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 6. Practical Ideas for the Adult ESL/EFL Classroom


Course Description

Learn ESL teaching strategies that will set your adult ESL/EFL students up for success! Over the next six weeks, you’ll discover ways to teach ESL that create a meaningful and positive learning environment for your students. You’ll get to know what motivates them and how you can tailor your ESL teaching methods to their needs. 

We’ll look at the key role that planning plays, because when your students know what to expect, they’ll respond positively—and you’ll teach with more confidence. You’ll gather a wealth of principles for how to choose truly effective activities for such skills as listening, speaking, reading, writing, grammar, and pronunciation. Along the way, you’ll pick up practical ways to incorporate both traditional and alternative forms of assessment into your classroom teaching. And finally, we’ll spend some time talking about how you can become a more reflective teacher and continue to grow both professionally and personally.

By the end of this course, you’ll be teaching ESL in a way that helps your students move skillfully from the classroom to the real world!

Instructor: Rob Jenkins

Rob Jenkins is an Associate Professor of English as a Second Language at Santa Ana College, School of Continuing Education in California. He is also the Faculty Development Chair of a thriving professional development program at that institution, as well as the CALPRO (California Adult Literacy Professional Development Project) Professional Development Center Manager for Orange County, California. 

Rob is the coauthor of the popular textbook series Stand Out: Standards-Based English. In addition, he wrote the Lesson Planner for The Heinle Picture Dictionary.


Internet access, e-mail, the Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox Web browser, and the Adobe Flash and PDF plug-ins (two free and simple downloads you obtain at by clicking Get Adobe Flash Player and Get Adobe Reader).


A new section of each course starts monthly. If enrolling in a series of two or more courses, please be sure to space the start date for each course at least two months apart.

All courses run for six weeks, with a two-week grace period at the end. Two lessons are released each week for the six-week duration of the course. You do not have to be present when lessons are released. You will have access to all lessons until the course ends. However, the interactive discussion area that accompanies each lesson will automatically close two weeks after the lesson is released. As such, we strongly recommend that you complete each lesson within two weeks of its release.

The final exam will be released on the same day as the last lesson. Once the final exam has been released, you will have two weeks to complete all of your course work, including the final exam.     


Week 1

Wednesday – Lesson 01
One thing I know for sure: No two classes are the same! Haven’t you found this to be true in your teaching experience? Every class has unique challenges, which is why it’s a good thing that we have so many approaches and methods we can use with English language teaching (ELT). In today’s lesson, you’ll get an overview of the variety of programs, approaches, and methods available, as well as see how you can personalize your instruction for every class you teach. You’ll also learn about the traits that all successful teachers share and how you can add them to your own personal approach..

Friday – Lesson 02
Today we’re going to look at how we can tap into what motivates our students so we can set them up for success. After all, effective teaching is all about our students’ success, right? In this lesson, then, we’ll begin by exploring how you can create a motivating classroom environment. Next, we’ll look at how you can learn about your students’ different learning styles and needs so you can shape activities that click with all of them. Finally, we’ll delve into the most motivating form of instruction: student-centered teaching.

Week 2

Wednesday – Lesson 03
When I first started teaching, I assumed that, because I’m a native English speaker, teaching English would be easy. It shouldn’t take too much preparation or experience, right? Wrong! Blindly following whatever path the textbook took, I soon discovered that I really had no idea if my students were learning. I’d like to help you avoid what I experienced, which is why this entire lesson is devoted to planning. To help you get started, think about questions like these: What are your objectives for the course you’re teaching? What did you accomplish yesterday in class? What do you hope to accomplish today? Believe me, when your students know what to expect, they’ll respond positively—and you’ll teach with more confidence.

Friday – Lesson 04
Have you ever planned activities you thought would be fun, only to have your perplexed students wonder what on earth you’re doing? We’ve all been there. You see, activities in themselves don’t make a good ESL/EFL class. Many factors need to shape the activities you choose in order to be successful. So in this lesson, you’ll discover how to take your students’ level into consideration, how to integrate skills as well as balance fluency and accuracy in your activities, and when and how to correct errors.

Week 3 

Wednesday – Lesson 05
You’ve probably heard how important it is to have authentic listening tasks in the ESL/EFL classroom—tasks that allow students to learn as native speakers do, with natural repetition, unplanned background noises, and fast and slow speech. But the truth is, we really don’t have a lot of ways to do this. There are just too many different types of listening. So, what can we do to help our students become better and more confident listeners in English? We can teach listening strategies. Today you’ll learn such strategies as focused listening, listening for comprehension, making predictions, and guessing at the meaning of unfamiliar words using the context.

Friday – Lesson 06
Speaking is an essential part of any ESL/EFL classroom. It’s also a creative process—much more than merely repeating what someone else says or reading aloud something written in a book. In this lesson, you’ll explore ways to get your students to the point of creative expression. This will include providing them with vocabulary, structures, and strategies. At the lower levels especially, this equipping comes through drills and dialogues. But it certainly doesn’t stop there! You’ll also see how to promote conversation and freer communication by incorporating cooperative learning and problem-solving activities, which will foster fluency and encourage participation.

Week 4

Wednesday – Lesson 07
Reading is such a gift, isn’t it? It can open a new world of ideas to our students and hopefully help them become lifelong learners. Our question as teachers, though, is how do we go about teaching reading? Do we take a bottom-up approach, starting with the small parts of the language? Or do we take a top-down approach, where we start with the context? Or can we somehow do both? Today we’ll explore how to design reading tasks that will be appropriate for your students’ levels and help them become more independent learners.

Friday – Lesson 08
Of all the skills, writing is the most complex and unique. Personally, I think it can be a lot of fun for both teachers and students—if we approach it in a positive way. So in this lesson, you’ll look into different approaches you can use to teach writing. You’ll also discover how to design activities that will prepare your students to write (and ease their anxiety!), support them while they’re writing, and help them polish their work when they’re done. When you finish today’s lesson, you’ll have a myriad of good ideas help your students become more effective and confident writers in English.

Week 5

Wednesday – Lesson 09
Today you’re going to get a better sense of how to approach teaching grammar and pronunciation. Grammar and pronunciation are like two vital parts of a car—grammar is like the engine, and pronunciation is like the body. Just as we need both the engine and the body to drive safely to our destination, so our students need both grammar and pronunciation to get their messages to arrive clearly. So you’ll discover the importance of context, and you’ll get a variety of ideas for meaningful activities.

Friday – Lesson 10
Our goal, as language teachers, is to help our students transfer the language and skills they learn in the classroom to the real world. How can we help them be able to improvise, both in writing and speech, in new and unfamiliar environments? By building bridges between the classroom and their real-world experiences. So in today’s lesson, you’ll learn about the vital role that application activities play. And you’ll see that by incorporating them into your teaching, you’ll build your students’ confidence and independence.

Week 6

Wednesday – Lesson 11
When you hear the word assessment, what comes to mind? Placement tests and standardized exams? Final letter grades? In this lesson, you’ll soon see that there’s a lot more to assessment than just these! You’ll discover that you can use a variety of tools to track your students’ ongoing progress, give them encouragement, correct their course when they need that, and even see where you might need to adjust your teaching to better meet their needs. Assessment is an essential way to keep your students on the path to success!

Friday – Lesson 12
In our final lesson, you’ll discover how you can become a more reflective teacher and what the many benefits of that are. You’ll get the chance to really explore what your own personal teaching philosophy is. And you’ll learn ways to evaluate your performance—for the sake of your own growth—and get some ideas for making the changes you want to make. The whole purpose of reflecting is to see how you’re doing, where you could be more effective, and how you could better help your students succeed.

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