A Message to ESL Teachers.


Learning in a second language can be challenging, but you as a language-aware teacher can make a big difference. Here’s a summary of the main ideas:

  • Language is more than vocabulary, grammar and spelling. It is shaped by discourses, genre conventions and context.
  • Students need control of both the everyday interpersonal register and the more formal academic register to succeed in school.
  • Language learners will come from a variety of circumstances with a variety of resources, so don’t make assumptions about their needs.
  • Don’t leave it to osmosis – plan for language learning as well as curriculum learning.
  • Keep the focus on making meaning, not on correctness.
  • Encourage repetition, recycling and redundancy.
  • Use visuals and gestures to support language learners.
  • In your talk and classroom resources, aim for ‘comprehensibility plus’.
  • Welcome your students’ first languages into the classroom.
  • Plan different spaces and activities for different types of talk.
  • Give language learners a bit more wait time.
  • Understand the particular language demands of your curriculum area.
  • Build the genre cycle into your lesson planning.
  • Let students into the secrets of genre conventions.
  • Use feedback on students’ work as an opportunity for language learning.
  • Observe how your language learners are progressing, and plan for the next stage.

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