How can you provide a meaningful and informative lesson in only 40 minutes?

Teaching English with limited hours and low motivation for English instruction: the challenge of providing meaningful and stimulating lessons in this context. 

Diary submitted by Amy H

In this diary, I will address the problems that may occur when teaching English with limited hours, with the consequential issue of low motivation. It is certainly a challenge to provide meaningful and stimulating lessons when your class time with a student is no more than 40 minutes, as is the case in the language school that I teach in. 

Whilst it is true that highly motivated students will make the most of every minute of a short English class, it could certainly be argued that having a small amount of time with a student could in fact directly result in a lower level of motivation on their part. Perhaps if the student knows that they only have to be there, and are already a bit reluctant for the class, they might think that it’s acceptable to have less enthusiasm as they count down the minutes until the class finishes. 

In one of my classes of 40 minutes with an adult student, there was a significant section of grammar to get through, but the student had expressed an interest in mainly using the time they had with me for speaking practice, as he had a job interview soon. I wanted to respect his wishes, but didn’t want him to miss out on the grammar section- which focussed on the use of the perfect tense. So, I combined the two exercises- by asking him interview-style questions that required a response in the perfect tense. This way, we were able to cover all the content in a quicker and more engaging way.

I had another class with a 10-year-old student, who was very reluctant to participate and offer extended answers to questions. I could sense that her motivation was low, as she continually looked at the clock and would rest her head on the table every so often. The content of the lesson was “directions”, and I decided that instead of simply following the plan, which consisted of going through vocab and answering comprehension questions, I would try something more interactive. So, I drew out a map of an imaginary town, complete with different locations. I then asked her how I would theoretically get from place to place. She was instantly more interested, as the lesson became more like a game, despite the fact that vocabulary was being put in place, as well as general speaking and grammar practice. This is a good example of how in less than 40 minutes, all areas of the content can be covered, but when combined in an engaging activity it is a much more stimulating class. 

In conclusion, the key to providing a meaningful and stimulating lesson does not rest on the allotted duration of the class. It is much more important to find an activity that combines all elements of vocabulary, grammar, speaking and listening, so that the student feels fully engaged throughout the short time you have with them. 

Source- “What are the main constraints in the classroom facing TEFL teachers?”- Mary, TEFL trainer. (Accessed 11/09/17: https://www.tefltrainer.com/general/main-constraints-classroom-facing-tefl-teachers/)

How can you provide a meaningful an informative lesson in only 40 minutes?

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