Patience: Teaching Lower level English students, how listening skills and motivation help.

By Linley Bignoux


There are basic yet practical reasons that some lower-level English learners may not have grasped learning the  English language well.

Before I go on, what we are talking about here are students that are in the A1 (Beginner) and A2(Elementary English) levels as prescribed by CEFR descriptors for language proficiency, CEFR -(Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). This is the gold standard of referencing listening, reading, speaking and writing skills and widely accepted worldwide.

We need to be aware of the needs of low-level English learners and in doing so realise a lot of their problems when learning and acquiring English.

What I propose here are 3 ways that are fundamental issues that students at this level of English learning face, however, there are many ways of course. I will just list 3 important ones I have come across in teaching to make it more simplified.

The three basic reasons are that firstly, some students may not have a natural knack for languages. Secondly, students may have difficulty due to possibly being dyslexic or have some Attention Deficit Disorder that affects language learning or their attention spans.

Lastly, it may be because students may be shy or scared to make mistakes since their English level is perceived to be not good by the student.

For lower-level students, we as teachers can create a supportive learning environment by being patient with the student, remembering always that it may take time for lower-level students to grasp concepts, particularly grammatical ones, such as sentencing. Using simple language or bits of language, simple sentencing (simple sentence structure) just keep it simple, do not overwhelm the student.

What’s important is to encourage them, positive comments and positive reinforcement is important, being mindful of not over correcting, picking every mistake is going to be not constructive and may lead to the student being discouraged. Studying on their own or independent study should be talked about and encouraged as well.

Allow students to answer in their own time, do not rush them allowing time for answers to come out is important. We need to speak clearly and concisely while not being fast. We have to create a learning atmosphere were lower-level pupils can practice their English language skills in a comforting and trustworthy way.

Encouraging students so they don’t become demotivated can be a challenge, however, you need to remember that installing a sense of pride in what they are learning is important.

Selling them the idea that by learning English good outcomes or results will come, motivating them from the very beginning by telling them that you believe in them, that they are trusted and that they will do well. If a student senses you care for their wants and needs, they may respect you more and as a result, may perform better.

Finding what they are having difficulty with is key and then attempting to fire them up by saying that the benefits will outweigh the costs of learning.

By telling them that their capabilities are innate and that all they need to do is to express them, having a good level of English will build their confidence and provide more opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Telling students that they have already acquired language skills and that their innate capabilities will make them successful again, the rewards of learning new things will open up many doors in their life, this needs to be explained.

Lets now take a look at listening as a skill in language learning and how that relates to lower level English learners. Listening is often called a receptive skill in language learning and is the first skill that we as humans learn and as such in language learning it is not different.

Listening as a skill is important, especially for lower-level English learners since at the beginner learn level listening takes place a lot more because the student should receive inputs, more on modelling sentences or words for example. Listening will then follow on to reading and back and forth.

Educational links that have both audio recording and scripted text within website pages with content which clearly expresses how things are said and the way they are said is crucial. This is quite important because when we learn a language or acquire it first we listen and mimic many sounds, as a teacher you can use this to model words and sentences as appropriate examples.

If you can cover listening to English in different settings and scenarios this will be a good thing, students will be exposed equally to podcasts, news and radio, meaning they will have a variety of accents, intonations and words in which they will be exposed to further increasing their listening skills and later on there reading skills.

There are many ways to identify and approach beginner level English teaching and delivery. These are some to get you thinking on how you can possibly approach lower-level English learning teaching which suits your own teaching style and educational materials.


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