The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

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

the importance of a good model


Monkey see, monkey do.

I’m not trying to be insulting, but it’s true. Your students will try to copy you at all times. As a South African working in language schools abroad, my colleagues would often comment on how my students would end up saying ja all the time. While a part of me thinks it’s cool that they’re taking away my English, I realise my South Africanisms are not acceptable or even understandable in other parts of the world, so it’s cruel to let my students walk out of the classroom talking about braais, bakkies and biltong. The problem is, you don’t notice that you speak like that, kinda like when parents hear their children swear and can’t imagine where they heard those words.

The point is, though, that students do copy you and they should, because you are their own personal model for language production. So let’s use that to our advantage. Whatever is being done in class, give a model first – show them how it’s done. This doesn’t need to be explicitly stated, rather jump right into it; they will realise later what you were doing – or even if they don’t consciously realise it, their brains will.

So, let’s say you are looking at the distinction between the present perfect for experiences and the past perfect and you decide to speak about travel experiences. Bring some photos in of you travels and tell them a story of one of your trips. I usually draw a world map on the board with “pins” where I’ve been. I then choose a destination and tell my story (making sure I include examples of the target language):

I’ve been to Asia many times but one of my favourite trips was when I went to India in 2005 – almost 10 years ago. It was my first time in India and I loved it!*

I’ve also travelled around Europe. When I was a student I went on a Contiki tour with my friends around Spain and Italy.*

*Insert relevant details. Show photos. Exaggerate accordingly.

 Your students will appreciate the glimpse into your private life and they will be prepared for when they are expected to produce their own travel stories. Don’t worry about the repetition of exercises; your students need the practice and scaffolding, in order to produce the best versions of their own stories.


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This entry was posted on March 16, 2015 by in General TEFL and tagged , , , , , .
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