Follow AAE on:

Subscribe to RSS Feed:

Guest Post: Strategies for Teaching ESL Students
posted by: Melissa | April 14, 2014, 06:22 PM   

As many as 3.5 million students in classrooms throughout the United States speak English as a second language (ESL). Despite this reality, most schools offer few or no programs that specifically address the unique set of problems these students confront each day in the classroom.

The fact is teachers are on the front lines, putting together lesson plans that meet the needs of all of their students while also trying to give special attention to non-English speakers.

When English is a second-language, students can face "language shock" that in turn creates anxiety, and opens them up to ridicule from students who aren't sensitive to the situation.

These students also get mixed signals. At school they may be expected to speak English but at home they are expected to speak their native language. Most students want to fit in, but at school their limited English skills make them stand out as different.

Their limited knowledge of English makes it much harder for them to understand a teacher's instructions. Students may also feel lost because of cultural differences. The American-style of teaching may go against the accepted behavior in their countries. For example, they may think volunteering an answer in the classroom is being boastful. Instead, they expect to wait until a teacher directly addresses them.

Navigating these potential issues takes patience from
ESL teachers and students.

An article by Shelley Vernon at
Teaching English Games offers "golden rules" on managing an ESL classroom. Foremost, she says, teachers must be mentors, not friends. It must be established that the teacher is in charge.

Maintaining a professional relationship doesn't mean teachers must keep their distance from students.  They should show they care. There are several ways to do that: chat with students outside the classroom; sit next to different students in the classroom and ask how they are doing; offer praise and encouragement; and make the teaching style engaging and fun.

Games are one way of making learning fun for an entire class while teaching vocabulary.  Here are some that have become popular recently:

  • Crossword puzzles can be found at Lanternfish. They teach independence and how to use a dictionary. For example, a puzzle on "Your Body" asks students to fill in the blanks as in "Your hand has five ____" or "How Many Eyes Do You Have?"
  • Grammar Hunt at Sharpen That Pencil is a team game that builds vocabulary. Students divide into teams of four to six, adopt a topic such as animals, and name their team – for example, "rabbit." They then move around the room collecting slips of paper with adjectives that describe a rabbit.
  • Guess That Word at Dave’s ESL Café is another team word game. Relying on only yes or no answers students must guess a "secret" word. The winning team then can ask the opposing team to perform an activity or exercise, such as singing a song in English or doing jumping jacks.
  • Learn a Song at BusyTeacher offers a library of song worksheets that teach vocabulary through various word-game activities and singing songs, such as "We Are the Champions" or "Lemon Tree."

Michael Perez is a writer for The University of Scranton, one of AAE's university partners. Click here to read more about The University of Scranton on AAE's tuition discounts page. 

Comments (1)Add Comment
written by sara, December 14, 2014

there is no correlation here with the ESL/EFL distinction. A stylish writer in one language will be stylish in another (always supposing a threshold of competence). And there are many dull EFL writers.

Analytical Essay Writing

Submit a comment
 (not published)
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters