Are you wondering how to navigate students’ unique personalities and learning styles? It can be challenging to know how to respond to or understand students as they are all different. They have different needs, learning styles, and abilities. Some students might talk a lot and some might not say more than a few words. So, you are left asking yourself- how should I respond? Here are a few different types of students and suggestions on how you can respond to differences between students in the classroom.
The Eager Beaver
These students don’t require a lot of explanation. They are highly motivated overachievers, they listen, and are not afraid to ask questions. But, just because these students are easier to teach- don’t get lazy. Make sure to focus your lessons on the students’ learning needs and desires, and to correct them appropriately. Especially with these students, it is a great opportunity to ask if there are specific areas they would like to improve on or if there are specific topics they would like to cover.
Silent as a Mouse
Sometimes it may feel as though you are pulling teeth in order to get your student to respond. You might have designed what you thought would be a really engaging lesson and your student is just not responding to any question you ask. Or they only give you one word answers. What do you do?
First, check in with yourself and make sure you are remaining patient and calm. Then focus on staying student-centered and boosting the student’s confidence. Next, consider why your student might be silent and respond accordingly:
You are talking too fast!
When you speak too fast, your student can’t understand what they are supposed to do. This might cause your student to stay quiet or respond with single word answers.
So what do you do? Remember to match your student’s speed when you are talking and ask them if they understand the exercise. You can also offer an example of what type of response they should give. If your student is a beginner, it is good to include visuals such as writing the directions, examples, or even drawing a picture when necessary. This is a good reason to have a small whiteboard on hand.
Your student is shy and embarrassed to speak.
What to do? Make sure to build rapport with your students. You should start your lessons by connecting with your students. Introductions and brief small talk is great for this. Make sure to learn and remember things about your student that you can incorporate into lessons to make them feel comfortable and engaged, such as their hobbies, their family, or their work.
Feedback is also important. How you give feedback and what type of feedback you give can significantly impact the student’s confidence. Provide feedback once a student is done talking and don’t cut them off. Make sure to match your feedback with their English level. For example, don’t correct the student’s sentence with advanced vocabulary or grammar points if the student is a beginner. Positive feedback and non-verbal feedback are also very important. And most of all- never laugh at your student.
Have you taught a lesson where you struggled to get a word in and no matter what you did you couldn’t get through your lesson plan? Or, every time you talk the student talks over you and doesn’t listen to what you said. It’s okay. You’re not alone, you just have a talkative student. So, what do you do?
The first thing to do is stay calm and not take it personally. One reason why this might be happening is that the student is excited to have the opportunity to speak in English. I have also noticed some students are just excited to speak to someone as they might be very isolated. If you think your student is just excited to talk, it is important to appreciate your student’s eagerness while also incorporating some strategies to stay on track with the lesson.
First, try your best to redirect the student to the materials while making sure not to cut the student off or talk over them. Remember, this is their lesson. It is also helpful to use time limits with students who like to talk. For example, when you ask the student to describe a photo or summarize an audio clip, tell the student they have a specific amount of time to respond. This will help the student focus.
If you are unable to redirect the student to the lesson, there is a possibility your materials are not engaging for the student. This is when it is very important as a teacher to know when to pivot and adjust your lesson plan. It is a great opportunity to utilize your student-centered teaching approach. Here are some tips you can try:
- I like to over-plan exercises especially for new students. Having extra exercises planned will enable you to change exercises when your student is not engaging or is already very proficient with the content. This is especially important for new students as we learn more about their interests and learning needs.
- While the student talks, stay focused on recording the student’s mistakes and take any opportunity you can to review the mistakes. Reviewing mistakes might lead to an impromptu grammar lesson or another chance to redirect to your lesson plan.
- If the student is really focused on one subject and just wants to talk about that subject but it was not part of your lesson plan, that’s okay. Use this opportunity to teach new vocabulary, idioms, or phrasal verbs connected to the subject. Remember- pivot and adapt.
- Getting side-tracked from the get go. While it is important to make sure your student feels comfortable with you and having a short conversation at the beginning of the lesson can help with this, it can also take up a lot of time and create an opportunity for the student to go off topic. Instead, use the first few minutes of the lesson to talk about the student’s learning goals for the week, reviewing material from the previous lesson, or ask a warm-up question that incorporates content from the lesson you planned.