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Effective ESL Teaching Techniques to Incorporate into Your Lesson Plans

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Many English as a second language (ESL) teachers will tell you that Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is the gold standard for ESL pedagogy and has been for some time. The International Journal of TESOL & Education explains that CLT deals with what we learn through activities such as role-play and discussions as well as how an individual learns and a student’s natural capacity to acquire a new language. Still, many other effective ESL teaching strategies can ensure positive learning outcomes for English language learners (ELLs).

ESL professionals seeking advanced, proven teaching techniques should consider a Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Adult Education, ESL online from Southern Oregon University (SOU). This program gives language learning professionals the necessary aptitudes to help ELLs, especially adults.

‘What’ We Learn

Edutopia confirms an age-old practice that consistently delivers results. Teaching language skills through a cross-curricular lens introduces ELLs to academic vocabulary considered common knowledge to native English speakers and therefore rarely receives significant attention in the non-ESL classroom. Cross-cultural methods accelerate the progress of language acquisition that results in higher test scores and a higher likelihood of mastery. More importantly, “content classes give ELLs a context to use language, not just to learn it.” For example, if the words associated with mathematics are unfamiliar, it provides an ideal opportunity to teach words like subtract, calculator and solve.

Incorporating students’ native languages and using translating technology are also crucial strategies. Edutopia notes a technique called “preview, view, review,” which builds a foundation using the student’s native language skills. Students can preview the success criterion using materials in their home language. The teacher then presents the concept in English. Then, the ELL reviews the knowledge in their native language.

While bilingualism, not language replacement, is the goal, students can only use a tool like Google Translate sparingly as they need one or two words defined. In this way, the ‘what we learn’ is crucial for heling students understand true language comprehension, not language translation.  

‘How’ We Learn

Education Week’s instructional strategies for ELLs are provided by veteran ESL teachers and fall under the larger ‘how we learn’ umbrella of CLT. The Picture Word Inductive Model enables ELLs to practice their language acquisition in all four areas of assessment: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students label and speak English words that express the meaning of an image and its details, including synonyms that will later be useful for sentence construction. Students co-create a sentence patterning chart with stems, allowing students to describe the original image with greater autonomy. Teachers who have successfully adopted this strategy suggest color-coding or chunking labeled words, such as making all verbs orange, adjectives blue, etc.

Besides the use of pictures to convey meaning, brainstorming provides yet another approach to effectively teaching ELLs. Teflnet — a site dedicated to ELL teachers — is a proponent of brainstorming as a ‘how we learn’ tool.  Students can prepare to engage with language through group work. In this method, students have already warmed up their vocabulary related to the topic, so they will not be searching for words when they start the speaking activities. Teachers then put students in pairs or small groups which allows them to compare their vocabulary and transfer words they hadn’t thought of from their partners’ lists.

Adult Education and ELLs

The U.S. Department of Education funds The CAELA Network project out of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE). This project suggests that success for immigrants who do not speak English depends on one’s ability to access higher levels of education and better literacy skills. The project also found that second language acquisition of school-age children can take two to three years to develop social language and five to seven years to develop academic language proficiency. The report also notes that “adult immigrants may need to study an estimated 103 hours for six years to reach the level of English proficiency necessary for civic integration or postsecondary education.”

Southern Oregon University’s program looks at effective methodologies for working with linguistically and culturally diverse non-native English speakers to help them communicate and succeed in the classroom and beyond. An advanced education degree with an emphasis in ESL strategies can give professionals the necessary tools to help ELLs with varying backgrounds and needs.

Learn more about Southern Oregon University’s online Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Adult Education, ESL program.  

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