Teaching ESL to Young Learners

photo credit: Google images

photo credit: Google images

 Learning a second language

Language is a universal human phenomenon. Whether it is a verbal language, a series of clicks and other sounds, or even sign language, all humans find a way to communicate with one another. Children begin learning many things from a very young age. They see and hear what their parents do, and copy that. By the time a child is around one year, he or she can make simple sounds. As the child grows, their knowledge of sounds, words, and means increase and grow more complex. According to a 2005 article by Ashworth and Wakefield,

“Language is the key to creative thinking, solving problems and collaborative learning.”

(Teaching the World’s Children ESL For Ages Three to Seven, English Teaching Forum, 43 (1), pg. 3)

I couldn’t agree more with that quote. Language helps us speak our thoughts, express our feelings, and talk with one another. Language is not a dead thing; it grows as new words are added and old words are left to history. Being able to communicate effectively is essential to happy and successful living.

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Five Tips for Getting ESL Students to Talk More


Google images

How often do your students look like this?

Is it a struggle to get them to talk and participate? 

I recently shared an article about reducing “teacher talk time”, something I know I do too often. It got me thinking about how to encourage students to talk more during class. Some students may be shy and reluctant to speak. It’s important to ask yourself why they might not want to speak in class.

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Four Thanksgiving Activities for ESL Students


Next Thursday, in the United States anyway, is Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day where the President “pardons” a turkey, people get together with family and celebrate what they’re thankful for (and watch football). This Thanksgiving will be an interesting one in light of the recent Presidential election. I imagine some [families] will get into arguments and ruin the event for everyone. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.

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Halloween Activities for ESL Students!


Credit: A Nightmare Before Christmas


It’s almost Halloween, which means costumes, candy, and fun activities!! It’s always fun to dress up in different costumes and be someone (or something) else for once! Traditional monsters such as ghosts, vampires, zombies, or skeletons are great! But newer characters such as superheroes, cowboys, or aliens are also popular, too!

Halloween is also great for developing your ESL students’ vocabulary and speaking skills. They can talk about what scares them, or what monsters they know. There are other fun activities you can do, too! I’ve found too great sites that have wonderful activities: FluentU and BusyTeacher! I’ve chosen a few from each site to share. Let’s look at them of them below!

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Johnny Is A Bad Student! (Or How Not To Write Student Report Comments)


No matter the time of year, teachers of all ages need to write student progress comments. Whether you write them quarterly or once each semester, it’s a task that can be quite daunting. It can also be a very time-consuming task if a teacher has over one hundred students to keep track of.

Now, not all teachers may have had to write student comments, but for those who’ve had, they know how difficult it can be to write effective and balanced comments. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the negatives for some students, and the positives for others. All teachers have their “favorites”, but it’s important to be fair and balanced for ALL STUDENTS when writing comments. Below I will give some tips and examples for what makes effective and ineffective comments.

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Let’s Bridge STEAM and ESL!


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I teach a special class for intermediate students. Now, these classes I teach are a little special. We don’t read regular ESL textbooks, we read a newspaper geared for students. This paper comes out monthly and it features a variety of articles. They cover foreign and domestic current events, fun activities, and a center topic (such as the Olympics, or dog shows, or pop stars).

In an earlier edition, we read an article about the Eiffel Tower, and how the city of Paris planed to renovate it. That gave me the idea to have the students build a tower of their own! So I had my class, and another similar class taught by another teacher at my academy, do the same activity.

I had both classes do this simultaneously in two separate rooms. I split the classes up into teams. There were three teams in each class. I had another teacher monitor and help the second class since I couldn’t be in two classrooms at once.  Before the activity, I prepared a worksheet with a couple of pre-activity questions for the students to fill out. Each team was tasked to build a tower using just marshmallows and chopsticks after a brief explanation. The chopsticks acted as their rods and the marshmallows acted as their joints to hold the structure together.

I showed a couple of examples from the Internet to help the students brainstorm.

Interactive PowerPoint Games for ESL Students


Do you ever have trouble getting your students to speak in class?

Maybe you’re learning about giving directions, or using modal verbs, or simple phonics, and it’s a struggle to get your students to speak or remember what they’ve learned?

Well look no further! I was browsing the Internet for fun games and activities to use with my students to encourage more speaking and participation during class, and I found a good ESL discussion board site that had many PowerPoint games designed for kids. Waygook.org is an ESL discussion board site based in Korea and offers many tips and other kinds of information for teachers in Korea (but also serves as a bases for ESL teachers all over Asia).

The game templates have different themes such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Doraemon, and more. They are full of fun images and some even have music and animation from the game/series to keep your students engaged.  The templates are blank with instructions on the first slide about how to add questions, or change images, etc. I’ve tried them out with a couple of my classes, and the kids love them!

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Ten End-of-the-year Activities for Students

credit: google images

credit: google images

It’s that time of the year when everything comes to an end. Students take final exams; teachers grade those exams; final grades are submitted to administration, and report cards are sent out. For both ESL and mainstream classrooms, it’s a hectic time as May ends and summer begins. Now, some countries continue school until the end of June or July, but in other countries (the U.S., for example), school ends in May. Continue reading

Building an Effective ESL Curriculum

2012.1.esl-worldA curriculum is a vital part of ESL classes. It provides a focus for the class and sets goals for the students throughout their study.A curriculum also gives the student a guide and idea to what they will learn and how they have progressed when the course is over.

A typical ESL curriculum centers around students developing four basic skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The goal of teaching ESL is to help second-language learners become competent at communicating in English with native speakers. That doesn’t necessarily mean fluent, but proficient enough to act in an English-speaking environment (such as in the United States, Canada, or the UK) with little to no trouble.

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Effective Strategies for Teaching Reading


Reading is a BIG component of teaching any language – first or second. Reading, especially in a foreign language, can be quite difficult for learners. I have been working on earning my TESOL certificate through the American TESOL Institute (ATI). One of the modules I had to complete was about teaching reading.

Reading can be especially difficult since not every student reads at the same level. Some are able to read at higher levels than their peers, and others may struggle.

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