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The Benefits of an ESA Lesson Structure

The Benefits of an ESA Lesson Structure | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The ESA lesson structure is a useful method for formatting lessons. It has a high level of in-built flexibility and a logical sequence beneficial for both students and teachers alike. It consists of three distinct phases - Engage, Study and Activate - each meant to serve a particular function but working together to ensure effective communication and application of new information.

Table of Contents

Lesson Stages


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

Lesson Stages

The first stage of an ESA lesson format is the Engage phase. The goal of this part of the lesson is to get the students thinking and speaking in English. At the beginning of a class, students may be lacking in confidence or otherwise out of the mindset of using their English language skills. By opening the class with gentle and fun activities space is created so that the students can explore and refresh their English knowledge without fear of judgment or incredibly high expectations. During this phase of the class, there is no new language introduced and corrections are avoided so that the students can gain the confidence to use English in the class environment. The teacher is encouraged to use props to elicit language from their students - realia, images, or even actions and mime. This has the added benefit of arousing interest in the students as well as warming them up and putting them at ease for the work to follow.

teacher and students

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The study phase is where the new vocabulary or language points are introduced and exercised. It is during this time that worksheets, drilling exercises and other methods of language practice are employed. The study phase can consist of a great many activities and it is ideal for the teacher to maintain variety in their selected activities. This ensures that the classes do not become too predictable and also that the students' interest is maintained. The idea here is to demonstrate the proper use of the language point for that class, and then to reinforce and test understanding by providing students with a controlled context in which to use their new knowledge. This is where corrections and observation can be carefully employed to ensure a proper understanding of the lesson content.

The Activate stage of the ESA format is the concluding stage of the lesson. In the Activate phase, the students are free to apply the newly learned language skill. This can be achieved in several ways and will change depending on the size of the class and the subject of any given lesson. Some examples Activate activities include class discussions, debates, presentations, generating pamphlets or other materials relevant to the topic, role-playing exercises, story building or questionnaires. The idea is to let the students test out the application of their new language or grammar skill in a more organic setting or situation (i.e., not a worksheet). The Activate phase can assist the teacher to identify any issues (such as understanding of the subject or pronunciation etc) which may require further study at a later time.

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The ESA lesson format can be varied to better suit the class or the subject at hand, however, it must commence with an Engage phase and terminate with an Activate phase. The "Straight Arrow" format is the standard Engage, Study, Activate process. There is also a Boomerang structure (Engage, Activate, Study, Activate) which provides more possibilities for the class. It allows the teacher to identify or illustrate issues and then address them with the study phase before reinforcing proper use in a secondary activate phase, which can greatly increase the comprehension of the lesson material. The other variation is the "Patchwork" structure which (as always) commences with an Engage phase and terminates with an Activate phase but can contain any number of study, engage, or activate components in between these two sections. This generates a good deal of variety in planned lessons and can help incorporate multiple activities to activate learned material or otherwise to introduce more than one topic in the class.

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As can be seen from this information, the ESA lesson format is greatly beneficial for both teachers and students. It equips teachers with the tools to properly and effectively format a lesson, as well as having enough built-in variety to adapt to suit many occasions. This is greatly advantageous for students who are then able to receive the information in a thought out, logical and organically evolving manner. The effect of gradually leaning in is also helpful for getting around student anxiety and keeping people actively engaged in the lessons. Properly employed, this can form a solid cornerstone to any teacher's arsenal.

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