New Kid on the Block: 10 Tips for the Brand New ESL Teacher

New Kid on the Block
10 Tips for the Brand New ESL Teacher

Mary Bishop
by Mary Bishop 11,998 views

Starting your first job as an ESL teacher?

Don’t know where to begin? Worry no more…this article will give you 10 tips to put your mind at ease, whether you are about to stand in front of a classroom of thirty children or begin a series of seminars for teaching English at a workplace. Everyone has to start somewhere, and with these 10 tips, you will be ready to go!

Feel Secure in Your New Teaching Job While Using These 10 Tips

  1. 1

    Establish Routines

    It is very important to establish routines in your classroom for a variety of reasons. First of all, it will help your classroom to run more smoothly. Secondly, your students will be exposed to the language involved in the routines over and over again. This set of vocabulary or phrases will likely seem second nature to them after a while. Ideally, they would then be able to use those terms outside of those routines as well.

    These routines could be anything from your greetings to them (and them to you), attendance, or a review of the alphabet, for example. The key is to use the same terms over and over so that they know what to expect and begin to use the vocabulary themselves.

  2. 2

    Maximize Oral Communication

    Let your students speak aloud as much as possible. This helps them on so many levels. It puts the language in their hands, and helps them to take ownership of it. The more they speak aloud, the more confident they feel in doing so. In a beginner’s class, oral communication may start out as the students repeating what the teacher says. In time, students will try it out on their own. It all starts with your encouragement. It is so important that you support them as they begin to grow in the language. If they feel secure, they will take risks and begin speaking.

  3. 3

    Personalize It

    Bring yourself into the class—your likes, your dislikes, your family…bring the students’ lives into the class as well (at least as much as they feel comfortable). This will not only foster relationships among you all which encourages risk taking, but it will make for higher interest levels as well. A student will always be more invested when talking about something he/she enjoys. Have a day where everyone brings in a picture or shows one on their phone, so they can describe the people there and the setting. The emotional connection the student has with the photo may help him/her to feel comfortable when speaking.

  4. 4

    Group Work

    Be sure to have students work in pairs or groups frequently. This also encourages communication. Students who are reluctant to speak in front of the whole group may be fine with speaking in front of two or three of their peers. They will be less self-conscious. Without a doubt, students will learn from each other when in cooperative groups. If it seems possible, assign one student as the leader of the group. The leader will make sure everyone gets a chance to talk and be heard. Working in groups is also relationship building among the students. As that comfort level rises, the reluctant students will be more likely to take a risk and speak aloud.

  5. 5

    Differentiating Instruction

    Unless you have a class with a very similar make-up, you most likely will have students coming to your class with many different English abilities. In the beginning, you will need to get a general idea of the students’ levels. After that, it is up to you and/or the director of your program as to how much you cater to individual levels, and how much you teach “to the middle.” You may want to break them up into small groups to address their needs individually. If you have volunteers in your program, this would be a good way to use them. Some teachers teach a general lesson to the whole group, and then break off into groups with ability by level for reinforcement. How you do this will be up to you, unless you are told how to handle it by your supervisor. Start with the class as a whole, get to know them, and you will feel what is right to do as time goes on.

  6. 6

    Check for Understanding

    You may think your lesson is going well, but how do you really know as you are in the middle of it? It is necessary to check for understanding as you are teaching your ESL lesson. You can do this in several ways. You can ask your students if what you said is clear. Usually, they will let you know. If they say that it is not clear, then you need to show it in another way. You can try a hands-on activity to show what you mean. You can role play with another student who does understand the concept. There are many different ways you can present the same material.

  7. 7

    Take 5: Using All the Senses

    In an ESL classroom, you need to convey your message in a language that most of the students know very little of. What is the best way to do this? One tip to remember is to involve as many of the five senses in your lesson as possible. For example, if you are doing a lesson on food, you could bring in the food to see, touch, smell and taste. The multisensory experience is bound to help students remember the vocabulary and the lesson as a whole better. It will also increase the comfort level of most, which makes them even more comfortable speaking English.

  8. 8

    Current Events

    Another way to get students talking is to do current events. You will need to supply the information to them initially, such as some very simple articles with lots of pictures. You can read the article to them, and then they can discuss it. As time goes on, they may even bring in their own articles. It is always great if you can get an article that would affect them personally either in their current home or in their country of origin. Again, if they are highly interested in the material, they are more likely to want to speak. It’s all about getting in that comfort zone for English.

  9. 9


    It is important to cover the traditions and holidays that the students may not be familiar with. Again, this can be done with videos and props. Make sure the students get a multi-sensory experience. You may even want to bring in some food and music, and recreate the type of celebration that would usually take place. This would certainly make the lesson more memorable for the students who hopefully will remember and be able to use the vocabulary.

  10. q

    Show Them Who You Are

    Show your students who you are and how you understand their struggles to learn English. If you know any of their native language, speak it, no matter how poorly. Your students will appreciate your effort to enter their world, and they will see that everyone struggles while learning a second language, just like them. Don’t be afraid to use some humor as well. Laughter certainly is the best medicine.

Use these 10 tips as you start teaching ESL, and you will be great.

The greatest part of teaching is reaching that untapped mind and helping them believe that they can do it, that it was inside of them all along. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and be the great ESL teacher that you are!

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