The new academic year is here and we're getting ready to head back to the English classroom. Yet, after a long and relaxing summer holiday, some students may feel unmotivated to return to the same class routine, especially if they have been learning English for several years. So, how can we reinspire students to keep learning and reconnect with English? By bringing in new resources, learning approaches and targets, we are sure you'll be able to rekindle their love of learning.
So let's look at five ways to reinspire your English students in the coming academic year.
1. Set new goals
Students may lose interest in classes or feel discouraged when they don't have a clear target to work towards. If this is the case with your class, have them write up a list of five new goals they'd like to achieve.
These goals must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. So rather than just saying "I'd like to learn more vocabulary", have students make it SMART.
Specific: "I'd like to learn new advanced vocabulary to use in my writing."
Measurable: "I'll test myself to see if I can define and use 20 new words in sentences."
Achievable: "I will dedicate 2 hours a week to studying the definitions and writing example sentences in context."
Relevant: "This will help me get a good score in my PTE test as I struggle with formal academic language."
Timely: "I will learn 20 new words by the end of September."
If learners find it difficult to think of goals, ask them to write one for each language skill: listening, reading, writing and speaking. You can also refer to the GSE Teacher Toolkit, which has hundreds of learning objectives organized by age, level, skill type and more.
The idea is to encourage them to set clear objectives, giving them an exciting new challenge to work towards for the year ahead.
2. Encourage students to find conversation partners
Students may lose interest in improving their English if they've only been studying in a classroom. They may see it as something boring and unrelated to their real lives.
A great way to tackle this is by encouraging them to talk with English speakers outside of class. By doing this, they'll pick up new vocabulary and expressions, giving them more confidence in their language abilities.
Suggest that they attend a language exchange. Facebook and Meetup are great platforms to find regular language exchange events in their local area. While this is suitable for intermediate learners and above, it may be a bit daunting for beginners.
In this case, the app HelloTalk may be a suitable alternative. Similar to a language exchange, learners can connect with people from around the world. They can choose people with a similar level as them and either write messages, send short audios, or do video calls, depending on their ability and confidence.
Communicating with real people is a fun and encouraging reason for your learners to want to improve.
3. Introduce interesting new vocabulary
Students may become disheartened if they've been learning for years but aren't seeing much progress. A simple and effective way to help them improve their level is by encouraging them to expand their vocabulary.
They already have to study a lot of vocabulary from their textbooks, so why not give it a more personal twist and ask for suggestions of topics that interest them?
Maybe they are gamers and want to learn how to communicate better with other players around the world. Select vocabulary about styles of games, turn-taking, and strategizing that they could use – they can practice in class and be thrilled to be given homework.
Perhaps some of your students want to study or work abroad. This may be a common topic, but one thing that is not frequently discussed is how to deal with the paperwork of living in another country. For example, getting into more specific language about banking, housing rentals, or setting up wifi will help them feel more confident about their move. Though these things differ between countries, there is a lot of overlapping vocabulary and roleplaying will do wonders to reassure and excite them about their upcoming adventures.
By allowing your students to take control of their learning, their motivation is naturally higher and you too will enjoy finding out specific language about their interests.
4. Work on specific problem areas
Language learners may become frustrated and lose motivation if they continue to make the same mistakes. It may cause them to feel disheartened in their abilities and want to give up, especially for those who aim to sit exams. You can help them level up by identifying specific problem areas and tailoring your classes to work on these.
Tests can help your learners discover their weaknesses and avoid the frustration of sitting and not passing an exam. They'll be able to pinpoint what they need to work on, and you can dedicate your classes to exactly what they need, rather than cover areas they may not have problems with.
For example, if students are experiencing difficulties with reading comprehension, you could try introducing more varied reading materials. Ask them to bring in blog posts, magazines and news articles on topics that they find interesting. Highlight keywords in the text to enhance their understanding of the piece and create comprehension questions similar to the test format they'll take.
By giving a little extra attention to fixing problem areas, learners will soon start to see their progress, encouraging and inspiring them to keep going.
5. Change your class format
Sometimes learners become demotivated simply because they have become too used to the format of the classes. If this is the case, you might want to take a break from the textbook and try more creative language learning methods. For example:
Use interactive games
Suitable for all levels, you can use platforms such as Kahoot or Quizziz to test your learners. They offer a new dimension to the class, encouraging students to have fun with the language. Divide them into teams to add an element of competition – there's nothing like a friendly game to excite students!
Set project work
Put your class into small groups and have them work on a project to present to the rest of the group. Choose topics they might cover in their textbooks, such as occupations, travel or cultural traditions. Or even better – let students come up with their own! This activity can be modified to suit all levels and offers a challenge as learners will need to push their language limits.
Hold class debates
More suitable for intermediate learners and above, class debates get everyone talking. You can ask students to brainstorm topics they're interested in. You can offer prompts such as climate change, the advertising of junk food or the impacts of social media. They'll be happy to talk about things that concern them.
Throw in some unexpected activities to bring students' attention back to class and spark their interest in learning again.