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A Guide to Teaching ESL for Beginners

By Audrey Alleyne

Do you want to help your beginner students learn English successfully? Use this guide for teaching English as Second Language for beginners. Basics include student participation and interaction as well as lots of patience.


This guide to teaching English as Second Language for beginners deals, first of all, with the teacher’s commitment to making the beginner student’s learning process a success. There are certain strategies you need in order to achieve this goal.

Once you have made your commitment, think about how you will interact with your students. Develop a comfortable climate for learning. Be relaxed with your students, and let them feel this sense of relaxation and warmth.


The motto “Patience is a virtue” comes to mind here. You must be patient with your students. What seems easy and natural to you will seem difficult to them. If you do not exercise patience, the students will become discouraged. Be sure to praise a student when he or she makes progress, and help him along when he stumbles.

Student Participation

The teacher must find ways to make the students play an active role in the learning process. This means that the students cannot just sit back and listen to what you say. They must move, write on the board, speak, act and interact with other students by playing games and expressing opinions. Your classes should encourage students to look forward to them with joy, not only because they have to learn, but because they are enjoying learning with the methods you employ. Arouse interest in the students by providing subject matter that meets their needs. Get to know your students and build on their strengths and interests.

Cultural Communication

It is very important to have knowledge of different cultural customs of your students. This knowledge can help to avoid misunderstanding. You can use activities in which students share their culture so that both you, the teacher, and other students have an opportunity to gain this knowledge. By the same token, be sure to include in your teaching the culture and customs surrounding English and English-speaking people.

A Lesson Plan

In planning a guide to teaching ESL for beginners, here is a lesson plan you can use. It is an example of a lesson on the English alphabet. After you have taught students the alphabet, they need regular practice in order to remember it. Plan a conversation like this:

Teacher: Hello, what is your name?

Student: My name is Zaina.

Teacher: That is a lovely name. How do you spell it?

(Student may hesitate and look at letters on the board, or in her notes. Assist her as she tries to pronounce the names and sounds of the letters. She spells the name and you may continue the conversation:

Teacher: What country are you from?

Student: I am from Iraq

Teacher: Oh Iraq! Can you spell Iraq?

(This gives the student another opportunity to spell and practice the alphabet)

Keep It Going

In teaching English as a Second Language to beginners, ensure that each student understands you. Speak slowly and clearly while maintaining the natural rhythm of English. You should also use short and simple sentences. If a student is having problems understanding a word, try to use visual aids or demonstrate (act out) examples. Always do a summary or review of what you have taught at the end of the lesson and at the beginning of the next, so you can evaluate what they have learned.