ESL curriculum -Adults

Question: I have been working as an ESL instructor for 4 years. I received my TEFL certificate prior to teaching.

The program for which I teach has been in existence for many years, is state-wide and is free to the students. There is no set curriculum - there is not even a basic one whereby the students move from one level to the next. (We do have the Step Forward series and Ventures but quite frankly, I don't find them useful.)

So, I re-invent the wheel every year, always wondering if I am doing the best for my students. Fortunately I have very good retention - my students really seem to enjoy my class and I enjoy them.

But HELP! Do you have any suggestions re curriculum?
Thanks for any help you can offer.

Ann in Ohio


Hi Ann,
It sounds like you are doing many things right already. If you weren't, you wouldn't manage to keep your students. Actually, when a teacher is creative, as you seem to be, then the students will respond, because not all teachers will put in this effort. Those teachers won't be reading a website on teaching English :)

Without knowing more about what you do and the ages of your students, it's difficult to make specific suggestions. There are, however, some general suggestions I can make.

If you don't already do this, then save your lesson plans. Not with the intention - as some teachers I've met have done - and just repeat exactly the same lessons year in year out for the next 20 years. However, saving lesson plans will save time, and they can be adapted, added to or deleted if you've outgrown them, or if they simply didn't work very well.

As far as practical ideas go, I would suggest using stories in the classroom. Stories work well whether you are teaching kindergarten, elementary, high school, university or adult students. You just need to change the type of stories you use. See my articles ESL Stories for some ideas. I also recommend retelling stories ESL Short Stories and Short Stories for ESL.

Stories are a natural part of our lives and they are a great way of practicing grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, all rolled into one. I believe they can lead to some of the deepest retention on language of any method. Some studies, including one I described in teaching English vocabulary the section on how people learn new words, suggest that this is true.

Stories are a regular part of my classes at university - and in the past I've used them very successfully with young children and adults in their 40's and 50's.

Warmers, fillers and coolers are always useful to have for any lulls in the class, or for those classes when the students get through the materials faster than you thought they would; or when other activities just don't work, and you need to think of something quickly. Either way, I always keep a few short activities in my mind - just in case.

Task centered teaching is popular at the moment, and if you choose the right task or combination of tasks it works very well. I usually prepare a main task, or a series of shorter tasks for my students to complete. Take a look at some of my lesson plans for teaching English conversation here teaching English conversation for some more ideas.

In my article teaching English literature I show how I adapted some stories from literature to use with my classes.

I hope that this will give you some help with your curriculum and classes in the future.


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