Alexandra ArrivillagaAs someone who has had the privilege of Teaching English as a Second Language and helping others in my community who don’t speak English through translation work, I have had the opportunity to see  first hand what kinds of aids can help others learn both informally, and in classroom settings. Learning a new language is a process, and the most important thing is to cultivate a supportive and encouraging environment. In addition to how you prepare before you even set foot in the classroom, I would suggest that you consider the following as well.

Get to Know Your Students:
The educational needs and background of any given student will vary. So in addition to getting to know your students before they come to class, make a point to continue to get to know them as the term progresses. Making a point to get to know your students not only provides inspiration for your class plans, but also creates a true learning environment for your students.

Maximize Use of English Speaking:

Focus on the importance of speaking English in the classroom, and speaking English only. This creates an environment where students are forced to put their language skills to work. They can practice reading aloud, and practice conversation in pairs or groups. Practicing oral communication is necessary for ESL success. SWRL or Speaking, Writing, Reading and Listening should be exercised regularly.

Body Language:

An important tip for knowing you’re being heard and understood, as an ESL teacher, is by reading the body language of your learner. If they’re non-responsive, and they have their arms folded and held tightly to their bodies, they may be uncomfortable. Encourage students to loosen up at the beginning of classes while doing stretches and practicing English words relating to human anatomy, and push students to use gestures, facial expressions and body language in partnership with their English-only lessons.

Limit Dictionary Use:
It’s easy for a student to rely heavily on a translation dictionary or the glossary of a textbook when learning a new language, so encourage students to limit this practice. Rather than flipping to the back of their books, students should verbalize difficulties, which will help them to better absorb and retain words and phrases.

Practice Common Phrases:
Common introductory phrases are important because they help students to become comfortable with a language, and they’re useful. Learning greetings, directions, idioms and salutations can minimize discomfort in an English-dominate situation.

As you continue to develop into the role of the instructor teaching English as a Second Language, it’s important that you check in with students regularly – both in group settings and individually. Standard rules and practices that apply to teaching any subject matter apply to teaching English as a Second Language, but it is of utmost importance that you encourage your students as much as possible as it is a critical skill to have when residing in countries where the dominant language is in fact English.