Teaching English As A Second Language

Teaching English As A Second Language

Ever considered teaching English as a second language? Today’s guest post has some tips on 5 mistakes you can avoid when doing so. 

It would be great to think that you can start your first ESL job and that nothing will go wrong. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way and the majority of new ESL teachers will make a few mistakes. The good news is that if you can recognise the mistake you can learn from it. 

1. Don’t do too much talking

It is important for new ESL teachers to remember that the aim is to get the student to speak. And preferably for the majority of the time in class. After all, that is why they are there! When the teacher is doing most of the speaking then the student just isn’t getting the practice that they need. When this happens English language skills are only going to improve at a slow rate.

Keep the talking in proportion. The teacher should only be doing around 30% of the speaking so students should be filling the other 70%, but this proportion is not a hard and fast rule. In a class where the students are all complete beginners, the proportions could be around 50-50, but The role of the teacher is to guide the activities along, but not to overpower them so much that students have little else to do but listen. 


2. Nobody knows everything

It would be good to think that you do know everything that about the English language but you will reach a point where a student asks a question and you won’t know the answer. A common mistake is to try to create an answer that fits. It is far better to admit that you are not sure of the answer and say that you will find out and explain at the next class.

3. Don’t blame students if they don’t understand

It is so important to remember that not all students are going to understand everything when you first explain it. Every student is different and you may have to adopt different methods to help your whole class to reach a point where they understand what you have said. Some students will need it explained a second time, a third time or you may have to adapt your teaching style. If the student does not understand the first time then stay patient and find another way to explain. It is not their fault that they did not understand instantly and as a new ESL teacher you will still be finding your feet in teaching. Once you get to know your class you will soon find out which teaching styles work with them and which ones to avoid. 

4. Allowing outgoing children to dominate the class

It is a common problem for new teachers to learn how to deal with different types of students. Every class is going to have loud and extroverted students and if you are not careful they can seem to take over everything. However, you have to be very careful not to suppress this natural energy so don’t stop them talking all the time or worse, ignore them. Encourage them to be an active part of the class otherwise this energy could make them even more disruptive. Remember that this situation has to be carefully managed because extroverted children can sometimes intimidate quieter children, preventing them from being an active part of the lesson.

5. Too many words

You will have to adapt the way that you speak when you are teaching. Your normal style of speech is going to be too much for those who are still learning the basics of English. Think about the emphasis in your speech, your pitch and intonation. You could also take the opportunity to be a little less wordy, opting instead for visual aids to help with your teaching. It can be hard at first to try to get your message across this way but you will soon get used to it and as time goes on you will notice that your students are able to pick up more of what you say with fewer visual clues.

The only time you should worry about making any of these mistakes (or any of the many others that you could make!) is if you choose to do nothing about it. Teaching ESL is like any other job – there is plenty to learn and for a while, you will be learning almost as much as your students.


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*This is a guest post.*