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HOW TO TEACH ADULTS 16 WHAT THEY WANT: to the Seven Different

What Adult Learners Learning Styles
3 HOW-TO: Speak Up! Want: Know Them To
Sure-fire Ways to Teach Them Better 30 OLDER LEARNERS:
Help Teens and Adults What Every Teacher
Overcome Shyness Should Know about
17 HOW-TO: How to Teach Reaching Older Learners
English to Beginners
4-5 TIPS & TRICKS: 15
Tricks to Get Your Adult 31 WHAT THEY KNOW:
Learners Talking 18-19 MUST READ: 15 Expert Sharing: Making
Secrets to Teaching the Most of Your
Adults Students’ Knowledge
6 MUST READ: Adults
And Children: The
Differences Every 20 STRATEGIES: 5 32 HOW-TO: How to Teach
Teacher Should Know Strategies for Teaching Current Events to ESL
the Beginning ESL Students
7 WHY: Why Adults Are
Learning English (and 21 MUST READ: Top 8 Tips 33 MUST READ: 7 Terrific
How You Can Help on Teaching Absolute Telephone English
Them) Beginners Activities for Adult ESL

8 HOMEWORK: Adult ESL 22 HOW-TO: How to Teach

Learners: Homework the Verb “To Be” to 34 HOW-TO: Getting to
Assignments That Work Beginners First Base: Teaching
Resumes and Cover
9-10 MUST READ: Letters
Classroom Management 23-24 HOW-TO: How to
for the Adult (and Not So Teach Present Simple to
Adult) ESL Student Complete Beginners 35 MUST READ: From
ESL Zero to Hero:
How to Teach Absolute
11 SEASONAL: How to 25 ERROR CORRECTION: Beginners
Teach a Christmas 5 Non-Verbal Ways to
Lesson Adult Learners Do Error Correction
Will Never Forget 36 CULTURES: Addressing
Cultural Conflict in the
26 MUST READ: 7 Best ESL Classroom
12 ATTENDANCE: Teaching Ways to End a Lesson
Adult Learners: How
To Handle Attendance 37-38 ETHICS: The 10
Problems 27 MUST READ: 9 Five- Commandments of the
Minute Activities That Ethical ESL Teacher
Will Save Your Lesson
13-14 HOW-TO: Teaching One Day (And Maybe
Adults How-To: Your Reputation, Too)
Advantages and
28 HOW-TO: How to Teach
Using Gestures and
Teaching Adults: They
Know More Than They
See it, Hear it, Do it:
ESL Activities to Teach
Sure-fire Ways to Help Teens
and Adults Overcome Shyness
“Maria sits in the ESL classroom
and understands most of what
her teacher and classmates say.
double room for 7 nights and
you specifically requested a
room with an ocean view. Stu-
dent B is the hotel desk clerk.
If the entire class is doing some-
thing silly, shy students have no rea-
In fact, she knows most of the an- You can’t find a reservation son to be self-conscious. Some great
swers to her teacher’s questions. under Student A’s name. You ways to introduce silliness into the
But she never raises her hand. give your guest another room,
but one that has no external ESL classroom (and practice Eng-
Just the thought of speaking out lish speaking skills at the same time)
loud in front the class fills her with view
is with tongue twisters. These work
anxiety and fear.” great with adults, too! Pick a tongue
Maria sounds just like some of the The more specific your instructions
are, the easier it will be for shy stu- twister based on a consonant or vowel
teen and adult students you may sound you want to practice. Then you
have had over the years, if you are dents to participate, as they will have
the structure they need to feel more say it as fast as you can. Students will
an experienced teacher. But even see that you’re being silly and don’t
the most seasoned teachers may confident.
care what they think. Students will fol-
have a hard time drawing out shy

low suit, even shy ones.
students and getting them to do USE THEIR INTERESTS
what they signed up to do: SPEAK TO DRAW THEM OUT

It happens again and again. You have
Whether it’s just first day jitters, occa- a shy teen in class, but as soon as NEVER, EVER, ACKNOWL-
sional shyness, or more of a chronic you mention their favorite book series, EDGE THEIR SHYNESS
problem, here are some ways in which like the Harry Potter or Twilight books
or movies, or popular TV shows, pop You know they’re shy. They know it.
you can help your shy students over-
stars, anything that teens are really Their classmates certainly notice it.
come their fear of speaking in class:
into these days, their eyes light up. But never, under any circumstanc-
HELP Your Students Overcome You see they want to participate in the es acknowledge their shyness, or
that they are different in any way.
The Fear Of Speaking discussion, and it’s hard at first, but
then they open up. Why? Because

it’s a topic they are passionate Every student in your class is there
STRUCTURED SPEAKING for a reason, and this reason is to
TASKS WITH CLEAR learn English. Period. If you set shy
DIRECTIONS The same happens with adults. Adult students apart in some way, you’ll be
learners are often self-conscious and doing them a disservice. They won’t
Some students are not exactly shy accomplish their language learning
insecure about their speaking skills or
by nature but simply have no idea goals. Create a friendly, open envi-
pronunciation. But as soon as you ask
what to say or where to start. While ronment, one in which a shy stu-
them to talk about something they are
their classmates use trial and error, dent feels that it’s ok to make mis-
passionate or feel confident about,
they prefer to stay quiet and not risk takes, that it’s all right if you don’t
there’s no holding them back.
embarrassment. One great way to have the perfect pronunciation. The
help them overcome this fear of em- important thing is to simply speak.
Some topics that usually spark
barrassment is to provide speaking
more enthusiasm in students are:
tasks with a structure and defined
guidelines. When assigning role
• Trips, exotic destinations, travel
plays, for example:
experiences, etc. SO, IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO ONE
1. Don’t leave the roles wide THING. SELF-CONFIDENCE.
• Hobbies Which is something shy students of-
open: Student A is check-
ing in at a hotel. Student ten lack. Allow them to talk about
B is the hotel desk clerk. • Music things they know a great deal about
and don’t put them on the spot by
Some students may not know • Books making them talk about something
how to begin or what exactly is they know nothing about. Give them
expected of them. • Sports speaking tasks with guidelines they
can follow. But above all, give them an
2. Do provide clear guidelines: • Special skills or abilities (flying environment where they can express
Student A is checking in at a planes, painting, sculpting, play- themselves freely, with no pressure.
hotel. You have reserved a ing a musical instrument, etc.)

15 Tricks to Get
Your Adult Learners Talking
is to single them out and ask the ques- ticular verb form is correct, and instil
AT THE VERY BASE OF IT, THE WHOLE tion. This might seem simple, but it is in the students that asking questions
POINT OF KNOWING A LANGUAGE IS something many teachers forget. will lead to better proficiency within


It cannot be stated enough how
important a role play is within the
When language first evolved, people world of language teaching. Practical Sometimes, depending on where you
originally spoke. The written word is, language use is practised within these are teaching, students may not be
in historical terms, only a very recent exercises, and therefore it will allow pronouncing certain words in a correct
invention and there have been thou- the students to use what they know manner. Different languages have dif-
sands of languages before which in a more creative manner. These can ferent phonetics, therefore one needs
were never written down. Knowing the generally be quite a lot of fun. to be sure that the students can speak
correct grammar forms, how to read it in a way that is as close as possible

and theoretically how to form sentenc- FIND AN INTERESTING to that of a native speaker. Pronuncia-
es is all well and good, but the Eng-
lish language is no use to someone TOPIC tion classes can also be a lot of fun.

if they are unable to speak it. Getting a topic which is somewhat DEBATES
controversial might do well to stimu-
It is important, therefore, to get one’s late debate in the classroom. An ex- Holding a debate in class is a
students talking in every possible ample would be if one were speaking great way of getting the students to
situation. Some teaching methods about, say, immigration, some people talk a bit more. Sometimes the topics
have two things which are known as might be interested in speaking their can become somewhat heated, and
Teacher Talking Time and Student mind about this particular topic. Be this will encourage them to use their
Talking Time (TTT and STT).
careful, however, as sometimes one newly acquired skills more creatively.
might touch on a sore or sensitive

When one sets out to teach a class,
the ultimate goal is to help them speak
point, so monitor what kind of materi- NEWS STORY
als are used in class.
English better than they have before.
Similar in the way to a debate,

Theoretically it should work out thus:
the teacher does most of the talking in ASK THEM ABOUT discussion over a particular topic of
current news will allow students to ex-
the beginning, but this quickly ceases THEMSELVES
press their views. This may not work
to the point of where the students are
Everybody enjoys speaking about for all students, of course, so it is im-
speaking at the end. One knows that
themselves. If one is teaching a busi- portant to ask them.
the class is a definite success when
ness class, then this will undoubtedly

students are chatting amongst them-
selves in English. be a great opportunity to inquire as to TURN TO
what job everybody does. Maybe you YOUR NEIGHBOUR
Below is a list of interesting tips and could go around the room and ques-
tricks which will help one to encour- tion everybody in turn about their role Probably one of the oldest methods.
age their adult learners to speak more and responsibilities. Since people Students who split up into pairs find
during class. enjoy speaking about themselves in that they are obliged to talk. In order to
general, you will get a lot more con- ensure this, keep walking around the
HOW TO Get Your Adult
versation from them this way. class until the end of the exercise and
make sure that everyone is speaking.

Learners Talking: 15 Tricks You Should


This is a very simple method.
Try and encourage students to ask
questions about various topics them-
selves. For example, one might say, poll. An
Ask a question about
a particular topic and take a
example could be,
After a reading exercise, one will gen- “Should the government fund stu-
erally ask students about the text at “And why do you think Sonia did
this..?” dent tuition?”
hand. Sometimes it can be tempting
to ask everyone generally, but a great Students can then air their views and
Usually directing it at a person will
way to get specific people to speak discuss them.
help. Ask them why they think a par-
(particularly those who are quite shy)

If a student is particularly
stubborn, a good idea would be to
keep eye contact until they say
something. This usually makes them
feel uncomfortable and that they are
obliged to speak. It works wonders for
most students.


When asking questions, for example

about a text, be sure to say the name
of a particular student. This way
they will know that you are addressing
them and will have to reply accord-
ingly. Do this on students who happen
to be shy and don’t speak much in
class. It will give them an opportunity
to speak which they can’t refuse.

Similar to the previous one, every now
and then stop when reading an article
if an important issue is raised and ask
the students’ opinions on it.

Trying to get the student to
explain a particular topic you have just
explained will set the wheels in their
head in motion. Of course, one can
help them along, but it is important to
make sure that the student does most
of the talk.

Finally, a really good way
is to get the students to summarise
a particular topic in their own
words. This may be a challenge for
beginners, but overall is can help in
their practise of speaking.


Always remember to correct, and
instil in them that correction does
not mean they failed. Mistakes are
important, as they help us learn and
move on.

Adults And Children: The Differ-
ences Every Teacher Should Know
this is going to be new territory. Specifi-
cally when it comes to learning English,
many might have had previous instruc-
tion in school as children. This is particu-
It is also important to include age ap-
Whether you are choosing to do it on a larly true of those who live in Western
propriate materials in your classes.
gap year, or as a full time career, you are European countries.
For example, children are not going to
likely to come across a wide range of dif-
be interested in reading articles about

ferent people.
the state of the economy, or even the TOPICS OF INTEREST,
Sometimes we may be required to teach
fashion industry. In fact, most kids gen- HUMOUR AND ACTIVITIES
erally won’t like reading articles at all!
children, even though we do not have Keeping adults engaged is just as im-
Other techniques need to be employed.
experience in the area. Some language portant as doing so with children! You
schools will give a mix of students. might find that there are some students
Games: Both adults and children love
There will be those there who are look- who are intent on learning, and will do
games. Therefore it is important to in-
ing to improve their English for general their best to concentrate. This may not
clude these as much as possible in the
use. There will be those who are looking always be the case, therefore it is impor-
class. In doing this, the teacher will be
specifically for business English whilst tant to keep the class as interesting as
able to let words sink in easier. Often
others simply want to progress. It is im- possible.
they can include games such as Hang
portant to garner, in the first class, what
Man, Pictionary, Simon Says and
the actual intentions of the student are Activities: Games are possible option
much more.
before going ahead with the plan. This for adults as well. A lot of the time, they
way, you will find it easier to tailor a class might have be tailored to suit adults.
Story Telling: This is another effective
to the specific needs of that student. More “grown up” type games and ac-
technique. All children love story time.
Find a simple fairy tale to tell the tivities will be useful in this regard. De-
Before going ahead, however, you need bates are often a great way to get adults
children, or make one up yourself!
to remember that adults, children and talking. Often, the students will end up
Afterwards, ask questions by putting the
indeed teenagers are all different. Chil- speaking more and arguments can
characters in different situations (“Sal-
dren learn in different ways to their older
ly’s grandmother is ill, what should break out. As long as it does not get out
counterparts. As a result, you need to be Sally do?”). of hand, this can be incredibly positive.
able to make sure what to include in cer- The less you have to do, the more of
tain classes and what to leave out. This way, kids can come up with their a success the class is!
own answers. Effectively, you will be
able to get the children to write their own Humour: It is also a good idea to have
THE DIFFERENCES stories. This can be incredibly beneficial
in terms of their production skills.
a sense of humour. Just be aware how
humour translates in different cultures.
Between Adults & Children You Should In Germany, for example, the people
Know Attention Spans: Children also tend to are notorious for being humourless. This
have short attention spans, so it is im-

isn’t necessarily the case, as it can differ
CHILDREN AND LEARNING portant for you to realize this. Long, from one region to the next.
drawn-out exercises which involve a
One of the first things you should
lot of silence will not work. The kids will Topics of Interest: If you are teaching
remember about kids is that their brains
become agitated, start fidgeting and business people, then topics related to
have more elasticity than those of adults.
lose interest. Keep them engaged at all what they are doing (for example, some-
You could say that their brains are not
times. Posing questions, getting every- one who works with pressured air) will
“formed” yet, so to speak. As a result, it
one involved in the exercise, and gen- probably spark up the students’ interests
is easier for children to learn a new lan-
erally keeping them on their toes is a bit more.
always a good idea and can prove very
effective. The Internet is a wonderful resource in
Try to remember your own personal ex-
this sense, and you can find informa-

perience, if you know a foreign language.
If you learned it at the age of 7-10, learn- ADULTS AND LEARNING tion on almost anything with the click of
a mouse. Remember, most adults will
ing new words most likely came easier
For older people, learning a also like to take a logical approach, but
to you, and you probably found yourself
language can be a challenge. There overall with both children and older
understanding simple phrases quite
are some who do this professionally for students, using the language in a
easily. However, as we become older,
translator jobs, and will generally have a practical way is the most beneficial
taking on a new language becomes a lot
gift for this. But for many adult learners, method.
more difficult.

Why Adults Are Learning English
(and How You Can Help Them)
ship with them, keep it personal and relationship with your students profes-
Adult English as a second lan- encouraging. Help them understand sional, thinking of them as colleagues
guage learners are a unique col- appropriate interaction between a stu- rather than students. Make sure that
lection of students. dent and teacher in the U.S. Be a men- everything you do in class has a pur-
They do not take English simply to tor to these students as many of them pose and a practical application in the
meet an institutional requirement or will return to you for encouragement real world.
check something off their transcripts. or advice in future semesters. Be re-

They study English for their own pur-
poses, to meet their own goals, and
alistic when assigning homework, but FOR PERSONAL REASONS
be serious when you grade. You will
for personal reasons which influence not help these students by allowing Even though most of your stu-
what they expect from their teachers. them to sail through English classes. dents will be studying English for aca-
For the most part, adults study ESL In fact, you will actually hurt them and demic or business purposes, there
for one of three general reasons, and may cause them to lose money if they are sure to be a few who are study-
for each reason there are ways you have to retake required courses later ing for purely personal reasons. For
can tailor your classes to help your in their studies! some, overseas English classes will
students have the best ESL experi- be like a vacation, a way to see the

ence possible. Therefore, whether
the purpose your students study
FOR USE IN BUSINESS world and learn something in the pro-
cess. Others may be studying to keep
is academic, business or personal, Less common than students a visa current or to stay in the country
you can design your class to meet learning English for academic pur- legally. They may even already have
their specific needs. poses but still quite common are superior language skills. For these
ESL students who study for busi- students, a casual class with fun as
WHY Adults Are Learning ness reasons. Whether they work for a main ingredient will be most en-
English & HOW You Can Help an international company or are look- gaging. Keep homework on the low
Them ing to do future business in the U.S., side and make sure class includes
business English students will lots of discussion and creative ac-


want real, practical and purposeful
English language instruction. While
there is always benefit to be gained
tivities. This does not mean that you
should fail to take class seriously, but
putting too strenuous expectations on
The majority of adult ESL students from traditional teaching methods and this minority group will only frustrate
come to the United States in pur- materials, business English students them as well as you. Get out of the
suit of higher education. Whether will appreciate hands on and practi- classroom whenever you can to take
they are planning on simply attending cal uses for English. You should use a field trip or learn in real life settings.
university or plan to move onto more as many authentic materials as your If you plan social activities, include
complex academic pursuits, like law students can handle, and put them day trips and short travels that will be
school or medical school, students in realistic situations to practice lan- fun for your students. Nurture a friend-
of English for academic purposes guage. Rather than staging a debate, ship with your students and have fun
have specific needs. They are looking for example, ask students to negoti- together. Some of these students may
to language as a means to an end. ate a contract. Instead of reading just turn out to be your lifelong friends!
Sometimes schools require them to a novel, read a simple but fun busi-
take ESL classes. Other times, they ness book (Who Moved My Cheese
study the language in hopes of a for example). Assign a business let- AS YOU CAN SEE, THERE IS A GREAT
higher TOEFL score. If your students ter to your writing class rather than an VARIETY IN THE REASONS ADULTS
fall into this population, make sure essay. These practical assignments STUDY ENGLISH AS A SECOND LAN-
you design a class that will prepare will prepare students for how they will GUAGE. Each population has specific
them for future academic require- be expected to use their language goals and desires, and the best teach-
ments. skills. In your language instruction, ers will want to teach to their students’
do not neglect to teach cultural ex- purposes.
Test taking will be an important top- pectations and appropriate behavior For classes where you have all three
ic to cover in class. You should give for business settings. You may need kinds of students, and that often hap-
them experience with different types to teach your students how to give a pens, do your best to meet the specif-
of testing and assessment as well as good handshake and what is consid- ic needs of each student and try not to
different instructional styles. The more ered appropriate business dress. By get frustrated if some students tend to
often you bring guest speakers into using English in real settings with typi- disengage. You can only do so much
the classroom, the more it will ben- cal expectations, your students will be in one class, but keeping your stu-
efit your students since they will be ready to put their language skills to dents’ needs and intentions in mind
exposed to many different educators the test in the real world. Keep your will help you reach all of them the best
in their futures. As for your relation- way you can.

Adult ESL Learners: Homework
Assignments That Work
of the dialogue could be. Ask stu- spread it out over several weeks.
ADULT ESL LEARNERS MAY NOT dents to defend their choices. For in-
HAVE A LOT OF TIME OUTSIDE stance, give students a conversation Remember that you do not have to
OF CLASS TO DEVOTE TO THEIR in which two colleagues are discuss- make it the focus of all your lessons
ENGLISH STUDIES BUT ASSIGNING ing Employee C and end the material from the time it was introduced until
HOMEWORK ONCE IN A WHILE CAN you give them for homework with one its completion. Introduce the activity in
BE BENEFICIAL. person complaining that Employee C one lesson, check to see if students
Having students complete exercises did not deserve to get a promotion. have any questions about it in each
at home allows them to maximize class period after that, give them time
their speaking time during class peri- In the next class you can talk about to practice, and finally have students
ods. Since adults are often very busy, the appropriateness of this conversa- present their role plays.
it is important to assign homework tion, what students think of the two

only when you feel it is necessary. characters, and what the other char- WORKSHEETS WORK
acter should say next.
TRY These Homework Assignment WONDERS

‘INTERVIEW Some worksheets may also be ap-

YOUR GRANNY ABOUT …’ propriate for homework. If there is an
READING TEXTS AS HOME- exam coming up, students may ap-
WORK? WHY NOT? Simple interview activities can be preciate optional study material for
done with students of all ages. For further practice.
For discussion lessons, send stu- this activity, ask students to inter-
dents home with the reading as- view family members or friends. While crosswords are not a great
signment instead of setting aside This is especially good practice for us- use of class time for adult learners,
time for them to read it silently in class. ing reported speech but can be used providing students with an occasional
You should introduce key vocabulary to talk about other topics too. You can crossword for homework may be fine.
beforehand and give students some provide students with some basic They are enjoyable and do not take
topics or questions to think about questions to give their interview some long periods of undivided attention to
during their reading so that they will structure and have them build on it us- complete: in fact, crosswords can be
know what to focus on. You can then ing their own questions. done gradually in free time such as
do some pronunciation practice and during the commute to work. They are
comprehension checks in the next In the next lesson, students can report good practice material because they
lesson. A discussion could also be their findings and discuss the material focus on checking vocabulary com-
based on the material students read. with the rest of the class. prehension or expanding vocabu-
lary - both of which are very important

This type of homework activity really
makes the most of the time you have
with students and gives them an op- WORK ARE FUN, TOO
portunity to think about the material
Adult learners are generally more re-
before having to discuss it.
luctant than younger students to do

role plays but if you think your class
would be willing to give it a try, sec-
tions of the activity can be as-
This activity is especially good IMPORTANT THAT THEY DEVOTE
signed as homework.
for students of Business English but TIME TO THEIR STUDIES IN ORDER
could also be used in other lessons TO MAKE PROGRESS.
Students will have to work together
to focus on giving advice, voicing an Talk to students at the beginning of
in class if you want them to develop
opinion, or politely agreeing or dis- the course about what they expect in
their own scripts but they can practice
agreeing. regards to homework and ensure that
and memorize their lines as home-
you always give students plenty of
work. Since students may not be able
Give students a dialogue to read time to complete exercises.
to meet one another outside of class,
and ask them to think about the differ-
be sure to give students some time to
ent characters. These dialogues could
practice together in their groups be-
be based on work, school, or personal
fore the final presentation.
interactions. In the next class, discuss
students’ opinions of the characters
You must allow enough time for stu-
from the dialogue and give students
dents to prepare for the role play so
some options for what the next part

Classroom Management
for the Adult (and Not So Adult)
ESL Student
If you tell other teachers what
you do, - and if that is teaching
ESL students at the college level,
Have a plan. Break course ob-
often it’s the case an entire class is
just difficult to manage, sometimes
there is an individual student with
problematic behavior, such as con-
jectives down and have a plan for the
they exclaim, “Oh, that must be semester, week, and day. sistently (and disruptively) arriving
great! You don’t have any class- late. If behavior like this develops in
room management issues. Be- If students are busy doing relevant one student, it’s usually best to meet
cause your students really want work, there is less chance they will with the student privately and dis-
to learn.” Well, yes and no, you become classroom management con- cuss the situation. Often the student
instantly think. cerns. is unaware that there is a problem and
is very apologetic and promises to im-

It is a great job, indeed. And adult prove.
ESL students rarely have classroom
management issues like throwing spit THE KEY
Other times the student knows the
wads and shoving each other—they Make your plan transparent. Put the behavior is a problem, but it is rooted
do, however, make and receive cell day’s or week’s or semester’s plan in some other academic or personal
phone calls during class and update on the board or class website so stu- concern, like loss of transportation or
their Facebook profiles. ESL students, dents know what they should be doing simple misunderstanding of how im-
like students in general, come to the moment to moment. portant it is to be on time in a class-
classroom for a variety of reasons, in- room. The teacher can discuss the

trinsic love of learning is probably not situation with the student, and often
primary among them in most cases. HAVE A CLASSROOM
the problem can be solved with one
This is complicated by divergent no-
Also have a classroom manage-

tions of what is appropriate classroom BE POLITE BUT DIRECT
ment plan in place, whether it is
behavior — not only from what stu-
in your head or in writing. But think
dents were taught in their past educa- Be polite but direct about what
through what you would do in certain
tion experiences but also from instruc- you want students to do or not do. If
situations: what you would do if you
tor to instructor on the same campus. you are bothered by a student bring-
find a student had plagiarized her pa-
One instructor may not be bothered by ing food and drink into class and loud-
per or what you would do if a student
the student text-messaging under the ly consuming it throughout the class, it
could not seem to stop talking through
desk — or at least, not say so — while is all right to tell the student -- private-
your lectures.
another may come unhinged. So how ly, so the student isn’t embarrassed --

does the teacher manage the class- but usually students who demonstrate
room under such circumstances? VARY GROUPING inappropriate behavior like this are
STRATEGIES not going to pick up on subtle hints
CLASSROOM that their behavior is inappropriate, so
MANAGEMENT Students tend to get bored when in
one activity or grouping for too long.
being direct is necessary.
for the Adult ESL Student

If you have done a teacher-fronted,

whole-class activity for ten minutes,
you could notice that often your stu-
EXPECTATIONS IN dents begin to drift and to hold side
SYLLABUS It is rare but not unheard of that stu-
conversations. This is a sign that it’s
dent behavior can cross the line
time to vary the instruction, to break
If you are really bothered by use of from merely inappropriate and an-
students into small groups for further
cell phones and other electronics dur- noying to alarming, especially if
practice. Usually once the activity has
ing class time, say so in the syllabus. there are suspected drug abuse or
changed, the negative behavior dis-
If you’d really prefer students spend mental health concerns.
the majority of time speaking English

in class, rather than breaking into dis- For example, a number of years ago,
cussion groups in their primary lan- DISCUSS IT IN PRIVATE an immigrant student who had acted a
guages, say that as well, and give a Although classes as a whole little odd all semester, enough so that
reason. tend to have a specific “climate,” and most of the other students avoided

him, was in my ESL class. One day, when apparently upset over his failing grade, he came into my office, shut the door,
and asked, “Do you love your husband?” Startled, I replied simply that I did. He then asked, “If you love your hus-
band, why don’t you love your students?”

The behavior of shutting the door and then the bizarre dialogue was enough to alarm me into dropping a note to my
dean, who I think must have then had the student into his office for a stern conversation because the student disap-
peared from the program shortly after. Of course in most cases, this is not the outcome we would wish, but in reality not
all students are able to benefit from all educational settings.

Involve authorities as needed. Although ideally instructors should develop the skills to deal with the vast majority of
classroom management issues within their own classes, it is all right in certain circumstances to involve higher authori-
ties — sometimes the police, if you feel your immediate safety is in jeopardy.

Although it is rare, sometimes student behavior warrants intervention from others. Instructors should have on hand the
phone numbers of their dean, campus security, and the police to be notified depending the level of behavior: a case of
repeated plagiarism should be referred to the dean, for example, while calls to security or the police should be reserved
for threats to property or personal safety.


This requires the hard work of a teacher. However, the well-conducted class can be achieved with planning, varying
grouping, being direct, and involving others when needed.

How to Teach a Christmas Lesson
Adult Learners Will Never Forget
Here are some suggestions for Christ-
The preparations, the shopping for gifts,
There are a lot of websites where you mas writing assignments, which you
the cooking, and the singing is not hard
can get this information, but Santa’s may adapt to your students’ level:
for a grown-up to get into the spirit of
Christmas. So, with this in mind, why Net has a wonderful collection of tradi-
tions from around the world. Choose a • Give them writing prompts to begin
not give your adult ESL learners a
few and print them out for your class, a Christmas story: “Sally took the
Christmas lesson they’ll never for-
or have them read the pages directly last batch of gingerbread cook-
get? ies from the oven. Suddenly,...”
on a computer or laptop. Don’t forget
to introduce key vocabulary before etc.
This is a great opportunity for students
who come from different backgrounds reading. At, we have
some great worksheets in our Christ- • Give them an essay topic “Is Christ-
to share things about their culture and mas more about shopping than
learn from others. It’s also a wonderful mas section, like the Christmas Tradi-
the birth of Jesus these days?
way to practice all four skills: reading, tions around the World worksheet and Describe a Christmas memory
listening, speaking, and writing. the Christmas Traditions Quiz, which from your childhood... What is
are great post-reading activities. Christmas really about? “

Assign the writing task for homework if
you’re short on time.

Ask students what they usually do dur-
Now that your students are more famil-
iar with Christmas vocabulary and tra-
ditions, they should be ready to watch
a Christmas video! Choose one that is
ing the holiday season, how they pre- Choose any Christmas carol or song
appropriate to your students’ level. where several typical Christmas tradi-
pare for Christmas, and what they do on
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. tions and activities are mentioned, like
Highly recommended for upper-inter- making a snowman, riding sleighs,
mediate to advanced students is The roasting chestnuts, etc. Ask students
If you have students from different coun-
History Channel’s Christmas Un- to listen to the song and identify which
tries, ask them what they will be doing
wrapped: The Truth about Christ- of these activities or traditions are men-
for Christmas this year. Will they be do-
mas, a fascinating documentary about tioned.
ing anything differently? Will they try out
the true origins of many modern day
something new? What do they usually
Christmas symbols and customs. At
do in their country of origin? you can watch all five
parts of the video, but the first 10 min-
TALK ABOUT utes gives you plenty of information to PLAN A CHRISTMAS LESSON WITH
CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS work with. There are also several other KIDS, BUT DON’T LEAVE YOUR ADULT
AROUND THE WORLD videos to choose from. Don’t forget to ESL LEARNERS OUT OF THE HOLIDAY
provide short pre-viewing, viewing, FUN! THEY MAY NOT HAVE COLOR-
Ask students who are familiar with and post-viewing activities. ING PAGES, CRAFTS, OR CROSSWORD
other customs to tell the class about PUZZLES, BUT THEY’LL ENJOY THEIR
them. Do they know about Christmas
celebrations in other countries? Which
countries? Are they very different from
typical North-American or European

The speaking task should relate to the

customs? Has anyone ever been to a video they’ve just watched. Give them
South American country for Christmas? roles to play out: One student could be
Or any country where it was hot, and a famous historian and another the in-
there was no snow for Christmas? terviewer who asks questions about the
origins of some Christmas traditions, or
Take as long as you want, but make one student could be travelling to a for-
sure students are fully engaged in eign country and another student offers
the discussion. information on how Christmas is cele-
brated there.

Teaching Adult Learners: How
To Handle Attendance Problems
constructive feedback and correc- or her notes.
WITH ADULT LEARNERS, TEACH- tions but providing a letter grade is


VATION ARE GENERALLY NOT A when students skip class week after
PROBLEM. FOR ADULT CLASSES Understand that students have week. The best thing you can do is
ONE OF THE MAJOR CONCERNS IS lives outside of class and that certain stay positive about the situation
ATTENDANCE. things are definitely more impor- and devote extra attention to the
Adults will often have a lot of com- tant than learning English. learners who do attend.
mitments: family and work demand
the majority of their time and English There are probably times in the past If you are frustrated during lessons,
classes are not always a priority. where you have had to skip class be- it will have a negative impact on your
While you cannot demand that all cause of work, an illness, or a family students because you are not per-
your students attend class all the time, emergency so it is only fair to be con- forming your best and it could affect
there are some things you can do to siderate when students say they will their moods too.
help maintain the flow of the course. not be able to make it to class. Some


things such as business trips will not
even be in their control so you cannot
blame them for absences related to
Perhaps the class is too easy

1 DO: BE PUNCTUAL certain activities or events. or hard for students missing class so
they are uninterested in the material

Once you have met several
DON’T: LECTURE you are discussing. The class could
times, you will have some idea of who also just meet at a particularly incon-
might miss classes more often than Telling students over and over venient time. If a student misses class
others. Regardless of the size of again the importance of attending regularly, you might want to suggest
your class, it is important to start class is also not going to make a huge he switch to another class or con-
on time so that other students do not difference in attendance. sider one-on-one lessons. You can
feel like they are wasting their time. explain that missing class means that
Obviously students know they he is not getting the full benefit of tak-
By starting on time you will also show should attend lessons but repeat- ing the course and will not improve as
latecomers that the class does not edly telling them that is unlikely to im- rapidly.
revolve around them. Make it clear prove the situation and will only waste
that latecomers will have to catch up even more class time. Often this type
by looking at another student’s notes of lecturing will feel more like pun-
or the notes on the board. This way ishment to the students who attend Luckily if you are teaching one-on-one
you will not need to repeat your first regularly and arrive on time than to classes, attendance will not affect oth-
couple minutes of class whenever an- those people who come late or miss er students so while it can still be frus-
other students walks in. lessons. trating for you, you can simply save
the material you prepared for another

Adult learners are less inter- 5 DO: HELP
You should help students catch

Adult learners can be a pleasure to

ested in their grade thus making par- up after missing a class so that you work with but one of the downsides
ticipation a large percent of it will not will not have to review all the material you are likely to face is having stu-
encourage students to attend. For you covered in the previous lesson. dents repeatedly miss class due to
younger students grades are impor- You can create study material by conflicts with other commitments.
tant because they affect things such organizing notes for each lesson. IF THIS HAPPENS IN YOUR ADULT
as college applications and job oppor- CLASSES, CONTINUE TO TEACH
tunities but giving an adult student a Try not to spend too much time on this. LESSONS AS PLANNED AND DO
low grade will not affect much besides Fleshing out your lesson plan should YOUR BEST TO HELP STUDENTS
his confidence and willingness to par- be sufficient. Email this to students CATCH UP WHEN NECESSARY.
ticipate in activities. who do not attend class to help them
understand the material they missed. While attendance issues can be frus-
In adult classes, you do not have to You can also encourage students trating, there are definitely ways you
give overall grades if you would rather to buddy up so that if one of them can deal with them so that everyone
not. It is important to give students misses class, the other can share his can still get the most out of the course.

Teaching Adults How-To:
Advantages and Challenges
them. credible amount of knowledge and
TEACHING ADULT LEARNERS CAN experience they can bring to class.
BE VERY REWARDING, BUT VERY The first characteristic of adult learn-
CHALLENGING AS WELL. ers you should learn is that they are We mustn’t forget that although they
We mustn’t forget we’re dealing with not children, and they don’t need help may know little English, they most
individuals who have their own lives with their homework. likely know a great deal about
outside of school, some with very something else, whether it is their

busy schedules. But adult learners
OTIVATED INDIVIDUALS professional area of expertise or
are also better equipped for dia- simply a hobby, and these may be
logue and exchange. They come to Most adults who enroll in things you know nothing about. Some
class with a set of tools and infor- English courses, do so of their own of this knowledge may be highly spe-
mation that can be of great use to volition. This is another characteristic cialized or industry-related (pharma-
us. of adult learners. ceuticals, marketing, manufacturing)
or basic knowledge of things you have
On the one hand we present the ad- Their needs may vary, but the fact no experience in like cars, sports,
vantages that come with teaching of the matter is they feel an interest crafts, maybe even other languages.
adult learners and the way you, as an in learning, a need, sometimes even
ESL teacher can maximize their great an urgency to study English. Some
potential for learning. And on the other need to improve their English com- How can we tap into this wealth of
hand, we examine the challenges we munication skills to do business or knowledge?
face and suggest some ways to over- have better chances of advancement It’s as easy as asking your adult stu-
come them. in their careers. Others want to travel dents to talk about what they know
to English-speaking countries and about. For example, a beginner who
The ADVANTAGES Of want to get around on their own. Oth- is really into cars can make compari-
Teaching Adults ers still, simply enjoy it, or studied it sons: A Mercedes is more expen-
when they were kids and want to take sive/faster/more efficient than a

When we teach English to
their English to the next level. Even
those who are “forced” to study due
to circumstances like relocation to an
Ford. An advanced student can give
a presentation on marketing basics for
the rest of the class. If you’re teaching
business English to adults, you can
adults, we’re dealing with individuals English-speaking country have a spe-
who, to a greater or lesser degree, cific reason to learn, and a goal that practically ask them to teach you ev-
have a set of study skills, acquired in will motivate them to learn. erything they know about business!
their previous schooling. At the very
least, they possess writing, summariz- This is why it is absolutely essen-
ing, and note-taking skills. They know How can we take advantage of tial that you become very familiar
perfectly well what it’s like to attend their motivation to learn? with your students backgrounds
classes, and the greater their com- Although your students may have the and interests.
mitment to their learning, the more or- initial motivation to enroll in classes,
ganized they are, and the more skills it may vanish into thin air if they sud- The CHALLENGES Of
they are willing to deploy. denly face activities and tasks that Teaching Adults: What Adult Learners
don’t inspire them to learn. Want
How do we fully take advantage
of their previously acquired study
Ask them to produce a summary of a
To effectively motivate them, sim-
ply consider their goals. Do they
want to learn English to do business?
Very few adult learners have
video seen in class, or a reading as- Plan activities that specifically cater to tons of free time on their hands. Most
signment. Encourage them to prepare this goal, like job interviews, business have full time jobs and careers, some
charts or graphs. Feel free to assign realia, or business email writing. Are study, and it’s hard for them to find
more challenging types of home- they learning just for fun? Provide a the time to take an English course, let
work assignments, not necessarily variety of activities that will keep them alone do homework and study after
more time-consuming, as most adults engaged, like videos, games, or even class.
learners don’t have a great deal of field trips.
free time on their hands, but they may How can we overcome this chal-
handle more mentally-challenging ex-
ercises. They may even make a Pow-
er Point presentation for their final
One of the greatest advantages
Rather than excusing them from do-
ing homework or at home activities,
examination. Never underestimate of teaching adult learners is the in- give them several, but shorter tasks

to do. For instance, instead of giving them something that might take them from 20 to 40 minutes, give them a 5 or 10
minute exercise, but several, so that they may do one a day, in between meetings, or while they’re on their lunch break.
Ask them to watch a 5 minute video while they have breakfast and then summarize it.

Keep the tasks short and focused.

Unlike children, adult learners tend to be very self-conscious, particularly about the way they speak and their
pronunciation. They also tend to get frustrated more easily. They get discouraged if they think they’ve made little
to no progress, especially advanced students who may feel they’ve reached a language plateau, beyond which they
can’t progress. Finally, they are also very hard on themselves sometimes, demanding unrealistic things like perfect
pronunciation or listening.

How can we help them?

• First, inform your students on what should be realistic goals. Make sure they’re clear on what the course program
is for the year and what they are expected to learn. Also, explain to them that their brains are not as flexible as chil-
dren’s brains, which makes it practically impossible for them to lose their accent. This does not mean that they can’t
improve their pronunciation, but that they’ll always have an accent that is part of who they are.

• Secondly, to help them track their progress, end each class with a What have you learned today? They may have
learned about a specific topic, a new tense, or a whole new set of vocabulary. But make sure they are aware of


Teaching Adults:
They Know More Than They Tell
One of the major points about
It is important for every student to par- teaching adults is that they have a
TEACHING ADULTS AND TEACHING huge amount of experience within
ticipate in a class, and this couldn’t be
CHILDREN. their specific fields of work or life.
more true with regards to language
It has been proven that children’s As such, they have picked up a lot
minds tend to be more “elastic” in along the way and those who have
Language isn’t something like his-
the sense that they can be shaped been in education for much longer will
tory which can be committed to
and moulded quite easily. With this in have a huge amount of experience
memory through rote learning. Yes,
mind, a lot of teachers use this to their within the sector. The teacher should
phrases, sentences and words and
advantage to help the children absorb then use this to their advantage.
even grammatical structures can be
the language more.
memorized but they also need to be
practised. The old saying “practise A good idea might be to organize
Generally, children will pick up lan- a class where different learning
makes perfect” holds very true in this
guage naturally much faster than methods are discussed, and ques-
regard. People need to learn to get
adults. This isn’t to say, however, tions asked about which ones work
out of their comfort zone and try
that adults aren’t capable of learn- best for some people. This can also
out new things.
ing either. Many have already been be a good way of finding out what the
in school and had a go at learning a needs of one’s students are. Further-
One of the best ways of getting people
second language before, so they may more, those who may even be teach-
to participate is to design a game or a
be using their own internal methods in ers themselves will be able to share
role play scenario whereby everyone
order to commit the variety of gram- their own insight and knowledge.
has a line or a piece to say. Not only
matical rules to memory.
will this bring them “out of their shell”,

HOW TO Teach Adults:

so to speak, but it will also help that
individual to learn that others might be
in the same situation as themselves.
It is important for a teacher as
well not to underestimate their stu-

Important Things To Keep in Mind dents. Adults might have already
picked up some words and phrases in

Most of us who have gone
through teacher training sessions will
understand the importance of eliciting
English from previous experience,
this mainly being due to it being one
of the most widely-spoken languages
For a lot of adults, the idea of return- words. in the world at the moment. Keep in
ing to education can a be somewhat mind that one’s students will always
daunting one. A lot of the time, they For those students who have been have prior learning experience, and
may not have been in school for a learning the language for a long time this can be a great help to any teach-
number of years and are now unsure now, they will find that they do indeed er.
of classroom protocol. Doing tests know quite a good bit of vocabulary.
might worry them just as much as any The trick is trying to get them to reveal
teenager might be worried about the this to the rest of the class.
idea of sitting down to an exam.
Eliciting words is essentially get-
It is important always to be friendly ting them to think of the specific
and smile, let them know that this word themselves, rather than the
is nothing to be afraid of. No matter teacher simply writing it down on the
what one is learning, if one is a begin- board. Doing this will get the mind
ner then there is no shame in making working, and allow the wheels in their
mistakes. head to start turning. Simply writing a
word on the board and having them
Whilst some people will embrace copy it down won’t allow it to stick. In
learning the new language fervently, thinking it up for themselves, it will
a great deal might find themselves in- challenge them to pursue their own
timidated and simply sit in the class knowledge further.
and not contribute.

What Adult Learners Want: Know
Them To Teach Them Better
Adult learners are often eager
or “Can you please repeat the
question?” too.


They often choose to study English
to help them in their careers or with
to improve their speaking skills.

Unlike with younger students, discipline

is not a major concern. Some learners Beginning adult learners may feel self
other personal goals such as obtain- may try to shift the course of lessons conscious about their speaking abilities
ing student visas for English speak- from the material you have prepared so it is important to build their self con-
ing countries. These learners may be to free discussion. This could happen fidence through encouragement and
more eager than primary and second- when students are uninterested in the by starting out with simple exercises.
ary school students because they view lesson material so develop creative
English as a global language and are lesson plans (that’s exactly what Busy- They will be much less willing than
aware of what they can gain by im- is here for!) and talk with children to sing silly songs or engage
proving their communication skills. students at the beginning of the course in certain activities so plan exercises
about free discussion sessions. Per- that appeal to them. A class full of
haps one class a week or the first ten adults may be reluctant to sing “Head,
minutes of class can be devoted to this.
GET TO KNOW Your Adult Shoulders, Knees and Toes” but if
you are working with beginning level
Learners Better Once this is established students may adult students, you can find an alterna-
be more willing to focus on the les-

tive method of practicing the same ma-
KNOW WHAT THEY WANT son material during other periods. terial. Singing songs and other activi-
ties may not seem like studying to your
For adult students, you can of-
adult students so your approach to
ten plan your lessons based on
these classes will have to be different.

what your students’ goals are.
Create exercises that have a serious,
If students need to learn English for As with any other ESL course, rather than fun, approach based on
work, you can introduce business re- the focus needs to be on communica- topics that students are interested in.
lated vocabulary and talk about vari- tion. While encouraging students to Also, the content rather than the format
ous work situations. Related topics speak may be the most important part of lessons will keep them engaged.
could include travel, numbers and of classes with younger learners, adult
currency, and casual conversation learners are often really enthusiastic
because these are relevant for busi- about speaking activities so develop-
ness people who use English at work. ing their listening skills becomes more
important. Especially at the advanced WITH ADULT LEARNERS YOU ARE
If students are studying English in level, students need to be able to intro- ABLE TO ADDRESS A MUCH WIDER
order to obtain a particular visa, be duce their opinions, give advice, and RANGE OF TOPICS BUT ULTIMATELY
aware of what test or tests they will politely agree or disagree so that regu- THE CONTENT OF YOUR COURSE
be required to take or what skills they lar discussions flow smoothly and stu- WILL DEPEND A LOT ON WHY
need to demonstrate. This informa- dents do not come across as being in- YOUR STUDENTS ARE STUDYING
tion can be found online and students considerate or rude in social situations. ENGLISH AND WHAT THEIR GOALS
may already know what their weak- ARE. WITHOUT HAVING TO WORRY
nesses are based on previous scores. This is very different from the basic ABOUT DISCIPLINE, YOU WILL HAVE
question-and-answer structure that MORE CLASS TIME TO DEVOTE TO
Advanced adult learners may simply students start off learning as begin- IMPORTANT THINGS LIKE LEARN-
want some regular speaking practice ners and requires both good speaking ING ENGLISH.
so that they can increase their fluency skills and active listening skills. Un-
and range of vocabulary. With begin- like when students read, listening
ners, the content of your classes will and responding to people requires
obviously be more similar to those for rapid comprehension of material af-
younger learners but you can still in- ter only one repetition. It takes a lot of
clude specific material to better tailor practice for students to do this so be
lessons to fit your students’ needs. sure to teach them phrases such as
The goals of your adult students will “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.”
dramatically affect your curriculum.

How to Teach English
to Beginners
If you assist a teacher who is not a
native speaker and would like you
to speak at a normal speed, you can
speed up slightly but a normal speed
Language studies give students
the opportunity to learn in a different
Showing them that lessons can be would not be appropriate for begin- way. English should not be taught the
fun and that they can perform well is ners. same way Mathematics or History is
important to get them engaged in and taught. There is no room for lectures
positive about your classes. Your cur- At the intermediate and advanced lev- because luckily as the teacher, you
riculum should be designed with this els, you may speak more rapidly as already know how to speak English
in mind so be sure to dedicate plenty their grasp on English increases and while the students really need to prac-
of time to each section. If students they can follow you better but it may tice more than anything else.
are doing better than expected, sim- still be challenging for them. When
ply use the free lesson period to re- you do choral repetition or drill exer- Getting students to communicate
view or better yet, have fun with a cul- cises, be sure to enunciate clearly with you and each other in a posi-
tural lesson or holiday activity. and be loud enough for the entire tive creative environment should
class to hear you. It is often difficult be the goal of every language
HOW TO PROCEED for people to understand you, if your teacher. You can incorporate many
mouth is hidden from view which is different games into your lessons and

Especially with beginners it is
odd because your students are sup-
posed to be listening but even so, try
to direct your attention towards your
with lots of miming and role plays stu-
dents will probably laugh at you, in a
good way, on more than one occa-
important to go slowly. There is a students, as opposed to the black- sion.
steep learning curve at the very be- board for instance, when you are talk-
ginning of their studies especially if ing to them and hold flashcards at an Taking the focus away from grammar
you are the first to introduce them to appropriate level. rules and focusing on communication
the Latin alphabet. will encourage them to try their best,
which is all you can really ask of them.
Try to introduce manageable chunks

of information and do not add in more
information until your students are
comfortable with what they have al- Choose practice activities that
ready covered. This may mean that are simple, easy to understand, and STUDENTS JUST BEGINNING THEIR
they are not able to understand the easy to explain. Using lots of words ENGLISH STUDIES HAVE ABSO-
purpose of learning certain things ini- that students don’t recognize to ex- LUTELY NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT
tially but perhaps after a few lessons plain how to do a practice activity is SO IT IS BENEFICIAL TO YOU AND ALL
on a topic, you can help put it all to- only going to further confuse them. THEIR LATER ENGLISH TEACHERS TO
gether and then they will be amazed HELP THEM ENJOY IT BY ENCOUR-
at how much they have learned. In many cases a demonstration AGING THEM AND SHOWING THEM
may be your best option. As your THAT LEARNING ANOTHER LAN-
For example, in one lesson you may students improve, you can introduce GUAGE IS NOT AN OVERWHELM-
teach your students the words I, you, more complex activities but if an activ- ING TASK.
he/she/it and what they mean but ity ever takes longer to explain than to
they cannot make sentences with this complete, it is not worth doing again.
vocabulary until you give them some
verbs to work with which may not be Practice activities should revolve
appropriate until a later lesson. around students having the opportu-
nity to speak English so even work-
sheets should be used for that pur-
pose. After a worksheet has been

In the classroom you will also
completed, ask for volunteers to read
the questions, translate the questions,
and give the answers.
have to slow down your talking
speed. Students are never going to Try to involve as many students as
understand you if you are talking a possible and give them continuous
mile a minute. positive feedback.

15 Secrets to Teaching Adults
TRADITIONALLY, THE IMAGE OF and they themselves will then be likely since your students’ day, and there-
THE TEACHER HAS ALWAYS BEEN to switch off. fore their own experiences of teach-
A STERN AUTHORITY FIGURE ers might’ve been tough, stern people
who never smiled. Showing a happy,
pleasant face will definitely get the
whole class more relaxed!
KIDS. WITHIN THE ESL INDUSTRY, A lot of the time, the people you will
be teaching may not have been in
school for many years. They might not
be sure what proper classroom proto-
A lot of teachers will find they have to col is, so it is important to make sure Everybody has different ways of
teach younger people however many that they ask as many questions as learning and adults are no differ-
more will also be teaching adults. possible. When teaching the class, ent.
This is obviously true with regards perhaps it would be a good idea to
to those within the world of business frequently tell them, “Now, does Visual learners tend to be the most
English. Sometimes it can be a little anyone have any questions?” If a common, and so one should keep
tricky, particularly if those adults are student is unsure of this, then they this in mind but also remember there
a lot older than yourself. Many factors will usually raise their hand and ask may be other learning styles present.
need to be taken into account, such something. Do some research on these specific
as respect and making sure you do styles and see which ones your stu-
not patronize them however many
people sometimes feel that they are
doing this without meaning to.
Keeping students engaged is
dents will fit into. It will then be a lot
easier to incorporate the techniques
into the class.
important for any age group, and this
HOW TO Teach Adults: 15
is a vital skill that most teachers will
learn over time.
Quite a lot of beginner teach-


Sometimes one might be tempted to
just focus on those who are participat-
ing, and leave more quieter ones to
ers go into their first lesson with all of
the purest intentions. They will have
a plan written out, usually involving
It could be quite common, especially their own devices. Try and include group work and the like, think that ev-
for younger English teachers, that everybody in the class equally, erything will go smoothly and accord-
most of their students will be older asking various questions more so to ingly.
than them. As a result, it is important those who don’t speak as often.
to keep the topic of the class rel- Sometimes, however, the class
evant and be something that they Simply standing at the board and list- might veer off on a different path.
will understand. ing off a load of information won’t help Don’t panic if this happens, just re-
it to stick in their heads. member that as long as you keep on
Discussing aspects of modern youth topic in some form, the class is a suc-
culture might not appeal to those with-
in the age bracket of fifty onwards. So
it is always important to keep anything
Distributing practice is also an-

At the end of the day, however, it is

you talk about relevant so that the as- other thing, closely tied in with the pre- also important that the students are
sociated party will be more interested vious point. Make sure that everybody ultimately speaking English.
and in tune with what you have to say. gets a chance to speak and practice

their new skills. Sometimes, one stu-
dent may be more talkative than the
others and hence not give the rest of
If the teacher is younger, then it
Having an interest in your own the class time to have their say. So it can be quite daunting when a student
subject is vitally important. No one is important to come up with an idea makes a clear mistake. Often, they
will learn anything if the teacher or an activity whereby everyone may simply ignore the mistake be-
doesn’t seem to care, and seems to can be involved, and therefore allow cause they’re afraid of patronizing the
just be giving the class rote-learning. everyone to participate. student. Don’t be, just correct them
in a way which sounds less patron-
Learning things by heart definitely
does work in some cases, but a lot of
the time when teaching language it is
Smiling might seem like one of

This usually involves something along

important to show an interest in it. the most simplest things in the world, the lines of, “That was a good sen-
but it is quite easy to forget at times! tence but... Can you think of a
Adults can tell immediately if you don’t Try to remember that the world of way of improving it?” It will encour-
have an interest in what is going on, teaching has probably changed a lot age the student to examine their own

grammar and make the correction
Having the students

Oftentimes people will feel
think of or come up with their own
words rather than simply telling them
is important. In doing this, the stu-
that they are getting nowhere when a dents will find that they already know
student simply wants to speak about the vocabulary and just need to “let it
their job, or their cat, or even their out” so it to speak.
wife! Since they usually are the ones
paying for it, they will argue that they
can have the right to do this. Natu-
rally, this is true but it doesn’t mean
that nothing can’t be learned from the
No one ever said that
school and learning had to be boring,
class. If they want to talk incessantly so it is important to make the class
about their pet, then simply incorpo- fun which will in turn engage the stu-
rate that into the whole lesson. The dents a lot more.
more they talk, the better their Eng-
lish will become! Think of various games and ideas
which can be done that will get every-

Every student needs en-
one involved. It will also help to loosen
up the atmosphere a bit and get some
of the more shy students talking!
couragement at some time or another,
and more so than adult learners. The
older they are the more reluctant they
may seem. This can be a particular
challenge so it is important to always IT IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT TO
make sure that they are on board REMEMBER, AT THE END OF THE
with the topic of the lesson. DAY, ADULT STUDENTS ARE NOT
They have more life experience and
will be a lot more critical, perhaps
even pick up on certain things fast-
Sometimes, particularly when teach-
er, but they are still novices when it
ing business English, one might find
comes to English (for the most part)
that they are teaching senior manag-
and you are there to teach them a
ers and secretaries. This unusual mix
new language.
may cause a little bit of tension as
the bosses may not feel comfortable
at being at the same level. It is im-
portant to steer conversation away
from anything that might be related
to their current work, and to focus
solely on the lesson to avoid con-

This might seem like an
obvious one but it is important to re-
member that, especially with those
who are beginners, many might be
tempted to slip into their native tongue
and this can be detrimental.

Often, students might start talking

amongst themselves, usually if they’re
simply asking for instructions. If this
happens, inquire as to what they are
talking about and see if they can say it
in English. This will help them to learn
some new vocabulary and the teacher
won’t feel so isolated.

5 Strategies for Teaching
the Beginning ESL Student
There are a lot of advantages to conversation. Grammar should be terests, answer questions about them,
teaching beginning ESL students: taught in context of the conversational and write responses.
they are motivated learners not yet skills rather than as a focus on its own.
burned out on language study as Students should work in pairs or small Give short lectures on important topics,
students at a later level often are groups much of the class period so that such as the structure of the U.S. educa-
because it does take a long time they can practice their English skills, tional system, and have students take
and is oftentimes difficult. preferably with speakers of languages brief notes.
Beginning ESL students generally have other than their own, so that English is
deep respect for teachers and the learn-
ing process, often coming from cultures
where these attitudes are still practiced
the common language the pair or group
must use to communicate. 5 IDENTIFY SCHOOL
and not having yet been exposed much
to American attitudes, which are gener-
ally not so respectful. In addition, a be-
Toward the end of the term, begin
discussing with students various
school/career options. Many stu-
ginning ESL class often has fun class- Students don’t need to know how to dents, of course, will already have iden-
room activities such as songs, plays, recite numbers and colors in their tified such goals, but they may be less
and outings rather than dictations and second language. People rarely do sure on how to go about accomplishing
research writing. And, let’s not forget to that in their first languages, for that mat- them as our educational system and its
mention, beginning ESL students often ter. What students do need to know is connections to the workplace can be a
give the teacher flowers at the end of how to give their birthdates and identifi- complex maze even to students born in
the term, a practice common in many cation numbers or ask for a specific col- this country.
other countries. or of item in a store. Continue to focus
on communicative needs of students Begin by identifying several educa-
However, there is still that sinking feel- and contextualize language in teach- tional options locally: for example, the
ing that sometimes comes in about the ing students short dialogues for places community college and state univer-
second week of the term when work- they will be visiting like the store, a res- sity and then go beyond that, as nec-
ing with very beginning students, when taurant, a library, and so on. essary. Also discuss several possible
the instructor realizes the students re- career paths that are available from
ally know little beyond “hello,” “yes,”
and “no.” Where do we even start?
Vocabulary? Grammatical structures?
Identify those language skills
studying at those institutions, and it is
likely at least one or two students will
be interested (like the dental assistant
Basic literacy skills? Help! There is students will need to learn to survive or nursing fields from studying at the
help available. Teaching the beginning in the community. What will they need local community college, for example).
ESL student need not be a difficult and to say in situations such as applying for Find out what careers students are al-
bewildering process if some basic prin- a job, requesting a repair or refund on ready interested in and discuss where
ciples are addressed. an appliance, looking for an apartment, they might get information on this field:
visiting the doctor’s office, and so forth? a number of students have an interest
5 STRATEGIES When students have enough English, in pharmacy, for example, and a nearby
take a needs assessment, either oral private college, University of the Pacif-

or written, to find out which life skills
are most important to them: looking for
housing or talking to a doctor, for ex-
ic, has a recognized pharmacy depart-
ment with several programs. You might
consider having a school counselor or
Traditional language instruction begins ample? Have them practice dialogues representative from a department of
with teaching the alphabet, or numbers, in groups or pairs, and they may even student interest come in to your class to
or conjugating often-used verbs. It is, of perform short sketches in front of the talk about opportunities.
course, difficult to take a needs assess- class.
ment at this level, but we already know No one said teaching beginning ESL
what beginning students really need is
some basic greetings and farewells
and other language for getting along
would be easy.


in their communities, such as asking Students will need to learn academ- FOCUSING ON COMMUNICATION
for directions or the costs of items. They ic language in English, of course — AND TRANSITIONING TO ACADEMIC
don’t really need to conjugate the verb how to read and write it and analyze its SKILLS, THE TEACHER CAN TAKE HER
“to be,” although this may be taught in grammar. Begin working on these skills CLASS FROM NOVICES TO STUDENTS
the context of introductions, for exam- while students continue work on life READY TO BEGIN THE JOURNEY TO-
ple: “I am Stacia, he is Gilliam.” The skills: have students read short nonfic- WARD THEIR ACADEMIC LIVES AND
focus, however, should be on basic tion or fiction pieces related to their in- CAREERS!

Top 8 Tips on Teaching
Absolute Beginners
When we talk about low-level students,
we’re not talking about teaching the
students about the difference between
present simple and past simple tenses.
understanding of grammar and vocabu-
lary, as they can see the words correctly
used and in context. Listening is also a
good way to learn new words while help-
Realia is ESL jargon for anything that
We are talking about a level 0 student is ‘real’. Realia is great method when it ing their speaking. By listening to a re-
who can barely string a single sentence comes to teaching vocabulary, as stu- cording, students should try to copy the
together or has utter difficulties when an- dents are able to simply put the vocabu- manner in which a native speaker says
swering the question ‘How are you?’ lary with a real life object. This can be the words. This will help significantly
Teaching absolute beginners can be done with practically anything, from the later down the track in accent reduction.
quite a tough task, especially for native whiteboard marker in your hand, or even
speakers with little understanding of the
L1 of the students. Nevertheless, with a
little bit of help and the right guidance, a
flowers from the garden. Another com-
mon form of realia is photos. Photos
make a great way to show the students
When teaching absolute beginners,
teacher can definitely make a strong im- an object or person that is real. One ac- it is important to repeat all commands in
provement to the student providing them tivity that works well with absolute be- order to give them a chance to listen
with the confidence they need to take ginners is learning about families. Both to the individual words. By repeating
them to the next level. you and the students can take your fam- your commands, the students are more
ily photos into the class and share them likely to understand what you are say-
while describing the relative in the photo. ing, as they may be able to understand
HOW TO Teach Complete Flashcards and other visuals, such as specific words, and then contextually put
Beginners PowerPoint presentations are an ideal the action and word together. For more
way to learning new vocabulary. advanced students at about a level 0-1,

Ah yes, number one on the list, a
one ideal way of improving the student’s
vocab is to repeat the instruction using
different words. If the student is unfamil-
smile is something that can be under- iar with the vocabulary, they can gener-
stood on a universal level. When build- IN THE STUDENT’S LANGUAGE ally use their brain to connect the dots
ing a rapport with your absolute begin- while learning through the context.
ner, smiling will build trust and show him While many language schools discour-

or her that you are there in a supportive age any usage of the teacher using the
L1 of the student, we find that using a
capacity. Body language is also a useful
tool when teaching English, as it is of- few words and phrases here and there DON’T STRESS!
ten said that about 70% of our commu- prove to be extremely helpful. This helps
Even though sometimes you may feel
nication is done through body language. with getting your point across in the
like you’re not helping, or that the work
Body language is great when trying to class, and teaching some of the simpler
you are doing is in vain, give it a few
get answers from student, showing if the vocabulary.
weeks. Things will begin to pan out
student is incorrect, or even if you want

nicely after a few weeks as you begin to
to elicit an answer from a student. SPEAK...... SLOWLY..... find your feet and build a strong rap-
port with your students. They will also

This is one of the more obvious tips
FIND AN ASSISTANT begin to understand your teaching meth-
to make the list, but teachers should be
odology and begin to pick up on all vi-
When you’re teaching a group of reminded to speak slow. With vast num-
sual clues, hand signals, body language,
absolute beginners, it is more than likely ber of coffee addicts who rely on their
and everything else that you employ in
that you will have one of the students fix to get through six-straight hours of
helping them learn the target language.
in the class who would be a little bit teaching, sometimes we can tend to get
If you put in the time with them, they will
above the others. You should use this a little ahead of ourselves. Always keep
always look back on you as being their
student to your advantage and make this somewhere close to the forefront of
first English teacher who really made
them your class assistant. This class as- your mind, or write it at the top of your
the effort to help and assist them.
sistant can help communicate the task, lesson plan in big writing.
vocabulary and other useful things that
the other students may not yet have an
understanding. 6 TEACH ALL FOUR SKILLS
For early learners of English, it is
a good idea to give them a broad range
By finding an assistant in the class, this TUDE, ANYONE CAN SUCCEED.
makes things easier and creates a of activities. This ensures that they can
The above eight steps should make your
great atmosphere in the class where make an improvement in all areas. Learn-
ESL teaching life all that much easier
the students can help each other in the ing a variety of skills will also help with
when your academic manager assigns
learning process. other areas of English too. By practicing
you a group of level 0 students.
reading, the students will get a very good

How to Teach the Verb “To Be”
to Beginners
Without introducing the question form ing questions such as “Is Ms. Smith
THE VERB “TO BE” IS THE FIRST “Is she happy?” you can use such from America?”
VERB STUDENTS LEARN IN THEIR questions to test comprehension and
ENGLISH STUDIES. students should understand what you The really great thing about this activ-
It is used extensively in the English are asking. Have them answer by ity is that students essentially have to
language and will allow students to saying “Yes, she is happy.” so that speak in order to play whereas with
create simple sentences with the vo- they continue to practice saying the board games students may be tempt-
cabulary they have learned to date. target structure. ed to simply roll the dice and move
their pieces around the board without
4 PRACTICE SIMPLE really practicing English.

For this first lesson, it is best to
You can use worksheets for
practice. Have students complete a
fill in the blank exercise where they
As a general review activ-
focus on only the I, You, He/She/It must choose am, is, or are to com- ity you can divide students into
structures which you can build upon plete sentences to ensure that they groups and play Hangman with
in later classes. If students have not understand which form of the verb sentences or words from their text-
really done a lot of activities with the agrees with certain subjects. You can book. It is perhaps not appropriate to
words he, she, and it, you may want also have students match sentences play the original game in your class-
to consider simply using names in the with images or with translations for room so you can just adapt it so that
practice activities. Once you have de- practice and to test comprehension. no one actually hangs.
termined what you would like to cover As a class check the answers before
in the first lesson, use the warm up continuing on. One adaptation is to simply have a
activity to review the vocabulary stu- very large fish where when students

dents will need later on in the lesson.
PRACTICE COMPLEX guess incorrectly, a little fish gets
A short simple drill activity would be closer and closer to being eaten. This
ideal. Students can then complete is not very accurate as you can either
an activity such as Battleship for draw the game out or end it whenever

During the introduction section
further practice. You can adapt this
classic game for use in the class-
room. While it can be time consuming
you choose.

Another method of playing is to as-

of your lesson, introduce any new vo- to explain, especially to beginners, sign a point value to certain things.
cabulary you plan to use in this lesson. your students will enjoy playing and it For example, if a group guesses the
Some emotions and adjectives would can be used to practice a wide variety letter a and there are three in the
be good because students will then of topics. sentence, the group would get three
be able to form complete meaningful points. A correct guess of the entire
sentences. Introduce words such as To play Battleship students should sentence would be five points while
happy and sad if students have not work in pairs using a worksheet. For there should be a penalty for guess-
yet learned them. Use flashcards to this class, the grids on the worksheet ing the entire phrase incorrectly but
drill vocabulary and have students might have I, You, He, She, Jenny, no penalty for guessing a letter that
complete some simple worksheet ac- Ms. Smith in the first column and is not used. You can alter the scor-
tivities for further practice. happy, fun, from Korea, sad, silly, ing anyway you would like to make it
from America in the first row. Stu- more appropriate for your class.


Show students how to make
dents then practice sentences such
as “I am silly.” to try to locate and
sink all of their opponents ships first.
Once your students are quite confi-
dent with making the sentences prac-
sentences such as “I am happy. You ticed in this lesson, you should include
are happy. Jenny is happy.” En- There may not be enough time in the the plural we, you, they as well.
sure that students understand how first lesson to begin this activity but
the subject and forms of the verb are devoting the second lesson entirely
paired. You can practice this before to Battleship would give your students AS THE FIRST VERB THEY STUDY,
introducing the full sentence structure lots of speaking practice. “TO BE” IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR
you would like students to learn. YOUR STUDENTS AND IT IS ESSEN-
For a third class, introduce the ques- TIAL TO GET THEM TO UNDERSTAND
Call on students to make sentences tion that goes along with this target THAT THE FORM OF THE VERB IS
choosing a subject, verb, and ad- structure and have students play us- AFFECTED BY THE SUBJECT OF THE
jective from columns on the board. ing the same worksheet but by mak- SENTENCE.

How to Teach Present Simple
to Complete Beginners
At the outset new students are con-
vinced that they cannot communicate
in English at all, but by the end of this
chael. I’m Michael’

Teacher models Q & A. Ask all the

Ask the class “What do I do?’
lesson they will hopefully be able to students their names – going ran- ‘What’s my job?’ As students an-
confidently introduce themselves to domly around the class. Make sure swer, make sure you write the answer
anyone they meet in a simple and yet that there is plenty of movement and on the board for future reference.
meaningful way. friendly gesturing with an open hand. ‘You are an English Teacher.’
No pointing. Get your students moti-
vated and animated. Stress that you Get them to repeat and point out the
HOW TO PROCEED need first names only. It’s much more ‘an’ article if it has been omitted. Ask
friendly. all the students individually ‘What

There is no warm up activity to
Now introduce family names. Write
your name on the board – Angelo.
do you do?’ You may not be able to
elicit, so you will have to introduce the
relevant vocabulary. It would be use-
introduce any grammatical term or vo- Then present the full sentence ‘My ful to have pictures, or flashcards of
cabulary. Assume that your students name is Michael Angelo.’ Advise popular jobs to provide a point of ref-
have limited linguistic knowledge, or your students that this is the stan- erence especially for visual learners.
none whatsoever. dard format in English, as there are
cultural differences e.g. in Japan the Get your students to answer correctly
Write the substitution tables on surname precedes the given name. and move pairs around to incorporate
the board. Get it right from the start. Repeat the exercise with all the stu- group practice. Ask and report back
Make sure they have a model to prac- dents - ‘What’s my name?’ Get full their findings. Teacher asks group
tice and follow. Maybe they know the and abbreviated answers. Repeat members as a whole and then calls
structures already but it’s good to re- many times around the class. randomly on specific students e.g.
inforce the grammar and if they are ‘What does Manuel do?’ Response

real novices they will need to follow – ‘He’s an engineer.’ Practice/drill
your guidance. Keep it basic. You are PRACTICE TIME
articles ‘a’ and ‘an.’
teaching the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to do’

only – which will form the foundations ‘What’s his name?’ ‘What’s
of their learning.
her name?’ Get students up and do-
ing a mingling activity. Get them to re- WHERE YOU LIVE

Ensure they know pronouns or
port back to you the names they have
learned. This is fun, practical and
breaks the ice in a new group. Can
Ask your students ‘Where do I live?’
Use body language and drawings to
show your home’s location. The stu-
you will be wasting a lot of valuable they remember the people they have dents probably don’t know, so you
time. Use gestures, mime, pictures been introduced to? This is the time to want them to ask and therefore elicit
etc. to elicit or re-iterate grammar out- check. Practice for as long as you feel the question ‘Where do you live?’
lines. necessary. Demonstrate on the board the word
order. The name of your street, etc. -
There is often confusion with the mas- Don’t assume they have mastered the smallest place first – village/town/
culine/feminine form. Teach ‘I am. this first step easily, as you will often
You are (singular). He/She/It is. city. Get students to ask their partners
find later that the elementary work is and then practice by doing a milling
We are. You are. They are (plu- quickly forgotten.
rals).’ Show contractions – ‘I’m etc.’ activity. Get feedback. Students re-
port back where the other students

You write your name on the
Ensure you match your spoken
live. ‘She lives in ....’ Be alert be-
cause the preposition is often missed
or dropped
practice with written examples. Do
whiteboard. First name only. Ask your

concept checking for your question
students ‘’What’s my name?’ ‘What practice. ‘What’s his name?’ Show INTRODUCE HOBBIES
is my name?’ Repeat. You may get contractions on the board. ‘His name
a whole host of answers ‘Michael / is ...’ or ‘He’s ....’ ‘What do you do in your free
You are Michael / You’re Michael / time?’ Elicit hobbies vocabulary from
Your name is Michael / Mr Michael
Ask your group to chorally answer/ students and write on the whiteboard.
/ Teacher Michael etc. Correct the
move around the class and ask stu- Have pictures/ flashcards etc. Use
errors and write clearly on the board
dents randomly. gestures and mime. Have fun but fo-
‘My name is Michael.’ ‘I am Mi-
cus on simplicity.

Like/do/enjoy differences in nuance will pass over their heads at this level. Concentrate on the verb ‘to be’ as before only
at this stage and give models through presentation. ‘My hobby is tennis’ etc. Get students to ask their partners. Ensure
there is feedback time to the group and the teacher.


Write the 4 questions on the whiteboard and model answers.

1. What’s your name?

2. What do you do?

3. Where do you live?

4. What do you do in your free time?

Drill the students chorally and individually. Questions followed by answers/alternate roles/ask randomly. Ensure that the
students are quite clear on the 4 questions and there are no errors in their answers. Practice and repeat as necessary.
Give feedback and rectify errors using examples on the whiteboard.


Students must introduce themselves to everyone in the class. Set the scenario with mime etc. – ‘Imagine
you are at a party and meeting for the first time. You must talk to all your class members.’ Teacher walks around
monitoring and giving assistance when required. Error spotting/correcting. Focus on fluency rather than accuracy, un-
less mistakes are too blatant.

Final error rectification and exampling on the board before students must act independently.


The students introduce themselves to the class using the 4 sentences learned and practiced. ‘Hello. My
name is ... I’m ...a/an ... I live in ... My hobby is ... ‘ Aim for fluency rather than accuracy, as this is a big step and a
major accomplishment for absolute beginners.

Randomly ask students any of the 4 questions. Assign homework practice and advise that the next lesson will begin
with the self-introductions covered. Stand at the door and ask students 1 of the 4 questions, as they exit to give them a
sense of real achievement.

5 Non-Verbal Ways
to Do Error Correction
expression is, the funnier it’ll be. You’ll ger counting is simply perfect for this!
EFFECTIVE ERROR CORRECTION IS be effectively signalling that a mistake Say a student used the wrong word
ONE OF THE THINGS ESL TEACHERS has been made, but students won’t order to ask a question: “You are a
STRUGGLE WITH THE MOST. take it so seriously. teacher?” Ask the student to repeat
If you correct them too much, you the question and then show him or her
might make them feel discouraged how you count the words on your fin-
and compromise their fluency for the gers. Show the student how the first

sake of accuracy. If you correct them
USE GESTURES two fingers are in the wrong order,
too little, they’ll continue making the so that the student understands the
same mistakes. Achieving the right Another very effective way to question should start with “Are you...”
balance is a daunting task, although show students they’ve made a mis-
not an impossible one. And when do- take is through gestures, some of
ing on the spot correcting, do you sim- which may be specific to the kind of
ply supply the right answer? Although mistake. Teachers typically gesture
it is certainly an option, you should backwards with their hands or point YOU CAN GET AS CREATIVE AS
sometimes give your students the to the back to show students they YOU LIKE WITH YOUR FACIAL
chance to correct themselves. There haven’t used the verb in the past. Stu- EXPRESSIONS, GESTURES, AND
are several verbal strategies you may dents often use the wrong pronouns: VISUAL REMINDERS. REMEMBER
use, like asking them to repeat what it’s quite common to hear a student HERE THAT THE ULTIMATE GOAL
they’ve just said, or repeating the say, “She went to the movies with IS TO HELP STUDENTS LEARN
sentence yourself but pausing to let your boyfriend.” To which you sim- FROM THEIR MISTAKES, AND IF
the student fill in the “blank” correctly. ply reply by pointing to yourself with YOU SIMPLY SUPPLY THE RIGHT
a look of shock or surprise. You may ANSWER, THEY MAY NOT FULLY
However, here are the 5 best non-ver- also implement a gesture to indicate INTERNALIZE IT.
bal ways to do error correction. that students should repeat some- Some teachers have even been
thing, or say it again, and if they repeat known to hum well-known songs to
HOW TO PROCEED the mistake, you can raise a finger to trigger the correct response, like De-
show them where in the sentence the peche Mode’s “People are People”


Once you have your students
mistake is, though they have to figure
out what they are doing wrong.
when students make the classic mis-
take, “people is”.

actively engaged in some drilling ex-

ercises, use a little red flag to “flag”

their mistakes. The flag goes up if
they make a mistake and students
instantly know they should go back Very often students forget the
and say it again. You may also use final “-s” in the simple present, third
the flag in others types of activities, person singular. You may have a big
or whenever you wish to work on ac- S stuck on a wall that you can point
curacy. to on such occasions, or point to
something that will trigger the right
response, like the picture of an S-
shaped snake. Visual reminders are


Students are sometimes self-
also great for vocabulary-related mis-
takes. A student may say “childs”
instead of “children”. You point to a
conscious enough without having to picture of a group of children to indi-
endure constant corrections. So, how cate that something is wrong, while
can you effectively correct them and the student has to figure out he or she
not stomp on their confidence in the used the wrong plural.
process? When a student makes a
mistake, like saying a verb in the past
tense incorrectly, use an exaggerat-

ed facial expression to signal the mis-
take. Give them an open-mouthed,
wide-eyed stare. Or arch an eye- How can you correct mistakes in
brow. The more “theatrical” the facial word order in a non-verbal way? Fin-

7 Best Ways to End a Lesson
Who among ESL teachers does not un-
derstand the purpose behind a warm up
activity? We all agree that it’s important
to get students focused, to introduce a
or what they will do in the future, etc...
Students may pick up something they
missed earlier. Also, it’s important to
speak in functional ways, for example
For very young ESL learners the
best way to wrap up a lesson is with
task or topic, to break the ice, or simply not say they learned to use the “simple a goodbye song or saying goodbye
place your students in “English mode”. present” but rather that they learned to to a puppet. The puppet may “ask”
speak about their habits, schedules, them questions about something they
But what about cool downs? Many and everyday activities. learned, and even give them a short
teachers are not aware of the impor- “review” by asking, “What’s this?” or
tance of a cool down. And what is ex-
actly this importance? 2 PERFORMANCE CORREC-
“What’s that?” or any other question or
expression they may have learned. You
may set aside this special time with the
Many teachers just play a game or let Right before the last 5 minutes of class puppet every day at the end of the class,
students work on an activity till the bell you can have some sort of performance so children know what to expect, and
rings. When you do this you neglect to activity, for instance a role play. Usu- even though they may be very young,
give your students closure on what they ally we don’t correct students during they will still have this sense of closure.
have learned for the day. You’re not the role play so we don’t interrupt the
capitalizing on your unique opportu-
nity to effectively wrap things up in
a way that will benefit your students’
flow, but when they’re done you can
end the class with corrections of words
or expressions they used incorrectly,
After a special holiday class, or
things they forgot to say, etc. and your right after a lesson packed with arts and
students will go home with these cor- crafts, ask students to help you tidy up
THE WARM UP AND THE COOL DOWN rections fresh on their minds. Students the classroom. Make sure you factor in
ARE LIKE THE INTRODUCTION AND may also give their opinion or feedback this tidy up time when you plan crafts.
THE CONCLUSION OF AN ESSAY. on their classmates’ performance. Letting students run off with their art
work just to leave you in a classroom lit-

An essay with no conclusion has a 60 SECONDS tered with papers and art supplies gives
very abrupt ending. If you just let stu- them the wrong message.
dents work on an activity till it’s time to Choose a few students and give
go home, you are not only giving them
a sudden and abrupt ending to the les-
son, you may also come across as dis-
each 60 seconds to speak about some-
thing you’ve covered that day: what they
did yesterday if you worked on simple
Another great way to end your
organized and improvised. The cool past, talk about Halloween, professions, class is by asking your students to
down, however, clearly shows students or animals. Older learners may even share whatever it is that you worked on
that this is the way you planned for the give a “how to” lesson, they may also that day: a fall collage, a painting, they
lesson to end and that you’re ending summarize a story they heard, or place may read something they’ve written.
it like this for a reason. The cool down themselves in another person’s shoes, The important thing here is to give them
has its own purpose. like a celebrity, profession, or even ani- a space to share something they’ve
mal. But they must speak for a full min- produced with the language elements
HOW TO End a Lesson – ute. To motivate students to speak, you
may choose to reward the student who
they’ve learned. Even adult learners
may read a letter or email they’ve writ-
because those last minutes matter! ten.
says the most, or includes the most in-

formation, with a reward sticker.

It goes without saying that you should Ask students to imagine they have
never end a lesson by introducing However, it is essential that you provide
to write an email to a friend or family
something new, just to leave your stu- these three things:
member and tell them what they did to-
dents hanging till the next class. The day in their ESL class. Students have
best way to end a lesson is to give stu- - a time for students to cool down after
a chance to summarize what they’ve
dents some kind of review activity, so an activity-filled class,
learned in written form. This writing
that they may see the progress they’ve activity may be tailored to any topic. If
made in just one lesson. One of the - some sort of review of what they’ve
you talked about farm animals, ask stu-
most common and easiest to implement learned,
dents to write about their favorite ani-
is simply taking the last 5 minutes of mal and why it’s their favorite. And the
class to ask your students, “What have - the proper closure to the day’s tasks.
same goes for foods, sports, celebrities.
you learned today?” Notice, here, that Adult learners may write a business
you’re not the one telling them what Keep these three essential points in
email with the new vocabulary they’ve
they’ve learned. They may give you a mind, and you’ll come up with great, ef-
list of new words, or say they learned fective ways to end your lessons every
to speak about what they did in the past time!

9 Five-Minute Activities That Will
Save Your Lesson One Day (And
Maybe Your Reputation, Too)
TEACHERS ALWAYS NEED TO HAVE AN with the last letter of the word his team Fruit Basket is another speaking game
ACTIVITY OR TWO ON HAND IN CASE A member wrote. Students continue tak- where students sit in a circle with one
LESSON TAKES A LITTLE BIT LESS TIME ing turns writing words on the board until less chair than participant. One student
THAN EXPECTED OR DOES NOT WORK you stop the game. It should be very fast stands in the middle of the circle and
OUT EXACTLY AS PLANNED. paced. You can stop when groups start makes a sentence. After the sentence
Some activities that work well in one running out of space to write and decide has been said everyone that the sen-
class totally flop in another so you will the winner based on number of words or tence applies to must switch seats leav-
have to be flexible with your lesson plan points. One point for 1-4 letter words and ing another student in the center. Sen-
and able to adapt when necessary. two points for 5 letters or more seems to tences such as “I am a student.” are
work well but words with spelling errors sure to get everyone moving.
HOW TO PROCEED and duplicates do not count.
Chinese Whispers is another speaking

Boggle is another activity students can
do in groups. Give each group a piece
of scrap paper, draw a boggle letter grid
activity that can be done in the class-
room. Think of some sentences to use,
form teams, and ask the first student in
With a reading passage, you can con- on the board, and have students find as each column to come to the front of the
duct this short reading race to give stu- many words as they can within the time classroom or into the hallway to be given
dents some more pronunciation, speak- limit. You can create your own grids but the sentence. The first team who writes
ing, and even listening practice. Have be sure that there are enough word pos- a sentence on the board should receive
students stand up and tell them that sibilities for your students to find. Give points but the most points should go to
each column of students is a team. For students a scoring system, ask them to the team that has the sentence most
this activity the first student should read score their papers and hand them in. In similar to the original.
the first sentence, the second student the next class you can announce the
should read the next one, and students
should continue reading sentences un-
til the entire passage is complete and
winning team and the best word.

Another popular favorite is Hangman

then sit down. The first team to read all but it is best to avoid the hanging imag- Bingo is a classic game that you can
the sentences and sit down wins. You ery in the classroom so a scoring sys- use not only in numbers lessons but
can play again using the same passage tem would be better. You can choose also when talking about letters or even
starting with the student in the back or the sentences and have students work words and phrases. If you have noticed
make each row a team instead. in groups, taking turns, to figure out the that students struggle with the pronun-
answer. ciation of numbers such as thirteen and
To help students make their reading thirty, you can have a short Bingo ses-
sound more natural, introduce slash
reading. To do slash reading, simply
read the passage aloud to the class
sion using only these numbers. Rather
than make Bingo cards, have students
fill in the grids themselves.
pausing when it is natural to do so while Crisscross is a great warm up game. Ask
students repeat after you and make students to stand up and start by ask- Karuta is another Japanese game. Have
slashes or breaks in their text. ing a question, the student who answers students sit in groups and spread vocab-
correctly can choose his row or column ulary cards face up on the desks. When

to sit down, continue by asking another
question. The game ends when every-
one is sitting down. You can add a twist
you say a word aloud, the student who
grabs the correct card first gets to read
it aloud and keep it. The student with the
Shiritori is a Japanese game that has if there are a lot of questions you want most cards at the end of the game wins.
been adapted for ESL classrooms. For to review with the class. Have just the This can help students with spelling, lis-
this game make each column of stu- first row of students stand up and when tening, and pronunciation.
dents a team and give them space on a student gives the correct answer, have
the board to write. You should write one him sit down and ask his team member,
word on the board and a member from the student sitting directly behind him, to THESE ARE JUST SOME OF THE MANY
each team should rush to the board to stand up. For this activity teams should EXCELLENT FIVE TO TEN MINUTE
write a word that starts with the last let- be even or you will have to work in a way ACTIVITIES YOU CAN USE AS WARM
ter of your word. The next team member of making them even and you can draw UPS OR WHEN THINGS DO NOT GO
then has to think of a word that starts this activity out by keeping the teams EXACTLY AS PLANNED.
neck and neck.

How to Teach Using Gestures
and Mime
the same gesture every time you say from their worksheets sentences like
A LOT OF TEACHING ENGLISH IS a particular word or phrase will help “Jane is sad.” and ask Jane to mime
ABOUT ACTING. these students associate the two. being sad for the class.
Keeping your energy high and being
creative with your lessons will make
your students more attentive. Outside

3 5
of role play activities, you can use
gestures and mime in many different
ways. These can aide your students In practice dialogues, you can If you are teaching English in a
in communicating, understanding, incorporate gestures and mime. If you country such as Japan, it is important
and participating during your lessons. are teaching a conversation where a to consider the fact that lots of com-
customer is complaining about some- munication is nonverbal.
thing to a store clerk, for instance,
you can tell students that the store When your students have the oppor-
HOW TO PROCEED clerk should act completely shocked tunity to go abroad or interact with
at hearing the news, look apologetic, other native English speakers, your

Using particular gestures or ex-
or whatever else you can think of to
make the scenario more realistic. In
a conversation where two people are
students may use polite language but
if their body language is interpreted
differently, they will not have made
pressions in the classroom will lead meeting for the first time, have stu- as good an impression as they were
students to associate them with a par- dents shake hands as they would capable of. Your use of simple ges-
ticular thing. For example, if you al- do a real life situation. These details tures will help your students.
ways use the same gesture when you make practicing dialogues more fun
say “Please stand up.” students will and interesting. For instance, you can shrug when you
become accustomed to it and stand do not know the answer, wave to stu-
up when you use that gesture even dents when you see them outside the
if you occasionally leave out the oral classroom, and gesture for students

instruction. You can have gestures
PRODUCTION to come up to the board. This will ex-
for when you want students to repeat pose students to the types of gestures
something after you, make groups, or Activities and games which common in a culture different from
sit down too. This can be especially use gestures and mime can be fun their own. Certain gestures may be
handy when you want to communi- for the whole class. the same but have different meanings
cate something to your students in a so it is important to explain what they
noisy setting. For instance, if you say If you have just finished a section on mean to you so that students are not
“Please turn your desks to make feelings, make a list of feelings on the confused.
groups of four.” students will begin board and have students choose a
moving around and making noise as slip of paper from a hat. Each slip of
they rearrange their desks so they paper should contain a sentence such
may miss your verbal instructions to as “You are happy.” Students should
sit down but if you also gesture for keep their sentences a secret. Have GESTURES AND MIME CAN BE
them to sit down, at least some stu- one volunteer at a time mime his/her REALLY HELPFUL IN NUMEROUS
dents will see it and react accordingly sentence while the rest of the class CLASSROOM SITUATIONS AND
which will cause the remaining stu- tries to guess it. This would be a good USING THEM OFTEN CAN ASSIST
dents to follow suit. review activity. BOTH YOU AND YOUR STUDENTS.

To check individual comprehension,

you can use the same basic idea but Do not force yourself to use certain

Using gestures and mime is im-
instead turn it into an interview activ-
ity where students have a sheet of
paper with all the emotions listed as
gestures but do what comes natural-
ly and when you find what works for
you, stick with it and your students will
portant when it comes to vocabulary well as their secret emotion. The idea adapt.
too. You can use them to elicit cer- is that students go around the class-
tain words and phrases from stu- room miming and guessing emotions
dents. If you teach very young stu- in pairs and getting a student signa-
dents, it is also common to associate ture for each emotion. When you go
gestures with words to help students through the worksheet as a class
remember vocabulary better. Using you can have students read aloud

ESL Activities to Teach to
the Seven Different Learning Styles
An essential part of being a great
teacher is first understanding that
students learn in different ways
Also known as kinesthetic learn-
help them understand the grammar that
is beneath the surface structure of Eng-
lish sentences.
ers, physical learners benefit from us-
and then varying our teaching style
to meet each of those of learners’
ing their bodies and sense of TOUCH
as they learn. By using techniques like
total physical response, you will help
Social learners enjoy and ben-
Any classroom will include learners of your physical students make body con- efit from WORKING IN GROUPS as
every persuasion. As teachers, we must nections with linguistic information. In they learn. Since so much of language
try to reach each of the seven learning addition, something as simple as having learning is communicative in nature,
styles in our instruction: visual, ver- students write their answers to ques- your social learners will probably have
bal, physical, aural, logical, social tions, which engages the hands as they many opportunities for quality learning
and solitary. Though it is challenging hold the writing instruments, will help through discussion groups and learning
to teach to all of these styles, it can be your students cement the knowledge activities such as jigsaws. Try to encour-
done. they seek into their minds. Keeping this age talking in class rather than squelch-
student in mind, give students opportuni- ing it, and these students will benefit the
HOW TO Teach to All Learning ties to write the language they are learn- most. Also give group work a chance in
Styles ing, both in class and for homework, on every area of the curriculum. Your so-
paper and on the board, and get their cial learners will appreciate it and your

Visual learners learn best
bodies involved in learning whenever
more advanced students may be able to
support and encourage their classmates
who might be struggling!

through what they SEE and are prob- AURAL
ably the easiest to connect with
through typical classroom instruc-
tion. By writing words on the board or
Aural learners acquire informa-
tion best through SOUND. Sometimes
Students whose strongest learn-
having your students read information in these learners are classified as auditory ing style is solitary function best in
their textbooks or on the internet, they or musical. For these students, listen- self-learning environments and work-
receive visual input and are able to ab- ing to lectures, videos and themselves ing ON THEIR OWN. Because the goal
sorb the material you present. In addi- talk all help them learn. Giving listening of language instruction is communica-
tion to these traditional learning tools, activities in class where students listen tion, these students may struggle with
using pictures in class will help meet the for a specific structure may be benefi- group activities or discussions in class.
needs of the visual learners among your cial to your aural learners. In addition, If you intentionally keep a balance in
students. As it happens, these methods music can be a great resource for these your classroom, including some individ-
all work well with language instruction, students. Try putting grammar lesson to ual learning periods and creating learn-
and your visual learners may be some of song or using songs (with printed lyrics) ing stations throughout your classroom,
your strongest students as a result. to teach grammar structures, vocabulary these students will have their specific
or phonetics. Include as many types of learning needs met. Homework is an-

Verbal students learn through
listening in class as you can, and invite
guest speakers and give practice lec-
tures on a frequent basis all with your
other way these students will be able to
learn independently, so encourage inde-
pendent study when you can but do not
WORDS, both spoken and written, students’ proficiency level in mind. sacrifice communicative language use
and probably learn languages more to do it.

easily than other types of learners. LOGICAL
Since verbal learners will be naturally THE HUMAN BRAIN IS AN AMAZING
drawn to language learning, you may Do you have any mathematical CREATION.
find many of them in your ESL classes. geniuses in your classroom? They That people who share a common sys-
Incorporating both speaking and writing are probably logical learners who are tem of biology can have so many differ-
activities into your classroom, some- using reasoning, systems and LOGIC to ences when it comes to learning is hum-
thing that almost every ESL teacher absorb information. For these students, bling.
must do, will give these students the language learning will come most easily
types of input that will help them be- from a linguistic approach. Linguistics, Keeping these learning styles in mind
come not just second language learn- known as the science of language, de- and intentionally planning for each of
ers but also second language acquirers. fines rules and patterns that languages them as you develop your curriculum
Since ESL classes are verbally focused follow in their grammar, syntax and pho- will make you a better teacher and give
and purposed, these may be the stu- nology. If you are already familiar with your students the right tools they need
dents who learn most easily in your the linguistics of English, try teaching to learn, no matter what learning style is
class, no matter what types of activities your students syntactic or phonological theirs.
you do. rules. Diagramming sentences will also
What Every Teacher Should Know
about Reaching Older Learners
need to be given a lot of controlled ers should emphasize the positive and
IF YOU GET THE CHANCE TO TEACH practice, before moving into more flu- focus on the good progress learners are
OLDER LANGUAGE LEARNERS, YOU ency-based communication activities. making. Provide opportunities for them
ARE IN FOR A REAL TREAT. It may take seniors some time to adapt to be successful and to show off their
Whether you have a whole class of se- to spontaneous oral practice, and they success.
niors or a few elder students sprinkled may request a lot more explicit expla-

into your classes, you will want to take nation and detailed grammar presenta- RECOGNIZE
careful consideration of your older tions.
learners. They are a joy to teach and a THE CHALLENGES
welcomed addition into any classroom. You will have to bend a bit more than You’ll want to be aware of the challeng-
Follow these tips and you will have usual to accommodate what works for es that your older learners are facing.
a great time learning from, as well as them. Let them take a lot of notes Also realize that their challenges may
teaching your older learners! and refer to them in practice. Also let be different from other students in the
them ask questions, but don’t let them
HOW TO Reach Older dominate the entire class. You can
Learners: What Every Teacher Should guide them into the world of more laid- One of the common challenges is seri-
Know back learning, and chances are they ous health or personal issues. If this
will grow to appreciate it. It will take a

is the case do your best to accommo-
USE THEIR LIFE EXPERIENCE conscious effort on your part to create a date them, listen to them if they are will-
relaxed and informal learning environ- ing to share, and help the class become
Older adults have a lot of life ex- ment to help them find their rhythm. a support system for the student. Other
perience under their belts and also have
health problems may be less dire, like

well-developed learning strategies that
have served them well in other settings.
BUILD THEIR CONFIDENCE mild vision impairment or hearing dif-
ficulties. Those you can easily accom-
They can use these strategies to their If you are big on constant error- modate in your classroom by simply
advantage in language learning, too. As correction, you may want to lighten that giving them a seat close to the board,
with all learners, you want to tap into as well. Older learners are particular- providing handouts (with large fonts) in
their experiences and expand upon ly sensitive to making mistakes and addition to oral instructions. If their per-
those whenever possible. often don’t take too kindly to consis- sonal issues or ailments impede their
tent error correction. They can actu- attendance try to be understanding and
Language learning should give older ally be too hard on themselves and may flexible.
students the same safe environment in exhibit perfectionist tendencies about
which to share their past and also learn minor grammar errors. Another challenge seniors may be up
from the others in the class. Teachers
against is feeling lonely or discon-
should be flexible enough to allow dif- Older learners often have not spent nected from society. If this is the case,
ferent approaches to the learning tasks much time in a modern classroom. often the class is their connection to
inside the classroom. When they were in school things other people and to new and interesting
were very different, and this may be things. There’s not much to do here but
This also connects to their motivation. their first classroom experience in sev- be aware of their situation, offer support
Older learners almost always have a eral years. Seniors are generally ac- and understanding, and provide the
very pointed reason why they are study- customed to very rote learning, little oral sense of community that they are look-
ing, and that reason will be their primary practice and much more written proof of ing for.
motivation. It is a good idea to get to their skills. They generally aren’t used
know them and their story so that you to being corrected in front of a group,
have a good basis for what types of les- and even if your style is unobtrusive,
sons and themes will attract their atten- give them time to acclimatize to this
tion and motivation. type of correction. TEACHING OLDER ADULTS SHOULD BE

Older learners will bring a lot to
A good way to avoid error-correction
awkwardness is to provide opportu-
nities for learners to work together,
Their self-directedness, life experienc-
es, and motivation are a great addition
to any classroom. They will be success-
your classroom, but you also need focusing on understanding rather than ful especially if you get to know them
to be flexible and patient with their producing language. You can also re- and sustain an environment where all
learning patterns and styles. duce the focus on error correction in the learners in the class get what they
order to build learners’ self-confidence need, delivered to them in the way that
They often prefer to be presented with and promote language learning. Teach- they need it.
fairly analytical formal grammar and

Expert Sharing: Making the Most of
Your Students’ Knowledge
EVERYONE IS AN EXPERT ON to share what they know with the rest of they give a power point presentation
SOMETHING. the class. on the subject of dinosaurs. Encourage
For some people, expertise comes with your students to be creative and make
a particular job. It could be a computer-
programming expert, a teaching expert
or a driving expert. For others, expertise
the presentation interesting. You may
want to give them an assigned amount
of time for the presentation.
comes from a passion. A person could Now that your students have determined
be a self-proclaimed ice-cream expert, a their areas of expertise, tell them that The second way students can share their
Justin Beiber expert or a skateboarding they will be sharing their expertise with expertise with the class is through nug-
expert. You can use the expertise each their classmates. You can choose ei- gets of wisdom. A nugget of wisdom
of your students has to offer to help them ther a written or an oral project though can be like a piece of gold under the right
practice their English in real and effec- doing both would be ideal. Give your circumstances. Ask your students how
tive ways. students some class time to think about expert knowledge might be very valu-
their area of expertise and make some able in a particular situation. Can they
HOW TO Make the Most of Your notes to themselves. They can think think of any times they needed specific
Students’ Knowledge about the questions they discussed with knowledge? Then allow your students to
their partners, but they can also make a share their nuggets of wisdom with the


list of what someone else should know
about that area of expertise.
class though this activity. If you can get a
burlap sack, use that. If you cannot sim-
ply draw one on a large piece of paper
Start your expert unit with a class discus- Is there a certain process someone and post it on a bulletin board. Label it
sion. Ask your students what it means might have to follow when baking “Golden Nuggets” and give each student
to be an expert. Help them understand the perfect muffin? three or four small pieces of yellow pa-
that an expert is someone who is very Are there particular qualities a per- per. Students should then tear the edged
skilled at something or who holds a son should look for when making of the paper unevenly so each piece
great deal of knowledge about a par- the perfect match? is shaped like a gold nugget. On each
ticular thing. Take some time at this Is there essential information a per- paper, your students should share one
point to review vocabulary words associ- son needs to know if her car breaks piece of important knowledge from their
ated with being an expert: advice, ex- down? area of expertise. Make sure you do this,
perience, expertise, familiar, knowl- Students should then focus on the infor- too: your students want to know about
edge, wisdom. They should understand mation they will share by listing bullet you as well. Then post the nuggets on or
that a person can be an expert on any- points for four different areas of their around the sack you already put up on
thing, and that people become experts in expertise: the wall. Give students time to read each
different ways. He may have read a lot other’s bits of wisdom.
of information on a topic. She may have - what they are an expert on,
handled the same situation many times - how they became an expert on the Finally, allow some time for question
to become an expert. He may have taken topic, and answer to round out the sharing
lessons to become an expert. She may - how they have used their expertise, experience. Ideally, each student should
have learned to be an expert by having a - what others need to know about it. have some time in front of the class to
job or other responsibility. Anything with answer questions from his classmates.
which they have extensive experience is From this point, students can begin Make sure each student has at least one
their area of expertise. Pair students and writing a rough draft of either a pa- question to answer by asking it yourself
have them discuss with each other what per or a presentation answering these if necessary. Also, make sure your stu-
their area of expertise might be. You can questions with one paragraph focusing dents know it is okay to say they do not
give them some discussion questions to on each question. know the answer to a question. Most
help: likely, though, they will be able to answer

What are your hobbies?

What do you do in your spare time?
Do you have a job or chores that
After students have compiled their
the questions that their peers ask.


ideas and written a rough draft, now it EDGE TO SHARE, AND THE TEACHER
you do often? is time for them to share their expertise DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THE ONLY ONE
What are you good at? with the class. First, students should WHO PRESENTS IT TO THE CLASS.
What do you know that other people write a final draft of their four para- Take advantage of all your students have
What do you like to read about? graphs. Then, have each student plan to offer by giving them an opportunity to
What kind of television shows do to give a presentation to the class on share their expertise. Not only does it in-
you watch? his or her area of expertise. This may form your other students, it builds each
mean that they play an instrument in child’s sense of self-esteem and self
Once your students have determined front of the class, that they demonstrate worth. Try it and you may become an ex-
their areas of expertise, they can begin how to cook a particular item, or that pert, too.

How to Teach Current Events
to ESL Students
Natural disasters, catastrophes, and know what is true and what is false learned.
current events, in general, are great - ask them to guess!
sources for speaking or reading tasks,
and connect students with situations • Synonym matching – Students
that are real, that may be affecting thou- guess and try to match the syn- Use these steps and create engag-
sands of lives somewhere in the globe. onyms in two columns. ing lessons out of any current event
Current events lessons also raise you think your students might find
awareness of environmental issues, for • Sentence matching – Provide sen- interesting. But, if you’re short on time,
example, or inform and educate stu- tences that have been cut in half. we’ve got great news for you! There are
dents in a broader sense. Students try to match the beginning websites that provide news stories that
to the end of the sentence. have been tailored specifically to the
Needless to say, unless you’re teach- needs of English learners.
ing highly-advanced students, you will
not be able to simply cut out a news-
paper article and read it to the class.
You may choose to either read the
provides news stories based on
News stories must be adjusted and news piece out loud, or print copies for themes, in HTML format or PDF,
adapted to your group’s English read- everyone to read. No matter what you which means they are ready to
ing or comprehension level. Still, taking choose, be sure to give them a task to download and print. The website
the time to summarize a news article in complete. Some examples may be: also provides MP3 audio for listen-
fewer, easier words won’t take you too ing tasks, which you may easily
long, plus you’ll have the added benefit • Gap-filling (with options) download to your computer. Talk
of using the vocabulary and structures about taking the guesswork out of
you yourself have taught your students. • Gap-filling (without options) teaching current events!

So, let’s get started, and let’s see how • Multiple-choice questions • also has great news
you should proceed once you have stories that have been adapted for
achieved a news piece that is suitable • Sentence matching adult learners, but most are a bit
for your students’ level. outdated. Still, there are plenty that
And many others, but make sure tasks may still be of use in the ESL class-
HOW TO Teach Current Events are more targeted towards reading/lis-
tening comprehension and not entirely
room. They also come with audio
and a file for download.

• The New York Times’ Learning
You must set the mood for the
topic - you can’t just dive into the news
piece, right? For example, if the news
Network offers up-to-date news
stories targeted towards children in
grades 3 to 12, which means that
piece is about a natural disaster, such Some great activities or tasks for post- most can be used for ESL students
as a tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, or reading or listening are: as well.
mud slide, introduce the topic and asks
students to tell you what it is, where it • Open-ended questions: why, what, • CBS Broadcasting offers Litera-
takes place, what the consequences where, who, how, etc... cyNet with full, abridged, or out-
are, what causes it, etc... lined news stories.
• Discussion questions
You may also ask for predictions. Give
them the headline and ask them to • Debate
predict what the article is about. If the SO, NOW YOU HAVE NO MORE
headline mentions the “Benefits of • Arts or crafts project EXCUSES. WE’VE PROVIDED YOU
a Healthy Diet”, ask them what they WITH EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO
think these benefits are. • Games to practice vocabulary or KEEP YOUR STUDENTS IN THE LOOP

TASKS Whereas during the reading students
were tested on their reading com-
And to remain informed on what’s going
on in the ESL world, be sure to check
Some great pre-reading or listening prehension skills, in the post-reading out on a daily basis for
tasks are: they must somehow put everything your dose of teaching resources, tips,
they learned together, and hopefully and advice.
• True or False – Students may not produce something out of what they

7 Terrific Telephone English
Activities for Adult ESL Learners
that Student A has to ask B to repeat this time lower the volume, and then a
FOR THOSE WHO SPEAK ENGLISH everything they say. Variations include third time with the volume even lower.
AS A SECOND LANGUAGE, SPEAKING adding background noise, static, or Play the track as many times as need-
ENGLISH ON THE TELEPHONE CAN having Student B speak very softly. You ed, till students are able to act out the
BE ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING can also give them specific instructions/ situation comfortably without listening
AND FRUSTRATING TASKS. complications, like a difficult name to or reading.
On one hand, listening comprehension spell, or asking for directions.

proves to be more difficult on the phone.

On the other hand, it is sometimes ab-
solutely necessary for those who do not Write out a complete telephone
live in English speaking countries to DETAILS.
conversation on the whiteboard.
communicate with others in English – When conducting some transactions Have students take turns reading it out
and on the phone. on the phone, we are quite often loud. Then, erase one or a few words,
asked to supply personal details to depending on how long the conversa-
So, for most adult ESL learners, confirm our identity. Give your stu- tion is. Students once again read it out
speaking on the telephone in English dents this situation or a very similar loud and include the missing word(s).
is an essential skill. Fortunately, it is one: Student A wants to purchase an Continue erasing words, a few at a
one that may be improved, if you give item on eBay, but is unable to make the time and having students read the con-
your students fun, interactive activities payment. Student B works in Customer versation, until all of the text has been
to help them practice. Support and will help Student A com- erased. Students must then say it com-
pletely from memory.
TRY These 7 Telephone English Ac- plete the transaction. But before they
can do that, Student B asks Student A

tivities with Your Adult ESL Learners a series of personal questions, from ad- WHAT DO YOU SAY NEXT?
dress to phone number, ID number to


mother’s maiden name. A fun twist is
to ask Student B to ask as many ques-
tions as he/she can, including ridiculous
Print out role play cards that in-
clude a variety of reasons for calling
(making/changing appointments,
Have students practice leaving each things, like a pet’s name!
asking for someone on the phone,
other messages. First, try to gather as a problem with a bill/invoice) and

many recording devices as you can: proper responses to these situations
PLEASE HOLD. (“The doctor is available Tuesday
MP3 players, digital recorders, laptops
with microphones, or even your stu- I’LL CONNECT YOU morning”... “He’s at a meeting right
dents’ own cell phones (there’s no need TO THE RIGHT DEPARTMENT. now. Would you like to leave a mes-
sage?”... “I’ll put you through to Ac-
to actually make calls, just use notetak-
This is a great way to have students counts Payable”). Student A picks
ing software like Evernote or any other
practice their reason for calling over up a Reason for Calling card and calls
that may be used to record voice notes
and over again. Give Student A a rea- Student B. Student B has to choose the
on cell phones).
son to call Customer Support. Student appropriate response from the set of
B takes the call, but then connects Stu- Response cards.
If you have a large class, have groups
of two or three students share one de- dent A with another department (Sales,
Technical Assistance, Accounts Pay- Remember to teach your students plen-
vice. Have students record their outgo-
able, etc...) Student C then connects A ty of expressions/responses, and don’t
ing messages, then students take turns
with D and so on. Student A must repeat be afraid to repeat, repeat and repeat
leaving messages for their classmates.
the reason for calling each and every some more.
This works best if you give each student
a specific reason for calling. time.


This works great with beginners
who are not yet familiar with com- YOUR STUDENTS TO AND THE MORE
Students practice asking the other mon telephoning expressions and
speaker to repeat or clarify some- YOU PRACTICE THEM, THE EASIER IT
their appropriate intonation. Play a WILL BE FOR THEM TO HANDLE A
thing they did not understand. Divide telephone conversation while students
students into pairs and assign the roles VARIETY OF TELEPHONE SITUATIONS.
read and mimic the call as it plays – the And if you’re on the lookout for more
of caller (Student A) and non-native goal is to follow the rhythm and copy the
speaker (Student B). Student B pre- great speaking activities, BusyTeacher
intonation to match the speakers in the has over 100 Role Plays worksheets
tends they speak very little English so audio. Play the audio track again, but that you can download and use today!

Getting to First Base: Teaching
Resumes and Cover Letters bit what job applicants can expect to is to get applicants an interview, and that
Some years ago, when I was job hunt-
go through in looking for a job. After stu- is what job seekers should be thinking
ing, a friend, a senior teacher who
dents understand the process, then they about at this stage — how to write a great
had been on numerous hiring com-
will understand the purpose of writing a cover letter and resume to get an inter-
mittees, looked at my resume and
cover letter and resume, and having a view. It is the interview that may get
asked why I hadn’t put down some of
writing purpose is critical to good writing. the applicant the job.
my committee experience.
I responded that I thought that would
come out in the interview. At this, my
friend pointed out that there was usu-
ally little time in a thirty-minute interview

for these details, and while such details At this point, now that they understand It’s the content that matters, right, not
as committee and volunteer work might the job hunting process, students are the appearance of the cover letter and
actually be a deciding point in interview- ready to learn about cover letters, the resume? Actually, as with most things in
ing someone, they were rarely the focus job applicant’s introduction of him- life, appearances do matter. The con-
of the interview itself. This conversation self or herself to a specific company tent matters too, of course. But if the re-
represented a sea-change in my view of for a specific job. It is usually addressed sume is so riddled with spelling and gram-
cover letters and resumes: as screening to a specific person, the contact person mar errors that the interviewer can’t see
devices that determined whether a per- from the job announcement, and outlines past them to the content, or the bizarre,
son gets interviewed, while the interview some of the applicant’s skills that are par- spiky font of the cover letter hurts the in-
determined whether the individual gets ticularly important to the job. The purpose terviewer’s eyes and she doesn’t want
hired. of the cover letter is to get the reader to to read it, then the content won’t matter
take a second look at the resume. because the reader is stuck on the bad
ESL students might have similar mis- “packaging.” So students should not feel
conceptions on the hiring process, as
it is highly cultural. 3 TAILOR THE RESUME
obligated to be “creative” in format and
should have a teacher or friend look
over their cover letters and resumes
Some cultures, for example, don’t have If the purpose of the cover letter is to before sending them out.
a complex hiring process as in the U.S. attract attention to the resume, the re-
Rather, people are more or less “placed”
in jobs after college. Still other cultures
rely more on networking and family con-
sume’s purpose is to motivate the
company to call in the applicant for
an interview. Therefore, the instructor
nections. While all of these systems exist should now hand out a collection of “help- As a last step, have students practice
to a more or less degree in most societies, wanted” advertisements, either from the writing cover letters and resumes to
in the U.S.’s system hiring is largely com- newspaper or internet. Students should the job announcements they have
petitive, where employers put out their all select one, from a field in or one re- chosen. They can do rough drafts in
call for employees, and then job seekers lated to that they would themselves even- class, having a peer look them over. They
compete for these positions, sometimes tually like to work in. Once the students can then take them home to write the fi-
hundreds of applicants for one vacancy. have advertisements, they should design nal drafts, using their peers’ feedback,
It is in this context that cover letters and a rough draft of their resume based on turning them in the next class session.
resumes should be taught. The purpose their advertisements. Some students may be interested in ac-
of the cover letter and resume is to make tually sending theirs out to the employer!
the job seeker look good — in fact, so So if my advertisement reads “Teacher
good that the potential employer wants to needed to teach a summer English Even if they don’t send them out, stu-
meet the job seeker and interview him or class in intensive, six-hour blocks,” dents will have created their first resumes
her because this is simply the best candi- I will want in my resume to highlight the which can, in the future, be tailored for
date for the job. experience that demonstrate the skills of real job searches.
teaching English in intensive, short-term
HOW TO Teach Students Cover formats. I will not, in this resume, focus WRITING COVER LETTERS AND
Letters and Resumes that Get the Job so much on my skills and experience as RESUMES CAN BE A MYSTIFYING
a writer as that is not so relevant to the PROCESS THAT CONFUSES NATIVE

job sought.
RESUMES IN CONTEXT However, by explaining the job hunt-
Because students may unfamiliar with
ing process, placing resumes and cover
letters into the context of this process,
reviewing various examples, and prac-
Do the cover letter and resume get ap- ticing, some of the mystique will be re-
our job hunting process, which varies
plicants the job? No, in most cases. The moved, and your students will move one
from culture to culture, explain a little
purpose of the cover letter and resume step closer to becoming employed.

From ESL Zero to Hero:
How to Teach Absolute Beginners
expressions. Don’t assume a student
will be able to answer you if you ask,
“How are you?” Absolute beginners
won’t know how to reply, unless you’ve
It is essential for absolute beginners
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, USUALLY specifically taught them. to review what they’ve previously
THROUGH THE INTERNET, MOVIES OR learned, and it’s a great idea to start
They have most likely studied English
at some point in their lives and aban-
each lesson with a brief review. But
you can also re-use previously taught
language points and introduce them
doned their studies – they are often Absolute beginners will tell you they into a new context. Say you are now
referred to as false beginners. But ev- don’t speak English – till the very end teaching your students how to ask for
ery now and then, we come across an of the course. What they’re thinking is directions. Student A is walking down
absolute beginner, someone who has that they don’t speak English fluently, the street with a friend, Student B, when
had so little exposure to English, they or like you, for example. But make sure they run into Student C. A introduces
can’t even handle the most basic greet- they’re aware of what they can do. If on B to C (they review how to introduce
ings, verbs or vocabulary. Whether you the first day of class they’ve learned to someone), and then C asks A for direc-
are teaching a complete group of abso- greet each in English, end your lesson tions.
lute beginners, or a few within a group by celebrating this, “Congratulations!

of false beginners, here are some tips You can now introduce yourself and KEEP IT REAL
that will help your students go from ESL greet each other in English”. Take
zeroes to heroes! the focus away from what they can’t Just because students are ab-
do and focus on what they can do in- solute beginners, it doesn’t mean they
HOW TO Teach Absolute stead. This proves to be tremendously can’t handle real life situations. You
Beginners encouraging! should still teach in context, and pro-
vide as many examples of real life

Absolute beginners may not
situations and real props as you can.
Even though real maps, brochures or
catalogues are filled with vocabulary
Absolute beginners have had so have enough knowledge to under- they won’t understand, it is important to
little exposure to the English lan- stand explanations, synonyms, defi- help your absolute beginners deal with,
guage, they have absolutely nothing nitions, i.e. anything you describe precisely, these types of things. Show
to build on. Naturally, you’ll start with with words. Instead, use their senses them how to pinpoint the information
the basics, but consider what they’ll to maximize learning. The easiest to they may need like a phone number,
need to know first. Does it make sense use with beginners are visual aids like address or website. Make sure they un-
to start with a list of foods in English? Or flashcards, but don’t’ forget to include derstand that it doesn’t matter that they
colors or numbers? Probably not. What plenty of gestures, as well as real life can’t read the entire brochure, the im-
they need to know first is how to intro- objects. The use of realia will allow you portant thing is that they learn to obtain
duce themselves and greet others. The to utilize several senses at the same what they need from it.
natural progression from there is the time, and it’s often more engaging than
use of the verb “to be” (I am from... He two-dimensional pictures. Don’t forget
is from..., etc.). Then you’ll progress on to use things they can smell and taste,
to possessives (my country, your name, too!
his family) and so on... Give priority to BY THE TIME YOUR ABSOLUTE BEGIN-
the language they will need first and
foremost. 5 SHOW, DON’T TELL
Because they haven’t been ex-


DON’T ASSUME ANYTHING posed to the English language enough,
try to minimize their reading of dia- IDEA OF “SPEAKING ENGLISH” IS TOO
Don’t make assumptions about logues and conversations, and act VAGUE IN THIS CONTEXT.
what your students know. Assume out the situations, instead. Consider Try providing them with some specific
they know nothing. For example, to this: when you teach students to reply examples of what they can do now: go
practice the verb to be, you ask them to a “How are you?” do you have them shopping by themselves, ask for assis-
what nationalities they are, only to find read this short exchange first or just act tance, order food in a restaurant, etc.
out they don’t know how to say national- it out directly? Of course, it’s a lot bet- Ask them to remember what it was like
ities in English. Countries and nation- ter to simply show them how to reply. when they knew none of this. Tell them
alities should be taught first, and then This goes for most of the expressions they are your heroes for learning so
practiced with the verb “to be”. And this and functions they will have to learn. much and overcoming their language
goes for a multitude of vocabulary and barriers. They will feel like heroes, too!

Addressing Cultural Conflict
in the ESL Classroom
Once a number of years ago in a
class of ESL students, two young
men with different perspectives on
of discussion or debate. I’ve called
them the “Rules of Engagement”—
before you even engage in debate, the
students have to understand and agree
As I couldn’t really pretend with
Nadja that the conflict hadn’t happened,
the issue of capital punishment got to these rules. You can even include the it isn’t possible to pretend so with a
a little too heated in their debate. students in establishing them: most will class as well. The conflict has occurred,
In fact, it became so heated that one of agree that it’s important not to interrupt, whatever damage there is has been
them finally asked the other if he’d like to listen, to be clear, etc. Establishing done, and the class cannot pretend
to “take it outside.” The other students these rules is important because you otherwise. Therefore, it is necessary to
broke into shocked and nervous laugh- can then refer back to them as neces- discuss the situation and debrief and
ter — shocked probably because this sary: “Remember we agreed to listen derive whatever teachable moments
was class of seminary students, young to each other? Let’s wait until Nadja there are from it. One night in a gradu-
men studying for the priesthood... is finished.” It’s very hard to establish ate course in education a few years ago,
these rules “on your feet” in the moment two students there got a little heated in
A few years later in a different class you need them! their exchange of ideas on — ironically
and different discussion, on the topic of — classroom management. Because
gender relationships, a young lady from
Kuwait spoke up in front of the class for
the first time to express the view that
Before tackling a debate like capi-
I was at this time more prepared for
such exchanges, I waited until before
break and then asked the small class
women were “weaker” than men. She tal punishment or abortion, which are to wait. I simply reminded them of their
probably just meant physically weaker, likely to get heated, have students obligations as both students and edu-
in general, but this position brought practice on “harmless” topics first: cators to maintain a respectful environ-
howls of outrage from the other women Cats or dogs? Vanilla or chocolate? ment and that they were invited to share
in the class as well as some of the men People can only get so outraged on their views, but this necessarily implied
— gender issues being a rather touchy these topics -- but many students when listening respectfully to others as well.
point to most Americans. Nadja, the Ku- debating them will pretend commitment The students readily agreed, and there
waiti woman, appeared so crushed by to or moral outrage on the topic: “As were no further incidents in this class.
the experience — this free and frenzied a lifelong ice-cream eater, I must

exchange of ideas that is, regrettably, say I understand yet object to your
views on vanilla...” At the same time, CREATE
so much a part of U.S. discourse — that
I spent a long time talking to her after they are practicing such skills as recog- A CONTINUING DIALOGUE
class, assuring her that the other stu- nizing the other party’s viewpoint, stat-
Such incidents as recounted in this ar-
dents had been attacking the idea put ing their own clearly, and supporting it,
ticle can become part of continuing dia-
forth, not her, personally — but this still while maintaining respectful language.
logue in the class, especially if the class
did not completely resolve it for her... Developing these skills will help them
syllabus deals with sensitive issues.
she still felt attacked, as I would have. when debating such topics as gun con-
The dialogue should be focused on
trol, which typically draw much stronger
skills required in a civilized society
Both of these situations are among my responses.
and academic community — to hear
least proud teaching moments. In both

each other out, to listen to other view-
cases, I failed to respond to and contain REACT points without attacking, to state one’s
the situation adequately because I just own without becoming defensive, and
didn’t see it coming — and by the time In both of the situations described
so on. It is these skills that are so lack-
the conflict had developed, it was too at the beginning of the article, I failed
ing in our society that mastering them
late to do much about. In short, I wasn’t to react appropriately because I was
will put students ahead of much of the
trained to referee. too surprised. But it is necessary for
public (including their leaders).
instructors to respond to such situ-
Trained in it or not, however, referee- ations, even if it is just to say, “Stop.
ing these kinds of exchanges and re- This isn’t appropriate.” MANAGING CONFLICT THAT ARISES
solving them so that each party feels IN THE CLASSROOM IS DIFFICULT
respected and the class can contin- To not say anything is to suggest you FOR MANY EDUCATORS, PERHAPS
ue has become part of our jobs. condone the behavior. Even though I BECAUSE WE BY NATURE SEEK PEACE
talked to the Nadja after class for quite AND AVOID CONFLICT, AND WE HAVE
HOW TO Manage Cultural awhile the day of her unfortunate intro-
duction to American-style debate, our
Conflict in the Classroom DEBATES, ARGUMENTS, FIGHTS, AND
relationship was never quite the same: OTHER FRACASES.

she didn’t trust me again, rightly seeing
ESTABLISH THE RULES However, our role as educators is not
me as having failed to contain this situ- only to seek peace but to maintain it, as
Start off the term with the rules ation. well as to teach our students how to.

The 10 Commandments
of the Ethical ESL Teacher
Not long ago, I was having lunch
at a local cafe, and I witnessed an
interesting conversation between
THE 10
a woman and her parents. of Ethics and the ESL Teacher WRITTEN WORKS.

Class is neither a place for selling your
In all fairness, I wasn’t deliberately YOU WILL NOT PREACH TO
child’s Girl Scout cookies nor a place
eavesdropping — the other party YOUR STUDENTS. YOU WILL
to promote your latest book. Students’
was quite loud, and at one point, the NOT SHARE YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
wallets should be kept out of sight for
daughter even pulled out a small lap- OR OTHERWISE “WITNESS.”
the duration of the class so that they
top to demonstrate a musical perfor-
This should seem obvious, but I have can focus on their work — not on how
mance on You-Tube for her parents.
seen it happen. Especially around the they will pay for these increasingly ex-
This show was the topic of their con-
time of religious holidays, the impulse pensive sessions.
versation. This woman had recently

returned from a visit to Japan, having to tell religious stories seems strong.
taken this music — and her religious Resist it, please. Not all students — YOU WILL NOT ACCEPT GIFTS
beliefs — to the Japanese people. indeed sometimes none of your stu- FROM YOUR STUDENTS.
In fact, she blithely told her parents, dents — will be of your religious back-
Not only should you not solicit
the earthquake in Japan presented “a ground.
goods from students, but you
unique opportunity” to her organiza- shouldn’t accept them. Because of
tion and their outreach efforts, an op- In addition, for those of us raised in
the imbalance of power between stu-
portunity missed six years ago in the a Western European context, there
dent and teacher, money and clothing
wake of the flood in New Orleans. is a tendency to think of holidays like
or food items all carry implications of
Christmas or Easter as “universal.”
coercion that doesn’t exist in most re-
Appalled if oddly fascinated by this They really aren’t.
lationships, and teachers should be

perspective — another group of peo- wary of accepting gifts from students.
ple’s tragedy your own “unique oppor- NOR WILL YOU PREACH YOUR
I’ve at times put a brief statement in
tunity” — I shifted to a table across the POLITICAL BELIEFS.
my syllabus that teachers at the col-
room. lege level generally don’t accept gifts
I’ve seen this happen at the univer-
sity level in particular — instruc- from students and that the best “gift”
However, the conversation haunted students could give a teacher is to
me for the rest of the day. Although tors taking class time to share their
political convictions. study hard.
the woman said nothing about be-
ing a teacher — she seemed to be
involved in missionary work for a re-
ligious organization — I think the di-
lemma shown here, namely the pos-
Even if I happened to share those
beliefs, the practice always left me
with negative impression, my trust in
the instructor diminished, as I saw HOWEVER NOBLE THE PURPOSE.
sibility of exploiting the misfortunes of
others, can apply to ESL instructors. him turn on students who challenged
Another “no brainer,” you would
In fact the spread of English has itself these politics. I was always afraid I
think — however, I have seen teach-
been connected with imperialism, the would be next.
ers set up a class “piggy bank”
domination of people from developing and “charge” students a quar-
countries by those from developed. To this day, largely because of experi-
ter every time a language other
While of course the actual practice ences in classes like that, I won’t state
than English was spoken in class.
of ESL instruction by most of us is far which side I am on in a class debate
No matter that students seemed to
removed from this historic context, on some issue like stem cell research.
appreciate the strategy and that the
there are still implications of abuse of Indeed, one exasperated student at
money would go to classroom items
authority in this kind of imbalance of the end of a debate recently said,
“And when will you tell us about at the end of the term — there are
power. just too many negative implications
your position, Dr. Levy? We’ve told
you ours!” Fair enough — because here for actual money to be used in
What are some ways to minimize the classroom.
the debate was over, I calmly gave my
these possibilities if not eliminate
“side” on the issue, conceding points
them entirely? I think it lies in a series Play money would be more appropri-
to the other side as appropriate. But
of key principles or “commandments,” ate in this case, with the individual
this was after students had had the
if you will, to borrow the language (if with the most “cash” at the end of the
chance to develop their own opinions
not the ideology) from religion. term winning some token prize.
on the matter.

your students with joy every morning,
teach them to the best of your ability,
never show disrespect even if their
behavior might be earning it, and ex-
Once a student came to me about
being in an emotionally abusive rela- tend that same respect to their fami-
tionship with her American boyfriend. lies when you meet.

Shocked, I helped and listened to her
as much as I could. A large mistake YOU WILL ISSUE GRADES
— because when, predictably, her BASED ON STUDENT
grades began to suffer, she expected WORK, NOT ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP
me to understand and make con- WITH THE STUDENT.
cessions because she had confided
in me — an ethical dilemma I could And finally, really what it comes down
have avoided had I stuck with what to is to always grade your student
I’m trained to do, teach English, and based on their work. If you have avoid-
referred her to counseling services for ed establishing a material or personal
her relationship troubles. relationship with your students, you
can do that!
Of course we want to help our stu-
dents — teachers by nature help.
There can, however, be a fine line
between helping and hurting. SO THERE YOU HAVE IT, THE TEN



I was once in a class where the in-

structor was going through a messy
divorce — the details of which I knew
well by the end of the term. I can re-
count those details thirty years after
the fact -- although I don’t remember
the course content. Enough said?
Class should be seen as a tem-
porary and intellectual sanctuary
from both student and instructor
personal problems.



This seems strange as we are trained

to be friendly with our students and
establish a comfortable class atmo-
sphere. A friendly demeanor is fine,
but when the instructors crosses the
line and befriends students she may
find herself in a situation like that of
my colleague “Deborah”: at a club
late at night, comforting one sobbing
student because the student’s date —
Deborah’s other student — had aban-
doned her. Teachers shouldn’t get into
situations like this. You are not your
students’ peer, so don’t cross that



Enough on what you can’t do! So

what can you do? You can welcome