Grade your language: 1 acronym, 5 strategies, every level

The concept of teaching English in English is so common, we rarely stop to think about how unconventional and challenging it is. No other subject is taught so immersively. Can you imagine receiving instruction on interpretive dancing through an interpretive dance? Or getting taught to code by reading java? Probably not.


Teaching English in English would be impossible without one key skill - grading language. Here are 5 strategies to help you help your students understand. And to help you remember them, they spell G-R-A-D-E.


G is for Gestures. For absolute beginners, this is all you have, so you’d better get practicing. Most simple classroom instructions can be given using only gestures. Stand up, sit down, talk, listen, be quiet, say it louder, look, write, read, etc. Be consistent with your gestures and your students will be consistent following them. Better still, work with your colleagues to create consistent gestures throughout your school.


R is for Rate of speech. S – L – O – W – – D – O – W – N. This is especially difficult for new teachers. New at teaching equals nervousness. Nervousness equals speaking fast. Speaking fast equals confused students. First monitor how fast you talk, then control your rate of speech.


A is for Authentic language. Speaking slowly, doesn’t mean you can’t speak naturally. Natural speech in English contains all kinds of features that your students need to be exposed to (weak forms, contractions, elision, assimilation, etc.). Try to sound like a tape being played at 70% speed, just not a tape of Stephen Hawking.


D is for Downsized words. Ernest Hemmingway once said, “Faulkner thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.” Hemmingway was a master at grading his words. Use five-cent words with your students and save the ten-dollar words for business English class.


E is for Efficacy. Don’t stop with words, downsize your sentences too. Instead of saying “alright everyone, what I’d like you to do next is stand up”, just say “stand up”. “Instead of “please listen to the audio” just cup your ear and say “listen”. You’ve heard of value for money, give your students value per word. Communicate more, say less.


Students of different levels need different levels of grading, so you’ll need to fine tune the points above for all your classes. If you’re not sure where to start, record five minutes of your next class and and use G-R-A-D-E (gestures rate of speech, authentic language and efficacy) to evaluate your language.