We as educators want our English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students to be successful both in the classroom and in life. But sometimes that success can be impeded by our own ESL teaching methods. Below you'll find five helpful strategies you can add to your teaching repertoire. They're easy to use and can immediately improve your ESL teaching — and improve your ESL students' chances of classroom success.
SPEAK AT A SLOWER SPEED
Speaking too quickly can be confusing and hinder an ESL student’s comprehension. Because these students are not fluent speakers yet, communicating in a slow clear manner will better aid them in building their abilities in listening and responding. When considering how students respond, it's helpful to keep in mind how much time you give students to formulate a response since many are thinking in at least two languages.
SUPPLEMENT CONTENT WITH GESTURES AND VISUALS
Supplementing learning material or simply verbal exchanges with gestures and visuals can greatly aid in a child’s comprehension. Examples of non-verbal cues can be sketches and images. An example of a verbal cue can be an intonation to stress meaning.
GUIDE THROUGH DEMONSTRATING
Without demonstrations or modeling, an ESL student figuring out what they are expected to produce through the lens of a new language can make learning new skills more challenging. Ways to guide students include demonstrating examples of what the finished product or skill is, explaining processes like planning verbally, and modeling the expected product. Equipped with the right resources, students will gain confidence and encourage them to be self-determined.
HELP STUDENTS SET CLEAR, MEASURABLE, AND ACHIEVABLE GOALS
Ask your student some goal setting questions about what they want to accomplish and improve on. For instance, if they want to improve their English vocabulary, have them set goals that are small, clear, and measurable. Record these goals for tracking and return to them throughout. Do not wait to just acknowledge or celebrate hitting the big goals, but ensure the process and small milestones achieved are appreciated and celebrated together.
LET YOUR STUDENT TAKE THE REINS
Often, ESL students can be hesitant or shy to converse with others. Encourage them to talk away, as they will learn a great deal from casual conversations. Also, add some fun into the learning journey with activities not school related, such as watching movies in English or doing a word search puzzle. Remember that building literacy in English does not have to mean the abandonment of building their literacy in their first language. Fluency in other languages has shown to promote learning, such as reading, in English.