ESL Development 1: Things students don’t like to do in class

What’s Wrong in the ESL Classroom—From the Students’ Point of View

When analyzing the ESL classroom situation and the procedures used in the teaching, it is vital to think about how the students perceive the class. Over the years I have spoken with many students and observed numerous classes. I will give you—in three short articles—some lists with the reactions and comments of students. There are three categories:

  • What students don’t like doing
  • What students like doing
  • What students are willing to do in certain circumstances.

I will also explain how I think teachers can gain the respect of their students.

I suggest you look at the list below and discuss it with your colleagues. Are you surprised or have you already seen evidence of these reactions? Do these reactions remind you about how "you" felt as a student?

Students don’t like…

1. Listening to a teacher who is speaking all the time.

2. Listening to a teacher without understanding what he or she is saying.

3. Listening to a recording without understanding what is being said.

4. Being called on when they don’t know the answer.

5. Being asked a personal question or a question they don’t understand.

6. Having to put up their hands all the time.

7. Having to speak/recite in front of everyone especially when not prepared.

8. Receiving loose photocopies that have to be filed.

9. Receiving odd-shaped photocopies that have to be filed.

10. Carrying around a heavy textbook the teacher uses only for 10 min.

11. Being corrected several times in a row in front of the other students.

12. Being told the answer they gave is “not at all right”.

13. Being laughed at by the teacher.

14. Feeling stressed in class because they speak or work too slowly.

15. Feeling too nervous to ask a question for fear of appearing stupid.

16. Not having enough time to finish an exercise.

17. Having a surprise test because the class is noisy or inattentive.

18. Having to sit all the time and never being able to stand up.

19. Receiving a bad grade or an unfair grade.

20. Not being able to hear what other students are saying.

My suggestion

I suggest you look at the above list before preparing a class or perhaps a whole curriculum. There is no point in wasting your time getting materials or thinking up procedure in the classroom, if you are bound to meet with dissatisfaction on the part of the students.

In the next article, we’ll look at what students like doing.


Back to the list of articles in the ESL Teacher Development Course