The ESL Educators Guide – Tips For Teaching To Specific Groups of ESL Learners

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Teaching English as a Second language can be a challenge for any native English speaker, even those with TEFL training.

This month, the ESL Educators Guide is providing three  tips for teaching specific groups of ESL learners, including tips for: teaching kids, teenagers, adults, Business English, IELTS, and zero-beginners.

Tips for Teaching ESL To Kids

You know that Madonna song where all the girls just want to have fun? Apply that saying to any young child learning a second language for the first time, and you’ll pretty much get the same response. Kids are kids and they want to have fun. If you can make your English language classes fun, interesting and most of all engaging, you’ll have happy students that participate in class and listen to you. Here are three tips for teaching kids in the ESL classroom:

  1. Be patient, be fun, be engaging. Praise your students when they do well.
  2. Get your students participating in hands-on activities and avoid talking for long periods of time.
  3. Review, review, review. Find ways to use what you’ve taught in class every single day, and you’ll find that your students will naturally start to use the same language naturally.


ESL Class_02

Tips for Teaching ESL To Teenagers

Teenagers are tough to please and they’re even harder to entertain and win over. ESL teachers teaching this age group should look for original activities that will hold students’ interest.

  1. Use relevant topics when you are teaching to teenagers. Build your lessons around topics that will interest this age group.
  2. Remember that your students are still young. It’s easy to believe that students in their late teens can be quite sophisticated, but it’s also easy to forget how young they are. Don’t be afraid to try a few fun activities that won’t make your students feel ill at ease in front of their classmates.
  3. Your students have lives outside of the classroom and they are probably pulling off way more than you were at that age. Try to be understanding of this. Finding out how a student’s day went might go a long way to understanding why that student may not be performing well in class.
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Tips for Teaching ESL To Adults

Teaching adults can be extremely rewarding and interesting. One of the terrific perks of working with adult students is that you will have a huge opportunity to learn along with your students, since your students will naturally want to share their culture with you. It can also make for some very challenging classes.

  1. Your adult students have lives outside of the classroom. One important thing to address during your first couple of classes is what the overall goals of the class are. Adult students will be self-directed and they will have a set of goals for learning a particular subject.
  2. Get to know your students’ needs and preferences. Next, do you best to motivate your students by giving them challenging activities that they are capable of doing.
  3. Be creative when you are teaching. Although your classes will most likely be formal, you should make use of videos, music, and other forms of media to teach your classes.

Tips for Teaching Business English

Some people believe that teaching Business English is a lot more difficult that teaching English, but that’s simply not true. Preparation is the key to being confident and knowledgeable in your classroom.

  1. Conduct an assessment session during your first class to find out what your students hope to gain from taking your course. This will also help to break the ice and get people talking.
  2. Many ESL students will be in your class to improve their conversational English abilities, so make sure you do lots of activities that put your students in situations where they will be using the conversational skills that you have taught them.
  3. Don’t be afraid to go rogue and teach outside the book. Give your students the opportunity to ask questions and bring up their specific needs, even if it’s not in the textbook.
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Tips for Teaching IELTS

Teaching IELTS for the first time is definitely intimidating, but there’s no reason to panic or convince yourself that you can’t do it. By learning a few tips and tricks to teaching for the IELTS exam, you should have no problems in moving students in the right direction and you’ll also build your own teaching skills at the same time.

  1. IELTS is all about structure, so while your lessons and activities will become progressively more difficult, they can still all be written to specific rules. Teach the rules well, give your students plenty of time to practice, and make sure that your students are hitting every point of a particular problem.
  2. Set time limits for your students. They are preparing for a timed test, so put the pressure on them early and start timing their ability to finish specific tasks within a set time limit.
  3. Give them a practice test and then zero in on their weak points. While you should certainly teach all aspects of the test, focusing on weak points and giving your students extra opportunities to practice will go a long way towards achieving a high success rate.

Thai students

Tips for Teaching Zero-Beginners 

Most teachers will agree that teaching zero-beginners, also known as absolute beginners, can be really tough. Your students won’t even be able to  string a few words together, let alone understand the difference between simple present tense and simple past tense. Keep these tips in mind when you begin your classes each day, and your students will be speaking English in no time.

Teaching Young Zero-Beginners

  1. A smile goes a long way towards making a child feel at ease. Everyone knows what a smile means, so smile big and smile often.
  2. Get an assistant. If your school won’t provide you with an assistant, find a student in the class that has a better understanding of English than the other students. Use that student to help communicate tasks and other useful things that other students might not understand right away.
  3. Use as many visual aids as you can. Flashcards, videos, photos, and books are great ways to share and learn new vocabulary.
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Teaching Adult Zero-Beginners

  1. Use body language as much as you can. You’d be surprised what you can get across to your students if you’re using your whole body to engage them in class.
  2. Learn a few basic words in your student’s language. This is helpful because it will help you get your point across easier when you need to make a point. It also shows your students that you are trying to learn a new language too, and that you are not immune to the difficulties of learning a second language.
  3. Speak slowly and don’t be afraid to repeat yourself as much as possible.

What are your tips for teaching to specific ESL groups? We’d love to hear from you!

This monthly series is designed for ESL educators in countries all over the globe. This month’s Blog Carnival is being hosted by TEFL TIPSCheck back for more articles, and if you’d that would like to contribute to our ESL Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me through the CONTACT page.



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Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. I'm an experienced businesswoman and have worked in many leadership positions in Asia. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. I started writing about my health journey in 2009 after being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which came with other massive health issues. These diagnoses were the start of my journey as a health advocate and patient leader. Since then, My Several Worlds has been recognized worldwide as a top site for AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic illness by WEGO Health and Healthline.

3 thoughts on “The ESL Educators Guide – Tips For Teaching To Specific Groups of ESL Learners

    wandering educators

    (February 20, 2012 - 4:55 pm)

    carrie – what a fantastic resource this is. thank you!!


      (February 23, 2012 - 1:25 am)

      Thanks Jessie! I appreciate your support!


    (March 22, 2012 - 12:01 pm)

    Hey Carrie,

    lot of good infos! I taught to both European and Asian students (not English) and I find that the challenges are completely different. With European people, you need to always be in control and sure of yourself or the students will eat you alive hehe

    Asian are much more quiet, to the point that sometimes they will not answer to your questions even if they know the answer… this behavior is probably related to the fact that lose face is a big deal for Asian people.

    I do think some of your suggestions may be quite useful to let them open up, especially smiling a lot, verbally reward them when they do well and, most important, learning (at least some of) their language!

    I never taught to kids, it must be a real challenge : – P

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