My favorite little language teaching trick

Imagine the following scenario: I’m teaching a small group Beginner conversation class. I turn to a student and ask, “What did you do yesterday, Maria?” Maria answers, “I go shopping.”

Assuming that Maria has already learned the past tense of “go,” I don’t correct her mistake for her. Instead of saying anything, I respond with a little gesture…a simple wave of my hand, backward over my shoulder. Maria recognizes the gesture to signify past tense and corrects herself. “Oh, no…I went shopping,” she says. “Yesterday….I went!”

In my invisible bag of teaching tricks, the gesture is my personal favorite, especially when it comes to teaching simple tenses. A backward wave means past tense. A forward wave means future, and a point at the ground means present. I find that after I use a gesture once or twice, students catch on and start using it themselves, to help each other. It’s like a gentle nudge to remind them to use something that they’ve already learned.

After enough silent corrections, I generally find that students start correcting their own mistakes without any help from me. Sometimes they’ll even make a mistake, pause, gesture to themselves, and then correct themselves without me even moving a muscle. It’s adorable, and it’s like magic.

So, What’s Your Favorite Teaching Trick?

What little teaching tool or strategy do you depend on for classroom survival? Do you use gestures to give corrective feedback, or do you have another favorite method for error correction?

Please share your tips and ideas in the comment section below. I’d love to hear them!

What's Your Favorite Teaching Trick-

3 thoughts on “My favorite little language teaching trick

  1. I use those gestures too – I think many of us do! 😉

    I spend a lot of my time teaching teens and young learners, and so my favourite trick is the word ‘why?’. Often teens will either jump to a blanket statement in order to provoke a response – ‘This is boring’, ‘I hate it’, ‘They’re stupid’, or they simply don’t want to use the imagination necessary to give a ‘proper’ answer to a question, and so ‘What did you do on the weekend?’ either elicits the answer ‘Nothing’, ‘I don’t remember’ or ‘I slept’.

    Asking ‘why?’ acknowledges the answer in a positive way, but also forces the student to actually think about the question asked and provide more information.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s