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ESL students come in all shapes and sizes, from adorable little preschoolers to senior citizens who want to learn another language in their free time. In the middle, we have all sorts of students, with different backgrounds and interests. Yet there is one thing they all have in common: they are learning English as a Second Language. Of course, some are learning of their own volition, while others (usually children and teens) are being forced to study English. No matter who your students are, the fact remains that they want or need to succeed at learning. Here are the 10 best pieces of advice you could give your students to lead them towards success:
Top 10 Pieces of Advice for Your ESL Students
Remember Why You’re Learning English
Sometimes the going gets tough. Students are overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do for their other classes. Adults have too much going on at work. When students start complaining about their workload, suggest that they look at the big picture. The business English students need to remember that improving their English skills will open doors to better job opportunities. Young learners need to remember that they have an important international examination coming at the end of the year. Every student has a reason for learning English. Make sure they never lose sight of what it is.
Set Milestones for Your Overall Goal
Some students are very clear about what they hope to accomplish. Some want to sit for the PET this year, the FCE next year and the CAE the following year. Others want to go from beginner to intermediate to advanced. If you have students who are unclear about what they can accomplish, specifically, and their timeframe to achieve this, maybe you can give them a nudge in the right direction and help them set some milestones.
Nourish Your Brain and Your Body
Students who are tired or hungry have trouble concentrating in class. If you have students who are burning the candle at both ends, remind them of the importance of getting enough rest and balanced meals. Their performance inside and outside the classroom will improve by leaps and bounds if they take proper care of themselves.
Do the Work!
There is one essential piece of information that students often forget. You, as the teacher, are not solely responsible for their learning. Students must do their share of the work after class, and this means not only doing homework but also reading extra material, listening to audio, watching videos, writing emails, and working on whatever skills they need to improve.
Pinpoint Your Weaknesses
Some students will tell you they’re great at writing but lousy at speaking. Others have perfect listening comprehension, but get tongue tied when they have to speak. Students must be very aware of what they need to work on (and if they’re clueless, be sure to tell them what it is!) This way, they can focus their afterschool efforts towards improving that which needs extra work.
Talk to Native English Speakers
Having normal conversations with native English speakers will do wonders for your students’ confidence and speaking skills. It all depends on where you live, but where do all of the foreign expats hang out? Are there any MeetUp groups in your city for English speakers? Any other clubs or organization where English speakers meet? Encourage your students to join them and be exposed to real, everyday English.
Have Fun with English
Tell your students to buy word search books in English! It will increase their vocabulary. What about online games? Do they enjoy role-playing video games? Most are played in English. Improving English skills is not all about spending hours completing grammar exercises. Suggest some fun activities they may enjoy – in English!
Listen to Yourself!
There are students that make the same mistakes – again and again. You correct them, but they repeat the mistake the very next day. Advise students to listen to the mistakes they make – really listen, and not be so quick to dismiss them. That is the first step towards improving and changing.
Be Methodical and Consistent
If a student wants to improve their listening comprehension by watching videos on CNN.com, they should have specific days and times to do it – say twice a week right after their ESL class. They should listen to the same type of audio – in this case short news stories for a certain period of time before moving on to longer videos or audio. Switching from one activity to another may not give them the results they want. Encourage them to stick to one method until they get results.
Never Give Up
This may be the hardest piece of advice you’ll ever have to give. There are students who have been studying English for years, and always end up in the same place, not advancing to a higher level. Some take international examinations several times with no success. The best thing you can do for your students is to tell them they shouldn’t give up. If a student feels he has reached a plateau, quitting will mean that he’ll probably forget and lose most of what he’s learned. Quitting is not an option. They must stick to it until they meet their goal, or at the very least redefine a goal that may be a little too unrealistic.
Before you can advise you students on anything, of course, you have to listen to them, and know what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Remember you are not just teaching English grammar and vocabulary. You are also showing them how to learn.
What particular piece of advice have you given recently? I recently suggested that a Japanese student, who has just moved to Australia, join a MeetUp group to practice his English, and he found a group of ESL learners from different parts of the world. He was thrilled! If you have any experiences to share, share them below!
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