Don’t Say It! (5+1 things English teachers shouldn’t say in the classroom)

What shouldn’t we say in the classroom? How can we motivate our students and keep them enthusiastic about learning English? When we know better, we do better. So, let’s get off on the right foot!

❌ That’s wrong!

We all know that positive reinforcement is essential, right? So, negative remarks won’t help!

*What to do: If you ask a question and a student’s answer is wrong, don’t focus on that or provide the answer yourself. Give the student the chance to self-correct.

Peer correction can also help to create a positive classroom atmosphere as your English learners realise that you are not the only source of correction and that they can also learn a lot from their classmates.

Bear in mind that all students intuitively appreciate teachers who create a supportive and non-threatening atmosphere in the classroom.

❌ Do you understand?

Well, we really shouldn’t ask our students if they have understood what we’ve just explained.

Most students will just say ‘yes’ even if they haven’t understood anything at all!

*What to do: Check for comprehension with the help of a game, a crossword puzzle, a quiz or another fun exercise. Help your students put what they’ve learned into practice and grasp a deeper understanding of the English language! Using  books with engaging, playful and creative activities can be a great source of inspiration.


❌ You’re so lazy!

We’ve all heard parents and other teachers say that children and teenagers nowadays are just getting lazier and lazier.

But that won’t certainly somehow magically teach our English learners what it means to try more and study hard!

*What to do: Firstly, always remember that you can’t make people behave better by making them feel worse!

If your students seem bored and lethargic, they may need a different approach that fits their needs in a better way.

Remember that you are the one who creates the classroom routine and chooses how to respond to student behavior.

So, be willing to make the necessary changes in your own classroom to create the learning environment children and teenagers need to thrive.

Keep being supportive and always keep an optimistic attitude about the outcome.

Moreover, bear in mind that if some of your students seem lazy or have to be constantly reminded what to do next, they may deal with a learning disability that is impeding their progress in English.

❌ Because I say so.

Well, it’s true that these four words can roll off our tongues really easily… But we do know that ‘Because I say so’ won’t work – at least not for long!

*What to do: Always make an effort to explain, no matter how tired you are!

❌ I’ve already answered that question.

Our role as teachers is to motivate our students to ask questions and seek answers.

There is no such thing as a stupid question. And it doesn’t matter if we’ve already answered a question!

*What to do: If necessary, go over the same points again and again. Do not overwhelm your students with long and complicated sentences when giving instructions or explanations. And always remember to apply the KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) design principle in your EFL classroom (especially when teaching English to newbies)!


❌ Your brother/sister/fellow student is better than you.

Comparisons can only lead to trouble. Using other people as great examples may seem like a smart way to inspire our students, but it usually leads to resentment, jealousy, and less effort.

*What to do:  Praising the effort of a student usually motivates him/her to try harder. in addition, your English learners should have a good idea of your expectations, so you can talk in general about what all students ought to do to make their work stand out.

Do you have anything you’d like to add to this list? Share your thoughts below!

And if you liked this blog post, you might also enjoy reading this one: 5+1 Ways to Become a Better English teacher.

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