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How to Fast Track Your ESL Students’ Progress

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Teaching English as a second language to ESL students is daunting, even for experienced and skilled teachers. The process becomes even more perplexing when you have students who can barely understand English and you don't know their language either. You’ll need to have a lot of patience when teaching English to beginners and when communicating with them in a foreign language.

Regardless, it is possible to teach students only through English, and even though it is difficult, you’ll realize that it is one of the most rewarding experiences. Just like teaching any other subject, every student learns at his or her own pace and level. Therefore, it’s imperative that you adapt your English teaching process that suits each student’s learning habits to ensure that everyone gets the most from your class.

To help you succeed and improve the English learning proficiency of your students, we’ve listed 6 tips to follow in the process.

Keep instructions clear and simple for Esl students

Most teachers explain the course outline and class activities in the politest way possible to their new student. After all, nobody expects their teachers to be rude! However, a student who only knows just a few words of English won’t appreciate it or even understand it. Instead, deliver clear and easy-to-understand instructions, using the fewest words possible. You can also use gestures if needed.

You can still use "please" and "thank you," just shorten your instructions. For example you can say, "Take your book, please" or "Please give me your worksheets" instead of "Johnny is going to pass out the books to each of you" or "Please turn in your worksheets by passing them down to your neighbor on the left."

Let them listen first

It’s very likely ESL students will start practicing speaking English from day one. However, it takes some time to familiarize themselves with the language. There will be a lot of students who won’t be interested in speaking. For those students, don’t pressure them into talking. Instead, tell them to listen to you actively. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice speaking.

use plenty of visuals

Using visuals is one of the best and most compelling ways to teach any subject, including a second language. Visuals can be real or actual things in the class like computers, projectors, or chairs. They can also be shown on a computer screen. By using visuals, your ESL students will be able to see the objects and learn what they’re called and pronounced in English. You can label the items in your classroom in English and/or create cue cards or a vocabulary tree with words to help students expand their vocabulary.

Always check for understanding

One of the significant mistakes most English teachers make is assuming that every student has understood the lessons or the classroom instructions. In countries that don’t follow the Western teaching methods, students may not raise their hands if they don’t understand something. The reason is they're embarrassed to admit in front of their classmates that they don’t understand. They think  it makes them look less smart. Therefore, they prefer to remain silent.

Teachers need to acclimatize their students’ body language to figure out what have they understood about the lessons. They should also keep asking whether they’ve understood by asking, “Ok then, can anyone explain to me what I have explained in a few words?” Students will let you know subtly or directly whether they’ve grasped it or not.

speak in english

If you’re serious about your ESL students learning and speaking English fast, regular conversations with them is a surefire way. Most students can’t learn or speak English fluently because they find it difficult to break the mental barrier of testing their language skills.

Establish English early on as your classroom language to encourage the learning progress. Speaking the language as soon as possible helps them overcome shyness and talk confidently. You may have completed a whole lot of vocabulary exercises and taught grammar lessons and theories for weeks. Still, you won't get any benefits unless you encourage them to speak English with you and other students in the class. 

Most students learning English frequently say they find it challenging to find somebody to talk to practice their English speaking skills.  One option for your students is SmileTutor, where students can have an uninterrupted speaking session with the undivided attention of a native speaker or an expert English teacher at the comfort of their homes.

make it fun

As with any subject, do your best to make your lessons as fun and engaging as possible. Ask your students what they’re interested in and incorporate them into the learning process. Playing games is another fun way to learn and putting students into teams can encourage speaking and collaboration in English. 

If you want your ESL students to learn English quickly, they need to be immersed in the language as much as possible, speaking it, listening to it, and even seeing it around the room! Be aware of cultural differences when teaching students and check for understanding. And making it fun never hurts! Let us know in the comments what has worked for your ESL students. 

about the author

David A. Buhr has over fifteen years of experience in the field of Education. He specializes writing articles on Education-related topics on his blog. He is presently working at SmileTutor, a reputable presence in the education industry.

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