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How to Encourage ESL Students

How to Encourage ESL Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

For the past couple of months, I have worked as an ESL teacher for the company Qkids. I took this course in order to obtain a certificate and meet the Chinese national standards. Even though I took it for that purpose only, it has been a very informative and helpful class. I have learned so much that I can apply to my own online ESL classes.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Rebekah P. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Personal Experience

In my experience, and from what I have learned in the class, it is very important to keep the students encouraged to maintain their motivation. The platform I teach on allows me to rewards a student’s good work with virtual diamonds, sort of like points. The platform also allows me to award the student with stickers, such as animals, emojis, foods they may like, flowers, etc. It works well as a warm-up game to introduce myself, and have the students also introduce themselves to me and the class and then tell me what sort of sticker they would like. This also helps me to know what that student’s interests are so I can keep the lesson relevant to their interests. In my experience, this has definitely encouraged student participation. Because my class is virtual, I also try to award the students with the tone of my voice, the smile on my face, and also high-fives to the camera.

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Online vs. Real

Even though my class is virtual, if I were to teach in a live classroom, I imagine many of the same techniques could be used to encourage the students. Encouragement is very important in any classroom, not just ESL. It helps the student to know they are individually appreciated, that participation is welcomed and rewarded and that it is a safe place to practice their skill.

high five

Students’ Peculiarities

Age also plays a huge role in the types of appropriate encouragement. Younger students require much more animation and affirmations in order to feel validated and encouraged. Because their attention spans are also shorter, changing activities frequently will keep them from getting bored and keep participation level high. I have found that older kids still appreciate games, but that they find some games boring and childish. It is important that the games be suited to the level of the child or adult. Older children and adults, also need less animation; if the teacher uses too much, the older student may think the teacher is ‘uncool’ and lose respect for them.

There are also instances where the students may feel intimidated to speak in class, particularly when called on. These students require a lot of encouragement to validate their language skills and motivate them to speak in class and practice their language. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. A teacher who constantly corrects will scare the students from even trying. It is important that the teacher correct in a manner that is still encouraging and does not bring the student down. Another way to encourage these students to speak could be to pair them up. The students may feel more comfortable speaking with a peer instead of the teacher. This way, the teacher can pair a stronger student with a weaker student to still provide a good language model.

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Body Language

Other ways that a teacher can provide encouragement to the student and help them feel a part of the lesson and motivated to participate are eye contact, gestures, visual aids, the tone of voice used, and also using the student's name. These all help to convey a message and establish a good rapport with the students. A teacher who inspires confidence in his or her students will encourage them to use and practice their newly acquired language.

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Overall, in this class, I learned many useful techniques that will help in teaching, managing, plan for, and encourage my ESL students. All these techniques and resources will help me to be a better teacher and help my students learn more information and more effectively.

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