10 Tips for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

Extras, Working Abroad — By on October 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm
TESOL teaching EnglishBy Sarah Fudin
Special to Lost Girls

Becoming a teacher can be a daunting task. It’s no surprise then that starting your career as an ESL teacher can contain a lot of gray areas that must be addressed. Have no fear though, we’re about to help you kick-start your career with some proven tips that have helped other teachers improve their ESL classes. These tips will come in handy whether you’re teaching English in the United States, or exploring the world while teaching English abroad.

In order to succeed in an ESL classroom, teachers must not only focus on engaging their students but also on adapting their curriculum and class structure to meet their students’ needs.

Note pronunciation

Pronunciation is a very important aspect of the English language and a common issue in ESL classes. It is crucial for teachers to help their student improve their pronunciation mechanics. The best way to approach this is to take notes on the specific difficulties students are having with patterns or sounds in speech. Use these areas of focus for the future lessons in order to help the student improve their communication skills. Once the student’s pronunciation is clear, it will be easier for people to understand him or her and in turn will allow the student to more easily carry on a conversation.

Make grammar relevant

The grammatical structure of the English language can be difficult to grasp. Foremost, it is essential for teachers to capture the attention of students. By using real-life content material, such as newspapers, TV programs and role-playing, teachers can better grab a student’s attention. Causation and execution also act as powerful methods for correcting grammatical issues; have the student identify what is confusing or difficult, then construct exercises around those problems.

Show and tell

The common phrase, “seeing is believing” proves to be true when it comes to teaching English as a foreign language. Using basic pictures and non-verbal symbols can be a very productive and efficient method of teaching. Since an ESL teacher may be teaching a class with students from multiple language backgrounds, using imagery can be one of the most effective ways of getting a point across. Never underestimate the value an image can bring to a lesson.

Create some drama

One effective way to maintain student attention is by injecting drama or elements of surprise into daily lessons. Bring popular, acceptable movies, television shows and music into the classroom. Have them act out scenes and sing lyrics. Students will not only have fun, but will simultaneously improve their language skills.

Play games

Creating word games is a great way to engage students–while maintaining elements of fun. The Internet is one of the best sources of vocabulary and grammar games for students. Online games help motivate the students, keep them learning and remove the repetition that can sometimes characterize language learning.

Make a little time after class

It is very important to create a comfortable atmosphere for ESL students. Attempting a foreign language can be very intimidating. By leaving time at the end of class for questions, the teacher can create a more personal learning environment where students can feel more comfortable to reveal areas of difficulty they wouldn’t want to disclose during normal class time.

Listen to your students

In ESL classrooms, it is important to document feedback. By asking students what they liked the most about class each day, teachers can gain a better understanding of what instruction methods work best for which students. Having a predetermined lesson plan with no fluctuation may end up hurting the course material in the long run. Being able to adapt your lesson plan to your students’ language abilities is the best way to meet their language needs.

Extracurriculars are mandatory

Students need more than just classroom instruction. If the students do not practice English outside of the classroom, they are less likely to reach fluency. Teachers must encourage students to set aside some time each day where they only speak English. Encouraging students to participate in community service, volunteer work and field trips also offers them with more opportunities to engage with English speakers. The more contact with English speakers, the more use of the English language, thus the greater chance for fluency. By considering the tips listed above alongside their own teaching methods, ESL teachers should have an easier time getting through to their students. Teachers must find the perfect balance between getting the student’s attention, distributing assignments and explaining the curriculum, all the while making sure students are enjoying the content and, of course, learning.


This post was submitted by Sarah Fudin who currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Master’s in Teaching program, which prepares students to earn their teaching credential in the States or the opportunity to earn a Masters in TESOL online. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.


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