Teaching English as a foreign language in schools is one of the popular ways for expats and long-term travelers to make a living in places like Asia or South America. I still find it both inspiring and quite remarkable to see, how many teachers with little or no knowledge of the countries native language they find themselves working in, can stand in front of 30+ children. Who in turn cannot speak a word of English, and conduct a successful vocabulary lesson. The only thing they have between them to communicate is some carefully selected images. Time to discuss one of the things that every teacher teaching a English as a foreign language should have in their teaching tool kit.
Teaching English with Flashcards
As most TEFL schools will tell you the main medium for teaching languages is by using Flashcards. A flash card is simply an image, which is used to portray a specific meaning that helps students form a word association. This is based on the education theory that if we SEE and HEAR at the same time the meaning of the content will become accepted as reality. Foreign language teachers are usually armed with a plethora of flash cards for their classes. That along with your lesson plan, an abundance of games + songs and a good attitude are essential tools for teaching in Thailand.
How to use Flashcards
Drilling is the most common technique for teaching with flashcards. The idea is to repeat the ‘word picture’ association in as many ways within a lesson as possible, with the hope that it will eventually become automatic for students. A typical lesson would start by introducing a topic. A teacher would use flashcards to introduce individual words and then a sentence structure would then be shown on the board.
The flash cards would then be used to show how the words would be used in the sentence. This would then be reinforced using a song, games or role-play exercises whereby once again, the flashcards would be used to reinforce key vocabulary from the lesson.
Most EFL teachers keep their lesson plans generally structured this way (depending on the age group). This is because, by keeping the lessons setup this way will help you with the children who might not understand a word you are saying to them at the beginning of your class (quite literally in most cases) should be able to follow your lesson without feeling too overwhelmed.
The second reason is due to the haphazard nature of different schools, foreign teachers will often be expected to conduct lessons without having a chance to plan properly. By keeping lesson plans generally structured in the same way allows teachers come up with lesson content relatively easily.