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Getting Students to Take It Seriously

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Teaching Business English, and in particular teaching English in businesses, presents a few challenges. The biggest challenge, I've found, is to get students to take the lessons seriously. This is fairly easy when the environment is an English-language one, an American multi-national, for example.

In other cases, students can be fairly flexible in their commitment to the course, showing up late, coming unprepared, treating the lesson like recess from the work day. The question of how to combat this is one I think about a lot. Obviously it makes my job harder; it also increases the possibility that the company itself will not be satisfied with the results.

Some ideas have been successful, others less so. Here are a couple of the more successful ones. I'm really interested in hearing how you deal with this.

1)Make them work. I find that a disproportionate number of students are very willing to sit back and watch you teach, something different than a silent period. It's more like a presentation and you are supposed to give them the information. Don't let them do that. Make sure they are talking, not you.

2) Give them learning tips. These are people who may not have been in school for years, who might very well have gone to school at a time when instruction was very teacher-oriented. Be prepared to spend some time talking about strategies etc.

3)Give them homework and expect them to do it. In addition to giving them more exposure to English, homework sereves a classroom management objective: it makes the course, and you, more serious.

4)Have high expectations. More than in school, it's easy to start making excuses for the students. Of course they're busy and all the rest, and it's easy to sympathize. Again, though, if you want them to take the course seriously, you need to challenge them.

I'm looking forward to your observations.

Mike Thompson
mthomp@tin.it

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