The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures

me, myself and I

One thing teachers need to remember when they deal with students, is that their students are human. Even Earth, the 12-year-old wrestler picking his nose in the corner and grunting at nobody in particular every now and again. This is a good thing because the one thing we can count on with people, is that they like to talk about themselves.

So we use this to our advantage: Talking about ourselves is easy. We already know the content of what we want to say, so we can focus on how we want to say it. We enjoy talking about ourselves and we want to do it. Usually, it’s difficult to stop people talking about themselves. So students want to speak, they want to use the target language to be able to speak, and they find it enjoyable to speak. The trifecta!

It also makes it more memorable and the situations are more likely to be repeated, so there are further opportunities for students to practise the target language. Think about talking about what Mary likes to do in her free time or talking about what you like to do. Or describing what a hairdresser does versus describing what you do in your job. Which is more likely to happen in real life ie outside the classroom?

Now, to turn this on its head, let’s think about it from another perspective. You, the teacher, are a person too. Even on the days when you feel like you’ve said the same things so many times you must be a stuck record. And so, you probably like talking about yourself too. Happily for you, your students are actually interested in you and your life, and they can’t go anywhere – a truly captive audience!

Again, use this to your advantage. When introducing the topic of films, talk about films you like or don’t like. When talking about comparisons, describe your ex-husband with your future husband. (I never said it had to be true). Before class, think about how you could describe the situation, whatever it may be, using the language you are trying to teach your students. Monkey see monkey do.

Just the other day I was observing a class and the teacher brought out a photo of himself and his family. A simple photograph of himself on the couch with his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Oh the pandemonium! It was like these students had truly believed their teacher did not exist beyond the classroom and now realised (a0 he did and (b) there were other people out there just like him: he had a family!. Once that had sunk in, it became a free-for-all to see who could positively identify the family members. I swear I even saw some punches being thrown in the chaos.

The target language for the lesson: family vocabulary. Job done.


5 comments on “me, myself and I

  1. jean
    February 13, 2015


  2. Barbara Husar
    February 13, 2015

    I’ve realised as well that since I started talking more about myself, my students enjoy the lessons more. At first I wanted to give them the most space possible to express themselves, I didn’t want to bother them with what I like or what I do in my free time etc; but surprisingly they ARE interested and they DO listen to you. It DOES create a good student-teacher rapport.

    • jellybeanqueen
      February 13, 2015

      Absolutely! One of my (many) rules of thumb is that I only do things in class that I would find interesting or that I would enjoy doing. Finding out more about the people I am, essentially, working with is definitely one of those things. And the great thing is, it works with all ages.

  3. ESLBackpack
    February 14, 2015

    Oh, by the way, I’d like to add your blog to a directory of TEFL blogs that I’m building here:

    Yours can be the first one, haha!

  4. Pingback: the importance of a good model | this is it

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This entry was posted on February 12, 2015 by in General TEFL and tagged , , , .

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