Supporting students outside of the classroom

As a teacher I feel as if it is part of my job to support my students for as long as they need me to, even once they’ve walked out of the classroom door.

Some of my very first students still keep in touch. Not necessarily to ask for help, but just to update me with how they’re doing or where they are in the world. I love it! I think it’s so nice that students take the time to drop me a message.

One reason I think that some of my students keep in touch with me is because I have supported them throughout their time in my class, but also once they have moved on. If they’ve joined other classes or they’ve returned home, gone to university or any other path that life has taken them!

I’ve been able to help them with grammar explanations, CVs or application letters, and occasionally the odd reference as well. I feel that once a student walks through my door they are my student for as long as they would like me to be their teacher.

As a teacher, your job doesn’t necessarily stop when the lesson ends. You will come to find that you start looking for ‘teacher’ things whilst you’re out shopping, or you’ll suddenly have a great idea for your next lesson whilst you’re cooking dinner – and at other random moments!

You will, or should?, naturally want to support your students both in and outside of your classroom, and you will be able to find ways to do this as you develop a relationship with them. Once you get to know them better, find out their interests and what their lives are like outside of the classroom, you will discover ways to help them – it may sound like mission impossible to new teachers, but once you get the hang of it you will soon find yourself handing out bits of advice that relate to students individually.

  • Raya, you should definitely start a blog about k-pop in English
  • Mike, you could listen to this band on YouTube – they’re your style of music!
  • Dana, why don’t you try this graded reader? It’s in the library and also on YouTube!

Finding a balance between supporting your students and keeping time for yourself can sometimes be tricky. You want to give your students your time and effort and provide exciting lessons, but sometimes that takes up your evenings when you would usually be with your family, or reading a book – or whatever you do to wind down!

Once you start teaching, keep a notebook handy or have a list in your phone’s notepad for teaching ideas. You will find that through observations of your colleagues, CPD training sessions or just browsing through other coursebooks in the staff room that you will gather numerous ideas on how to jazz up your teaching and support your students. You will also find ideas with a simple Google search, Facebook forums and by, my favourite, joining #EduTwitter

So, what sort of things can you recommend to your students to support them on their English language journey? (In all honesty, these work for any language learners!)

  • Make friends with English speakers (natives or learners) so that you can practise together
  • Watch movies or TV shows in English
  • Listen to music or the news in English
  • Read books, magazines or cartoons in English
  • Start a blog or keep a diary using English (If they say “Teacher! It’s too difficult!” you could recommend that they try using 50% English and 50% of their first language.)
  • Download a revision app such as Duolingo or Memrise
  • Use Facebook or change their entire phone language into English

For more ideas, why not check out my three earlier blog posts about Improving your English?

One, Two and Three

You could take 10 minutes out of your lesson to introduce your students to some of these activities – but you should make them interesting and try and give a few examples for each. If you just give them a list they will see it as boring homework or revision.

Write a blog post – Whatever topic your students are studying you could encourage them to write a short piece – either a summary, a diary entry or even an Instagram post about it. Personally, my favourite is a blog post. You can encourage students to write about something they are interested in whilst teaching them informal writing styles.

Watch YouTube videos – Video clips can be introduced as warmers, coolers or part of the main activities (listening, vocabulary, grammar structures), so it should be quite easy to find a video that is suitable for your learners and relevant to the topic you’re teaching them.

Show them two or three clips on the same topic to give them an idea of what they could watch at home. They’re not explicitly studying, but by watching something that interests them they will learn about the topic, and expose themselves to new vocabulary and grammar structures.

Use social media in English – This can be a great way to quickly pick up social media and everyday vocabulary. Even phrases like Facebook’s ‘What are you doing today?’ will become easily understood hopefully students can reuse this vocabulary in their conversations.

Of course, there are a huge variety of ways that your students can learn English at home, or outside of your classroom, but these are just a few ideas to help you get started.

What other ways do you recommend to your students? Or if you’re a language learner, how do you study if you’re not taking lessons?

I’d love to hear your ideas so feel free to leave a comment or connect with me over on Twitter!

Have you read Miss Hillsmith’s latest blog on supporting students outside of the classroom? Here it is!

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