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Teaching Beginners in TEFL

Teaching Beginners in TEFL

Teaching Beginners in TEFL

Let’s suppose you are in your beginner level TEFL class and – for the purposes of this explanation – it’s time to introduce them to adjectives‏‎.

You could simply say:

“An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun. To modify a word is to describe the word or to make its meaning more definite”

And if you did say that to beginners, you are likely to be met by a classroom full of blank looks and uncomprehending shrugs! Quite frankly, if you spend the next twenty minutes explaining adjectives to them they’re still going to be none the wiser!

No, with beginners you need to do things differently.

Put Yourself in their Place

This is useful if you’re living in a foreign country. Remember the time when you first arrived and barely spoke a word of the local language. Think of how little you understood and how when you listened all you heard was a stream of sound.

That’s what the beginners in your class think of you now.

So you need to break it down. And by this, I mean really break it down!

This means when you teach beginners:

  1. forget grammar – don’t even think about giving them grammatical explanations
  2. build on what they already know
  3. give examples, practice and more practice

A Practical Example

So let’s say you want to introduce adjectives to the class.

Start with what they know:

1. Show a model of a car to the class, elicit the word car

2. Show a hat to the class, elicit the word hat

3. Show an apple to the class, elicit the word apple

Say the word several times, then join the new with the old. Spend time practicing red carred hat and red apple with the class.

And then it’s a matter of moving on very slowly. This means giving the students plenty more practice with the material you’ve introduced.

This means games, activities, practice exercises and so on. It does not mean introducing more new material! No, that only happens when your class is 100% sure of what has already been introduced.


The same principles (with minor tweaking) apply to your classes regardless of what level they are and what you are teaching. When teaching English

1. Forget grammar – this happens on a need-to-know basis only; avoid it if you can.

2. Build on what they already know – always start from the known and move into the unknown

3. Give examples, practice and more practice



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