Every student learns differently. Due to this, all students are stronger in certain areas and weaker in others. They also have different goals they want to achieve within the English language. Our job as teachers is to distinguish these differences by paying close attention to our students.
Many activities are designed to obtain information about our students so we, as teachers, can identify their needs, wants, goals, problem areas, etc. Doing so will help ensure we teach them the best we can. You want to pay attention to the subtleties of the language and their use of it during these activities and really use them to get to know your class.
Here are some great activities you can use to help you know your student.
Interviews: The best form of interview is performed one-on-one. You can either interview the student yourself or else have two students interview each other, and listen in on their conversation.
True to You: Prepare a form for your students to be filled out. You can use it as an activity with phrases like “I do/do not like,” and “I do/do not need.” An example question could be, “I _______ English for better employment opportunities.” If a student fills the blank in with “I do need,” then you have discovered one of their goals in learning English. Remember, every student will be different of course, so make sure everyone fills out their own form and you take the appropriate notes in regards to the results.
Adverbs of Frequency: Have students discuss their expected future needs of the English language. Perform a “sentence completion” activity with the students in pairs using terms such as “often,” “always,” “never,” etc. which they can discuss as they will in their answers. Ex: “I always speak English at home.” “I never write English at work.”
Listening: Listening is an essential part of learning any language. If you have problems with listening, you are sure to have problems with speaking. Have a pre-recorded conversation and have your students listen to it. Discuss the conversation afterwards. “What were they talking about?” Do you agree or disagree?” “Why or why not?” You may discover they had problems with the topics in question, and discover they just needed a better lesson on the target vocabulary involved. If so, re-teach the vocabulary and try the exercise again.
Role-Play: Role-plays are essential in the TEFL industry. Have the students take on a momentary alter ego and act out a scenario in their new role. There are plenty to choose from; doctor/patient, shopper/clerk, traveller/taxi driver, etc. The possibilities are endless. Listen closely to the conversation. Pay special attention to everything from listening, understanding, pronunciation and improvisation. You will learn an extremely large amount of information from your students during a role-play, and its fun for everyone!