Beginning ESL

Image of a abstract tree with letters on the leaves

In the classroom, how often do you hear the question “Teacher, how do I spell that?”

While it’s easy for teachers and tutors to quickly spell a word for learners, we want to make sure that learners are gaining the skills that they need to begin to sound words out themselves. For learners who are working on spelling, word families and rhyme is a way to help learners make educated guesses about how new words are spelled, based on other words that sound similar.

The words "on the spot" above an arrow pointing to the center of a target

Purpose: This small group activity gives learners opportunities to practice formulating questions and answering a wide variety of questions.

Preparation Time: None

Materials Needed: None

Woman listening with her hand up to her ear

Purpose: When it comes to developing strong communication skills, strengthening listening skills is critical. This activity helps learners practice listening to both questions and answers, as well as improve their auditory memories.

Preparation Time: None

Materials Needed: Several small talk questions

clocks with figures above showing daily routines

"Routines are the backbone of daily classroom life. They facilitate teaching and learning…. Routines don’t just make your life easier, they save valuable classroom time. And what’s most important, efficient routines make it easier for students to learn and achieve more."

Learning to Teach…not just for beginners by Linda Shalaway

 

Routines are a lifesaver to ESL teachers and learners of all levels. A good routine provides numerous benefits to teachers and learners, including:

children's classroom poster of words that start with B

Learners connect familiar words from their own vocabulary with specific sounds to help them with strengthening their spelling associations.

Materials Needed: whiteboard, marker

  1. Choose a vocabulary word from the week’s unit.
  2. Write the word on the whiteboard, then go through the word letter by letter.
  3. For each letter, ask the learner/s to tell you what sound the letter makes.
  4. Have the learner/s verbally generate a list of words that start with the same sound.

Example: During the unit on community:

ESL teacher watching adult learner review vocabulary

Encouraging very beginning level learners to speak English and participate in classes can be a challenge, but setting speaking routines and planning activities that allow for lots of interaction can give even the lowest level learners opportunities to build their speaking skills. The new video Adult ESL Literacy Level Instruction: Building Speaking Skills features a pre-beginning level adult ESL class moving through a high-energy level speaking lesson.

hand holding a marker up to a whiteboard

Purpose:  A structured and supported way for beginning writers to develop their spelling skills while practicing vocabulary and writing full sentences.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  handouts with a photo printed on the top part of the paper and lines for writing on the bottom half (see attached example below)

Procedure:

line drawing of four wrists and hands

Purpose:  A simple kinesthetic way to help learners count syllables and practice word stress  

Preparation Time:  none

Materials Needed:  a list of weekly vocabulary words

Procedure:

finger tracing the capital letter A

Wondering how to get started with phonics instruction? The Orton-Gillingham Approach to phonics instruction is a multisensory method that incorporates listening, speaking, images, writing and movement into basic phonics instruction. This approach was originally developed to support dyslexic students improve their reading ability, but it has also proved to be successful with adult ESL learners who are learning to read and write for the first time as adults.

clipart of crystal ball containing the word predict

Purpose:  An important reading skill that fluent readers possess is the ability to make predictions about the text. Predictions may be based on prior knowledge and experience around the topic, information from the unit content or established learning structure, or clues from the text itself, such as the title, subtitles, graphics, and/or highlighted key words.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  A reading text with 3 pictures or objects which are connected to the text

Procedure:

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