Just a quick post from your friends at GIFLE! In May, GIFLE instructors taught ITTP trainees a variety of tips for creating a classroom environment that fosters English skills. One of the things we touched on were tips for giving verbal feedback: those things teachers say after a student is done saying their answer. Here are 4 of them:
- “Good guess, but …”
As teachers, we want to encourage risk taking … when it comes to language, that is. Korean students can be nervous about giving the wrong answer. To fight this, it can be a good idea to “take the sting out of” wrong answers.
For example, if a teacher asks a student what color the sky is, and the student answers “green,” she’s likely to get laughed at. Consider how the following teacher remarks can make her feel more comfortable:
- Good guess, but you’re getting green confused with a different color. Try again.
- Not quite. Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to get colors confused.
- Good guess! But not a perfect guess. Try it again.
Of course, teachers don’t always have to go to great lengths to help students avoid embarrassment. Sometimes a simple, “Hm, not quite!” is enough.
Also, don’t forget to be strict when necessary. While we want to create a stress-free environment in which students can practice English, sometimes a student’s attitude won’t always be on par with your expectations. In these cases, it’s fine to let him know that you expect better effort from him … and this is a skill that perhaps we can go into more detail with in a later post.
2. Balance accuracy with fluency
First, some clarification:
- Accuracy: Using proper grammar
- Fluency: Being easily understood
This can be a difficult balance. If a teacher focuses too much on accuracy, students will feel frustrated and will struggle to communicate out of fear of making mistakes. However, not focusing on accuracy enough can lead to bad habits that will be difficult to remedy later on. Unfortunately, there’s no magic rule that can tell a teacher how much to focus on one or the other; it changes depending on the student’s level and needs. You as a teacher need to use your own best judgment to figure out the right amount of each.
3. Give feedback after the student is done
This isn’t always the best method, but generally, if a teacher corrects students during the middle of their language production, it interrupts them and reduces fluency. It’s best to wait until the student is finished, make corrections, then have the student reproduce the English with your recommendations.
4. Balance quality of feedback with time
In a perfect world, a teacher would have limitless time to focus on each student. But class time is finite. Teachers shouldn’t feel bad if they need to sacrifice a few pieces of advice for the sake of the overall program. Sometimes we just have to say, “Good work,” and move on.
The next time you elicit answers from your students keep these tips in mind. Remember: sometimes what you say after the answer is just as important as the answer itself.