COACHING & MENTORING ACTIVITIES FOR ELT
Written by Phil Wade, Michelle Hunter & Ron Morrain
Copyright 2015 Phil Wade, Michelle Hunter & Ron Morrain
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This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be sold. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
About the authors
Phil Wade has a certificate in Executive Coaching, the ILM 5 certificate in Coaching and Mentoring, an MA in TESOL, A PGCE in English, the CELTA and DELTA module 3 and is currently doing a PhD in Education. He has worked in ELT for 15 years as a teacher, trainer, coach, examiner, course manager, elearning and materials designer and ebook author. He blogs at: [+ .+]
Michelle Hunter holds a CertTESOL and has taught business English in Germany for 16 years. Becoming a personal development trainer 6 years ago lead her into the world of coaching. She has a Post Graduate Certificate in Business & Personal Coaching and is currently working on her Masters in Coaching in Education. In 2016, she will give her second IATEFL talk on integrating coaching into English teaching. Read more on the topic and to see how her ideas develop over the course of her Masters studies at
Ron Morrain has worked in Human Resource Management and Development for over 25 years. He is currently a lecturer and coach in Germany. He holds a BA in EFL, an MBA in International Business Administration and HRM, and a PhD in Organisational Psychology. Ron is the founder and DOS of the Language Learning Center in Duisburg which specializes in Teacher and Corporate language training. . He regularly speaks and leads workshops at EFL and HRM events. Ron will be presenting in 2016 at the English Teachers Association Switzerland (ETAS) as representative for The European Language Certificates (TELC-Frankfurt, Germany).
About the ebook
Coaching has become popular in ELT over the past few years as the number of teacher training courses has increased. Whereas Coaching was once just for business experts to help business people, coaching is now being done by a wide range of providers and many TEFL people have included coaching on their CVs and in their job titles. For some, it is a natural move towards a more student-centred approach, for others, it rebrands them as more professional, akin to private business consultants or trainers.
Mentoring is yet to reach the level of popularity of Coaching but it is often included on coaching courses. Mentoring is probably actually utilised more within ELT than Coaching but in a natural way. People trained in both can alternate between or combine the two to provide the optimum solutions to help their students or clients. They are 2 additional tools to add to your personal arsenal of teaching and training.
Coaching is a learning and development process to improve performance and/or solve a problem. Coaches help coachees make realisations to reach their goals. They believe coachees have all the answers within them but need support to find them.
Mentoring is a relationship where a senior mentor helps a less experienced mentee develop. Mentors provide a sounding board, a source of guidance and feedback. Mentees turn to mentors for expert help when needed.
This ebook provides practical Coaching and Mentoring ideas for ELT. They are effective and simple to organise. Each has been adapted and developed from a coaching or mentoring perspective to fit the needs of English learners.
1. Find out why students are in the classroom.
Get them to voice their expectations and objectives for your time together. Keep notes to compare later with what was achieved at the end of each lesson. Even accept humorous objectives. Start from the very first lesson.
2. Build an atmosphere of equality.
Creating an “us” as opposed to “me” (the teacher) and “you” (the student) atmosphere in the classroom builds strong rapport. We are in this learning process together. An empowered student is a constructive participant so make them part of the process by involving them in decision making such as about what homework to do, how much, when to have revision tests, how much work should be done in class etc. Make this a characteristic of every lesson.
3. Begin lessons with “Memory talk”.
Pair up students to talk about what they remember from the last lesson, particularly what they learned. Give them a few minutes and when they have finished, start the lesson. Make it a short, constructive regular activity. Try it in pairs, groups and as a whole class.
4. Enable self-rating.
At the end of a lesson, a week or a course, write the scale of 1 to 10 on the board. Establish that 10 is high while 1 is low and ask students to rate themselves. You can choose specific categories such as participation or fluency or ask them to decide 3 of their own. Then go over how honest they were and what they think their classmates and you would rate them as. Compare them and give the students time to draw any conclusions.
5. Identify what is holding them back from reaching the next level.
Show a copy or a simplified version of the CEFR levels and what students can do and know at each level. Ask them to work up from A1 and highlight until they get to their limits i.e. their current level. Then ask them to change colour and highlight 3 of their current goals that will get them to the next band. Tell them to number them in order of priority.
6. Uncover how they learn and how to leverage it.
Revise the last lesson’s teaching points to test how much students learned. Don’t make it too easy. Ask students to talk about their scores and how well they learned the content and how they did it. Tell them to take a piece of paper and complete the sentence ‘I learn best by..’ and afterwards to write down 5 learning strategies they need to utilise.
7. Keep them engaged.
When you teach, for example a new grammar point, do it very slowly and pay attention to the body language and physical cues of the students. Are they keeping eye contact? Are they making notes? Are they processing new information? Or do they seem confused and lost? Use every cue to help you progress and keep them 100% engaged even if it means stopping the exercise and backtracking.
8. Ask a question and give plenty of thinking time.
Without pressure to answer quickly and correctly, students can process what the question means to them: they begin to develop an answer, formulate it in English, and possibly also translate it from their own language. It all takes time. Remain still, calm and interested and don’t rush them or jump in. Silence isn’t negative.
9. Ask a follow-on question to get students to think more deeply.
By pushing further with “why?” questions, your students can think beyond their initial response. Holding the space and being genuinely interested, you can encourage them to really stretch their thinking. Also try “and?”, ask for examples, comparisons and even be critical and demand justification.
10. When students get distracted, ask them what needs to happen to get them focussed again.
This usually results in a negotiation for a shortened lesson – keep an open mind; once they’re back on track and involved, they are likely to keep going for longer, possibly even to the end of the allotted time. If they really can’t maintain focus, you gain nothing by forcing the issue, they will not learn anything. However, concentrating on smaller chunks of your lesson will encourage agreement.
11. Create a wheel of student life.
Draw a wheel and ask them to add sectors that represent their lives e.g. family, friends, school, work, sleep, food, fun etc. The bigger the sector, the more importance or time it represents. Instruct them to then draw another one that represents their dream life. Ask them to group together to compare their wheels and to give suggestions as to how to go from the current wheel to the future one. Then give students a minute to process the suggestions.
12. Visualise obstacles and beat them.
Give the students a piece of paper each, ask them to write their current goal on it then take it and stick it on the board. Next, ask them to brainstorm what is stopping them reaching it. Listen then write the most serious on pieces of folded paper and then stand them up on the desk in front of the student. Tell the student to prioritise them and place them closer if they are more urgent and further way if less. Give them a minute to brainstorm 4 ways to overcome the first. If they are good, then let them crush up the paper and throw it in the bin. Continue and then let them go to the board and take their goal. Finish off by writing a formal action plan for with dates to reach the end goal. Both sign it.
13. Bring the session to an end by asking what went well and what could have gone better.
Emphasize that you genuinely want to know what they really think of the lesson that has finished. Accept all opinions in an unbiased way. When you know what works for them – and what not – you know what to aim for in the future.
14. Discover what they didn’t learn.
When you recap the lesson objectives, ask students to write what % of each they have achieved and then to brainstorm why they did not get 100% of each. Tell them to think deeply for a minute and then to write down their reasons. Then go round and read them and write some on the board. Then, elicit possible solutions.
15. “What if I had to stand up and give a presentation tomorrow?”
Think of hypothetical questions like this one which get students to imagine realistic situations and how well equipped they are/are not to handle them. Pose the questions in your lessons to the class as a whole to groups or individual students. Don’t shallow “I don’t know” or “I’d do my best” answers. Encourage them to really think about the possible situation and what would happen and why.
16. Identify and offer mentoring to people you click with.
Mentees normally approach potential mentors. They choose people they have a rapport with. So look for students you have a connection with and offer a very basic form of mentoring where you ask them what they really want to improve about themselves on the course and then establish how you can help outside of the lesson e.g. offering advice, listening, discussing their progress and motivating them. Agree on how you will continue to work together. After class chats or weekly emails are both good steps.
17. Integrate mentoring into 1-2-1 courses.
Discuss the idea of having occasional sessions or part of a session as mentoring where you can talk freely and the mentee can raise anything or ask what they want about their progress. Offer to hold them at a different time or place if the mentee prefers. For instance, just after a session, in another room or a cafe.
18. Create an email system.
Send weekly emails to mentees asking how they are progressing and if they have any questions. Suggest useful articles to read, study tips and ask them direct questions about their progress and goal attainment. Keep it friendly without direct pressure, motivating them to ask for help when or if needed.
19. Change your perspective/role
When you are involved in teaching a point or doing a task, change perspectives. Describe something a previous student found hard and explain what helped them do better. Also talk about how you learned a similar point in another language. Offer suggestions and speak from real experience.
20. Go beyond the linguistic.
Practise being a sounding board and just listening to the trainees tell you how they feel and encourage them to share their difficulties. Teachers are ideally placed to help students develop personally, so ask about their stress levels, emotions, skills and behaviour. Learning a language does not have to be just about learning words and getting better at a language, add value with this personal development opportunity.
21. Motivate students by praising what they do now, what they did before and what they can do in the future.
Some students don’t get enough praise when teachers concentrate too much on errors. Reverse it to build confidence. Follow a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback. An un- or de-motivated student won’t be as eager to work hard improve as one with a motivating mentor who has faith in them.
22. Set students homework and self-development tasks.
Standard homework is often ‘learn/do/complete X, Y and Z’. Instead, give homework to help with personal development, such as reflective tasks, practise exercises aimed at developing skills, specifics worked out based on pinpointed personal weaknesses and anything you perceive that they lack or must increase.
23. Encourage them to keep a Learning Log of their progress and key milestones.
Students don’t always see their progress and can give up after a weeks. To prevent this occurring, tell students to start a Learning Log or diary. They should chart their main and subgoals, their work on their personal growth and feedback from you. In this way, they can clearly see they are improving.
24. Agree a mentoring agreement about what you will work on.
You cannot help students with everything so define the boundaries of your mentoring. If you only swap weekly emails or have 5 minute weekly chats, the student won’t be able to reinvent themselves. The fewer and more measurable the goals, the more chance they will be reached.
25. Ask them to try something new, reflect on it, make a conclusion/theory and to try it out.
This is the development cycle students need to get used to in order to become autonomous. For instance, if they haven’t mastered IF conditionals, encourage them to find some websites with lessons, complete them, think about how useful they were, make a learning method for using websites and a list of sites for future study and then try it with another grammar point. They should keep perfecting their method so it gets better after each cycle.
26. Prepare them for interviews.
For future job seekers, create 3-5 behavioural questions using the structure ‘Tell me about a time when you…’. Ask them to research the STAR (Situation Task Action Results) method and to make answers for homework. Then, do an interview simulation and give honest feedback on their style and how their answers reflected or did not them as people and make an action plan of how to improve interview skills.
27. Be the rolemodel.
Tell your student to prepare all the interview questions they find hard and want help with or may do. Give them examples like Analytical Thinking, Communication, Decision Making, Motivation, Problem Solving, Stress Management, Teamwork. Conduct an interview simulation with the mentee asking you questions. After, ask them to analyse what you did, to compare your styles and to make some takeaways that they can use to get better. Add a few of your own.
28. Mindmap throughout the process.
Students may not know what they need to do next or even what exactly they need to improve, especially when it comes to serious behavioural and personal issues. So, encourage them to mindmap, let them be as creative as they want. They can draw, make shapes, do lines, use colours or just words and even lists. Analyse together what they create and use it to move forward in your sessions.
29. Help raise self awareness.
Is what they are doing working? Do they need something else like an online course, a book, another course, more revision, an app? Are they studying enough? Too much? Is their home a good place for homework? Ask your students all of these and more to get them to understand their here and now.
30. Class shadowing: intensive focus on your mentee.
Agree a language related aspect on which you as mentor should focus and fix a time to shadow the student. Keep detailed notes during the shadowing on what went well and what could be improved ready to share in the next lesson. Give no feedback during the observational period. If possible and appropriate, make a recording for the student to self study before your next lesson and compare notes.
Over to you
You can use a coaching or a mentoring approach or a combination. It doesn’t have to be just this or that. You could also have TEFL with a mentoring angle or coaching with a TEFL one. All these fall under the same umbrella. The key decision is usually whether you support your students to find a solution or you give them a solution or solutions
Below are some common teaching problems that you may have already faced. Using coaching and mentoring ideas, think about how you could tackle them.
What can you do when…..
1) students are using their phones in class?
2) students are too quiet or too talkative?
3) nobody did their homework?
4) some students don’t participate in group activities?
5) a student is not progressing the same as the others?
6) an older student has many fossilised errors and cannot progress?
7) a student does not have effective study techniques?
8) students do not know the answers to some questions and give up and become de-motivated?
9) the coursebook/materials seem unsuitable?
10) a student is shy, withdrawn and is falling behind?
11) a student’s persona influences every lesson?
12) a student constantly questions your knowledge?
13) a student is exceptionally quick and sits doing nothing, looking bored?
14) a student is so weak, no one else wants to work with him/her?
15) a student feels his/her time is being wasted?
16) a student consistently misunderstands/doesn’t hear instructions?
17) a pair of students don’t seem to know why they are in the class?
18) the whole back row consistently disrupts the class?
19) the class consistently doesn’t follow instructions?
20) your standard approach/method isn’t working well enough?