"Because No Single Size Fits All": The Link Between ESL Teaching Excellence and Classroom Engagement

When someone gasps and says “...Math is just so difficult”, and “Who on Earth invented Mathematics?” it doesn’t sound one bit surprising any more. Many people, when asked, would gladly admit that Mathematics is their waterloo. The case though is a bit different when it comes to English. People who are having hard time learning and digging English are often those who do not use it as their native language just as Math is not a language. Or is it? It’s given that English learners from foreign countries will experience difficulty learning it but the weightier challenge is actually on the part of the one teaching the subject.

Why English?

In most organizations, English is already part and parcel of the daily grind of work. A good portion of the thoughts that we communicate in a day is in English. It is given that learning the “Universal Language” is not easy. Fortunately, humans are a fast learning entity and we simply know how to adapt. English is the most commonly spoken language in the world. Though, some would claim Spanish as the top-notched, English remains indispensable. It is a very interesting language and is simply popular. Being the national language of the most influential country in the world, we are compelled to learn it in order to cope with the fast paced life we are in. It opens more doors of job opportunities and allows for a more well-rounded work atmosphere. Without English, it would be difficult for us to get our thoughts across. It is for the aforementioned reasons that more and more people deem it necessary to acquire such skill set and be Anglophones.

The Challenge for ESL Teachers

Teaching English as a second language denotes to teaching English to learners who do not use it as their native language. English as a second language is commonly presented in areas where it is the prevailing language and natural English language adaptation is appropriate to be copious. It is in contrast with teaching English as a foreign language as the latter refers to teaching English to students whose first language is not English, commonly in a region where it is not the dominant language and not necessarily adapted.

Teaching has never been easy. Indeed not everyone is fit for the job. The mark of a good teacher is his ability to make the student focus and remember something at the end of the discussion. Teaching English in particular is not one of easy mornings. You cannot expect to meet the same type of student with exactly the same learning needs every day of your teaching career. In fact, a teacher must tailor fit the lessons depending on the level of progress as well as the personality of the learner. Students have different personalities. English as a second language takes various medium. It is no longer confined to the four corners of the classroom; some don’t even have to get into one anymore. With the introduction of virtual communication, teachers can already teach English through Skype and somehow get the similar outcome.

A Sea of Mixed Personalities

According to Derrick Meador of about.com, there are several types of students that a teacher will most likely meet in class. A class of twenty people may also mean twenty different personalities altogether. Some students have a hard time focusing while some are eager. Some are visual learners while some are verbal. Some students cannot stand an hour of lessons as their minds would start wandering the moment boredom strikes them. In a way, preschool and young adults have the same level of focus. The only difference is that with young adults the teacher can be a little strict. There are bullies and nerds, smart alecks and pot stirrers. It is safe to say that in your career as a teacher you have already encountered a least five types of students with whom you always attempt to fit in. Another factor that contributes to the challenge of teaching the English language is of course the diversity of students whose primary home languages are not English.

Having a diverse range of characters and academic strengths and weaknesses can be perplexing but it is also what fuels the job to keep it challenging. If all students are the same, the teacher much like his students will fall into deep boredom. Students have primary differences in several different areas in both personality and academics. There are many blends of two, especially in the personality department. No matter what the personality of your student, it is important to cater them the most important thing-learning the English language.

How to Make It Work for You and Them

Certain methods must be practiced to have an effective experience in teaching English as a second language. To effectively assist learners in learning both content models and English concurrently, all teachers must consider themselves experts in their field. Here are some helpful tips for you:

  1. 1

    Get to Know Your Students More

    Increase your knowledge of who your students are, their upbringings and academic backgrounds. As mentioned previously, students may be diverse therefore have different English proficiency needs.

  2. 2

    Understand Their Social and Emotional Needs

    Know from which family your student comes from. Fulfilling homework duties may not be a priority if the student lives with an extended family or have younger sibling to look after.

  3. 3

    Student Needs to Practice All Domains of English Learning

    Speaking, Writing, Reading and Listening need to be similarly trained daily. It is essential that the student is exposed to all domains to ensure their full development through the whole learning process.

  4. 4

    Increase Your Understanding of English Language Proficiency

    A student may be able to verbally remember the important events from their favorite movie but struggle to recall the main events that led up to the 2nd World War. The social language acquisition and academic language acquisition capabilities of students are two different things. Thus as a teacher you must be able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the student in both in order to tailor fit the lessons.

  5. 5

    Be Familiar with the Language of Your Content

    Once a student learns and understands one meaning of a word, other meanings may not be apparent. Since English has words with multiple meanings, the students should be made familiar with several meanings and not be confined to only one. It would be a good exercise to provide activities that will allow them to use a single word in several contexts.

  6. 6

    Learn About Language Proficiency Assessments

    Language proficiency assessments vary from place to pace. Learn about the when’s and how’s of the proficiency tests, the process of assessing them as well as the results. Such is a wealth of information that will aid in planning lessons and achieving good results.

  7. 7

    Be Creative by Using Visual Aids

    When the lesson tends to be a little complex and comprehension becomes a challenge, it would be good to appeal to the visual capacities of students. Promote the use of realistic resources for example; photographs and video clips, even schedules and menus will do. You can also use interactive technologies such as ActivExpression, an intuitive learning response system to improve classroom engagement. If you’re handling preschoolers, take them to the school park and observe them play and interact with each other. Letting them bond in an ideal playground set-up might help them to speak up. It’s the largest visual- interactive tool you could introduce to young kids.

  8. 8

    Strive for Scaffolding

    Scaffold appropriately. In Psychology this is the process of allowing the students to adapt to a new concept. Not all strategies may be appropriate depending on the age level and proficiency of the learner. It might take time before a teacher realizes which method is effective for a student but once they do, everything will go smoothly.

  9. 9

    Work Hand in Hand with Others

    You don’t have to do it all by yourself. Experts and beginners may both share their ideas on how you can further improve your teaching. Building and keeping professional learning groups are vital for student success.

This is a guest article by an independent author. This article reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of BusyTeacher.org as a publication.

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