A child’s first language is not taught but acquired naturally. However, for an individual to be able to speak, think, and write in a foreign or second language, they must study and practice. In today’s world, where diverse cultures and nationalities regularly come together in integrated settings, the English language has emerged as a common means of communication. Therefore, the practice of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) has become increasingly widespread. The following suggestions will help teachers prepare their ESL lessons, and will help anyone wanting to learn more about planning lessons.
Identify your students
ESL lessons should be individualized for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels and designed for either adults or children. Determine your students’ learning styles (visual, auditory, tactile, or a combination) and be aware of any listening barriers (environmental distractions, information overload, daydreaming, overconfidence, inaccurate perceptions, or non-listening behaviors). Ascertain what your students already know and where they might be deficient. Create your ESL lesson plan to fit the overall group of students, and then modify it to account for more advanced students or those who may be struggling or unmotivated.
Write an ESL lesson plan
A good ESL lesson plan is a road map for both the teacher and the student. Students learn more when they are interested and motivated. Lesson plans should include enjoyable visual and interactive elements to increase the likelihood that students will remember the important lessons you’ve tried to teach them about English grammar. However, exercise caution; putting too much emphasis on fun might blur the lesson’s objectives. Every ESL lesson should be educationally focused.
Even though you might see the same students every day, each ESL lesson should include an introduction and a short icebreaker activity that takes up no more than 10% of the total lesson time. You might present a topic of conversation, talk about a picture, or quickly review material from the last class.
Let students know what they will be learning and doing in their ESL lesson by writing a brief agenda on the board, or tell them about the day’s lesson. This will help keep them more engaged and on track. Explain the material several different ways to catch the students’ attention and appeal to their different learning styles. The effective organization of class time also helps students follow your presentation, remember better, and understand the rationale behind in-class activities.
ESL lessons should have clear, specific objectives, such as “students will be able to discuss their favorite movies using new vocabulary words and the present simple tense.” You should write down the lesson’s objectives and an outline for the rest of the lesson so you can refer to it and make notes and adjustments during the class. What is the topic of the ESL lesson? What do your students expect to learn? How can you engage your students? What do you want the students to understand and be able to do by the end of the class? What do you want students to take away from this particular ESL lesson? Once the learning objectives are placed in order of importance, design the specific activities you will use to get students to understand and apply what they have learned.
Incorporate the four skills
The four skills that should be acquired when learning any language are reading, writing, listening, and speaking. A well-rounded ESL lesson should touch upon each of these four skills, as well as pronunciation and grammar.
Consider time constraints
When planning your ESL lesson, be aware of time constraints and your students’ abilities. Have realistic expectations. If there’s a great deal of material to cover, break the lesson into sections that you can speed up or slow down to accommodate changes as they happen. Ranking your learning objectives in terms of importance will help you manage class time and accomplish the more important goals.
Another strategy that will help you with time management is anticipating students’ questions. When planning your lesson, decide what kinds of questions will be productive for discussion and what questions might sidetrack the class. Be prepared to diverge from the lesson plan if necessary; also plan how to bring the class’s attention back to you when it wanders. Above all, be flexible.
Prepare multiple lesson plans
Outline the major points of the lesson you are planning. Next, write an ideal ESL lesson plan, a shorter version to use if there is confusion or an unforeseen time restraint, and a longer version in case your students grasp the concepts more quickly and you have more time than expected.
Plan extension activities
You should plan activities for students who finish early in class or for students who would like to practice additional exercises at home.
Check for comprehension
It is essential that you check your students’ understanding at several points during the ESL lesson. Be prepared to backtrack a little to allow slower students to catch up with the rest of the class. “Does everybody understand?” is not always an effective question to ask. ESL students are often shy and reluctant to ask for help or repetition for fear of ridicule. You might ask students to use the lesson’s targeted information in a way that demonstrates their understanding (e.g., “Tell me about your last family vacation using some descriptive verbs and adverbs”).
Leave enough time for review
Even if your students seem to have understood the concepts presented in their ESL lesson, a review session at the end may reveal any obscure problems. Ask your students to help you summarize the main points of the lesson, or talk to them as they leave the classroom. Conclude by previewing the next lesson to spur your students’ interest.
After the class ends, review your plan and reflect on how it worked in practice. Using the feedback and questions from the review, you can plan a more effective follow-up lesson.
A final thought
There you have it—a few simple steps to keep in mind when preparing your ESL lessons. Writing such plans may seem daunting at first, but with organization and effort, you will provide your students with a positive and productive learning experience! In addition to having a solid ESL lesson plan, it is essential that you know your material inside and out.