A Typical ESL Classroom Day

Some things to know about making your ESL classes memorable and effective.

Do you remember any of your teachers?

Who stands out most? It’s probably because he or she had an entertaining or gripping personality, a charisma and insight that you could not help but be drawn to.

But that charisma and charm has to be used in a practical manner in the classroom, especially in the TESL classroom.
The students must do the learning themselves. You have to get them comfortable with you or they will be afraid to ask questions, afraid to practice stringing words together out loud.

Show and tell is an excellent method to remember when teaching ESL, no matter how old your students are. Of course, not all students are visual learners, but in the case of TESL, especially for beginner and pre-intermediate levels, being a performer of sorts is important. Learning a language is not like learning a theory – your students won’t be taking tons of notes like in a college class. This is material that must be practiced immediately and repeatedly in order to be retained. They should be busy working with each other doing exercises and practicing speaking to each other.

It is advisable to carry a bilingual dictionary into each class you teach, but it is important to refrain from using it unless absolutely necessary. Using actions, expressions, and simple synonyms, you should allow your students to do the learning for themselves, to figure it own on their own. The more they do this, the more likely that word will stick in their minds. If you feed it to them, they will have a hard time remembering it. Think about any language learning you may have undergone in high school, Spanish, French, or German.

How were your classes conducted? Do you remember anything from them?

If you have a large class, try breaking them down into groups of 2 or 3. This ensures that each student gets the chance to practice writing or speaking aloud with just one or two other students. And as the teacher, you can walk around and listen in on the speaking, pausing and signaling to a student that he should correct himself, guiding them, answering questions. Letting the students speak more than you is key. There is something called TTT, teacher talk time, and the STT, student talk time; and the ratio of TTT to STT should ideally be low, some say as low as 1:8. If you stand at your podium or sit behind your desk and lecture the entire class time, assigning exercises in a workbook at the end of the period, they will have learned very little, if anything, besides getting used to your accent – if they were even paying attention to begin with.

Language agencies often provide a lower teacher to student ratio, so you may have just two or three students, or possibly just one. This is often an ideal situation for tailored language tutoring, and is perfect if you tend to be shy and intimidated by speaking in front of large groups.

However, it is an interesting phenomenon that can occur when confronted with a group of 20 or so foreign students. As their teacher, you are the one with power of English, you are the one who will bestow it upon them over the next 90 minutes, and so you can think that just for those 90 minutes, you have nothing to worry about – they are all eagerly every word of yours, they are there (especially if you teach at an agency) because they paid a lot of money to hear what you have to say, to absorb your very accent, the way you string words together, the expressions you use, and the ease with which you use them. They look up to you, even if they are adults who are older than you, and this little ego/power trip should be just enough for you get over your stage fright.

Sign up for our newsletter!