6 Easy Ways to Deal With ESL Beginners

Imagine living in a pitch-dark environment. There’s neither light guiding your steps nor a pale shadow of someone who could help you.

ESL beginners often feel they are hopeless

Hopeless you feel. This is what some ESL students may feel when they study English in a foreign country.

I personally felt the struggle of learning another language. Studying French was one tough ordeal. Whenever my teacher asked me questions, I could see the world crumble.

As a teacher, it is always frustrating to have so many things to teach and yet not knowing how to, all because of language barriers.

Teachers use strategies to show students their progress.

Students feel good when they realize that they are developing. For teachers, it is ideal to take small steps in learning rather than teaching a whole broad topic.

The following guidelines may help teachers communicate with students who have very limited English proficiency:

1. Teach basic greetings

To someone who’s learning a language for the first time, getting familiar with basic greetings means a lot. This is actually the first step toward starting out a conversation. Being able to say “good morning”, “how do you do?” give an extra shot of confidence to students.

2. Provide group activities

I hear people say they are not comfortable completing tasks in groups. In learning a new language, though, working with someone makes the process productive and less tedious. Group works make students interact in the language. Simple dialogues and vocabulary exercises will do. Some students may feel at ease trying out what they have learned with someone other than the teacher. Be sure to limit the number of persons in a group. Too many members may leave behind other students. This defeats the purpose of group activities.

3. Use visuals and concrete examples

“A picture paints a thousand words”, the famous adage says. Pictures, props, charts and gestures to name a few reinforce language building. A student,for instance, better remembers the word “pleasant” when he sees a picture of a woman smelling flowers. Bringing fresh flowers in class may also do. As teachers, we need to know that the whole learning process is only completed when students’ senses have been explored to the maximum potential.

4. Highlight keywords

English sentences may come as nightmares especially to new students. One way to make them feel at ease is highlighting key terms in a sentence. Put emphasis on nouns, verbs and adjectives. The simple sentence She was taking care of her brother could be chopped to highlight only the words “She” “care” “brother”. Through these three keywords, a student could get the meaning of the sentence. Don’t forget to speak a little slow and enunciate words clearly.

5. Communicate consistently

Nothing beats consistency. Establish in them a habit of doing exercises in English both inside the classroom and outside. For parents who can speak English, you may advise them to do reinforcements with their young ESL learners at home. If possible, set separate a schedule for each activity. After some time, you will be surprised at how your students act naturally in class because they already know what to do next. Remember that your students will bring with them each new word that you taught them. A simple act of kindness and a loving word, most of all, will be etched in their hearts forever.

6. Give personalized teaching and feedback

Students have unique needs even if they belong to one proficiency level. The teacher must be mindful of the biases and cultural backgrounds students have. Personalizing feedback encourages the student to work hard. It also gives a feeling of being wanted in a seemingly unfamiliar environment. It’s amazing how a student could track his or her progress through a tailor-fit feedback.


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