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5 Effective Teaching Strategies for ESL Teachers

Updated on June 20, 2015

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) can refer to teachers going abroad to teach in other countries, or when international students come to North America for short term ESL programs. These classrooms are small (normally less than 20 students), have multicultural students, and class periods that are shorter (1 or 2 hour lessons). The peak season for ESL schools is the summer. Here are 5 effective teaching strategies for new ESL teachers in the classroom.

Teaching Strategy #1 - Plan Ahead

In teacher training you did formal lesson plans, but in the real world this is not always feasible. You still need to have some kind of plan for the day and the amount of details that you need depends on experience and the individual. Here are some tips.

*Use the instructor's manual as a guide

*Write an agenda on the whiteboard - just points you want to cover

*Mini lesson plan - write point form of what you will cover and time

*Always have a contingency plan and extra icebreakers

Teaching Strategy #2 - Prepare your resources

If you're teaching in a new school, familiarize yourself with the resources and instructor's room. You need to know where your photocopier is. Things to check: whiteboard, board markers, classroom clock, technology (computer, DVD, TV etc), poster paper.

Also you want to check the physical layout of your classroom with the tables and chairs. Consider how you can get the students moving around the classroom or physically change the classroom by putting tables together, or putting the chairs in a circle.

Give yourself extra time to make sure you have all of the materials that you need for the class. With a short class, you won't be able to leave the class if you forget something. It's better to be prepared than to have to spontaneously create new activities.

Grab some free newspapers to keep in the classroom for a contingency activity. Students can always discuss current events.

Teaching Strategy #3 - Increase Student Talking Time

Get the students talking! Make sure you have a variety of activities in a lesson even if it's a short lesson. Bring extra icebreakers if need be for back up. How do you increase student talking time?

*Ask the students questions and elicit the answers.

*Ensure you have pairwork and groupwork before you share ideas as a class. The motto THINK, PAIR, SHARE is easy to remember. Give students time to think of the questions, then have them discuss with a partner or group, and lastly share the ideas with the class.

*Reduce your teacher talking time! We all love to talk but remember it's time to listen to the students chatter.

Teaching Strategy #4 - Change Partners

Why change partners? This builds rapport and gets students to work with everyone else in the class. More fun to work with different classmates. Things to consider.

*Try to partner students from different cultures.

*Have students change partners for each new activity.

*Be mentally aware of who works well together and who are natural leaders. This will help with your future groupings for projects.

Teaching Strategy #5 - Get Moving

When students change partners they will have to move, but also consider how else you can get students moving and out of their seats. This will increase energy. Students can talk to each other standing or writing on the whiteboard or presenting in front of the class. Give the students a different perspective by changing their view.


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