Learning a new language is a challenging endeavor. An ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher's job is to help students meet that challenge successfully.
Teachers also have a lot of demands placed upon them and often a short amount of time to get through a lot of material.
Here are some skills you need to master to make your ESL course a success:
Set Clear Expectations
Use your first class to establish your expectations of your students both academically and in terms of classroom behavior:
- Make an outline of the material you plan to cover in the course. This helps students understand what they'll get out of the course.
- Explain rules and regulations such as attendance, breaks, dress code, etc.
- If this is a course that they'll earn a certification for, let them know what they'll need to do to earn the certification. Will they need to pass an exam or several exams? What's on the exam? Is it written or oral or both?
Create Relevant Content
The more you're able to identify the interests and goals of your students, the easier it will be for you to craft lessons that will engage them. You can do a group exercise where everyone says what their hobbies are. Or do it as a written exercise where they have to write a paragraph describing what they like to do and why they're learning English. Use this information to provide meaningful content to your students.
Each class has a unique dynamic. Though it's important to plan your lessons and be prepared for your classes ahead of time, don't be so focused on getting through your lesson that you fail to pay attention to whether or not your students are “getting it”. Some exercises may work perfectly with some groups and fall flat with others. No classroom and no teacher is perfect. Being flexible will allow you to adapt your lesson when things don't go as planned.
Be Able to Foster English Conversations
English is a new skill for your students, therefore it's likely to be awkward, uncomfortable and even embarrassing for them to speak it. It's your job to create an environment where speaking in English is encouraged and rewarded. Try some of these exercises:
- Print an article and read it out loud together. It's best if the article is about something controversial to spark debate. For example: “Global Warming is a Myth.” Divide students into two groups: those who defend and those who refute the opinion. Give them time to organize their groups in order to present a debate on this topic in English.
- Designate a period of 20 minutes for “English Only” in each class where students are only allowed to express themselves in English. Make it fun and engaging. Provide support and encouragement for students who are struggling to express themselves. Encourage the students to help each other.
- Gradually increase the amount of time you speak only in English for each class.
Be Able to Connect English to Real Life
Getting out the classroom and out of an academic environment can be a great way to get students to practice their English. Why not take students to a sporting event or a cultural event nearby? Even a simple trip to the grocery store to reinforce vocabulary about food can be fun. A field trip like this can help students understand how to apply English practically. They may meet new people to practice their English with and be encouraged and inspired to learn more. You can also use these experiences to create lessons and vocabulary-building exercises back in the classroom.
Understand a Student's Culture
Being sensitive to the cultural climate the student is coming from can help you understand more about their habits and behavior as a student. Some cultures encourage students to engage and participate while other cultures encourage quietness and obedience. Besides these traits, by learning more about a student, you make them feel valued and create a bridge between yourself and the student. This will help them engage more in your lessons.
Create Assessment Tools
Make sure you track your students' progress in all areas of classwork. You should include areas such as classroom participation, reading, writing, spelling, pronunciation, listening comprehension among others. By periodic evaluations and exercises, you should be able to gauge where your students stand. Once you've done this you can then implement plans on how to help students with the areas where they're struggling.
By developing these areas of your ESL class, you'll provide a more positive, more engaging experience to your students and have a higher success rate.
Janice Kersh is a former ESL teacher now working as a writer at EssayWriter.Pro. She is a book nut, in love with science-fiction and a beginner author, working on a couple short stories.