2. The skills of English
At Handout Hub, we have a range of TEFL handouts to be used on any classroom occasion. The majority of our general English worksheets can be categorised into the four main skills of English. Let us explain some of the ways our resources can be integrated into your classroom practice.
2.1 How do Handout Hub TEFL/ESL handouts ensure students improve their English?
Handout Hub was founded by experienced professionals, well-rehearsed in TEFL/ESL pedagogy and techniques. Years of resource development, handout production, and understanding what motivates learners have allowed us to fine tune an approach which focuses on three important TEFL/ESL classroom principles.
1. We use grammar handouts for language production practice. That is, we want use supplementary handouts to help our students improve their speaking, mostly through more accuracy in grammar and more experience in fluency.
2. We use vocabulary handouts for practice of vocabulary in context. Forget word lists, we are sure the most appropriate ways of acquiring and maintaining vocabulary are through activities that involve students speaking and writing vocabulary in context.
3. We think language practice is best done in pairs or small groups. Sometimes in the thick of grammar presentations, readings or listenings it is easy to forget that students are learning a language to communicate. We think this is best done in collaboration with others.
These three principles are reflected in our TEFL handouts. We have a wide variety of grammar handouts that are done through the mediums of speaking and writing. All our speaking handouts are done in pairs or small groups. We believe students should practise using vocabulary more in their speaking, and we know students are motivated through our engaging vocabulary handouts.
The most important skill for all students whether they recognise it or not, the skill of speaking is one highly valued at Handout Hub. What makes a student good at speaking and how can all students improve their spoken proficiency? It is widely recognised that there are three core components of spoken language competency; grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation (GVP). Accuracy with grammatical rules, using a wide range of English words, and speaking in a coherent and clear fashion combine together to underpin spoken language competency.
Handout Hub handouts are aimed at TEFL/ESL teachers who want to get their students speaking better; through practise of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. We want students to actively use language through their own production. Actually 'making' language through more accurate grammar forms, better fluency and more diverse vocabulary is vital for this. This is a key ability for language learners, because if they can't produce language then it doesn't matter how many gaps they can fill with whatever verb form. A suitable metaphor that stresses the importance of being able to 'produce the rules' is football. Knowing the rules of football doesn't make a person a good footballer. The same is true for grammar. Only practice and experience speaking using grammatical rules can improve students' fluency and accuracy.
Handout Hub offers a large amount of TEFL/ESL handouts that involve speaking activities, designed to improve students' productive abilities with grammar. From the verb 'be' at starter level to cleft sentences and inversion at advanced, the full range of grammatical principles are represented in an array of different activities. Activities differ from being tightly controlled to enhance students accuracy, to freer tasks giving students less input and revolving more around students' fluency. The best time to use these tasks is after students have acquired the rules through a grammar presentation or grammar discovery, and then have undertaken some written practice of grammar.
The other aspect of language production is being able to write effectively using grammatical rules. While most students do not highly rate writing ability as a required skill, productive writing practice is a good stepping stone from acquiring language in a grammar presentation to using the grammar in spoken English. Students need writing practice to make the link from language acquisition to language use.
All course books offer writing practice of grammatical principles, so why should you supplement? Handouthub provides teachers with productive language practice worksheets, which should be contrasted with receptive language practice. In the latter, students usually complete the missing gaps in sentences with an appropriate verb phrase. There is usually one correct answer. The activity is over within five minutes. On the other hand, Handout Hub writing tasks involve students making their own language from a sliding scale of input given on the worksheets. Like speaking activities, the writing handouts have varying levels of structure and control. Use the controlled writing practices for students coming to grips with using the basics of grammar. Extended free writing practice offers minimal language input and is great for more creative writing.
While not a skill in itself, vocabulary forms one of the three pillars of English capability. The acquisition of vocabulary by students is actually a complicated process, and scholars still debate how second language learners 'pick-up' and continue using foreign language words. Handout Hub vocabulary worksheets follow three basic TEFL/ESL principles. Firstly, vocabulary is best acquired in context. That means a student shouldn't learn words on their own (for example in lists), but rather in the context of something they can relate to or have experienced. One of the biggest mistakes language learners make is noting down lists of words in their books with an adjacent translation. This method of vocabulary learning never works. In practice, our method means students exemplifying in speaking and writing, students acquiring vocabulary from a reading as opposed to learning lists of words, and the teacher using concept checking questions to check understanding.
The second principle of vocabulary acquisition is recycling. Like metals and plastics, newly-acquired words need to be used over and over again to be hard-wired from someone's short-term memory to the long-term. In practice, this can be done through speaking and writing activities, recaps, tests, crosswords and quizzes. There is nothing worse than noting a word down and not looking at it again. The third principle Handout Hub follows for vocabulary learning is, like grammar acquisition, production. In order for students to add words to their vocabulary repertoire, it is necessary for them to use the words in both speaking and writing tasks.
Reading is often regarded as the easiest skill in English. Students don't have to make the language themselves, students may have access to dictionaries to help them with new or unfamiliar words, and language is usually carefully graded in course books to ensure student understanding. However this is simply a myth. An important principle concerning reading is that it is not the content which generally makes a graded reading easy or difficult, rather the nature of the task set.
Handout Hub offers vocabulary handouts which accompany some of the articles featured in all the common course books. The principle of such worksheets is to help and guide students through the vocabulary of an article. Nothing sinks a student's motivation and confidence than dozens of new words sketched on the board. Don't let it come to that, and instead let students uncover the meaning of words from the context with our helpful sheets.
An often overlooked aspect of language competency is intelligible pronunciation, that is speaking English in a way that a person's accent or dialect does not interfere with understanding. A fundamental principle of pronunciation proficiency in any language is getting it right (or better) from the beginning rather than correcting mistakes at the end. A well-known metaphor goes like this; it's far better to have a railing at the top of a cliff, rather than a hospital at the bottom.
So how can a native teacher with perfect pronunciation hope to affect students with diverse and possibly vastly different accents in a TEFL/ESL classroom? The answer requires students and teachers to meet in the middle in terms of effort. While it's down to the teacher to provide pronunciation practice and model correct pronunciation to students, a student has to have a good ear and a certain flexibility with their mouth and tongue to succeed in pronouncing English correctly.
As with everything practice makes perfect. Handout Hub offers a range of pronunciation activities that act as excellent lead-ins and energisers. The range of tasks includes differentiating between individual sounds, tongue twisters, pronunciation poems, and vocabulary tasks on homographs, homophones etc. Pronunciation is a great way to begin a low level lesson when students lack the spontaneity to speak in English with each other.