italki Teaching Tips: What should I do if I know my student is frustrated?

Our italki Teaching Tips are real teaching tips from real italki teachers who have first hand experience teaching different students from all over the world.   We share these tips to help you become a better teacher.

What should I do if I know my student is frustrated?

frustrated Some frustration is normal but it is best not to exaggerate it! Be sure that YOU don’t show frustration, even when you feel a student should have mastered something. Always remember that the student is paying for the lesson– they WANT to learn. If they are struggling, perhaps there is something you can do to change your instruction.

There are two key causes of frustration, from my perspective. In one situation, there may be a pacing issue. If you are moving too quickly through material, a student may not truly master one topic before moving onto the next. This will no doubt produce frustration in them– and you! To alleviate frustration in this scenario, slow down and allow more time for review.

In another situation, the student may be lacking the prior knowledge necessary to master the skill you are currently working on. To help prevent this from even occurring, consider, before the lesson, all of the skills necessary to acquire the new skill you want to teach. For example, before one will be able to discuss their family, one must know the terms for different family members as well as a significant amount of descriptive vocabulary. Once you have identified the prior knowledge necessary, be sure the student already knows it. If they don’t, you need to alter your lesson to meet them where they currently are. Help them gain the prior knowledge so they can then complete the new lesson you have planned.

In short, being alert and assessing your students frustration as well as flexible to change your plan will help you immensely and keep the lessons fun for all involved parties!

Keep smiling – offer to make a 5 minutes break if he/she is tired – explain differently.

There are many causes to a student becoming frustrated. They may think that they should be learning faster, they may feel that they are making too many errors or they may be under pressure from outside sources. Whatever the reason, a teacher can help a student to reduce his or her frustration during a lesson. It is important to have a good rapport with the student so that if you feel they are starting to get upset, you can talk to them and find out the source of the problem. Then together, the teacher and student can make a plan to alleviate their stress. Sometimes this may be going back to basics like reviewing all verb tenses so that they can feel like they have all the basic knowledge from which to expand. I find that many non-native English students have “gaps” in their academic background. Other students may not have these gaps but simply forgot how to do certain things because it has been so many years since they studied the language. Therefore, it is important to have reviews and refreshers on old material before giving the student new material that may frustrate them.

Encourage the student to keep at it. It’s not easy to learn a new language, if it was– everybody would be bilingual! I often use the sport reference, or playing a musical instrument… you only get better if you practice, practice, practice. People are often very hard on themselves and need to hear some positive reinforcement.

Offer them some additional sites or youtube channels to try out and mix it up a bit. They may just be frustrated with their “program”. There are so many amazing, free resources out there these days, that learning a language really should not be boring at all.

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