1-310-390-0131 - Outside U.S.
“More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given.”
—Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), British philosopher and 1950 Nobel Prize winner in Literature
What are the most important English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching principles? How can English teachers better serve their students? What are some examples of best practices from across the globe?
TESOL is an influential global association of English teachers. The organization aims to enhance the quality of English teaching through standards and advocacy, and by promoting professional development and research. At the 2018 TESOL International Convention in Chicago, TESOL unveiled “The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners”. Here they are:
Principle 1: Know your Learners
English teachers should understand the students’ personal and educational background so they can tailor classes according to their students’ needs more effectively. Learning about the students’ culture, first language, and past experiences are useful while preparing lesson plans, materials, and projects.
Principle 2: Create Conditions for Language Learning
Creating a positive atmosphere in class considering physical space, materials, and student integration promotes better learning experiences for English students. A pleasant atmosphere makes students feel comfortable and more confident in participating and expressing themselves in a positive way, which is essential for learning development. Additionally, setting high expectations, differentiation, and motivation help learners deepen their English language skills.
Principle 3: Design High-Quality Lessons for Language Development
Creating meaningful and exceptional lesson plans that develop the students’ language acquisition and their content learning process remains essential. Teachers may engage students in authentic language practice experiences, supporting their learning strategies and critical thinking development. According to the 6 Principles manifesto, “gestures, visuals, demonstrations, embedded definitions, audio supports, and bilingual glossaries make information comprehensible.”
Principle 4: Adapt Lesson Delivery as Needed
Assessing students and adapting lesson plans accordingly remains a must. Reflecting on the students’ performance and development improves the quality of many English lessons. There are several ways to do so: reteaching content, adapting activities and materials, adjusting instructions and tasks, being flexible with the students’ response time they allow students.
Principle 5: Monitor and Assess Student Language Development
Outstanding ESL/EFL teachers also monitor and assess students’ language development to measure and document progress. English students learn in different ways and speed. Therefore, English teachers should prepare different forms of assessment while providing constructive feedback appropriate for the students’ ages and levels for continual student improvement.
Principle 6: Engage and Collaborate Within a Community of Practice
This last principle suggests English teachers should collaborate with each other to support their English language learners. Sharing classroom experiences, reflecting critically on teaching practices, following current ELT research, joining and engaging in professional groups, attending academic conferences, and engaging in online learning groups are all ways to be active within a community of practice. This advice might benefit teachers, their co-workers, their students and the institutions where we work. Is this last suggestion a tad self-serving for TESOL? Yes, but it’s also a practical suggestion for dedicated ESOL professionals.
What do I think?
As a MAT-TESOL (Masters of Arts in Teaching – Teaching English to Students of Other Languages) graduate from the University of Southern California (USC) and as a language teacher, I believe there are similar challenges when it comes to teaching second languages. These 6 principles, designed by TESOL for English teachers, remains relevant to all language teachers around the world.
When teaching English, Portuguese, and Spanish as a second language, my students and lessons always benefit from me putting into practice the 6 principles.
For instance, understanding my students’ background information helps me to prepare lessons that are interesting and relevant from the students’ perspective, considering their personality, personal goals, past experiences, and their strengths and weaknesses. In addition, knowing the students’ first language helps me to understand where the doubts come from and helps me to clarify confusing details. Knowing another language in common with the student is also helpful to make comparisons and to contrast language aspects.
Furthermore, creating positive moments in class has always been valuable to motivate my students so they associate studying a second language with positive feelings. In the past, I taught students with high affective filter due to past negative experiences learning English. To change the students’ negative perception to positive, I designed and implemented meaningful lessons and individualized activities taking into consideration the students feelings by being sensitive and attentive. Monitoring and assessing students informally also worked for my students with learning barriers.
Finally, engaging with other language teaching professionals keeps me updated on current teaching trends and helps me to deliver better lessons to students. In fact, I met Professor Eric Roth at the CATESOL Conference in 2017. After that, we worked together on several projects, including surveying English teachers in Vietnam and Japan (presented at the 2018 Chicago TESOL Conference). Our forthcoming book, Compelling Conversations – Brazil, focuses on improving communication skills of Brazilian English language learners. These are examples of positive collaborations that came up from engaging within a community of practice. Thus, I strongly believe the 6 principles can benefit teachers of numerous second languages.
How do you feel about these six teaching principles? Do you agree or disagree? Do you already implement them in your classroom? How can these practices enhance your English language classes?
TESOL International Association. (2018). The 6 principles for exemplary teaching of English learners. Retrieved from TESOL International Association: http://www.tesol.org/the-6-principles/
Tuanni B. Vasconcelos currently works for Chimayo Press as a curriculum developer, marketing specialist, and research assistant. She possesses a Masters of Arts in Teaching – TESOL from the University of Southern California and she has over for years of experience teaching English and Portuguese as Second Languages, founding her own language school in Brazil in 2014. Currently, she is working on Compelling Conversations – Brazil, focus on helping Brazilian ESL students to develop their communication skills.