Learn English with Help from Your Friends

Posted by Greg Anton on 19-Dec-2017 21:00:00

Peer teaching is something that I’ve become increasingly interested in over the past few months. We often say that teaching is the best way to learn and I’ve been trying to incorporate this aphorism into my English lessons.

There are several ways I have approached this topic, with varying success, but each activity has strengthened my belief that peer teaching is a great way not only to learn and revise English language points, but also to gain confidence as a student and to develop friendships within the group.

The first time I tried peer teaching, it was with an Intermediate class at Stafford House Cambridge of many long-term students. It became clear after a couple of months that although newer students wanted to study language points we had already covered, long-term students were not much more confident with the form and use of this grammar and vocabulary than the recent arrivals. I decided everyone could do with some practice.

I separated the class into smaller groups and asked everyone to look back at some key pages from the last several chapters of the course book that we had studied. In their group, they had to choose one language point and create an explanation (in their own words) and exercises for the other students to do. This was a practical task, so it consolidated the students’ knowledge in a far more effective way than a teacher-led revision lesson would have.

Greg's students teaching their peers in Cambridge

Along with carefully planned tasks, I have organised spontaneous peer teaching as well.

One day in my current Elementary / Pre-Intermediate class, we were doing a writing progress test and students were finishing at wildly different times. So whenever a student finished, I asked them to look at a list of grammar and vocabulary topics which I had written on the board, choose one of them, revise their notes from the previous week and create their own explanation of its form and use. We ended up covering all of the most important grammar topics from the week before and everyone got the chance to help their friends to study.

At Stafford House Cambridge, we all know how much students love kahoot, so why shouldn’t we spend some time in class creating our own questions? For the final ten to twenty minutes on a Friday, when levels of concentration are low and the only thing that can keep people focused is a sense of competition, I sometimes ask students to create their own kahoot-style questions from the week’s work, complete with multiple choice options. Students write these on a piece of paper, give them to me at the end of the lesson and over the weekend, I collate this into a kahoot quiz which we play the following Monday morning. This jogs our memory as to what we have learned the previous week.

The most ambitious project I have done is inter-level peer teaching. In summer 2017, I asked my Upper Intermediate class to create a lesson for the three Pre-Intermediate classes. The Pre-Intermediate teachers gave me one language topic in advance and I asked my students to create a forty-five-minute lesson plan on this. It would have to include an explanation and exercises such as a gap fill task, speaking activity or game. My class were split into pairs and each pair worked independently.

When it was time to present their lessons, one pair decided to stay in the classroom as they wanted to use the IWB. Every other pair came with me to a nearby park and helped me to separate the three Pre-Intermediate classes into smaller groups. One group went to my classroom to work on the IWB and every other group sat with a teaching pair in the park. Two of the three Pre-Intermediate teachers and I walked around and helped the different groups in the park and the other teacher went to my classroom to help the group with the IWB lesson. I took extra photocopies with me in case any group finished early and needed more material. But in general, the pace of everyone’s lesson was great.

One of the things I really like about peer teaching is that students realise how much effort goes into creating a lesson and they appreciate me more than before!

Greg teaching in at Stafford House Cambridge

Topics: Academics, Cambridge