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ESL Teaching Strategies - Teach Abroad

Updated on February 20, 2011

Best ESL Teaching Strategies

Are you looking for job opportunities in a foreign country? For most jobs, speaking English in a country with a different language can be a huge disadvantage. However, there is one job that being a native English speaker can really help you out. You can be an ESL teacher and teach abroad. ESL stands for English as Second Language. If you teach, then you may be referred to as TESL or Teacher of English as a Second Language.

If you want to teach abroad, many countries have ESL jobs available for native English speakers. Even if you can't get a job teaching English, you can always start your own business for very little money. You would just need some advertising and a place with some chairs, a large chalkboard (or overhead projector), and a video monitor. You will be working with students that already have some English skill. You don't even need to be fluent in the native language, although you should be aware of difference in sentence structures to be a good teacher. You will also need some ESL teaching strategies to successfully teach abroad.

What are the best ESL teaching strategies? Well, how do most people naturally learn language? If you watch children, they engage in several strategies that we call play, but actually teach them necessary skills. The two most common strategies involve repetition and games. You will notice that they have fun doing these. You can design strategies for teaching abroad based around these observations.

Now repetition can also lead to classroom boredom, so you need to switch the words around to create new sentences, but using the same words over and over. For example you could put a dozen shopping items on the chalkboard and a couple of phrases. Then go around the room asking each student what they would like to buy. They would answer selecting different items on the board. Each student gets a chance to participate and also will be reinforced by the other students talking.

With more advanced students, you can play repeat a short video several times, asking questions about the video each time. Comedies and cartoons are good for this. Comedies have a lot subtleties that you can talk about, while keeping the students attention.

Classroom games can be fun too. One game is to team up your students and then give every team a blank piece of paper. Now put up a picture and have the teams write a story about the picture with the goal of using as many objects as possible in the picture.

Classroom management strategies:

  • Keep your themes interesting. Try to choose current culture topics. Lyrics to popular songs, movies, TV shows, dating, money, travel can all be done in a fun way
  • Turn them into a game if possible. The best game for your classroom will vary due to your own skills, the skills of your students, and their culture. But as a generally rule due to differences in student strengths, you will want to set up teams. Be sure to team up weak students with strong students, so that the teams are not imbalanced.
  • Keep the weaker students involved. Be sure to call on them. If you are trying to use a game using teams as a learning tool, then rotate students on each team if possible. One game that will do this is to set up a deck of questions about a random picture you can put up for each game session. Split your class into two teams, then pass out a question to each student from your deck of questions. Now alternate between teams having each student read off his question and then giving an answer to it.
  • Be sure to have a rule called "English Only" throughout most of the class. Do not allow your students to use their native language in class. If someone says something in their native language, immediately ask them to repeat it in English.
  • Be sure to keep your lessons on track. This is generally more of a problem with new teachers. Always keep an eye on the format of your lesson. This becomes more important with larger classrooms.
  • Make sure that each student tries to find his own answer. The part of our brain that verbalizes a concept is different than the part that understands words. Even a failed attempt at verbalizing something is much better than nothing at all.
  • Remember to stay focused. If you want to teach abroad, it may seem intimidating, but remember those students want to learn. So focus on being a good teacher and making your lessons enjoyable. That is what good ESL teaching strategy is all about.


You can't Scare Me! I'm an ESL Teacher.
You can't Scare Me! I'm an ESL Teacher.

More Fun ESL Teaching Strategies

Another great strategy if you are teaching abroad, that some students will love (but not all) is to set up a weekly non-mandatory movie followed by an informal discussion of the movie. You can do this once or twice a week and create a lot of good rapport with your students. The few students that don't want to watch a full movie won't show up. PG and G rated movies work best for this and most movies have English subtitles available making this a great teaching tool.

Some movie songs are great for practicing pronunciation. Constantly hearing and repeating the same phonemes will help acclimatize the ears of your students to the nuances of speech. Some movies like Little Mermaid have songs that are perfect for this. Of course, if you are an ESL teacher for adults in some place like Pattaya, you might want to play the Rocky Horror Picture Show instead and then do songs from it. Other funny musicals you might try are Little Shop of Horrors, Flash Gordon, Wizard of Oz, and Grease.

Remember, the important thing as an ESL teacher is to have fun. So be sure to be creative in your teaching strategies. If your students have fun, they will learn faster, and you will get great billing and word of mouth, resulting in new students.


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