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An Overview of the Popular ESA Teaching Methodology

An Overview of the Popular ESA Teaching Methodology | ITTT | TEFL Blog

“ESA” is a method commonly used in teaching English as a foreign language and stands for Engage, Study, and Activate. ESA is designed to allow movement back and forth between the stages and is popular for its flexibility. The elements - Engage, Study and Activate (ESA) - are necessary for successful language learning in classrooms and they need to be present in most lessons or teaching sequences.

Students always need to be engaged, if possible, so that they can get the maximum out of the learning experience. Learners need to study some aspect of language, however small or of short duration, during a lesson period. The ‘Activate’ phase involves exercises and activities which are designed to get the students using language as freely and communicatively as they can. The objective for the students is not to focus on language construction and/or practice specific bits of language(grammar patterns, particular vocabulary items or functions) but for them to use all and any language which may be appropriate for a given situation or topic.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Herman T.

The Engage Phase

This is the point in a teaching sequence where teachers try to arouse the student’s interest, thus involving their emotions. The ESA method uses elicitation and stresses “Engagement” of students in the early stages of the lesson. Both elicitation (drawing language from the students by use of questions, prompts and cueing) and Engagement are important in raising student motivation. Teachers try to arouse the students' interest, thus involving their emotions. Teachers may use the following in this phase:

  • games
  • music
  • discussions
  • stimulating pictures
  • dramatic stories

The teacher may ask students what they think of a topic before asking them to read about it, for example.

The Study Phase

Study activities are those where the students are asked to focus in on language and how it is constructed. The teacher can use a variety of styles to present information, focusing on grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation. They range from the study and practice of a single sound to an investigation of how a writer achieves a particular effect in a long text. Students can study in a variety of different styles: the teacher can explain grammar, they can study language evidence to discover grammar for themselves, and they can work in groups studying a reading text or vocabulary. New information or a revision of previously learned information can be included during this time. Written and oral English are included in this segment of the class. Activities that can be found in the study phase include the following:

  • word searches
  • hangman
  • gap fill exercises
  • tongue twisters

The Activate Phase

This phase of ESA refers to the use and practice of the language focus in the Study segment of the lesson. Exercises and activities are designed for students to use English in communication, rehearsing what they have learned. Without the Activate element, students will have trouble taking their classroom experience into real-world communication. Some Activate activities include:

  • role-playing
  • debating
  • story or poem writing
  • presentations

ESA Lesson Plan Types

There are 3 common types of lesson plans that follow the ESA mode.

Straight Arrow Method for ESA

Lessons can be presented in the ESA order, using the straight arrow method. This type of plan utilizes the sequence: Engage-Study-Activate. The teacher begins with the engagement phase to get the students involved and motivated. This is followed by the study phase and finally, the activate phase.

Boomerang ESA lesson

A 'Boomerang' pattern opens up more possibilities, but will still utilize ESA. The 'Boomerang' sequence is typically in this order: Engage-Activate 1-Study-Activate 2

Patchwork Method for ESA

The Patchwork method involves more loops than the Boomerang method. The teacher uses other combinations of the three elements. An example of such a plan would be Engage-Activate-Study-Activate-Activate-Study-Activate.

What do you think about the ESA methodology?

The rule of thumb with ESA lessons is to always begin with an Engage phase and wrap up with an Activate stage.

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