Tips for Teaching English

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Helpful Tips for Teaching English

Check out a a few basic tips for teaching English, based on my experience teaching English to university students in Korea. These tips also work for teachers around the world with any age or level so keep on reading.

My goal is that you will be able to make your classes even more awesome than they currently are. Happy students, happy teacher? What could be better?

The good news is that a few simple things will help you achieve that.

What’s your Target Language

The key to having a great ESL lesson is to have a goal. This goal usually involves target language, either some vocabulary, grammar point, or both. Or, perhaps you want to work on listening, reading, or writing skills. Whatever the case, make sure it’s clear in your head what this aim is, and also let your students know too!

If you’re focusing on grammar, or vocab, write the target language on the board or have it up on the PPT. This can help your students see what’s going on and know what they need to focus on. I think they appreciate having a quick reference to refer to throughout the class. It’s easy to forget things that are only mentioned once or twice.

In general, it’s always a good idea to give students two ways to pick up the language-written and spoken, unless you’re specifically working on listening practice.

By this I mean students should have things written out for them, and you should also say it out loud a few times. Even better if you can get them saying, or writing it!

Need help with lesson plans? Check out: University ESL Lesson Plans.

What’s Going On During your ESL Lesson?

Always provide a simple agenda of what you’re covering in class that day. People like to know where they’re going and have the big picture in their heads. Students like to see the progress that they’re making because it makes them feel good!

Sometimes I’ll write it on the board. Other times, I’ll have a PPT slide and just hit the highlights of what we’re going to do at the beginning of class.

Teaching English: Big Picture First

Always teach the big picture first before getting bogged down in all the details.

I play a lot of board games and one of my big pet peeves is when someone starts with the little stuff instead of telling you what the ultimate goal of the game is. Or, they start telling you the most minor of details instead of just telling you the few basic things you need to actually know how to play.

Teaching is the same! Go big first. Then, hit the exceptions and random little things your students will need to know. Even better, let them discover the exceptions by themselves during some practice time. They often will be able to.

In my experience, the smaller details are often best worked out by the students when doing practice. You really don’t need to explain every single little thing to them in a presentation–this method is way too teacher-centred.

For an idea of how I conduct my lessons, see: How to Teach English to University Students.

Pause Often During ESL Classes

I had one Korean teacher who would never give me time to think and would just cut in with the answer when I just about to say it.

Since that terrible experience, I now wait patiently for responses, even if it takes a few seconds. Be patient! Nobody is that worried about a little bit of dead time, or silence. Trust me. If someone is taking a second language class, the gears are turning in their heads, all the time trying to figure stuff out. A little break that’s filled with nothing is sometimes a welcome respite from all the input that’s coming at them.

Students usually can respond to a question with at least a word or two, but it often doesn’t happen instantly, especially for lower-level students. Give time for this to happen.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to use graded language.

Review is Necessary for ESL Students

I never used to do much review, assuming the students would do it on their own except that this most often isn’t the case. Learning a language is all about repetition, so help your students out by doing lots of review during class time.

It’s far better to know a few things well than to know a million things not really at all. This was a philosophy I picked up after a few years of teaching, and I could really see the difference it made for my students.

Need some help with review? See: 39 ESL Review Activities for Teenagers and Adults.

Need some Awesome ESL Activities?


If you answered yes to this important question, then you’ll need to check out: 101 ESL Activities for Teenagers and Adults. It’ll cut your lesson prep time in half, guaranteed!

You can check out the book over on Amazon. It’s available in both digital and print formats. You can read the digital copy on any device by downloading the free Kindle reading app. Check it out today.

If you’re looking for ESL activities to make your classes even better than they already are, this is exactly what you need! Check it out over on Amazon today:

—>101 ESL Activities: For Teenagers and Adults<—-

Teaching English Tips? Have your Say!

What are your best tips for teaching English to kids, or adults? Leave a comment below and share your wisdom with us. Thank you!

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