A Guide to Teaching English as a Second Language

As a teacher, it’s likely you’ve discovered or were already aware of teaching English as a second language. As the most widely spoken language on earth, English is almost guaranteed to be part of every child’s curriculum if they don’t already natively speak English.

English language learners will require lessons similar to how native English students learn French or Spanish to grasp the English language and this can happen as part of their curriculum in a specialist school, or as extra lessons. English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers help students with everything from learning phonics, to conversational English and all lessons should cover reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Springboard Supplies Phonics Threading Beads

Teaching ESL might sound straightforward if you are a native English speaker, but it should be treated with the same care and precision as any other language subject to give learners the foundations they need to speak and understand English properly. 

English as a Second Language: a Glossary of Acronyms

‘Teaching English as a Second Language’ is quite wordy, and many of the terms associated with this practice are equally long. For that reason, professionals have created acronyms to make writing and reading about the topic simpler. Here is a list of common acronyms and their meanings:

  • ESL: English as a Second Language
  • EFL: English as a Foreign Language
  • ELS: English Language School
  • TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • IELTS: International English Language Testing System
  • CertTESOL: Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • CELTA: Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults

What qualifications do you need to teach ESL to children?

According to the UK Government, teachers must have at least a university degree in any subject to become a teacher, and this is the same for ESL teachers. Other requirements to become an ESL teacher depend on the individual employer, with some employers expecting you to have a degree that bestows Qualified Teacher Status, such as one in linguistics, English, or educational studies. 

It’s possible to take a TEFL course that specifically trains and prepares students for teaching English as a foreign language. These vary widely depending on which establishment provides the course, with the most common being the Cambridge CELTA, the Trinity CertTESOL, and the Level 5 TEFL Diploma.

ESL teachers can expect to be paid in a range of £14k to £35k depending on experience and skills. As ESL courses are often taught outside of the curriculum in England, many ESL teachers tend to work evening and weekend hours. 

ESL Teaching Tips

  1. Use visual cues wherever possible. Visual cues help to solidify connections between words and their corresponding objects. Children will be learning visually in other subjects during their early years and will be used to this method of learning, making it easy for them to pick up associations between words and pictures. Try using a visual aid like our Alphabet Flashcards.

Springboard Supplies Alphabet Flashcards

  1. Incorporate language learning with playtime and playtime with language learning. Allow the child to have a period of playtime each lesson or each week and ask them to choose the game. Incorporate English words and phrases throughout the game and take the opportunity to engage them in English. This will encourage the child to associate their learnings with favourite games in the future. 
  2. Incorporate the child’s culture into lessons. Learning English, especially when living in a new country can be scary for small children who are used to speaking to their family in a different language. Taking time to learn about the child’s culture from them and their family to use in lessons will help the child to feel more comfortable and confident with you. 
  3. Ask the child or class to check each other’s work, correct themselves, and correct each other. This encourages children to pay attention and stay sharp but also fosters a non-judgemental environment where everyone helps each other and children don’t connect making a mistake with a negative impact. 
  4. Review and praise regularly, giving children clear goals and rewards. Speaking a new language is sometimes quite daunting and children may need extra encouragement to feel confident using words and phrases they have learned. Ensure all children are praised for their progress no matter how slow or small. Be sure to review their development and set attainable goals for them to work towards. Handing out Reading Award Certificates help children to feel proud about their achievements and share their progress with their families and friends.  

Springboard Supplies Reading Award Certificate

ESL Teaching Resources

If you’re embarking on a career in teaching English Language, or if you need some ideas to fill out lessons, the internet is not short of TEFL teaching resources.

Operated by the British Council, the Teaching English website give ESL teachers free access to a range of practical resources, including full lesson plans sorted by theme, topic or level. Other resources are downloadable stories, poems and songs tailored to young children learning English as a second language, and activities for kids ages five to 12 sorted by level of advancement. ESL Kids Stuff is another excellent resource targeted at children ages three to 12 who are learning English as a second language. Resources on the website are made by teachers for teachers and include themed lesson plans, activities with clear step by step instructions, printable worksheets, flashcards, and posters that can be put up in the classroom.

The IELTS is the most popular assessment to determine English language proficiency in the world. Although the IELTS is not recommended for people under the age of 16, it’s likely that non-native English speakers may need to take this assessment in later life as a requirement for some university degrees and jobs. Because of this, it’s useful for teachers of all age groups to be aware of the test to help them steer learning and development.  Look no further than the British Council’s IELTS website to learn more about the IELTS, including IELTS teaching resources.

Teaching resources

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published