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Part 1: Teaching the basics

 1. Start with the alphabet and numbers. One of the first things you should start with is to teach the alphabet and numbers. By teaching the alphabet and numbers, you’ll create a great foundation for everything else that your students will learn.

  • Have your students learn the alphabet to a certain point. You can start at "a" and go to "m," if you want. Have your students finish the alphabet at a pace you are both comfortable with. The point is to push your students but to not push them too hard.
  • Ask your students to work on numbers. As with letters, start them and stop them depending on their capabilities. Consider creating a worksheet on which students can practice writing letters and/or numbers.
  • Use flashcards with a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet to reinforce your lesson.
  • Learning the alphabet might be easier to speakers whose native language uses the Latin or English alphabet.

 2. Teach pronunciation, especially for difficult sounds. Teaching pronunciation is extremely important when teaching English as a second language. Consider focusing on sounds that are particularly hard for English as a second language students like:

  • The "TH." The "TH" (like in "theater" or "thing") does not exist in a number of languages. As a result, it's relatively hard for some ESL students (such as those from Romance or Slavic language backgrounds) to pronounce.
  • The "R." The "R" sound is also difficult for many ESL learners for a variety of reason including the fact that it is pronounced differently depending on regional dialects.
  • The "L." The "L" sound is another difficult one for ESL learners, especially those from east Asia. Spend extra time on the "L."

 3. Teach your students nouns. After teaching the alphabet and numbers, move on to nouns. Teaching nouns will be one of the easiest things for your students to learn. This is because your students will be able to look at everything around them as potential things to learn.

  • Start with common objects in your classroom.
  • Move on to common objects in your city or town. Good examples are: car, house, tree, road, and more.
  • Continue on to objects your students will encounter in their daily lives, such as food, electronics, and more.

 4. Instruct your students on verbs and adjectives. The next step after you teach your students nouns, is to move on to verbs and adjectives. Teaching verbs and adjectives will be a huge step in the process in which your students will put together full sentences (written or spoken).

  • Adjectives change or describe other words. Examples of adjectives you can teach are: wild, silly, troubled, and agreeable.
  • Verbs describe an action. Examples of verbs you can teach are: to speak, to talk, and to pronounce.
  • You’ll need to make sure your students understand the difference between verbs and adjectives. Without knowing how they work, your students will be unable to speak or build sentences.
  • Spend extra time on irregular verbs. The word "go" is a great example of a difficult English irregular verb. The past tense of "go" is "went." The past participle of "go" becomes "gone."

 5. Explain tenses and articles. After you’ve covered nouns, verbs, and adjectives, you need to move on to teaching tenses and articles to your students. Without understanding how to use the proper tense and where to use articles, your students will not be able to put whole sentences together.

  • Tenses explain when something has happened or occurred. Make sure to explain past tense, current tense, and future tense.
  • Articles are adjectives that provide extra information about a noun. Articles include: a, an, and the.
  • Make sure your students master tenses and articles, as they are paramount in their ability to construct sentences and to speak properly.

 6. Practice common phrases. One great way to teach English is to encourage your students to practice and use common phrases. This is important, as your students won’t understand the meaning of many common phrases just based off of the literal meaning of the words.

  • You should tell your students to repeat those phrases (and use them) until they feel comfortable using them in conversation.
  • Begin with a few common phrases like “never mind,” “no doubt,” or “make believe.”
  • Provide your students with a list of common phrases to work with and think about.

 7. Teach basic sentence construction. After you've taught the alphabet, verbs, and more, you should begin to teach your students basic sentence construction. This is important, as it will provide a foundation to their writing ability. It will also aid them in reading. Teach the main five patterns that sentences in English are constructed around:

  • Subject-Verb sentences. These sentences have the subject followed by a verb. For instance, "The Dog runs."
  • Subject-Verb-Object. These sentences have the subject first, followed by a verb, which is then followed by an object. For instance, "John eats pizza."
  • Subject-Verb-Adjective sentences. These sentences have the subject first, a verb, and then an adjective. For instance, "The puppy is cute."
  • Subject-Verb-Adverb sentences. These sentences have the subject, a verb, and then an adverb. For instance, "The lion is there."
  • Subject-Verb-Noun sentences. These sentences have a subject, a verb, and end with a noun. For instance, "Emmanuel is a philosopher."

Part 2: Embracing best practices

 1. Encourage students to speak only English in the classroom. One great way to facilitate learning is to encourage students to avoid speaking languages other than English in the classroom. This necessarily forces students to use their knowledge of English and further develop them. It also provides teaching moments for instructors and learning opportunities for students.

  • This tactic is best used when students have already learned the basics (basic questions, greetings, the alphabet, and numbers).
  • When a student uses English incorrectly, correct them in the proper way.
  • Always be encouraging.
  • This tactic works well with the “repeat after me” and/or “answer me” approach. For instance, you can make a statement or ask a student a question. It will give them the opportunity to answer in English.
  • Avoid becoming a “language police.” If a student has difficulty and has to talk in his or her native language, don’t shame them. Hear their concern.

 2. Provide verbal and written instructions. When explaining an activity or giving directions about homework, classwork, or a project, you should always give both verbal and written instructions. Giving both verbal and written instructions allows your students to hear words and see them in print at the same time. This will aid in word association and in pronunciation.

  • Print off directions to an activity and distribute them to students before you explain an activity. If you are teaching online, email directions to your students before you explain it to them via video.

 3. Monitor students’ progress constantly. No matter what type of lesson you are teaching or what activity your students are doing, you should monitor them constantly. Monitoring students will allow you to see their progress and to find out if they are struggling.

  • If you’re teaching in a classroom environment, walk around and talk to students to see if they are having trouble.
  • If you’re teaching online, send messages or emails to students and ask them if they need help.
  • Make yourself available as much as you can when students are doing in-class activities or other activities.

 4. Promote a diversity of modes of learning. Teaching English as a second language to beginners is a lot more effective when you use a variety of types of learning. Diversity in learning is important since each student is different and learns differently.

  • Use speaking.
  • Rely on writing.
  • Encourage reading.
  • Suggest listening.
  • Try to promote all of the modes of learning equally.

 5. Break lessons into small pieces. When teaching beginners or very young students, break the lesson into several pieces of about 10 minutes. Breaking lessons up into small pieces will make sure you don’t lose your students' attention. At the same time, it will make sure that you don’t overwhelm your students.

  • You don’t need to stay at exactly 10 minutes. Feel free to go a few minutes over if it will aid your lesson.
  • After each mini-lesson, switch to a totally different sort of lesson. This will help refresh students and keep their attention.
  • Change your mini lessons daily. Try to incorporate as many different lessons as possible to keep your students' attention and to challenge them.

Part 3: Making learning English fun

 1. Use games to reinforce the topic of the day. Games will help students learn English by making it fun and by compelling them to think in new and different ways.

  • Try a Jeopardy-type game that uses a point system to get your students to compete against each other.
  • Consider a Family Fued-style game if you want your students to work together in teams.
  • Try memorizing or guessing games that rely on flash cards. For instance, display a flash card with a hint and see if your students can guess the correct answer.

 2. Use visuals to teach language. An important way to teach language is to use visuals in order to build word association. By using visuals to promote word association, your students will be able to make stronger connections between ideas and new words that they are learning in your class. Consider:

  • Pictures and photographs.
  • Post-cards.
  • Video.
  • Maps.
  • Comic books. Comic books are especially good because visuals and text are paired together.

 3. Promote the use of targeted language apps on mobile devices. One great way to teach English as a second language is to incorporate the use of targeted language applications on smart phones. Targeted language apps are a great way to reinforce what you have taught during instruction time, as students can use them to practice their language skills and to learn new phrases and words.

  • Targeted language apps are available on a number of smart phone operating systems.
  • There are a wide variety of free targeted language apps, like Duolingo.
  • Some apps provide the opportunity for multiple students to work together to learn.

 4. Use social media. Social media is a great way to teach English as a second language for beginners. Social media provides a great opportunity for you to teach colloquial phrases and commonly used words. In addition, it provides an opportunity for students to observe word usage and to practice what they have learned.

  • Try an “idiom of the day” lesson. In this, you can pick common idioms or colloquial phrases, and explain them to your class.
  • Have your students follow popular figures on Twitter and translate their tweets.
  • Start a social media group and have students share news pieces and explain or translate them in English.