Beginning ESL students have unique pedagogical needs that make them the most difficult to teach. It’s similar to the challenge of teaching kindergarten. The difficulty is not the content but rather stripping what is already a basic content into something that is understandable for the most undeveloped of students. Some of the best teachers cannot do this.
This post will provide some suggestions on how to deal with beginning ESL students.
Take Your Time
Beginning students need a great deal of repetition. If you have ever tried to learn a language you probably needed to hear phrases many times to understand them. Repetition helps students to remember and imitate what they heard.
This means that the teacher needs to limit the number of words, phrases, and sentences they teach. This is not easy, especially for new teachers who are often put in charge of teaching beginners and race through the curriculum to the frustration of the beginning students.
Repetition and a slow pace help students to develop the automatic processing they need in order to achieve fluency. This can also be enhanced by focusing on purpose in communication rather than the grammatical structure of language.
The techniques used in class should short and simple with a high degree variety to offset the boredom of repetition. In other words, find many ways to teach one idea or concept.
Who’s the Center
Beginning students are highly teacher-dependent because of their lack of skills. Therefore, at least initially, the classroom should probably be teacher-centered until the students develop some basic skills. In general, whenever you are dealing with a new subject the students are totally unfamiliar with it is better to have a higher degree of control of the learning experience.
Being the center of the learning experiences requires the teacher to provide most of the examples of well-spoken, written English. Your feedback is critical for the students to develop their own language skills. The focus should be more towards fluency rather than accuracy.
However, with time cooperative and student-centered activities can become more prominent. In the beginning, too much freedom can be frustrating for language learners who lack any sort of experience to draw upon to complete activities. Within a controlled environment, student creativity can blossom.
Being a beginning level ESL teacher is a tough job. It requires a skill set of patience, perseverance, and a gift at simplicity. Taking your time and determining who the center of learning is are ways in which to enhances success for those teaching beginners.