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5 Top Tips for ESL Teachers

 Are you just starting out with English or ESL teaching? Maybe you started awhile ago and want top tips for teaching your class, handling a class where you don’t speak their first language(s)? Perhaps you’re wondering if there are strategies for teaching English as a Second Language learners…

Well, you’ve come to the right place! Today’s post is a short, but sweet list of my favourite ESL teaching tips.

1. Consider their first language (L1)

First of all, it’s important to consider your students’ first language. Now, experts disagree on whether using the first language in class is a good idea (check out this short academic article supporting some use of the first language in a classroom, and the summary of this one supporting total immersion in the language). Personally, I don’t think it’s the worst idea if used sparingly.

Sometimes, translating certain words can help. However, I do try to explain the definition in English and encourage my students to circumlocute, which simply means using words they DO know to explain a concept, if they can’t find the exact word they need.

It works wonders for language learners. I’ve used it myself!


2. Speak SLOWLY for beginners.

So, speaking slowly is SO important.  I can’t even count the number of students who asked me to slow down when I first started out. Remember, it takes time for native speakers to get used to a lecturer’s voice. Imagine how difficult this is for second language learners!
Especially if you’re a beginner teacher, it can be easy to get nervous in front of a class and speak quickly .SLOW DOWN for your English language learners!

3. Play Games! Reading textbooks can get boring

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m a fan of games!! Speaking, grammar and vocabulary games are my specialty.
Remember that grammar concepts are neither:
  • 1) Easy to understand (for teachers or native speakers), nor


  • 2) Easy to teach  – Be prepared! Students will ask why grammar rules are the way they are and you should be prepared to tell them.  BBC English has some great tips and explanations, and check out the back of the English File textbook series, too.


Check out my post on the Ultimate Phrasal VERBS game here, and sign up for the printables library of you haven’t already to access a host of other games! The free February Printables pack will be out later this week, too!


Free Printables Library


4. Use authentic audio visual materials. Textbook videos often feel fake.

Authenticity is key!! Luckily, it’s really easy to find authentic materials in English, such as TED Talks, films, documentaries and TV episodes. Actually I LOVE creating these resources from movies I’ve seen!  What a fun way to lesson plan, right?

In fact, I just created a La La Land Lesson plan (check out the blog post here), which will be available in the printables library as part of the February Printables pack. I’ll release the February printables in a couple of days.


5. Ask about their culture to foster communication

Want an instant speaking lesson? Simply ask your students to speak about their culture. This works especially well in a multicultural class, but I’ve even used it in all-Spanish student classes in the UK and here in Spain.  Lesson plans on stereotypes (and whether or not they are true), are fun, too!

What are your top tips for teaching English language learners?

Comment in the comments box below to share your tips with us! Thanks so much for reading. I love having you are part of The Teaching Cove community!

Remember to sign up at the end of this post for free English teaching, organizational and motivational printables- a whole library of them!


Happy Teaching!




P.S. Photo lovers, I took the photo for today’s post in Brooklyn, New York in 2007.

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