FEBRUARY/MARCH, 2020 - Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips: Instructing ESL

The English as a Second Language (ESL) class is about teaching English to those who have other languages as their primary spoken language. In a 2000 United States survey, it was discovered that about 10 % of the USA population did not speak English fluently. Moreover, it was found that there are many families whose main primary language at home is not English.

Today, high school and primary education already have ESL classes that can be offered with their foreign students.   

With these types of statistics, it is imperative for a USA teacher to understand how to manage an ESL classroom or, at the very least, ESL students within their regular classrooms. If you are teaching ESL, then here are some important tips or suggestions that you could use for your next class:

  • For your ESL students to understand you, you do not have to speak louder.  They are not deaf, they are just not as fluent as you are in English.  Speak slowly, clearly and with distinct sounds. 
  • To correct pronunciations, teach them how each sound is created, the proper positioning of lips, tongue and teeth for each sound.  It would be better if they spoke slower first so that they could be more understood.  As they increase their English language ability and pronunciation, they could increase their speech pace too.
  • English grammar can be very difficult and complex.  At times, even fluent speakers have problems with English grammar.  You can use numerous methods that could easily help them understand, like reading newspapers, watching ESL programs, role-playing, writing short narratives and actual conversations.  
  • Encourage your students to participate or ask questions or clarify some points that they do not understand.  If you think your students are not confident enough to raise questions in front of the class, you can explore other methods.  Before your class ends, ask them to write points that they do not understand or their questions.  Make these questions the starting point of your next class. 
  • To emphasize on a specific point or to make sure students are taking notice of important parts of the discussion, make them understand that what you are saying should be noted. 

Learning a foreign language, and the culture that goes with it, is one of the most useful things we can do to broaden the empathy and imaginative sympathy and cultural outlook of children. --Michael Gove

I admire people who dare to take the language, English, and understand it and understand the melody ‍--Maya Angelou

Learning a new language can be daunting for ESL students; it can also be challenging for ESL teachers to differentiate in an ESL classroom.  

  • When learning a new language, being exposed to it as much as possible is important. Consistency helps in speeding up the ESL student's language understanding and articulation.  You can encourage your students to participate in social activities that would allow them to be surrounded by English speakers.  
  • Show some energy when teaching.  Move around the classroom, use different gestures.  Just make sure that your gestures match the words that you are using.  Do not be afraid to be funny and make fun of yourself once in a while.  
  • Positive reinforcement works with everybody.  Acknowledge their improvements, and compliment them with their developments. 
  • If you are teaching a beginner, then it would best to expose your students to different voices speaking the English language.  This will make them exposed to different kinds of accents and recognize English words more easily.  There are many ESL games that can encourage shy and reluctant students to share their thoughts. So be creative in your ESL classroom.
  • Teaching formal English responses can be boring and dreadful for some students. As an alternative, think about introducting your students to slang terms and responses that they would normally hear in public places.  This will make your students acquainted with the real-world English language that they are likely to frequently encounter.  


To conclude, as an ESL teacher, you need to adapt to your students English level and ability. Some ESL teachers use a checklist to keep track of their students’ development. This monitoring method allows teachers to tailor their teaching methods to their students’ interests and abilities. As an ESL teacher, don't be afraid to learn from your students too. 

The (ESL) classroom should be a fun, learning-filled environment for both students and teachers. So (ESL) teachers, remember to join in too!