ESL Resources for New Teachers

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
Elementary school principal; M.A. in K-12 Educational Leadership
ESL written in white chalk on a black chalkboard.

Typical Challenges for New Teachers

All new jobs are stressful in the beginning. However, nothing entirely prepares someone for their first job as a teacher. Those who have never taught may think that a first-year teacher should be ready to go because of their student teaching. However, this thought is not accurate.

New teachers are working with:

  • New curriculums
  • Developing engaging lesson plans
  • Modifying activities for the various students in their classes
  • Calling families
  • Completing induction program coursework

Finding a balance can be overwhelming for new teachers. Then, many new teachers may also have English learners (ELs) for the first time. They can be a mix of level one (non-English speakers) to level four (almost exiting the ESL program.) New teachers may have only had one course dedicated to English learners in their pre-service program and may not have ever worked with an EL during their student teaching.

English learners, just like any other student, come to class with their unique needs. An ESL teacher has to be ready to identify these needs and work with them to ensure great classroom management and engaging lessons. Finding ESL resources for teachers is essential in this process.

Challenges ESL Students Face

English learners have many barriers to overcome when they enter an English-speaking school. Analyzing possible challenges ESL students face before getting to your class as a new teacher will be highly beneficial.

ESL students may have only been in the country for a couple of weeks and are still acclimating to their new lives outside of school. They may have traveled with their families or left their families in their home countries. Moving can have many psychological effects on a child; be mindful of this as they enter your classroom.

Some ESL students may have had limited or interrupted schooling. Although they are in your seventh-grade math class, they may not have been in school since third grade. Due to not knowing the language, the content can be extremely difficult for them. Try to find out as much as possible about their previous schooling.

Classroom behaviors can also be troubling for some ESL students. Not understanding the rules or expected behaviors can lead to detentions, failing grades, and suspensions. Teachers may struggle with classroom management and ESL students if they do not prepare for them.

Instruction is the most challenging aspect of school for ESL students because of the language aspect. They are expected to be working with the same content as their native-English speaking peers, which is nearly impossible. This can be very frustrating and depressing for students who were perhaps stellar students in the schools of their first language.

ESL Resources for New Teachers: Classroom Management

Establish Routines

Even if a child does not speak any English, they are able to learn routines pretty quickly through modeling. Students will understand that they all get their notebook and write down the bell ringer on the board at the beginning of class. Even if the students do not understand English, they will find some success right at the beginning and become more engaged.

Make Connections

Take the time to get to know your ESL students and learn about their native country. Learn a few phrases in their native language, ask them to tell you about their culture and families; the more you learn about your ESL students, the more they will feel connected to you.

Teachers of ESL students should also reach out to their students’ families. It may take extra time to find a translator or to find a time when the family is not working, but by doing this, the parents will feel included and involved in their students’ lives, which will affect how well the child will do in school for the better. These relationships are invaluable.

Communicate Instructions and Rules Clearly

You may want to create cute rhymes or fun acronyms for the classroom rules, but this will not work well with your ESL students. You need to:

  • Be clear and concise
  • Provide visuals
  • Model anything you want your students to do

ESL students cannot be faulted for not following the rules if they are not presented in a way that they can understand.

Monitor the Classroom

With all excellent classroom management, the teacher actively monitors their classroom. The same is needed for your ESL students. You want to make sure that you are constantly checking for comprehension. If this is not done, it could lead to many students not doing what you ask of them simply because they do not understand.

ESL Resources for New Teachers: Instruction and Engagement

All teachers want their lessons to be engaging. When planning your instruction for your ELs, be sure to note the following ESL curriculum resources.

Comprehensible Input

Make a note of all of your ESL students’ language levels. Then, when you are preparing your lessons, adapt the content to their levels to make the input comprehensible. You can have a fantastic lesson, but if it is not presented at a language level that your ELs can understand, they will not get anything from it.

Simplified Directions

Look at the directions for all of your activities and see if you can simplify them by changing the wording or eliminating unnecessary information. By doing this, your ELs will surely be able to engage with the lesson.

Additional Wait-Time

Wait-time is one of the hardest things to get used to as a new teacher. You may want to call on the first student who puts up their hand, but challenge yourself not to do that all of the time. ELs need extra time to process what you have said, sometimes translate it into their first language, formulate an answer, and then translate that into English. They need the extra time, so make sure you plan for it.

Sentence Starters or Frames

Give your ELs sentence starters or frames instead of open-ended questions. They will have a better chance of engaging with the question if they are given a starting place. Then, they can fill in the information with their thoughts, and it will not be so overwhelming.

Increased Visual Supports

ELs need as much visual support as possible when learning new content. It takes time, but creating opportunities to add visuals alongside new vocabulary, stories, or topics will help them understand more quickly.

Planning and preparing ahead of time will ensure great classroom management and instruction for new teachers of ESL students.

Interested in positively impacting ELs in the classroom? Check out our available dual language graduate programs which includes ESL master’s degree, doctorate programs, and more!

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