Our TESOL tutors get lots of questions from candidates taking our TESOL Teaching Certificate courses. Here are two such questions:
"Every time I present a new word, my students look up the translation in their electronic dictionaries. How can I get them not to use this as their first option to 'understand' the meaning of a word."
-Frustrated in Two Languages, South Korea
Dear Frustrated in Two Languages:
Pictures and objects are excellent for introducing new words. Students can see the picture, and you can lead them to associate it with a new English word before they feel a need to use a dictionary. When you introduce a word by using a picture, ask your students "what is this?" before you give them the answer. When students give a correct answer, this will reinforce their learning. Finally, before you write a new word on your board, you should ask your students a "concept check" question. For example, if the new word is "aspirin" you might ask, "When would you want to take aspirin?". These activities and questions should keep your students' attention better than a dictionary can.
"Whenever I give students a task to do, they spend time translating my instructions in their native language."
-Why Doesn't Anyone Understand Me?, Bulgaria
Dear Why Doesn't Anyone Understand Me:
You should be sure to plan ahead and see that your instructions are simple enough for the level of students you are teaching. Write out your instructions, and see if you are using words that you wouldn't expect your students to know. It is usually helpful to demonstrate or act out whatever it is that you want the students to do. After you give clear, simple instructions and a demonstration, you may want to ask a "concept check" question, to be sure they understand. For example, if you have asked them to introduce themselves in English, you may ask, "What words do you use to introduce yourself?" Their answers to specific questions will let you know if they are ready to begin the activity.