How to Have Enthusiastic EFL Students

Elicitation in the EFL Classroom

It is easier than you might think to have charged-up students in front of you.

Ask your students what they want to talk about.  We all know that, but how you do it makes a big difference.

Today we will talk about one aspect of elicitation as there are too many to do it justice in just one post.

In the last twenty years there has been quite a turnaround in EFL teaching and all for the good.  It used to be that people would tell you as you were heading out to teach that you should take pictures of your family and where you come from and that’s what you can/should/would talk about.

Thankfully, the old days of the teacher-centered classroom are over, because – really – what could be more boring to an EFL student than talking about YOU all the time.  Sorry, most of us just aren’t that interesting.

And, you know what?  If you let the students come up with the topics and guide the content of your class, it is actually much less work and they can even give you many ideas for future classes.

One Thing Students do Love

Students love to talk about themselves, their interests, their town, their country, their family, their dreams and aspirations.

Could this investigation into what students want to talk about even be a specific class?  Why not!   If you use the question as a guide for how to use the language to express what they want to talk about, it is fine for a class.  And you leave the class with a fist full of ideas about what they want to talk about.

Now . . . this doesn’t guarantee happy enthusiastic classes, your method also needs to be spot on and you need to use elicitation in each class as a core of your method. To always be working to pull out of your students what they know, don’t know and if they understand the concepts you are teaching (aka concept checking).

In the warm-up and presentation/engage segments for every class you need to be constantly asking your students about what they know or don’t about the day’s topic and adjust your class as it runs along.

My best example of how this can work well is when I was teaching a hospitality class at a resort about ten years ago.  We were learning how to deal with complaints and – being a know-it-all – I had already created a list of possible complaints guests might make to which these food-and-beverage (F&B) staff would have to respond.  But when I did the elicitation for it in the presentation, I got a whole list of complaints that I had never even thought of.  So we used the new list instead of mine.

These students had to deal with these complaints on a daily basis at work and helping them solve this very real problem got them up and ready to really work on the lesson.  Of course, I was only teaching the structure of people asking and the staff answering complaints – we could plug in anything – no problem.

The number one complaint of guests to the F&B staff?
The mynah birds in the open air restaurant would jump on the table and eat their food while they were away at the buffet!

Would you have thought of that?    I sure didn’t and that is why elicitation works so well.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Don’t be a know-it-all like me.  Ask your students in what areas they need help.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Early in  your time with a group of students try doing a class on “expressing your opinion” and ask them what they would like to/need to talk about during your course.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Elicit, elicit, elicit!

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