by Peter Read
How often is it that, as a TEFL teacher, one is faced with a classroom of otherwise polite, enthusiastic students, small groups or individuals, who are proficient at various levels in English but in whom one can recognise signs of disinterest and even boredom?
The early mid-week morning yawns, far removed from the display of enthusiasm at the start of the course, late arrivals, extra time spent texting or even absenteeism are all signs that the rot is setting in. Time for a boost!
Our students after all are human and like virtually everyone else in the world they like to socialise, gossip and chatter informally, especially when it might involve celebrity lives and in some cases indiscretion and the hint of matrimonial scandal; enter the British Royal family, linguistically a very fertile area for all kinds of EFL teaching and of huge interest in both England and in English speaking countries. Just look at the viewing figures for the recent Royal Wedding!
Most students through their education in their own countries will know something about British history, our Royal Family, the so called Establishment and the British Social and Class system. Many will know the names of the Kings and Queens of England, including the infamous Henry VIII and his six wives, how he broke away from the Catholic Church and had two of his wives gruesomely beheaded;something that might have been regarded, even in those barbaric days, as being scandalous and likely to have generated some chatter and banter amongst the patrons in the local taverns!
Glamour and Escapism
There are numerous reasons why the Royal Family is of interest to so many people. With their perceived glamorous life styles, the Royals provide a fanciful outlet in which to fantasise and imagine.
The impact created by the life and times of Diana Princess of Wales is proof of the extent of this world interest: the outpouring of grief that followed her untimely death, the ongoing articles and theories that have been openly published and discussed, concerning the events that lead up to that tragic motor accident in a Paris underpass, the aftermath that followed, including the role and actions of senior members of the Royal Family, are of great interest to many people.
This is just one scenario that can be very constructively used in a TEFL environment.
A Timely Diversion
Studying the Royal family is not intended to detract from the students who are following specialist courses in say, Legal or Business English where the main focus remains to improve English Language skills in those subjects. Nevertheless, there are occasions when a timely diversion is required.
How does one do this?
There are many means available. Traditional TEFL methods involving written exercises using the Royal Family are easy to design. Names, identities places and events with missing spaces using vocabulary, verb tenses is one simple example.
White Board exercises to identify members of the Royal Family by establishing a family tree lead to constructive conversations that help to explain and define new vocabulary, phrases and create a ‘who’s who’ and their relationship with others. For example, the meaning given to the phrase: ‘Next in line of Succession’.
The Media loves the Royals
The use of media material is always popular, including the type of pictorial and style of English Language coverage provided by the likes of ‘Hello’ and ‘OK!’ Magazines together with popular newspapers like ‘The Daily Mail’ and the more sensational journalistic style offered by ‘The Sun’ and ‘Daily Star’. These provide a rich source of material to offer students, that generate conversations and questions and even heated debates; not everyone likes the idea of a monarchy!
Written exercises involving summaries of events using what the media articles are useful to ensure comprehension, punctuation and spelling.
The Royal Mail and the Royal Mint.
One useful, unique and practical exercise is to describe the Royal Mail and Royal Mint and explain their place and historical links with the past using Postage Stamps and Currency. This exercise is very helpful in helping to explain verb tenses when discussing past Kings and Queens.
For a trainer there is an additional need to be able to explain Royal events and describe the role of the Royal Family using examples drawn from both history and current news reports. These might include formal matters such as the Monarch’s role in the State Opening of Parliament, State Visits made by members of the Royal Family to other countries, entertaining foreign leaders and other dignitaries to other more informal occasions such as Royal Garden.
Parties held at Buckingham Palace, attending the Derby at Epsom, Ascot and describing the Royal residences at Windsor, Balmoral and Sandringham.
Harry and Megan
For an imaginative TEFL trainer the list is virtually endless. In the same vein many students are fascinated by the lives and activities of the younger members of the Royal Family including Prince William and Prince Harry, their wives and families. Many want to know how things are likely to develop over the next few years and what place those involved will occupy in the future.
For the more seriously minded and competent English students there is the opportunity to discuss political issues, the role of the Monarchy and the different sentiments concerning the place of Royalty in British society that exist in Great Britain.
A Royal ‘Visit’ to the teaching arena is certainly something that has many TEFL facets and can be used in any of the ways suggested and more, according to the needs of the students and enthusiasm of their trainers and teachers.