Jamie Goodwin

Helping ESL Students as a Student Teacher

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were over 4.5 million English language learners in schools throughout the United States in 2014, and the numbers have continued to rise. You need to be prepared for ESL students in your class. If you find out that you have ESL students in your classroom during student teaching, use these tips to help reach your students.

Learn about the Student

Get to know your students, including your ESL students. Take the time to learn about their culture, tradition, and celebrations. Encourage students to talk about their culture in class, too. However, it’s a good idea to ask them before you bring it up in class.

Collaborate with the ESL Teacher

If you have an ESL teacher at your school, use him or her as a resource. Ask for suggestions and ideas that you can use in class. It might be helpful to review assignments that you’re planning and ask the ESL teacher for ideas on how to appropriately modify them.

Model Your Expectations

When teaching a new skill or activity, show students what you expect them to do. You could demonstrate it while providing step-by-step directions. Model your thought process by thinking aloud. Then, be sure to share examples that you or students have created.

Slow Down

I have a tendency to speak fast, especially when I’m nervous. Because of this, I have to consciously remind myself to slow down and speak clearly to help ESL students. Try to emphasize key points, so students have an easier time picking up on the most important information during lectures. You could also provide an outline of any lectures beforehand to help them follow along.

When calling on ESL students, be patient. Allow the students enough time to formulate a response. Remember that they need to translate what you’re saying to their first language, think of a response, and then translate that response back into English. Therefore, don’t expect an answer right away.

Use Visuals

To back up what you’re saying, incorporate visuals into your lessons. This could include graphics, charts, and diagrams. Instead of just lecturing to students, use a wide variety of resources and media to reach your ESL students. This could include games, songs, charades, art projects, and other hands-on activities.

Check for Understanding

How do you know if your students comprehend what you’re saying? How do you know that they understand the concept that you taught? You need to check for understanding. Have all of your students give you a thumbs up or thumbs down. You could also have them write “yes” or “no” on a sticky note. Then, walk around the room to check the sticky notes.

Plan Group Work

Group work with ESL students student teacher


Try group work to help your ESL students practice concepts. Carefully choose the small groups, so ESL students get to work with individuals who will engage and communicate with them.

What have you done to reach your ESL students? What would you recommend to others? Tell us about your experiences working with ESL students in the comments below.


  • Jamie Goodwin

    Jamie graduated from Brigham Young University- Idaho with a degree in English Education. She spent several years teaching and tutoring students at the elementary, high school, and college level. She currently works as a contract writer and curriculum developer for online education courses. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her boys!

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