If you are a recent TESOL graduate who is interested in teaching English in Turkey, you will see that most entry-level jobs involve teaching young learners or high school students. In this article, I will explore different approaches and techniques that you need to take into consideration with each age group.
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Teaching Young Learners
Turkish people typically first encounter English in kindergarten and their early experience tends to be very positive. What is expected in young learner classrooms is a dynamic experience, with children coloring in pictures, singing songs or answering simple questions and playing games. Flashcards and vocabulary drills work well, as they will give all learners the chance to speak and improve their pronunciation. Songs are also good for young learners in Turkey.
While there are certain schools where English is the main language of instruction, English is normally taught for a couple of hours a week as a stand-alone subject. Therein lies the main problem: the parents, probably having not had the same opportunities during their childhood, may expect miracles from this limited exposure. While it may seem cruel to give young children homework, assigning simple coloring and matching activities to do at home will placate eager parents and help to extend their exposure to the English language.
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Teaching High School Students
English is also taught in the national education system, although with a varying degree of enthusiasm and success depending on the particular institution. Starting in the second grade, English is a key subject in the national curriculum right through high school. Nevertheless, it isn’t part of the official university entrance exam, meaning that English receives less and less attention as students progress through their high school years. Despite this, teaching in a Turkish high school can be a rewarding experience.
The English presented in state school course books at each grade tends to be largely a repetition of the previous years’ work. This offers both a challenge and an opportunity. Students will have little motivation to go over the grammar structures they already know, but this means they are open to new techniques and activities. Turks seriously love technology and any attempt to use technology in the ESL class will be appreciated. A great way to motivate teenage learners, therefore, is to get them working in groups, researching topics on the internet, making posters and presentations on laptops, and playing online games.
Students will generally be happy to do course book related exercises, such as gap fills and multiple choice exercises, for homework, if it means that they can do something more engaging during class time. Turkish high school students are acutely aware that being able to speak English well will be a big advantage to them in their future. Consequently, they often feel frustrated by the lack of importance placed on English by their educational system. Making presentations and class discussions are great activities, as they give students the chance to improve their speaking skills.