Home Guide ESL How to Teach English As a Second Language to Beginners

How to Teach English As a Second Language to Beginners

Rate this item
(0 votes)

So you have a friend who wants to learn some English. You may be overseas and lots of people ask for help. Here are some ideas for the new teacher or tutor, especially of children.

Start with the alphabet and numbers for young students or absolute beginners. Lesson 1 for example could be to learn the alphabet letters to "g" or whatever you feel is within the students' ability. For very young students consider bringing a lap top computer and printer to the class and as part of the lesson find, and print out the Flash Cards you intend to use. Likewise with numbers. Make or print out numbers up to 5, then 6-10 then 11-20 and so on. Another 10 minute component could be to print out some writing practice sheets so students can start learning how to write letters and numbers. Compliment the lesson with Flashcards with words starting with the letters you are teaching. For example Apple, Airplane, Air Conditioner, Ape, etc. To round out the lessons you could introduce a simple song, even make one up yourself if you are musical enough.

Play a game related to the topic at hand towards the end of the lesson. There are a variety of board games on the market related to English learning or you could design one yourself. Simple memorizing or guessing games using playing cards can be very entertaining to students if approached correctly and for the right duration. Use Flash Cards to gradually build your students vocabulary. You can set homework objectives within the material on our website, then turn off the sound and test students yourself during lesson time. If you have a group of students, divide them into teams and play a "who knows" game. Quickly display a Flash Card (either number, letter or photo). The student who answers correctly earns a point for their team. An incorrect answer loses a point for the team.

Use games for larger groups, as you can also build English repetition around the set-up of the game and how you divide the students. For example: Surrounding dialogue: "Ok we're going to play a Do You Know Game. Put all the tables to the side of the room. Put all the chairs in three lines from the front of the room to the back of the room. Make three lines. The first line is all students who were born in either January, February, March and April. The middle line is all students who were born in either. May, June, July and August. The third line is all students who were born in WHAT MONTHS? That's right. September, October, November and December. Ok, form the lines and let's start. Who's going to go first?"


  • When teaching beginners or very young students, break the lesson into several 'bite size' pieces of about 10 minutes. That is, don't spend any longer than 10 minutes on one particular topic unless the student maintains interest.
  • Young students especially, have short attention spans and quickly lose concentration so in order to keep lesson momentum and the student interested in the topic at hand, make sure you change the activity frequently.
  • Have all material for the class prepared in advance and in order of use during the lesson. Have additional material ready in case you need it. In some instances you might get through material faster than anticipated. Some of the material may be of very little interest to the student and even spending ten minutes on it is far too long.
  • You may overestimate your students ability or the material being studied may be far too difficult for the student to understand. In all lessons it's important to have extra materials and resources to help you when unexpected dilemmas happen/occur.
  • Always be prepared with sufficient resources to get through the class.
  • Consider taking some training, even a short week or month class. This can give you some more grounding and ideas and techniques in this field. These programs are available all over the world.