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ESL Learning Styles, How to Implement Them and Have Fun

All ESL students do not learn the same way. The traditional
classroom teaching techniques have been proven to leave a
few students struggling with concepts, but do not fear;
there is a simple, enjoyable solution. If you just educate
yourself about the different types of ESL learning styles,
you can make learning ESL easy and fun!

Several models of ESL learning styles have been proposed
and while some points are still under debate, most
researchers agree that there are four basic types of
learning styles. A good ESL program will attempt to reach
out to all four types of learners.

Knowing the differences between auditory, visual, and
tactile or kinesthetic ESL learners is the main key when
building a lesson plan that will appeal to all. Usually you
can continue with your ordinary teaching style; just add a
few different activities and materials. Hopefully this will
make ESL learning more fun for the whole classroom!

The suggestions below are roughly divided according to type
of ESL learning style; however, many of the games and
activities lend themselves to use with mixed groups.

AUDITORY ESL LEARNERS 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
classroom, too!

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.

VISUAL ESL LEARNERS 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

TACTILE and KINESTHETIC 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 Learners.

Placing items in a bag, then having the students identify
them by feel 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!

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.

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!

By introducing language games into your classroom, you
increase the chance of reaching every student by making
English easier and more fun to learn. This can carry over
into other avenues as well, and give them the chance to
widen their perspective on ESL learning styles. Games are
also a proven way to relax timid students and coax unsure
ones into participating. By fostering an exciting, gently
competitive atmosphere in the classroom, you will be able
to ensure that you reach every student in a way that
facilitates his or her own particular ESL learning style.

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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