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Transform Your Teaching By Tapping Into Different ESL Learning Styles
We are all individuals and we do not take new information on
in the same way. ESL language learners are no different.
The traditional classroom teaching techniques often leave
students struggling with concepts and unable to make
progress. Many students feel frustrated or that they have
reached a plateau with their English language learning and
the same errors come back again and again and nothing you
do seems to iron them out! However take heart; there is a
fun and simple solution. If you educate yourself about the
different types of ESL learning styles, you can make
learning ESL a lot easier and much more fun!
Several models of ESL learning styles have been discussed
at length and now most researchers agree that there are
four basic types of learning style. A good ESL program will
attempt to connect with all of those types of language
Understanding the differences between auditory, visual, and
tactile or kinesthetic ESL learners is an important step
when creating a lesson plan that will appeal to all four
types. Usually you can continue with your ordinary teaching
style and supplement it with some new ESL activities and
materials. If you pick the games and activities well this
will make ESL learning more fun for all your students and
allow you to make more impact!
The following ideas are divided according to each ESL
learning style; however, many of the ESL games and
activities lend themselves to use with several styles at
once and there will always be a mix of learning styles
amongst the ESL students in your class.
ESL LEARNING STYLE 1 - VISUAL
These students often profit from a quieter approach.
Written instructions and demonstrations will make the most
sense to them, and they will retain a lot of information
from videos and flash cards. Books with illustrations are
appreciated by these students, too.
Simple board games based on familiar favorites, such as
Grammatical Chutes and Ladders, can also help these
students learn while enjoying a game. This and other boards
can be easily made and kept in the classroom -- just
remember to make them age appropriate for your students!
Humorous comics and other pictures with captions can be
rewritten to expand vocabulary -- get ready for giggles!
Humor in the English language can be extremely instructive;
a study of puns, for instance, can help students
differentiate between similar sounding words.
Worksheets and word puzzles are easily utilized by visual
learners. A Reading Treasure Hunt can even get competitive
as students race to find all the parts of speech in a given
ESL LEARNING STYLE 2 - AUDITORY
These ESL students get a lot out of spoken instructions;
lectures, tapes, etc. They will learn faster with
listening, recitation and story games.
Karaoke is a wonderful way to combat shyness and boost
self-confidence -- any study of music is a great way to
break the ice and facilitate word recognition. Encourage
the students to participate in singing outside the
Another helpful tool is a prepared tape with words left
out, combined with a matching worksheet; students can use
words they have just heard to reassemble the transcript.
You can even set up a felt board with a word list to
encourage these students to develop their visual learning
skills as well.
Story building games are perhaps the most fun; students
fill in the blanks in the sentences with words to complete
the meaning -- sometimes the results are unexpected! This
can also be a team effort project. Try quizzes, too; the
students can pair off.
ESL LEARNING STYLES 3 and 4 - TACTILE and KINESTHETIC
These ESL learners are the least likely to respond to
traditional methods. Tactile learners will benefit most
from hands on instruction; Kinesthetic ESL learners like to
use their whole bodies to complete learning exercises.
Including games for both types will benefit your classroom
as a whole -- it has been documented that such programs are
actually the self-reported preference among ESL Language
Having students identify items in a bag by feel and naming
them or discussing what they could be is a good vocabulary
game, and it can be expanded by asking them to describe the
item's characteristic, while the rest of the class take
turns guessing. They will be encouraged to reach for more
words to use as clues! Students have to explain why they
think a certain item is what it is and that requires a
substantial amount of vocabulary. Time limits can be set
and teams can race to discover as many words as possible.
In smaller classrooms, try model building. Assembly games
using Legos to create creatures following written or verbal
instructions will cross into the Auditory and Visual
learning styles as well. Maps are another good way to
stimulate interest -- again, written or verbal instruction
can be given on how to draw or define their maps. Make sure
you stock colored pencils!
If you have the room to experiment with activities that use
the whole body, try this: give each student a card with a
word or punctuation symbol, then take turns lining them up
at the front of the class to make a proper sentence using
as many people as possible. This game is great for EFL
learners as it helps teach our sentence structure.
By using a variety of ESL language games and activities
into your classroom, you greatly increase the chance of
reaching all your students. Consequently English becomes
easier and more fun to learn. Games are also a proven way
to relax timid students and coax shy ones to join in. By
tapping into different atmospheres in class, from an
exciting, gently competitive one to a collaborative one in
you will be able to ensure that you reach every student in
a way that facilitates his or her own particular ESL
Shelley Vernon has helped 1000s of teachers be an
inspiration to their pupils and achieve results 2x as fast.
Improve the effectiveness of your lessons by up to 80%.
Receive free English language games now on
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