In the US, there are currently over 4.9 million students considered to be English language learners (ELL). These students span across a huge number of states, ages, and native languages, meaning that they each have unique and distinct needs. This makes teaching ESL a challenge, but an incredibly fun and rewarding one.
Here, we’re going to discuss how to start teaching ESL and making a difference in the lives of these non-native speakers. Read on to learn how you can teach ESL in the most effective way possible and ensure that your students have every opportunity possible in an ever-changing world.
Do Your Research
Before you can become an effective ESL teacher, it’s crucial that you do your research. Sure, in order to teach, you’re going to need to become certified anyway, which ensures that you’ve looked into the possibilities a little bit. But in order to teach ESL, you should do some individual research, too.
Look into the methods and strategies that other ESL teachers have successfully implemented. You can find stories about this online or speak with other teacher friends to get some real-life anecdotes. Also, consider talking to your non-native speaking friends about the most helpful activities they partook in when learning English!
Consider the Students’ Age
You’ll also need to consider the ages of your students before you set an agenda for your ESL class. When it’s difficult to communicate with someone, it’s easy to treat them in a more juvenile way- just look at all the people who combat language barriers by talking slower and louder (an ineffective strategy.)
There’s nothing more insulting to an adult or teenage ESL learner than treating them like a child. Make sure that you create an adult curriculum when working with older students. When working with children, remember that they learn second languages in different (and usually easier!) ways than adults do and implement strategies accordingly.
Immersion programs are an amazing way to learn a second language, and English is no exception. In an immersion classroom, everything will be done in the target language (English). The students will not speak in their native language for any reason, forcing them to become more comfortable with English.
This works especially well for groups of children. Because of the way that young kid’s minds adapt to second language learning, they will be likely to learn both vocabulary and grammar when places in an immersion setting. They’ll be speaking English like a native before you know it.
Adapt to the Class’s Needs
When you get into the room and begin teaching ESL classes, you’re going to need to reassess the abstract plan you’ve come up with for teaching. This is because every group of students interacts with both one another and their surroundings differently. They’ll learn differently based on the speed they work at and the method by which they learn (visual learners vs. tactile ones, etc.)
Make sure that you leave some room in the syllabus for make-up days and for moving around homework assignments or classroom workdays. Chances are that not everything is going to go exactly according to your initial plan and that some rescheduling will be in order.
Schedule One-on-One Time
No matter what classroom strategies you choose to implement, make sure that you schedule some one-on-one time with each student. This will give them an opportunity to have a full-on conversation in English with someone who speaks their target language fluently.
During these one-on-one meetings, you can also discuss what is working for your students in the classroom and what isn’t going as well as you had hoped. This will allow you to see trends as to what’s, by and large, helping your students. You can reassess the curriculum for the rest of the semester (and for your next group of students!) based on this feedback.
Set Realistic Goals
Setting realistic goals for students is a great way to motivate them to work their hardest. Realistic goals should have concrete measurements so students know when they are meeting benchmarks. Clear and measurable goals are key for students to understand how they are doing in the class.
Make sure that you reward students who meet the benchmarks, even if it’s just with words of praise. However, be careful not to discourage or humiliate students who don’t meet these goals. Encourage them to seek help from you and talk to them during their one-on-one time (not in front of the class) about how you can assist them in meeting benchmarks.
Make Class Time Fun
Students at any age learn best when they’re having fun, and ESL courses are no different. Play age-appropriate games with students and allow them to have interactive time with one another. This will give them practice speaking the target language while playing board games or coming up with creative English skits.
You can also show them English movies (with subtitles in their native language, if you like) as a reward for meeting goals. Then, have class discussions about the key themes in the film and ask what new vocabulary they learned from the movie.
Start Teaching ESL Effectively
While teaching ESL is a difficult task, it’s incredibly rewarding. The smiles on your students’ faces when they succeed and the payoff that they receive from your teachings are nothing short of incredible.
Now that you have some of the most effective essential tips for teaching ESL, it’s time to get some more tips on how to sustain the personal growth and academic excellence of your students. Check out the ‘success’ tab on our home page for some ideas on how to ensure that your students lead as successful lives as they possibly can.