TEFL Confessions: Two Tips From My Training That I Don’t Use

images31.jpgOverall, my TEFL training was extremely useful: I think it struck a good balance between practice and theory, input/feedback and “output,” if you will. And there were several basic teaching tips I picked up from it. But I have to confess that there are two items emphasized in my course that I just don’t use when I teach today. Shh.

The phonemic script: maybe I should have learned from this unfortunate experience and just memorized this set of characters. I have more than once vowed to memorize it…but just haven’t done it. My justifications are, first of all, that students don’t seem to use it too much, and second, the standard phonemic script is based on British pronunciation. There isn’t a huge difference between British and American English of course, but in the parts where it tends to matter – vowels and sometimes that pesky “r”- there is a difference, and it seems silly for me to put on my British accent (I only do that in character or with especially reticent students).

Perhaps as native speakers are often given higher level classes, pronunciation doesn’t play such a large role in my classes – and I suppose it makes more sense for students to just practice saying something than to try to transcribe it. Maybe students whose languages aren’t phonetic or have different writing systems like Asian language use the phonemic script more? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Checking instructions: it can be useful but I still haven’t gotten beyond the stage where I feel like I’m being patronizing or picking on someone by asking. And some instructions don’t lend themselves easily to being checked without simply repeating what you’ve just said in question form. I do however sometimes use a checking-by-negatives form (“Are you going to write out your answers in full sentences?” “No”).

Are there any tips from your training that you don’t use?