In order to help EFL students learn English faster and to cover every learning style, a variety of learning materials should be available in every EFL classroom. When I teach in my EFL classrooms in Thailand, no matter what level my students are categorized as, I find having numerous types of learning materials not only helps them learn, but makes learning more fun for them and for me.
DVDs – I’m a big proponent of using DVDs in the classroom to help EFL students learn. I use everything from 30 minute TV series like ‘Friends’ to episodes of ‘CSI’, full-length Hollywood movies, documentaries and even DVDs of political speeches by politicians like President Clinton.
With DVDs, if you use the ‘sub titles’ function, it re-enforces students learning ability as, when they can match what they hear with actually seeing the English words on screen, listening problems they have tend to lessen and vocabulary increases. Plus, it’s far more fun to watch a 40 minute episode of ‘CSI’ (with questions and lots of activities afterward) than it is for them to hear me droning on.
Newspapers – Another great tool for EFL classrooms is to use newspaper stories for discussion and for English vocabulary improvement. I use local stories from Thai newspapers, as that’s primarily what my students are interested in. We read the story, look at the photos and discuss our opinions. Some great discussions can come out of newspaper stories, particularly if you choose things like celebrity, music, travel or gossip news.
Internet – I use the internet in my EFL classroom as much as possible. From using it for additional information in a classroom lecture, to giving students an assignment to research a topic, or to use one of the many EFL websites to learn new vocabulary and grammar – the internet is an exceptional learning tool if students are guided in which websites to use (ones appropriate to their level of English) and how to use it correctly.
Songs/CDs – Using songs and CDs as classroom material is one of the best ways to help EFL students learn. Ever since I met a fewThais who told me they learned much of their excellent English from memorizing English language songs, I’ve used songs in my classrooms.
I use them as memorization exercises, as games (cut up song lyrics and have students put them back in the correct order while listening to the song), and as ways to learn new, more modern, vocabulary. Particularly in Asia, where karaoke is so popular, EFL students love to learn by listening to songs.
Photographs – You can use photographs for a variety of EFL lessons, games and activities. I use them often for lesson plans on describing things (adjectives), as it’s much easier for students to describe something if they can actually see it. Plus, if you use photographs from your home country or home town, they learn something about you too.
Guest Speakers – The problem with learning English is that it gets boring. That’s why, as a teacher, you’ve always got to keep students interested and, thus, learning.
Bringing in guest speakers can be a fun way to perk up students’ interest. I’ve brought in speakers who spoke about particular careers, places to travel, best shopping areas, guides to local movie theaters and lots more. Students love it as it’s one class where they don’t have to listen to me, they meet someone new, and they usually learn something interesting too.
Student ‘Show and Tell’ – Don’t forget to involve your students in their own learning. One thing I’d never heard of until I moved to America was ‘Show and Tell’, which is a fabulous tool for any teacher.
While teaching EFL in Asia, I’ve used ‘Show and Tell’ for every level – and from six year olds to 60 year olds. Everyone has something at home they’d like to bring in and show every one else in the class. I’ve had students show the class their entire Starbucks Teddy Bear collection, old family photo albums, enormous coin collections, calendar collections, their mother’s artwork, classic Thai cooking utensils and so much more.
‘Show and Tell’ isn’t only a great way to get your students to learn something in a fun way, it’s also a perfect way the teacher can learn something more about the student.
These materials should be mandatory in every EFL classroom. They’re not only fun for the students, but make the teacher’s life easier (and more fun) too.