The Interactive Environment: Classroom Hints for Mexico

The Interactive Environment: Classroom Hints for Mexico

There are many opportunities as an ESL teacher living and working in Merida, Mexico.

One of the first things you will need to decide is whether you would like to teach in a school or as a private teacher. The peak time to look for work in México is during the autumn months, though English teachers are usually in demand all year. If you decide to teach in a school, there is a wide array of choices throughout Merida. Regardless of whether you work in a public school or a private school, in a university or in a preparatory school, there are some basic guidelines that I will discuss below that will help you to become an effective teacher in México. There are four steps which will help you and they are warm-up, vocabulary, activity and practice.

How to Become an Effective Language Instructor

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    The warm-up section of the class would be the beginning where you introduce your topic to the class. It involves all the notes you have prepared on the board for your students. If you choose to do the warm-up by simply writing the notes on the board, it is important that you outline the main ideas you will be covering during the class. It is important to introduce the structural layout for grammar or other aspects of your lesson. This can also be done in the form of an activity or a game. This form of introduction is ideal as it tends to act as an icebreaker and it promotes student participation in the classroom. For example, I use a game called word tennis. I give a general category and ask the students to give examples which relate to the category given. Each student or team takes a turn offering an example, but the first person or team who cannot think of a term awards a point to their opponent. For example if we are discussing careers, I will put the word career or jobs on the board and then have the students give examples. It relies solely on student participation and encourages them to think in English. Other ideas could be adapting the game hot potato where I attach questions to the potato and whoever ends up with the potato must read the question out loud in English and respond to the question as well. The questions are always relevant to the topic being discussed.

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    In this section, I usually go through my lesson plan the day before class and compile a selection of words that I believe are central to the topic or are unfamiliar to the students. At the beginning of class, I write them on the board and then have the students browse through the section of the text we will be covering that day to add more words that are not already included in the list. Next, I find it effective to ask the students to try to guess the meanings of the words I have placed on the board. They can use the text to deduce the meaning using context clues. This engages the students and encourages their independence and confidence in using the language. If they are unsuccessful with guessing the meanings, I will write it on the board in both English and Spanish. I then give them a short assignment in which they must use their new vocabulary words in sentences. I then ask the students to share their sentences with the rest of the class to practice the pronunciation of the new vocabulary.

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    The activity portion of the class is designed specifically to reinforce the lessons being taught that day. I find that when you create interactive games such as those found on (a very useful ESL game and activity website), learning becomes fun and interactive for the students increasing the memory retention for the lesson. I find that when we use games like bingo and word searches, they help to reinforce the vocabulary. One of the best things about teaching in a school in México is that they usually have a pre-assigned text book which offers several activity ideas. I do find though, that the text is often the central focus of the class and is often overused, which is why it is important to come up with new and innovative ways to involve your students in the lessons. I also find that music is a very good tool to teach with, especially music that is age appropriate to your students. It allows them to connect with the lesson and if it is music they listen to on a regular basis, it will encourage them to try to translate lyrics outside the classroom and learn the meaning of the words.

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    The practice section of the lesson usually comes at the end of the class, but should be used several times during class if you are introducing a number of topics. The portion applies the day’s lesson topic and vocabulary in a conversational format. I find that it best to give the students the opportunity to work on their own to form sentences and create mini conversations using the new material. This encourages independence and allows them to internalize and personalize the information they are being taught, rather than relying on a single person to complete the activity for the group. I also find that having them fill out their workbook exercises and task sheets is very effective since they can take them home and review the things they learned that day. The activities section helps the students to understand the concepts through practice and experience.

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    Other useful information

    I also find that it is very helpful for the students to engage in oral exercises as well as written and aural (listening exercises, especially through the music or reading activities). You always have to remember that students must practice ALL THREE exercises mentioned here because some students are more proficient in one aspect of the language (written, oral or aural) than another. It is important to spend time on each skill in order for students to maximize the amount of information they will retain. You want your students to be proficient in all aspects of English by the time they graduate from your class. If there are specific students that need extra help, you can customize homework assignments to each student.

Although many of these points I have made are inter-dependent, they are all unique and essential for teaching in México.

I have found that hands on experience and participation are the best ways to get students involved and excited about learning a new language. It is important to have a good warm-up for each session where you engage your students and encourage class participation, especially if it is an early morning class and everyone is tired. It is important to introduce your students to new vocabulary words in each session to maximize the exposure to the new language. Activities and practice are two of the most important aspects of each class as they will help your students to internalize the information you are presenting. You must get them involved in the class and ensure that they practice speaking, writing and listening to English. I hope this has been an informative and helpful read for you. Hope to see you here in México soon.

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