Specific Needs for Specific Occupations: How to Find and Incorporate Specific Vocabulary and Adapt Your ESL Material

Specific Needs for Specific Occupations
How to Find and Incorporate Specific Vocabulary and Adapt Your ESL Material

Andrea Pesce
by Andrea Pesce 3,775 views |

We all know our students have different needs.

The question is how different. Sometimes these differences are simple and mostly related to how you practice. For instance, whether to practice speaking more than writing or perhaps what structures to focus on. There are cases however where the differences in ESL needs require more work than just choosing what skill to focus on. The fact is that some students require customized material and for some teachers, this is a big deal. For others, it might even be a deal breaker. I have actually met teachers who say no to students who require customized material. Customizing involves time, patience and work but I can assure you, it is easier than most believe.

3 Ideas to Implement a Customized ESL Program

  1. A customized program is highly-focused and tailor-made program that is created to address specific learner needs. Each lesson includes customized explicit instruction as well as activities that simulate the required environment as much as possible. As in any lesson, the activities focus on all four skills, speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Depending on specific student needs they may include practicing presentations, simulated teleconference calls and meetings, e-mail and report writing, as well as social situations. A lot of feedback is given to the students within each lesson. This is done to provide additional practice since activities are modified and done again. So, the question now is, how to implement it. What steps do we need to follow? Let's take a look.

  2. 1


    Always begin by listening to your students concerns and goals. Try to meet with each of them before the beginning of the course. This is important because this is our opportunity to learn how they communicate in their work and day-to-day lives. Your aim in this meeting is to find out what they need to work on. This is a great opportunity to use a well designed survey to analyze their needs. It is also to check what their level is regarding their speaking, listening, and writing skills. All this information is then used to customize a curriculum.

  3. 2

    Incorporate Special Material

    Company materials and work-related content can be used along with our own material. This is ideal to create authentic and relevant lessons and activities. It is the best way to ensure students practice exactly what they need.

  4. 3


    Ongoing feedback is essential, more so in tailored programs. As we implement our program, it is crucial to assure that it is in line with the goals that were identified at the beginning. Try to incorporate the feedback students give you throughout the program. How we decide to incorporate special material should also be discussed with students. For instance, some might think it is better to add special material at the beginning or end of the program. Others might want to use the regular program and the material at the same time.

    Always make sure there is plenty of communication between you and your students. It should be done on a regular basis. It's important in order to provide updates on the students' progress and also to learn of any additional or upcoming needs.

4 Sources of the Material We Need to Customize Our Program

  1. The next question is quite an obvious one. Where can we find the material we need to customize our program? In some cases our students provide this material. The problem is sometimes they don't or they just don't provide enough. The good news is that thanks to the internet we can find all sorts of digital material online. Here are some great sources.

  2. 1

    Trade Publications and Journals

    A trade publication is a specific kind of publication, typically a magazine, that is geared to those who work in a specific industry. Though these publications deliver information that is valuable to those who work in a specific field. Because of this, it is a great source of topics and vocabulary.

    Journal usually refers to academic journals or scientific journals. In academic use, a journal refers to a serious, scholarly publication that is peer-reviewed. For students in the field of science, it is also an amazing source of material.

  3. 2

    Articles about Specific Topics

    Online newspapers as well as other sites are an amazing source of material. You can use search engines to look for articles about specific topics that might be of interest to your students.

  4. 3

    Company Documents

    As we mentioned before, for those who need to take customized lessons for work related reasons, this is the best option. Company documents, reports and presentations contain all the information you need to add to your tailored program. The great part is that all you have to do is ask.

  5. 4

    Educational Material from Universities about Specific Topics

    Many universities upload videos, pdfs and more to share with their students as well as the rest of the community. Access to this material is easy and the quality is amazing. It is great for students in high levels and the possibilities are endless.

The advantages of tailor made programs are evident.

Your students are getting exactly what they want and need. Keep in mind, you might need to adapt the material to the students' level. With students in lower levels, you might only be able to use vocabulary. The higher the level, the more you will be able to use. In any case, customized programs are the best way to meet our students' expectations

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