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Top tips for new ESL teachers

Top tips for new ESL teachers

Monday 8th April 2019
Emma Lawrence

So, you've completed your ESL teacher training, maybe even done some volunteer teaching to get a feel of what is to come and have now landed your first teaching contract, first of all a huge congratulations is definitely in order! Nevertheless, as a newly-qualified ESL teacher now comes the tricky bit as you're probably not only adjusting to a new career, but quite possibly a new country, culture and everything else that entails too.

With all that in mind, there's no shame in admitting that the first days and weeks in the classroom can be slightly intimidating for any teacher, what with all those new names to learn and a good impression to make (fingers crossed!). Below are a few helpful tips to help ensure you get off to a solid start, your students get as much possible out of your English classes and it's smooth sailing from here on.

Avoid assuming
Even if the grammar or piece of vocabulary involved in your lesson might seem basic, make sure your students are definitely familiar with it - particularly if it's a new class or student. Better to risk seeming slightly patronising than have confused students who are too shy to ask. You could always get stronger students to explain to avoid them getting bored and create a quick mini-review, following this up by eliciting some examples to double-check understanding often works well too.

Clear instructions
An absolute golden rule of ESL, and for good reason! Make sure your instructions are super clear and easy to understand, particularly if it's a new game or activity, take a moment to really think about the way you will explain things as good instructions mean activities get off to a quick start and students have more time for learning and expressing themselves. And whatever you do, definitely don't be tempted to set a task and put your feet up for the next ten minutes - always check understanding and keep monitoring, ask yourself if students are managing, who needs support is the activity working well...?

Less isn't always more...
A great extension of the first point, reviews are critical and essential to strong student progress. Here I find that little and often is key, short sharp reviews or quick games not only keep classes lively but help students really remember new expressions and grammar all of which they can then integrate into their active language.

Preparation, preparation, preparation
Sure, you don't want things to be too formulaic, but even that is much better than the alternative. Especially early in your teaching career you should spend plenty of time preparing your class, don't be fooled by those fellow teachers who swan in and out of the staff room 5 mins before class starts seemingly without a care in the world, they were probably up until midnight at home the night before 😉
What's more, have a back-up activity, another back-up and a back-up for that back-up (you get the idea)! It can be almost impossible to predict how well an exercise or activity will go with any one class, and just because something was a hit with one group, doesn't mean it will be with another. By ensuring that you have plenty of ideas or materials ready to go, you'll hopefully avoid any panic-stricken "how-do-I-fill-these-last-ten-minutes" moments. Over time this will become easier and quicker to prepare, plus you'll end up with an awesome bank of games and ideas that you can transfer to other classes at a moment's notice.

All things come to those who wait
Finally, understand that it's going to take time for your students to be completely comfortable with you while speaking only in English. It's not that they don't like you but more that they're gaining confidence and relaxing into your classes, be yourself, as approachable and patient as possible and things will be just fine!

Good luck!! 😊