Inspiring EFL Students Without Breaking Your Back!

by Elliot Lord
Author of TEFLing Without Resources (except this one!)

Sometimes, when you open the course book to see what you need to go through next, you get disheartened by the presentations or exercises on the page. Despite using good quality books most of the time, I would still come across this situation many times. The things that came to my mind was my concern for how well the students would be able to learn from the activities I presented to them. I realised that it’s fundamental to get their attention, to make them want to take part in the lessons, and have them leave the class feeling that they’ve both enjoyed it and achieved something.

Develop simple, fun activities

If something wasn’t very inspiring, I would try to come up with an activity that would make it crystal clear to them how the piece of grammar worked or how to use it in everyday English. I found that the simplest way is often the best, especially when something is complicated. Take the third conditional, for example. An extremely complicated grammar construction but when you think about how we use it, you can get a fun activity out of it. I would tell the students to imagine that something very regrettable happened to them because of certain past events and get them to pretend they could change the past. And make it fun! This inspires them a lot more to get involved if they are laughing while they’re doing it – “If I hadn’t worn my high heel shoes for the bank robbery, the police wouldn’t have caught me!” “If I hadn’t got so drunk the night before, I would have made it to the exam!”

Use scenarios and competition to motivate students

If you can give them scenarios like these examples, you will find that they want to get all the words right. I have taught ten year old children about irregular past tense verbs and it doesn’t take much to think that they couldn’t care less about something like this when done in standard ways. But if you introduced the element of competition and have them betting against each other as to who can spell the words correctly, suddenly the mood changes and, would you believe it, you can find that they don’t want the game to end but keep asking for more.

From the teacher’s perspective, to produce activities like these, remember to keep it simple. You can get a lot out of the students without needing to produce masses of materials. I chose to deliver lessons where I often needed nothing but the idea, and the smiles on their faces will leave you with a smile on yours long after the lesson has finished.

Elliot’s book “TEFLing Without Resources (except this one!)” is available on, and other Amazon sites.


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  1. If you are able to engage and interact with the students during the whole class the students won’t be bored and will enjoy learning.

  2. Fully agree with the author. When teaching young students make your classes easy and fun. Always be creative and use games.

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