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❝One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.❞
‒Frank Smith

         We live in a time where technology has provided various opportunities for our students to be entertained and be exposed to varied cultures and experiences without ever opening a book. This has further caused them to find greater pleasure in reading a post, a tweet, a joke or streams of comments about a video or picture on social media than actually investing time in reading their textbooks. Sadly, we are teaching young people whose engagement in those activities is most times than not with the use of their native language. As teachers of English, we may then find it a battle to get students to read novels, short stories, comprehension passages or materials that will help them further develop a second language. It may be daunting because they seem to regress once they leave the four walls of the classroom; hence, their production of the target language may seem dismal. What does one do in such a challenge? Look for the nearest exit door maybe? No, one continues to read this blog to discover how one can encourage learner-engagement with the target language beyond the four walls.

        “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” —Kate DiCamillo. Similarly, learning a second language should not be presented as such. Consider some of the following activities to assist students in learning English.

  • Create materials that appeal to the age group, language level and interests of your students. At one point, I was teaching English to native speakers and I saw the limitations in the activities listed in the textbook and noted that the students were not so enthused about some sections of the book. With the same learning objectives in mind, I started creating supplemental materials that were ‘young people friendly’. In an attempt to also help my fellow colleagues, I made this material with an extensive list of activities they could use to teach all types of writing (Summary, Narrative, Descriptive, etc) as well as grammatical concepts. Feel free to access it here: 
  • Well, if you purchase my book then that eliminates the need to continue the list. Ok, the teacher within me bids me to continue. Consider the students keeping a daily diary or journal. This is where they write about topics of interest to them. Let them do this at home as a means of extending their interaction with the language. You can let them use these diaries for class activities. It could also be comic books as they are impressive artists so use their skills. Just get them writing in English every day!
  • Create a website or an online portal that students can access when they are home or on the go. Some schools have online systems where teachers can posts assignments, etc. you can use this or create a website that identifies each student and gives them a grade for participation, etc. The idea is that “if we don’t use it, we lose it”. The ratio of native language experiences to target language/second language experiences is 5:1. Create the experience for them beyond the stipulated class time. It could be a “Wednesday website” so they tune in on that day.
  • Let students do A LOT of role play. They need to derive meaning from the utterances and see the context that suits certain vocabulary. Do ‘mock trials’ of exams like Cambridge exams that suit their levels, let them do activities that increases their language production gradually- word, phrases, sentences, paragraphs. 
  • Have guidelines where students have to adhere to using only English in class. For e.g they have to put a coin in a jar whenever they use the native language in class. All those coins can make for a good class party at the end of the term but it subtly nudges them to make a conscious effort. Alternatively, every native language words they use they have to produce twice as many target language words.
  • Let them do A LOT of group activities to develop confidence. They could work in groups to create a play about shopping or going to a restaurant. Learning a second language is hard. Keep them encouraged and interested.
  • Find out what they like and use that as an interest. For example, if my students love Taylor Swift then I can take a song of hers to class and let them work in groups to do a verse each. Additionally, you can make songs of your own about grammar topics or any topic of interest. How many of us find ourselves with that song in our heads that we absolutely did not even have to memorize; it just stayed with us after hearing it.
  • Consider varied activities. If your class has a predictable routine, students may find learning the language as a pointless and unappealing chore.

   Thank you for reading and feel free to contact me ( if you want to talk more about anything related to teaching English. I also, write novels, poems and short stories so feel free to find my materials on ETJ and Amazon. If you can enjoy a good story, get my ebook novel The Tried and True Teacher on Amazon. I am also available for tutoring, co-writing, editing or brainstorming great ideas geared towards improvement for learners. Take care and talk soon.

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