Common errors ESL/EFL teachers commit

As EFL/ESL teachers we could learn quite a bit from each other. Most importantly we could help each other by pointing out the most common weaknesses of ESL/EFL teachers. By so doing we could improve our quality of service in a shorter space of time. Learning from your own mistakes is good, but learning from others’ mistakes is better and causes less emotional havoc. :laughing:

Well Rinkals the fact that your post got so few responses points to the most common error EFL/ESL teachers make and that is self-assessment. Most teachers have an inflated opinion of their abilities because they teach in a vacuum and most schools have very little if any internal assessment.

Once you have the fundamentals of crowd control mastered and can actually get a decent response out of the students, I think the next biggest issue that challenges most teachers is long-term vision. If you don’t really know where the program is going and if you have never seen what is possible it is very difficult to set meaningful goals. That’s when the problem of working in a vacuum is most acute.

Most common errors/weaknesses I’ve seen are:

  1. Lack of preparation

  2. No plan for the teacher or students to see

  3. Lack of preparation

  4. Poor classroom management

  5. Using extrinsic motivators (candy, stickers, TV time)

  6. Not teaching FLUENCY of items learned

  7. Not explaining how to do something, then showing them how to do it, then getting them to do it an then showing them again if not done properly.

  8. Lack of preparation.

The difficulty with this topic is that there are some pretty divergent opinions on what is good teaching. One person’s error is another’s method. Another person’s error is another’s classroom management.

I’d say this:

  1. Making fun activities that don’t educate
  2. Decontextualizing the language
  3. Speaking too far above the students’ comprehension level
  4. Telling more than showing
  5. Allowing students to speak Chinese when they can express what they want in English (failing to maintain a learning environment)
  6. Not being aware of what their tests are truly assessing
  7. Teaching without a set of standards/goals in mind

But on some of these points you have to fault the system the teacher is given to teach within.

Speaking too fast or using too many idioms and colloquialisms with intermediate and lower students.

Not being very knowledgeable about the language concepts being taught

Not admitting that they don’t know when something they can’t explain comes up (often resorting to either making something up or “Because that’s how we say it.”) rather than actually finding out why

Not being very knowledgeable about L2 learning theories and therefore not understanding how their students are learning or why they make the mistakes they do

Thinking that as the native speaker, they should be modeling all language rather than letting students serve as models when they have the ability to do so

With cyberguerilla’s lack of preparedness: not just lacking preparation in handouts, but also with media, extranneous materials, and technology intended for the lesson. Such as asking for an overhead projector and not turning it on until right before the students arrive, learning that the bulb is burnt out with no time to replace it

Using the book too much and not anything that caters to the students’ needs or interests

Lacking of realia and authentic materials (audio or visual)

Flashcard Syndrome

(my big one) Not fully exploiting materials for various purposes…using materials once and then never using them again

Putting too much emphasis on minor language issues while failing to teach more important ones

Not building rapport with students, thinking their job extends only to presenting and teaching the materials and then moving on to the next thing as soon as the class ends.

I’ve found that having little access to resources that could extend a lesson is mistake. Or not knowing where to look.

Having to teach from a textbook from day one with no given prep time to plan a syllabus creates the problem of being able to set goals.

Having to formulate several lessons taliored to the desire of the TEACHER not the students causes the English teacher to lose sight of or not be able to create long and short term goals, creates chaos in the students learning, and makes the whole process frustrating and almost a daily up hill battle

Is that, after 5 years, my English has become quite crappy!

I’m the only full-time foreign teacher at my school, the rest speaks no English. I hang out with my eight 4 year olds all day, don’t speak much English at home during the week.

So now I’m starting to mix up my ‘is’ and ‘are’ I found it the worst on the weekends though, while talking to other foreigners! I’m hoping it’s because it’s my job, and that I don’t want to think about my job on the weekends!!!

Some great ideas here starting with Fox’s point about self-assessment. I think the most important thing that any teacher can have is a willingness to reflect on his/her practice and to continue learning. And as Fox said, what is most helpful in this is some kind of a framework for reference.

In my opinion the second most common error, which has also been mentioned by posters above, is failing to ensure that students are comprehending the language. This is a mistake that most of us make from time to time and we need to remind ourselves constantly to check students’ comprehension. There are various ways to do this, but of course the way NOT to do it is simply asking the students whether they understand as they usually say yes anyway.

Having a long term view and standards is important and I am finding that I am developing in this regard through study and experience.

And something that I think is very important but rarely thought about is Cyberguerrilla’s point here:[quote=“Cyberguerrilla”]6. Not teaching FLUENCY of items learned[/quote]
This one sentence opens up a lot of interesting issues.

And something that I think is very important but rarely thought about is Cyberguerrilla’s point here:[quote=“Cyberguerrilla”]6. Not teaching FLUENCY of items learned[/quote]
This one sentence opens up a lot of interesting issues.[/quote]
Gee. Thanks. :blush:

But that reminds me of where I discovered how important fluency really is; at the Taipei Teacher’s Conference last year. Which brings me to another mistake so many teachers make: Not learning how to be a better teacher.

There are some good conferences in Taiwan on teaching english and a lot of websites and books that give great Classroom Management techniques, phonics ideas and grammar games. A great quote I always remember is:


But I guess I understand that most foreigners who come here don’t want to be teachers for the rest of their lives, so for them, why should they bother spending their free time “working”. But for me, I just want to do the best job I can, whether or not I’m going to be a teacher in the future.


Teachers like you then are too few and far between.

:bravo: :bravo:

Very good points and posts, Cyberguerrilla.

But I think what you said above could be said of any job–or even life in general. It is important to be continuously learning and doing the best job you can do–in any and ever job you do.

Lack of appropriate concept checking: asking students “Do you understand this?” and trusting them to reply truthfully when they nod.