Tips for teaching beginner ESL students

Tips for teaching beginner ESL students

Blog / Tips and tricks

Many language teachers claim that teaching at the beginner level is not a challenge. However, it can be completely the opposite since everything really depends on the approach. Teaching beginners can be a great experience from which you, as a tutor, will learn many useful lessons. We give you a few tips on how to dodge boredom and make your classes more challenging. 

Take care of the atmosphere of your lessons

For every adult learner starting out in English, atmosphere during classes is extremely important. This often influences whether the learner decides to continue their English adventure for a long period or whether they drop out in the middle or immediately after the course. Learning new things is a demanding challenge, which causes a lot of anxiety. A common problem is the ‘speaking barrier.’ Adult learners often attend lessons after work and use the little energy they got left. Your job as a lecturer is to come up with a good plan that will engage your listeners and yet will not be beyond their capacity. Pre-intermediate lesson plans should include some interludes in the form of interesting facts and jokes to lighten the mood of the lesson. You should also keep in mind that this is a completely new language for the listeners, so you should not use the language you are teaching at the beginning, but their mother tongue.

Do not engage at a push

Don’t push people to speak and participate in class. At the beginner level, this can only discourage your learners. However, reluctance to speak can be easily justified and is related to the fact that the audience has limited knowledge and vocabulary. In such a situation, it is difficult to construct any kind of speech. In addition, most listeners will also be insular when it comes to other types of tasks. This is because everything is new to them: not only the rules, but also the sounds. The beginner level is demanding for every language tutor because they have to do more talking, explaining, and demonstrating. Therefore, it is truly a challenge! You should try to accompany the words with gestures.

Replace meta-language with repetitions

There is no point in overusing certain terms at the beginner level. Instead of saying, for example, “irregular verb” or “plural form,” present specific examples. Ideally, visualise them. Colours and interesting graphics are essential for engaging and entertaining lessons. These are excellent supplementary materials to a textbook, which most beginners already feel negative about from the very beginning. The myths about teaching being boring at this level are most likely based on most teachers having the need to repeat the same concepts over and over. This is inevitable at the beginner level, but even such an activity can be made more interesting. Remember that pre-intermediate lesson plans should include work on accent, spelling, and listening comprehension. When repeating, work on volume and speaking pace. Look for challenges even in the smallest aspects!

Bet on regular feedback!

Listening, patience, and composure are not enough to implement ideal pre-intermediate lesson plans. At this level, you need to learn to catch mistakes, as well as discuss them and correct your listeners as they speak. Without feedback, unfortunately, there will be no progress and, therefore, no satisfaction on either side. Feedback is particularly important at this stage because it is easy to eliminate mistakes at this level of learning, as they haven’t yet become a habit. The best way is to get the adult learner used to being interrupted and asked to answer or say a word correctly.  

How to find teaching delightful

Learn to enjoy your work! At this level, you can take a better look at your skills and methodology. You also practise patience and meet new people. This is the exciting part of your job as a language teacher. Enjoy this time where you observe the small improvements that are just the beginning of your student’s journey into learning English.

About Tijana
About Tijana

Tijana is an ESL Teacher, Teacher Trainer, and ESL Content Creator with a decade-long working experience. She designed 600+ lesson plans. Tijana holds a B.A. in Applied Linguistics from UVic, an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from UBC, as well as a 120-hour TEFL certificate.

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