Beginning Level Curriculum for ESL Classes

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This curriculum summary is designed for 'false' beginners. False beginners are typically learners who have had a few years of training at some point in time and are now returning to start learning English again for a variety of reasons, such as for work, travel, or as a hobby. Most of these learners are familiar with English and can move pretty quickly to more advanced language learning concepts.

This curriculum summary is written for a course of approximately 60 hours of instruction and takes students from the verb 'To be' through present, past, and future forms, as well as other basic structures such as the comparative and superlative forms, the use of 'some' and 'any', 'have got', etc. This course is geared towards adult learners who need English for work and, as such, concentrates on vocabulary and forms that are useful for the working world. Each group of eight lessons is followed by a planned review lesson which allows students a chance to review what they have learned. This syllabus can be adapted to fit students' needs and is presented as a basis on which to build an elementary level ESL or EFL English course.

Listening Skills

Beginning English learners often find listening skills the most challenging. It's a good idea to follow some of these tips when working on listening skills:

  • To begin with, try to use only one voice for listening comprehension activities. A variety of accents can be added later.
  • Exercises should begin with short form understanding such as spelling, numbers, understanding word form differences, etc. 
  • Gap fill exercises work well for the next step in listening comprehension. Begin with sentence level understanding and move on to paragraph length listening selections. 
  • Once students understand the basics, begin work on understanding 'gist' by providing longer conversations with a focus on understanding the main idea.

Teaching Grammar

Teaching grammar is a big part of effectively teaching beginners. While full immersion is ideal, the reality is that students expect to learn grammar. Rote grammar learning is very effective in this environment. 

  • At this level, rote activities can help learners understand intuitively. Don't worry too much about grammar explanations. 
  • To help focus on sound rather than rules, repetitive activities can help establish a strong base.
  • Take it in small bites. Pare things down to their essentials once you begin to teach. For example, if you were introducing the present simple don't begin with an example that includes an adverb of frequency such as "He usually has lunch at work." 
  • For tenses, stress the importance of time expressions tied to tense. Continually ask students to first identify the time expression or context before making a decision on tense usage. 
  • Correct only those mistakes made in a current objective. In other words, if a student misuses 'in' rather than 'at' but the focus is on the past simple, don't make a point of correcting the mistake in preposition use.

Speaking Skills

  • Encourage students to make mistakes, many, many mistakes. Adult learners are often concerned about making too many mistakes and can be hesitant. Do your best to relieve them of this fear!
  • Focus on function for beginning level activities. Set a goal such as ordering food in a restaurant. Help students learn how to functionally succeed in each situation.
  • Switch groups up often. Some students tend to dominate conversations. Nip this in the bud, and change group composition up early and often. 

Writing Skills

  • Follow the language: begin with letters, create words, build words into sentences and let those sentences blossom into paragraphs
  • Prohibit certain words when writing! Unfortunately, students often fall into the bad habit of using the same words over and over (go, drive, eat, work, come to school, etc.) Brainstorm word lists together as a class and then challenge students to only use certain words or phrases in their writing.
  • Use symbols to correct. Get students used to the idea that you'll use symbols to help them edit their writing. The onus is on the students to correct their own writing. 
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Beginning Level Curriculum for ESL Classes." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 26). Beginning Level Curriculum for ESL Classes. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Beginning Level Curriculum for ESL Classes." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).