At Material Squad, we had a nagging frustration… The pre-made curriculum packets just weren’t cutting it. They felt generic, disconnected from our students’ lives, and ultimately, ineffective. One of the biggest issues we were facing student after student was the low self-confidence and the lack of opportunities to prove that they actually CAN pass on information in English.
So, we began crafting engaging lesson plans, incorporating topics which without a question make our students speak up. Often, we try to use humour, as a fun environment breaks down the wall between the students and the teacher, hence the knowledge can flow with no blockages. We truly believe that language learning starts with building self-esteem, as if the students are given the chance class after class to express their opinion (and due to the engaging topics they can shake off the need to perfectly structure each phrase), they simply become more receptive to other information. As they express, they become more open (and unaware) to receive.
After 11 years of testing this method, we have seen our students thrive. Their test scores improved, but more importantly, their eyes lit up with genuine curiosity and excitement.
As of teaching strategies, we are big fans of using the “chunking method”, as with it we are given the perfect opportunity to reinforce vocabulary without being repetitive.
Chunking allows students to have a lot of useful phrases on hand when they have conversations in a second language. Rather than having to find each individual word when they want to say something, they can find an entire chunk. This makes their speech much faster and more fluent.
Our materials are all designed to be “consumed” in 1-2 hours. The structure is always the same, meaning the “outline” and “warm up” sections encourage discussion on the topic on hand, which is followed by vocabulary exercises. After this, we focus on either an article or a video which we pair with comprehension activities. This is the point which generally sparks discussions as the students always have an opinion on what they had read or watched.
We include something extra in our materials, which is either extra idioms strictly related to the topic or expressions directly from the video/article.
In the review section, students are welcomed to look back on some of the new vocabulary they have learnt throughout the material. And last, but not least we include a writing exercise. This could be done as homework, so students can really take their time to think about the topic and thoughtfully include the new vocabulary in their essay, which is another opportunity to deepen their knowledge.
You will see after using our material week after week, that really it all comes down to confidence.
Videos are great source of ‘real-life’ English language, and the pictures will help your student to understand what is being said. Furthermore, videos can give a better grasp of the pronunciation of English words, which helps your students pronounce them correctly, so they sound more natural.
At the end of each material there is an optional writing exercise. Writing practice helps your students think and speak in the foreign language. As they continue practicing, they can quickly form new thoughts in the other language. The practice eventually leads to proficiency in the language because they have developed a deeper understanding of it.
Reading is an important part of language learning because it helps your students develop other related skills like grammar, vocabulary, and writing. Reading allows language learners to explore topics that they love and stories that engage them. It is not only a very effective way to improve their language skills, but it also helps to give them some insight into English cultures as well.