One of the things most EFL teachers in Thailand notice almost immediately after starting to teach English to Thai students is that successfully giving instructions can be difficult.
Either the teacher themselves is not doing it in a way Thais can understand, or their Thai students are not paying attention.
As giving instructions to an EFL learner is usually key to them learning better English, learning how to do it correctly should be your first priority.
Follow these quick steps to help you successfully give instructions to EFL students in Thailand, and you may find your students not only understand you better but end up learning more as well.
How to successfully give instructions to EFL students in Thailan
1) Plan what you are going to say — This is particularly important as many EFL teachers in Thailand plan their entire lesson, but do not plan how they are going to explain what their students need to do. Write down the instructions you intend to use, and then edit them for clarity.
2) Simplify your language — Remember, you are teaching EFL students in Thailand that, for the most part, have limited English skills and particularly limited English comprehension. This is why it is so important to make sure your instructions are simple, and without language that can easily lead to confusion.
That means, rather than telling your students “Write 10 sentences that describe your family, explaining who they are, what they do, where they work or go to school, what they like and do not like, and why they are different than other people’s families“,
simply say “Write 10 sentences that describe your family. Explain to me what is unusual about each person?”
3) Look closely at your students faces — You can usually tell very easily if your students are understanding what you say, or if it is going over their heads, from the looks on their faces. If you get faces that just look confused, start again and simplify the instructions you are giving even more.
4) Make sure every student is looking at you before you begin — Too many EFL teachers in Thailand give their students instructions when it is obvious half the class is not listening. Do not begin until every member of your class is looking at you, even if you have to wait for that to happen.
5) Maintain eye contact — If you do not maintain eye contact, it is easy for your students to look away and to start thinking about something else. Maintain eye contact, however, and they are far less likely to lose their concentration.
6) Hand out papers or materials after your instructions — The number one mistake teachers make when giving instructions to EFL students in Thailand is to hand out paperwork or materials that are going to be used in a classroom exercise before giving them the instructions about them.
If you hand out your materials beforehand, students start to look at them, play with them and, in some cases, destroy them. All of this means they are certainly not listening to you when you explain what they should do with them.
7) Never ask “Do you understand” — The phrase “Do you understand?” is pretty much a waste of time when teaching EFL in Thailand, as just about every Thai student will tell you they do when mud is probably clearer than what you just said.
Instead, watch their faces, and you will be able to tell who understands and who does not.
8) Longer assignments need to be broken down — If you are giving them an in-class assignment with more than one part, give instructions for the first part, give them a time limit to complete it and then wait for everyone in the class to finish.
After all, there is no point giving complete instructions for longer assignments as most of your students will have forgotten what you said about the second part the minute they start the first.
9) Write instructions on the board — Always give instructions to EFL students in Thailand verbally, as you really want them to get used to the sounds of the English language. Once you have given them instructions, however, you can also write a shortened form of the instructions on the board so they can refer to them as they go.
This prevents you having to waste time explaining and re-explaining your instructions every few minutes as students start to forget what you said.
10) Check on understanding — Once you have given your instructions, allow your students to begin work. Walk around the classroom keeping an eye on what each student is doing, as you will easily be able to see who understood and who did not.
Correct each student individually, unless you realize they are all doing something wrong. Then ask them to stop working for a few seconds, and give them the instructions again. This time in an even more simplified form.
Giving instructions to EFL students in Thailand is not that difficult. It just requires you to simplify your usual English vocabulary, get and keep their attention, and speak slowly while making sure students understand before you allow them to start work.
Just be sure to speak loudly enough, so even the students at the back can hear every word you say.