Most students tend to learn English at their leisure. This means having 2 or 3 lessons a week and doing some homework in between.
But what if your student has a specific goal such as an exam or moving abroad and needs to improve their English really quickly? Apart from the obvious – increasing the number of lessons, here are some ways you can intensify the learning process.
1) Flipped classroom model
In my opinion, this is the most effective way to learn. The gist of this method is that students do everything that doesn’t require a teacher at home and use the lesson entirely for those skills and tasks that do require a teacher. Can your student learn about Present Perfect on their own? Absolutely. There are very good videos on Youtube that will explain the tense and give examples and illustrations just as well as any teacher could within the classroom. Can your student do restricted practice (exercises) on their own? Absolutely. Online exercises will require less writing and get marked straight away by the computer. Can your student talk about their experiences and use Present Perfect correctly to do so? Now, here is where they might need a teacher. Do you need to do tasks and games during the lesson to help your student learn new vocabulary? Not really. Instead set them a vocabulary list in Quizlet. Explaining the topic,learning words or doing gap fills isn’t an effective use of lesson time if your student needs to learn quickly. The flipped classroom method means students come to the lesson already in shape for speaking practice of what they’ve learnt.
2) Use technology
Make sure your students use e-learning tools to their full advantage. I’m always surprised by how many still do grammar exercises in workbooks or learn words from a piece of paper. Why do the laundry by hand if you can use the washing machine?
At the same time there are a lot of online exercises and videos out there that aren’t very good, so don’t give your student the first Present Perfect exercise and youtube video you find on the topic. Instead take time to research and compile a list of online resources that are truly worthwhile. Examples of such resources we’ve mentioned in our previous articles. The flipped classroom model will work only if you provide your students with really great tools for self-study.
3) Choose tasks wisely
Some tasks are more productive than others. I do not recommend using songs, watching films the entire lesson, playing Scrabble or drawing posters if your student needs to improve their knowledge quickly. Yes, these activities are fun and yes, the student will learn something from them, but the time spent on them doesn’t justify the language benefit. For intense study mode it is better to opt for activities such as gap-fill exercises, working with texts, dictations, writing transcripts to video clips etc.
4) Revise, revise,revise
You would think that in order to improve knowledge quickly you need to keep learning new material all the time, but in fact constant revision is the key to success. This again might seem obvious and yet a lot of students and teachers still follow the “OK, we’ve done this, let’s move onto the next topic” rule. Without constant revision what has been studied gets quickly forgotten and the time studying has therefore been wasted. I recommend dedicating 5-10 minutes each lesson to revising vocabulary from previous lessons and asking your students seemingly random questions based on the grammar topics they’ve previously learnt
e.g. “What have you already done today?”.
Another example of time wasting is what we often do with writing. The teacher sets an essay, the student writes it, then together they go through the mistakes and the essay is put aside. In the next essay the student makes most of these mistakes again which means the time spent writing both essays was pretty much wasted. To improve your student’s writing, keep the original copy of their essay, go back to it after about two lessons and ask the student to correct it again.
5) Routine and variation
Another key to success in language learning is having a system. If every lesson you work on all the skills, use effective resources and your student has regular homework, they will get good results. At the same time learning English is a bit like dieting in some ways. If you always have the same intake of calories and do the same type of exercise, then you will reach a plateau. The cure to this is a balance between a constant system and doing something new each lesson. Whether it’s a 5-minute warm up game, an occasional discussion about a film that’s out in the cinemas or asking the student about their holiday – all of these will add some variety to the lesson and help your student avoid the language plateau.
We hope you will find these tips useful! What tricks and strategies do you use for getting your students to learn quickly?