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Teaching English as a Second Language


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6 Types of ESL

The most common and basic type of ESL is conversation. Students generally want to improve fluency. For many learners conversation classes are a social event. A friendly and encouraging personality is probably the greatest asset an English conversation teacher can offer.

Conversation students do not need detailed analysis of grammatical rules, nor do they need too much correction. Much better to get them to express themselves in English while silently noting one or two areas that seem to give them most trouble. These can be reviewed at suitable intervals.

Useful preparation includes keeping up with the daily news. Surfing the net can also produce lots of potential lesson topics. Use newspaper clippings and Web printouts, but avoid at all costs having students sitting there reading text and asking what particular words mean. Instead, give the students an overview of the article, perhaps get the to read a bit of it in class time, but most importantly get them to talk about it. You can ask them to read the whole thing for homework, but don’t be surprised if most conversation students don’t bother.

Students studying for exams, eg TOEIC, TOEFL and Cambridge, are generally much more serious and motivated. Teachers that can offer exam preparation/coaching are likely to be in greater demand and hence command higher salaries. The key to being a successful exam teacher is to familiarise yourself intimately with the exam requirements and keep focussing upon these. Exam students will expect homework and will generally do it and expect feedback. Brush up your knowledge of grammar, because students won’t just want their sentences corrected, but will ask about the underlying rules.

English for business or special purposes (eg hotel, tourism, IT) is also more lucrative than plain conversation. Expect learners to be serious and motivated toward their studies but also to hold the teacher in higher esteem and to pay more for the privilege of learning. This is an area where more mature teachers can leverage their prior experience. If you’ve previously worked in engineering, travel, retail etc etc there will almost certainly be learners out there who want to know the English relating to those particular professions.

More and more parents are realising the importance of having their children learn English from an early age. Admittedly it’s not for everyone, but teaching English to kids is big business. The most important quality needed is a genuine love of children. Above all, make the lessons FUN. Teach through playing games. Get them up and running around, the noisier the better - so long as (most of) the noise is in English. If you get it right you will find kids absorb new language like a sponge.

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