ESL Students: Practical Suggestions For Regular Classroom Teachers

When a student moves from Japan to the U.S., he gains more exposure to the English language through being immersed in an English speaking environment. Unfortunately, a lot of these students are actually thrust into the classroom before they even have a basic understanding of the language. And to complicate matters further, most teachers have not been trained to offer English as a Second Language (ESL) support. So what can regular classroom teachers do to ensure successful placement? Let’s take a moment to discuss a few useful suggestions.

Use Visuals and Embrace Silence

Not all communication has to be done through the spoken word. For instance, instead of giving instructions verbally, write the assignment on the board. Add a few pictures to support it. Show the student what the finished assignment should looks like. Also, don’t force the student to speak. They will likely be very conscious of their English and should only be encouraged to speak when ready. These methods gives the student a chance to observe and develop their comprehension skills.

Make Lesson Plan Adjustments

There are three ways in which you should consider structuring your lesson plan. First, make a conscious effort to teach certain vocabulary words directly, specifically those that are not common in their language. Do this by showing videos and pictures of these things. Just make sure to not burn the student out by making the list too long. Second, create opportunities for the student to speak formal language in the classroom. In order for this to work, all of your students, even those who speak English should be encouraged to structure sentences in this way so as not to make the student feel singled out. And finally, make sure that your ESL students receive the assignments beforehand. If you’re planning to show a Youtube video the next day, then give your student link the day before so that they have time to figure out what it is about. ESL Kid Stuff has a large database of lesson plans to reference from, so you can just download their template and craft your lesson plan. Sometimes, when you are stuck trying to figure out what to teach, having these templates helps a lot. As for free worksheets or resources that you can also reference from, there are ESL Games Plus – for interactive games, ISL Collective – large database of worksheets, and Monkey Tree also has some free worksheets available and can be downloaded via

Encourage Group Projects

A huge part of immersing students into the English language is allowing chances for them to communicate with their peers. So assign group work. If done in small groups, your ESL student will feel less pressure when speaking. You may even encourage the child to use their own language from time to time, maybe tell the others about their culture. Just remember to not make the student speak for their entire culture. In fact, it’s a good idea to speak with the ESL student before asking them to share information about their country. Not all want to act as an official representative. Also, if the assignment is written and the student is not yet proficient in the written language, it’s a good idea to let them write it in their own language.

Be Lighthearted But Take Them Seriously

It’s always important to encourage a sense of humor when someone is learning something new. But this is especially important when it comes to learning a new language. Getting a few words confused is inevitable and should not be a source of embarrassment. Also, never confuse your student’s lack of understanding for a lack of maturity. Do your best to give the student the respect they deserve, no matter how they deliver the words.

Do Your Homework

Sure, the student has some catching up to do, but so does the teacher. If you want to ensure that the student has a successful placement then it’s a good idea to learn as much about the student’s culture as possible. What country are they from? How is their name pronounced? What are their religious and cultural practices? Is there any body language that the child may find disrespectful in their culture? By taking time to learn these things, you’ll be able to gain the respect of the student because it shows that you actually care. You should also speak with ESL teachers. Find out how you can corporate what’s being taught there into the regular classroom. This gives the student a chance to put what they are learning into practice. Ask for a copy of their lesson plan and be systematic.
As you can see, there are several things to consider when working with ESL student. It takes a lot of patience and diligence. However, with effort, you’ll begin to see tremendous results.