Teaching Advanced Classes

Teaching advanced classes was awful for me when I first started; you can prepare a lesson and try to anticipate questions, but if you’re a native speaker and haven’t studied the grammar in the way your students have, it can be hard to offer up good explanations right off the bat (not to mention off the top of your head) and if you try to prepare for every possible question,you are likely to be overwhelmed.

At high levels, be absolutely sure you are paying attention to the meaning and content of everything. Don’t just give them a grammar exercise – generate real questions and topics using that grammar and press them not only to “get it right” but to think about the content of their answers. Encourage real discussion and sharing of ideas – first, anything approaching critical thinking skills is valuable (though not really your role to “teach”) but second, for those for whom the grammar isn’t a challenge, the content can be. It also takes the pressure off you to respond immediately.

After teaching lower levels, you will have a better idea of what your advanced students know – and how to explain things they ask about. It’s important to build up a rapport of course, and making an effort to challenge them at times is an important part of this – have confidence that they can do it. Don’t make every aspect of the class an exercise in perfection, but my feeling is that students will be more frustrated with a class that’s too easy than one that is (perhaps occasionally) too difficult.

When a grammar question comes up, one option is asking another student to explain. If they get it right, great, you’ve made the class more student centered. If not, you’ve gained a little thinking time to decide how to organize your thoughts. On a related note, I’d go so far as to say that if you’re just correcting mistakes, you are probably not thinking much about the content or able to think about the content.

Finally, I make an effort to let students know that the course depends in large part on them; they need to take responsibility for sharing interesting ideas and opinions – it can’t all just rest on me. Reading satire might be both fun and challenging, and so is this intro activity. Many of the TEFL Logue classroom activities can be one with more challenging content to engage higher level learners.