you often learn that parents aren’t doing home activities with the kids because they’re not sure what to do and how to do it. Sometimes just having regular meetings with the parents can make a huge difference.
Create a life-long interest Students aren’t going to “master” a second language with once a week classes alone, but they can learn a lot and form an interest in the language that will carry them far as they continue in their studies. That’s why it’s crucial that English class be FUN and engaging! When planning your classes, start by thinking of activities that the kids enjoy and then figuring out how to fit English into that, rather than thinking about the English you want to teach and then trying to figure out an activity. It may seem like a small difference, but it’s really a completely different way of thinking about how to plan classes. And it can make all the difference to young learners in how they feel about English class.
Learners need models When seeing students in class only once a week, it’s difficult for the teachers to be their models, so ask their parents to be involved. Suggest that they read to their kids in English regularly. Some parents may be nervous about their pronunciation, or level of understanding, but stress to them that the most important thing is their children seeing them use English.
Review is crucial Review is key when you only see the kids once a week, but it can be tough when you don’t have much time. This is another way in which songs are very effective. Singing songs allows you to quickly review language from previous lessons without it even feeling like a review. Music is one of the few language learning tools where repetition is fun.
Not just another subject English is a means of communication, not just a school subject. It’s really important that students not think of English as just another thing they need to learn. Instead, look at it as a way to communicate. Avoid focusing on errors and always speaking “correctly” and praise all of their efforts at communication.
Once a week classes can absolutely be beneficial. By utilizing tools such as music, games, and parent participation, you can encourage your students to become confident in their ability to communicate in English (even if it is just at a basic level for some) and excited to learn more.