When I first started out in TEFL, back in 1992, there were many teachers who thought that they were supposed to be dancing monkeys.
They thought that to play and dance and make your students laugh – even at their own expense – was a priority and perhaps even the sign of a good teacher.
These days that idea is more commonly called edutainment.
But behind all that insecurity and nervousness of those dancing teachers, that lead them to making fools of themselves, was the the fear of boring their students. The fear of that blank stare that tells you that you just aren’t getting through.
Making Learning Fun and Interesting is not a Bad Idea
Well . . . those were the days when very few EFL “teachers” had any training at all and most of us were, at least initially, shooting in the dark as to the best way to help our students learn English.
And – really – I have nothing against students having a good time in class. In fact, I usually teach teacher-trainees that the best way to approach a class is to have a fun activity and some good fun at the beginning of the class, work the students hard in the middle and have another enjoyable activity at the end.
With that method, students are eager to enter your classroom and come with a smile on their face and when leaving they are laughing and smiling again, eager to return.
But there is an important difference between a monkey and a teacher and the limited time that a teacher has with her students means that every moment in the classroom needs to be oriented toward learning.
A game is just a game, but a learning activity is – okay I will say it – a game – with a purpose. That purpose is to review and play with the language that has been studied. Just playing games to keep students busy and out of trouble is a waste of their time and money. The person responsible for that is NOT a teacher.
Having fun with an appropriate language activity is a good use of time and reinforces taught language and is intended to increase retention of the the lesson’s target language. The person responsible for that IS a teacher.
Catch the difference? Not complicated, but very important. When so many students have such limited exposure to the language they are studying, it is important to have classes well organized to maximize every learning opportunity.
TED’s Tips™ #1: Find some games/activities that you like and enjoy and that your students can have fun with.
TED’s Tips™ #2: Match those games and activities with the target language of the previous class for an enjoyable warm up and at the end of class for a fun review.
TED’s Tips™ #3: Now you can have a laugh and still know that you are doing a good job.