The History of The ESA Approach
My first exposure to learning a foreign language was back in the 1950s watching French lessons on the National Education Network, the predecessor of PBS. The only thing I can remember from the experience was the word Ecoute, listen, which I did little of. Latin classes in Junior High, followed by Spanish courses in High School and College did little to help me as an adult. The teaching methods used were both classical, grammar-translation and Audio- bilingualism, both tried and true relics of the past, and in some cases the present.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Richard G. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
What is ESA?
In the course after an introduction to other teaching methods such as Presentation, Practice and Presentation, Task-Based Learning, The silent way, and The lexicon approach, we have introduced the ESA method. ESA stands for: Engage, Study and Activate, a method championed by Jeremy Hamer.
ESA attempts to address the major conclusions about learning a new language such as the fact that students need as much exposure to the new language, students need some feedback from the teacher, and that stress is a deterrent in language learning.
The E in ESA stands for Engage, this is the portion of the lesson where the teacher attempts to elicit as much from the student by arousing interest in the subject, thus encouraging him/her to openly participate in the activity being presented. This can be looked upon as the “fun” phase where the use of music, games, stories, etc. are used to get all the students to play along and use the new language to their best ability. This is not a teaching time, it can be used as a warm-up to the actual lesson or as an opportunity for the teacher to assess participant levels in L2.
The S, the Study phase is where the teaching of the lesson begins; Once again elicitation of the students is key to assess their current knowledge of the lesson topic. Board work by the instructor explaining and demonstrating the lesson content, including drilling to teach usage and pronunciation follows the elicitation period. Worksheets and/or exercises are given to the students as a way for the teacher to ensure the material is being grasped by the class. Students may work in pairs, groups, or some cases as individuals. This is the phase where students are focused on the proper use and construction of L2.
The final phase, the A, is Activate. Activate is the opportunity for students to put learning into realistic situations. Students are encouraged to use all the English they know in structured, yet free-flowing activities. Such activities can include, role-playing, debates, games, storytelling, or actual conversations.
The technique of using ESA requires that all three phases are used for the majority of the lessons. Standard ESA structure is considered a “straight line” Where E is followed by S and then A. This is the easiest way, especially for a new teacher, for most situations. However, for more complex lessons the use of a “Boomerang” sequence may be required. A “Boomerang” lesson may look like: Engage, Activate 1, Study, Activate 2. Another valuable technique for an even more complex lesson could use a “Patchwork” ESA structure. This would be handy for a subject that requires many smaller sequences for a student to understand the matter at hand. This could look like: Engage, Activate, Activate, Study, Activate, Engage, Study, MD Activate. The ESA method of teaching allows for flexibility to handle all levels of complexity.
For a class to remain fun and exciting, a good teacher needs to be aware of the myriad of tools at his/her disposal, especially in the Engage phase. Getting the students to be comfortable enough to share and speak in L2 is the mark of an effective teacher.
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ESA is an excellent method for producing a repeatable version of a lesson. It supplies an essential balance of structure and flexibility for any teacher to teach English as a foreign language.
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