William Bradridge shares some ideas on how to make lessons work if you are teaching with minimal resources in the developing world.
If you are headed for a developing country to teach English, then don’t pack your iPad. The smart IT suite available to you where you did your training will be a long-lost memory: instead, wonder whether your classroom will have any chalk today.
So how can you plan for teaching English in a country where you’ll be lucky if you have a regular supply of electricity? Here are a few tips before you set off to help you get prepared.
- People often love speaking about themselves, so use your students as a resource. Get them to tell you about their lives and show a genuine interest in them. For example, consider establishing a regular routine of short 10 minute student input slots in each lesson. If you are teaching youngsters, establish this as a time for “my precious object”, where one at a time children show and tell something from home. It will give you a glimpse into their culture, history and daily lives, while giving them an opportunity to speak and share with their classmates.
- Bring lots of realia from home when you go; maps, photos, menus, forms for completion etc. Remember basics, like scissors, Blu-Tack or colouring pens and paper. You’ll be glad to have these to hand when you get to your destination to find the cupboard bare.
- Think BIG – at least in terms of class size! Up to 90 – 100 students are possible in some classes, so your nice EFL class horseshoe layout won’t work – think of ways to make sure students don’t hide and everyone gets a chance to practise. Plenty of pair work is a good idea – see Alastair Grant’s blog on teaching English to large classes for more ideas. Jo Budden also provides excellent thoughts on what you can do if you are space-challenged on the British Council’s Teaching English site here.
- Be larger than life. Use movement, mime, chanting and songs, since you may not have much visual stimulus to spark curiosity and interest. Here’s my colleague Simon doing just this in Masindi, Uganda. Note the tight classroom space, the brick walls and lack of windows!
- Finally, adapt yourself mentally. You may find yourself on your own for long periods. A fellow EFL teacher, Gemma Simpson, comments on her experiences in Belarus in Spring 2011:”There wasn’t really much support or training offered as to how or what I taught. I had a text book and was told to get through half of it by the end of the semester. I literally arrived at the school, taught my lessons and went home. I never met another teacher. It wasn’t until I taught in the UK that I realised the value of resources, colleagues and on-the-job training.”
Teaching in the developing world is perhaps the biggest challenge you’ll face in your TEFL career. But like all the big challenges, they often provide the strongest sense of achievement when it goes well.
What are your tips and ideas for teaching with minimal resources in less developed countries? I’d welcome comments and suggestions below.