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Crash Course in ESL by Elaina Smith

June 25, 2020

America is a country with no official language and is home to speakers of a variety of languages. Not every student in America learns English at home, which is why resources for students who are learning English as a second language (ESL) are an important part of the American education system. From preschool to college, immigrant and international students commonly utilize ESL programs in schools, often working with a bilingual tutor to improve their English skills (1). Below are resources for students and teachers who are interested in learning more about ESL: 


Effective Ways to Learn

Learning a new language is always a challenging task. The following strategies are known to help students learn a new language quickly and more effectively.  

  • Visual aids have been proven to be helpful to students who are learning a new language. Drawing or acting out words or phrases can help students understand the language more effectively and can add a flair of fun to the classroom. You can also be visually engaging through charts and graphs and animated videos (2). 
  • Bilingual dictionaries are great resources for ESL students. These dictionaries don’t always include a definition, but list words in the student’s native language along with the English translation, but the ones that do can be more beneficial to the student (3). There are a variety of dictionaries new English speakers can buy, ranging from a beginner’s level to intermediate and advanced.
  • Peer editing helps students recognize possible errors in each other’s writing. The biggest goal in learning a new language is making sure you can write in a way that others understand, and letting other ESL students critique your work is a good way to do that (4).


Teaching ESL

Teaching a student who speaks little to no English at home presents a different set of challenges than teaching a native speaker. When teaching an ESL student, these are important things to keep in mind: 

  • Focus on the big picture when teaching writing and composition to ESL students. The smaller grammar rules can be learned later, but it’s important for them to first learn how to construct a piece of writing where the main idea is clear to the reader. 
  • Learn about the students’ cultures. Know the name of the country they or their family is from and ask about their customs and traditions. This will show the student that as an educator, you care not only about teaching them English, but where they come from. It’s important that students understand while learning English will open more doors for them in America, they don’t need to erase their culture to exist in American society. 
  • Set realistic goals. Learning a new language takes time, so it’s important to make sure students feel a minimum amount of pressure as they make progress. Focus on setting a few smaller goals at one time and allow the student to progress from there (5). 


ESL Resources 

Language education often requires work outside of the classroom. These online resources can be helpful for students who are looking to study at home. 

  • English Grammar Guide is a great resource to use for new speakers to brush up on their grammar skills and take a test to see where they are. 
  • Breaking News English has a variety of news articles covering current events that are written in various levels of English. This is a great way for a new English speaker to test their reading comprehension skills. 
  • Podcasts in English is a tool students can use to hear English spoken at different levels. This resource allows students to listen to natural conversations in English as well as educational podcasts that can help them with their listening comprehension. 
  • ESL Kids World is a website that offers resources for young English learners. There are lessons appropriate for every elementary grade level that teach phonics, grammar, and vocabulary for ESL students. This website makes learning fun with videos, songs, and flashcards to help children learn. 






  1. ESL Directory Blog, What is ESL? (ESL Directory)
  2. Ryan, 7 Simple Visual Aids You Gotta Use in Your ESL Classroom. (FluentU, 2020.)
  3. Ontesol, ESL Lessons and Dictionaries. (Ontesol, 2014)
  4. Susan Verner, 13 Simple Strategies for Helping English Language Learners Throughout the Writing Process. (Busy Teacher)
  5. Kellie Woodson, 10 ESL Teaching Strategies That Successfully Motivated My Students To Reach The Next Level. (FluentU, 2020). 


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