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Possible Methods of Encouraging and Motivating ESL Students

Possible Methods of Encouraging and Motivating ESL Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Students in ESL classes, especially those newer to English, face what may seem to be a daunting set of tasks related to learning a new language. A teacher's encouragement will ease the students' stress, provide positive feedback and, gently, areas of improvement, and provide an amicable environment conducive to learning. The age and experience level of the students should be considered in what specific words of encouragement are given--too effusive and older, more experienced students may be turned off, while too complicated and the younger students may not appreciate the teacher's phrasing.

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

Engage Phase

Perhaps especially during the Engage phase, when students firsts enter the classroom from their busy worlds and are beginning to enter the English-learning frame of mind, they should be encouraged for participating. The focus should not be on correcting wrong answers and the teacher should curtail criticism. If doing a straight-arrow type of lesson plan, the Study and Activate sections are also times when a teacher may encourage the students. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down: Combining praise for correct answers as well as effort, with corrections and feedback, will result in more receptive and engaged students. Conversely, discipline can easily become discouraging, and should be applied sparingly; sometimes just mentioning that a student should be on time or complete their assignments is enough to correct the behavior without ruining the positive environment.

Also Read: What is an ESL teacher?

Aims and Objectives

Explaining the course objectives, each day's goals, and the purpose of tests, is a way of conveying that there is a plan, and there is a set of finite items to learn, which can be reassuring to the students. When giving a test, such as a placement or diagnostic test at the beginning, a teacher should praise correct answers, which will then likely motivate the students to focus and add to their repertoire of new vocabulary and grammar.

esl student and teacher


Course materials, whether authentic like brochures and menus or created by the teacher or published materials like a workbook, should be suited to the students' level of learning, which is an encouraging action that is another way of easing a potentially stressful situation. A teacher may revise or supplement published materials to tailor them to the particular set of students based on their level of understanding.

Also Read: What will a TEFL employer ask in an interview?

Lesson Planning

It is worth noting that a good lesson plan combines time and space for the students to speak, read, write and comprehend English. Such a wide-ranging lesson provides ample opportunity for the teacher to provide words of encouragement. To help the teacher remember to encourage the students, she may note "encourage" in the lesson plan for each class.

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To conclude, students learning English as a foreign language are reasonably shaky in their understanding and are risking getting wrong answers to questions. Therefore, the teacher should provide words and actions of encouragement at various phases of the lesson, including the Engage, Study and Activate sections; should ensure materials, whether authentic, created or published, are understandable and further the lesson plan; and should provide positive feedback during tests, especially placement and diagnostic tests at the beginning of the class.

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