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FAQs for ESOL teachers

Are you a new ESOL teacher and seeking answers to some burning questions? Our members have compiled this essential list of FAQs - ideal for newly qualified teachers or those who are more experienced and looking for some fresh ideas. 

If you can contribute additional answers to some of these questions, please email them to info@natecla.org.uk. We would love to hear from you! 

How do you get students to do their homework? 

  • Getting ESOL students to do homeworkNegotiate meaningful projects with meaningful outcomes 
  • Use the flipped classroom method consistently
  • Not all adults will do it but peer support/buddy groups meeting up in a café or library to do homework together has been met with some success. 
How do you differentiate? 
  • Devise group activities with clear outcomes that free you to monitor at a distance and take notes. Focus on a limited number of students per activity to make it do-able
  • Do your assessment so you know their levels 
  • Produce different versions of a core text - basic to more complex. Write the extra versions yourself
  • Differentiate the exercises - e.g . with a text- True/False is easier than gap-fill with prompts, which is easier than gap-fill with no prompts
  • Have extra materials in reserve for those who finish first 
  • Set different amounts of work - stronger students answer more questions.
Class management - Do you move students around? 
  • Yes. Plan this into the lesson. Think about how to use the furniture to vary groups and move learners around. Use letters or numbers. Be clear it is part of the lesson. 
Should students read aloud? 
  • ESOL students reading aloudYes! Informs students of the influence of mother tongue. Useful for you and them to make sound/spelling connections. Students enjoy it 
  • Be sensitive. Some students may feel put on the spot. Get them to read in meaningful situations-poems, drama, Also, reading aloud is not in itself a particularly useful skill. Having said that, many enjoy it and it helps to improve their confidence. 
How do you get students to speak English outside the classroom?
  • See if there are free conversation clubs in your area. Lots of areas have them. Or ask your organisation to set one up. 
How do you teach mandatory topics? Eg. Prevent, British values.
  • In the induction - and reviewing/revisiting during the course. 
  • Discussion 
  • Be responsive. Try to avoid ‘deficit mode’ 
  • Think broadly - help learning, support and interest.
Where can you find a listed of trusted resources when there is so much that isn’t useful or reliable?  How do you deal with poor attendance? 
  • Find out why, follow up , encourage, negotiate an agreement with students at start of course about this and other things, such as homework. 
How do you motivate students to continue coming to class? 
  • Motivating ESOL studentsCreate rapport, make content relevant, get students to take ownership of the work done together by negotiating course content, develop an adult/adult relationship with them. 
How do you cut down on paper?
  • Encourage students to take photos of materials 
  • Enlarge worksheets to A3 and get students to work in pairs or groups 
  • Use flashcards instead and get students to copy them 
  • Dictate some items to them instead of giving a worksheet
  • Find different ways to exploit a single worksheet 
  • Revisit the worksheet in a later class 
  • Make use of some great e-learning tools, for example Padlet, EdModo or your college intranet to upload materials. 
When resources are extremely limited, how can you create interesting and fun lessons?
  • Fun ESOL lessonsShare resources with colleagues
  • Get students to bring in resources you can use- e.g. packets, medicine bottles, bills , junk mail 
  • Use a range of media - video, news
  • Use the students as a resource- Dogme/Reflect for ESOL approach. Find out more about Dogme in ESOL
How do you cut down on preparation time?
  • Use PowerPoint slides which can be recycled 
  • Lay out images/text into ready-made cards which are easy to cut out
  • Use templates - questionnaires, surveys, starter questions 
  • Exploit the resources you have - recycle, use the ideas for tricks of the trade and toolbox - things that you can adapt/use over again
  • Don’t cut things up - get students to do their own cutting.

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