How to Build an ESL Class Curriculum

Professor and ESL students talking in classroom
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Here's a guide on how to create an ESL class curriculum to ensure your students meet their learning objectives. Certainly, planning the curriculum of a new ESL/EFL class can be a challenge.

This task can be simplified by following these basic principles. First and foremost, teachers should always perform a student needs analysis in order to ensure that you understand what type of learning materials will be appropriate for your classroom.

How to Build an ESL Curriculum

  1. Evaluate students' learning levels - are they similar or mixed? You can:
    1. Give a standard grammar test.
    2. Arrange students into small groups and provide a 'get to know you' activity. Pay close attention to who's leading the group and who is having difficulties.
    3. Ask students to introduce themselves. Once finished, ask each student a few follow-up questions to see how they handle impromptu speech.
  2. Evaluate nationality makeup of class - are they all from the same country or a multi-national group?
  3. Establish primary goals based on your school's overall learning objectives. 
  4. Investigate the various student learning styles - what type of learning do they feel comfortable with?
  5. Find out how important a specific type of English (i.e. British or American, etc.) is to the class.
  6. Ask students what they perceive as being most important about this learning experience.
  7. Establish the extra-curricular goals of the class (i.e. do they want English only for travel?).
  8. Base English learning materials on vocabulary areas that meet students' needs. For example, if students plan on attending university, focus on building academic vocabulary. On the other hand, if students belong are part of a company, research materials that are related to their place of work.
  9. Encourage students to provide examples of English learning materials they find interesting.
  10. As a class, discuss which type of media students feel most comfortable with. If students are not used to reading, you may want to focus on using online video materials. 
  11. Take time to investigate what teaching materials are available to meet these goals. Do they meet your needs? Are you limited in your choice? What kind of access do you have to 'authentic' materials?
  12. Be realistic and then cut your goals back by about 30% - you can always expand as the class continues.
  13. Establish a number of intermediate goals.
  14. Communicate your overall learning goals to the class. You can do this by providing a printed curriculum. However, keep your curriculum very general and leave room for change.
  15. Let students' know how they are progressing so there are no surprises!
  16. Always be prepared to change your curriculum goals during your course. 

Effective Curriculum Tips

  1. Having a map of where you want to go can really help with a number of issues such as motivation, lesson planning, and overall class satisfaction.
  2. Despite the need for a curriculum, make sure that achieving learning goals in the curriculum don't become more important than the learning that will take place. 
  3. Time spent thinking about these issues is an excellent investment that will pay itself back many times over not only in terms of satisfaction but also in terms of saving time.
  4. Remember that each class is different - even if they do seem alike.
  5. Take your own enjoyment and focus into consideration. The more you enjoy teaching the class, the more students will be willing to follow your lead. 
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "How to Build an ESL Class Curriculum." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). How to Build an ESL Class Curriculum. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "How to Build an ESL Class Curriculum." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).