Vladimira Chalyova

Using English outside of class – Vladimira Michalkova

Encouraging learners to use English outside of class is like getting students to do the sort of good homework that I described in my previous post: homework that grows naturally out of the lesson, doesn’t feel like homework, and often isn’t even called homework. The idea is to get students using English on their own in their own way and as this needs to be encouraged, the teacher should not correct or evaluate such effort — unless students ask for it.  Instead, such individual effort needs to be nurtured, encouraged, and praised.

Encouraging students to begin doing this kind of good homework starts with a positive, open and friendly class atmosphere where the teacher has true and authentic conversations with students, really listens to what they’re saying, and is not afraid to go beyond “the teaching purpose” of an activity or lesson.  From there, encouraging the students to use the language outside the class needs to be built on what they discovered in the classroom and not from the teacher’s intention to get them to practice, revise or repeat what was taught that day.

During lessons we often get into topics they really enjoy talking about and want to know more about.  I use such situations and keep them interested by suggesting some further reading, video or source of information. This often leads us to TED talks, documentaries or even intriguing commercials they watch at home. I just ask them to note their reactions and reflections and keep me posted.

Additionally, as experienced learners ourselves we know what works and thus can provide our students with situations where they can naturally use the language.  There are many things we can do very naturally ranging from giving students a simple “how about we all switch our mobile phone to English for a week” kind of challenge, to keeping the conversations we have with them outside of class and the email communications we have with them entirely in English from the beginning.  This is what I do.  After some time, they all start replying in English too, as long as I respect their individual style and pace.

So, talk to your students, listen to them, praise their efforts and do it all naturally, as if it is all just a part of everyday life – which it is – and where you respect them as individuals. Yet, be clear that the classroom is not a magical bubble where they receive knowledge but a place to meet, encourage and help each other. What matters after all is what they decide to do after that.

“Many an opportunity is lost because a man is out looking for four-leaf clovers” 

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Vladimira Chalyova

Vladimira Chalyova teaches English as a foreign language at State Language School in Slovakia. She teaches general and business English to adults and teenagers. She is interested in student-centered approaches, developing learners' autonomy and believes that a teacher shouldn't be a slave of course books and that inspiration, motivation, purpose and meaning are essential in learning. She brings colours, crayons and surpr@ise (surprise + praise) to her classroom and just recently also on the canvas.

11 thoughts on “Using English outside of class – Vladimira Michalkova”

  1. Hi Vladka!

    It’s incredible that every time I read your post I feel like you’re writing from my thoughts!! I share each and every viewpoint of yours. The natural style, open conversation, teacher-students communication in English seen as part of daily life, something normal – I”m with you on all of these. Atmosphere is so important, indeed, and the rapport. Well, I think if I comment in detail I would simply rewrite your post in my own words))

    Thank you for sharing your story and I”m so happy to feel and be doing the same way!


  2. Dear Ann,

    I can see we share same ideas and attitudes. I like that too! I loved reading yours about mobiles operating in English! Geez, seems like we planned it! 🙂

    Anyway, that’s probably one of the reason why iTDi is so great open and friendly community full of people who understand each other, support and encourage…and learn from each other!
    …hmm, am I repeating myself? :-))

    Thanks again for lovely words!

  3. Hi Vladka!

    I love your concept of homework growing out of the lesson and not feeling like homework. A beautiful quote!

    Something that is so important and should never be forgotten – praise as you mention and positive reinforcement. It gives students so much motivation and they choose independently to work on their learning outide the classroom.

    Super post, Vladka!

    Best wishes,

  4. Thank you dear Vicky! 🙂

    I can see we have similar ideas and attitudes on teaching as well as encouraging language use outside of class. I loved reading your post – worth every minute!


  5. Hi Vladimira,

    Great post.

    I often think how to encourage my ss to do their homework and use English outside of the classroom which is thought to be the easiest thing to do given they are in an English-speaking country but the truth is that they tend to go back to their little bubble.
    I do agree though that the homework should be thought as an extension of the classroom and if the class is enjoyable, then they will have no problems in trying it out.


  6. Thank you dear Nailah,

    You are right, some things may be more diffucult than they seem. However, it is great if a teacher takes it the way you do – never give up and look for the ways to make it happen. I would love to hear more about your ways to deal with it.


    1. I love your comment, Ricard!

      let me just add to your fantasitc words…make them feel that being a learner is important and their role and voice in learning is important! 🙂
      Thank you again for your comment and inspiring words.


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