So if you say nothing, is that shirking your job?
On the contrary. Silence is one of your most valuable teaching strategies.
When it’s your learner’s turn to speak, wait at least 5 seconds before doing anything.
For a low level learner, challenge yourself to sit in calm silence for 8 or 10 seconds. Then consider repeating/giving a clue and so on.
Why? Your learner needs time to process the English they heard, work out a response (maybe in their first language), turn this into English using the language they can remember, and say it.
Tip: First practice of ten-second wait time is best done alone, with a mirror to check one’s expression. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.
If wait time isn’t enough, you can try giving a bit more information or encouragement in silence:
Smile AND nod.
Raise your eyebrows in an enquiring manner.
Indicate with your fingers if there’s a word missing (count off 1,2,3, 5 and show that the 4th word is missing).
Move your hands further apart to suggest expanding a reply, or say “..and..?” (That’s nearly silence!).
You can do any of these with written text too – point to a place where the meaning isn’t clear and raise your eyebrows.
Eyebrows again. And if necessary repeat the bit that needs correcting ( “ he go?” )
In a written text, point to the bit that needs correcting and look enquiring.
Tip: I have found all these strategies successful but have now worn out my eyebrows. Luckily I have enough wrinkles on my forehead to look enquiring without them. You might want to explore some eyebrow-conservation exercises if you do a lot of teaching.
Becoming a volunteer ESOL home tutor with English Language Partners is an amazing experience. Although it can be a challenge at times, on the other side of that challenge is great reward! Both for you and your learner.