View Full Version : Help! Know How to Teach English?

10-20-2007, 11:55 PM
Starting Monday I will be giving private English lessons to Spanish-speakers in my home. Sounds great, right? Well, I've never taught English and haven't the first clue where to start.

The first appointment is with a 20-something woman who speaks next to nothing so my husband and I will start her at square one. He's confident he can teach anyone English so that should go well.


In the evening a 15-year old girl and her brother will spend two hours with me ALONE! She's studied some English but we don't know the boy's level. I speak passable Spanish but I'm envisioning us sitting at the table and staring at each other until their dad picks them up.

What the heck have I gotten myself into? Can someone PLEASE give me suggestions on a starting point? I want them to learn and come back for more and while I can obviously speak English I don't know how to break things down.

I really appreciate any input you have to offer. I won't even go into how irritated I am that the second appointment is at the same time I write every evening. Food on the table is more important, blah blah.

Thanks. :)


10-21-2007, 12:08 AM
I taught ESL many, many years ago--and I don't speak Spanish.

We started with simple subject-active verb-object sets. The spoon hits the book. Maryn eats cake. Most often we blended in-the-room stuff (spoons, books, me, cake) with picture cards or magazine cut-outs. We moved on to their lives. Luis drives a truck. Carmella talks on the phone. Manny's wife had a baby girl.

Our students were poor, and so were we, so all we had was paper and pencil. We urged them to create vocabulary sheets and to take notes.

Then we got a calendar, to teach past tense and future tense of the same phrases, plus days of the week and the months' names.

You'll have it easier because of your Spanish, of course. If the sister has some English, you may be able to teach through simple conversation about object you provide (the first time, anyway). Have magazines, picture books, graphic novels, and "props" (household items) at hand. Learn what they're interested in and have them bring the objects next time. Discuss their interests in simple present tense.

It's also fun to do something while teaching. The most fun class we held, we baked a cake together in an English-only kitchen. It took a long time, but even the men liked it.

You can do this. It could even be fun!

Maryn, who'd give it a shot

10-21-2007, 12:13 AM
What Maryn said. I taught ESL for a while, and we started with basic things my students could use. Things like catching a bus, shopping, and filling out basic forms. Stuff they could use every day.

10-21-2007, 12:13 AM
Thank you Maryn! This is exactly what I was looking for. Basic sentences sounds easy enough and one step up from just throwing vocabulary at them. My husband wants to give them homework, so bringing things sounds like a good assignment for the following class.

Thank you.

10-21-2007, 12:15 AM
Thank you aadams!

We could 'grocery shop' in my kitchen. I learned kitchen terms by cooking with my in-laws so I could do that in a future class. :)

10-21-2007, 12:20 AM
I was an ESOL tutor too. It's not nearly as scary as you think it will be. There are BILLION things that can be basic lessons, but it's tough to know what you should do before you evaluate the level of the girl and her brother...

Maryn covered some good basic stuff. (Picture props are your friend!)

For the kids, if they are higher level, children's books are great to read with them. We played a lot of games in class, too. Everything from "Hot Seat" where two members of the class were given a situation and had to play certain parts (scorned lover and partner, politician and member of the press, teacher and student), to handing them lyrics to a song with certain words blanked out and then playing the song and asking them to try and fill in the words. Scavenger hunts at the mall were awesome too. Anything that gets them reading and writing and talking in English is teaching them something! Have fun!

10-21-2007, 12:23 AM
Thanks Hillary. We're a little limited in terms of English books but I can look for reading samples online, maybe print things from children's websites. And thanks for mentioning a few games - we had that idea but couldn't think of any!

10-21-2007, 12:25 AM
Having been a non-English speaking person and having tutored other non-native speakers, I'd recommend: start slow. Simple vocab, simple sentence structures and grammar. Use everyday things -- traffic signs, restaurant items, grocery list, etc. Make it relevant to their daily lives. Engage them in conversation -- that REALLY is the best way to learn a language, by actually using and speaking it.

Good luck.

10-21-2007, 12:29 AM
Thanks Maestro!

10-21-2007, 12:52 AM
I taught EFL for a year. There are a ton of AMAZING websites out there dedicated to helping EFL and ESL teachers plan lessons based around specific grammar constructs. A little googling on EFL and ESL should turn up anything you need.

10-21-2007, 01:03 AM
Thanks Jo. I did find a couple sites already - amazing Google, I typed 'how to teach English' and the internet exploded. The ones I've found so far require subscriptions so I'll have to wait until we can afford to spend money on services. We'd like to turn this into a business but want to make sure we have students before dropping any money.

I'll try again with the ESL and EFL tag and maybe some freebies will turn up!

10-21-2007, 01:49 AM
For me...it's like being a Kindergarten teacher.

I know c-a-t. Is boring, but it's where you start that is important.

I like to use flash cards....or because I can draw and there is the internet...I use images as teaching tools.
As kids, we learned to speak our grandparents languages pretty easily and quickly, because we would point and say things in one language, then say it in another.

First the fundamentals, then worry about grammar.

Did you try here (http://www.1-language.com/)?
They have a lot of fun games and flash cards.
Here are some tips. (http://www.colorincolorado.org/educators?gclid=CLOhosW5no8CFRa_WAodTTg5fw)

10-21-2007, 02:16 AM
Sun, those are great sites, thanks! I have all day tomorrow to prepare and knowing me I'll have enough material for 10 weeks. :)

10-21-2007, 02:27 AM
Having been a non-English speaking person and having tutored other non-native speakers, I'd recommend: start slow.

Fascinating. When did you first learn English, Ray?

English is my second language (or is it third) as well. I've taught Tibetan monks. My strategy was to begin by pointing to common household objects and saying the English words for them.

A funny story: An American friend of mine was teaching some monks English last year here in India. One day, she took a copy of TIME magazine so that she could use that as a jumping off point. There was a photograph of Bush in there, and one of the monks pointed to it and said, "Bush!"

"Yep, Bush," she said. She pointed to the photo again. "Bush bad. Okay? Remember that. Bush bad."

This year, I went again, and the monk is still going, "Bush bad!"


10-21-2007, 02:31 AM
I'd start with useful phrases, and give them a basic vocabulary to learn, and then start with sentence structure. That's how my Spanish classes work.

10-21-2007, 02:33 AM

I have a year's worth of Self magazine here, something the girl might be interested in. Thanks!

10-21-2007, 08:50 AM
I've been doing the TEFL thing in China for a while now (and have only spoken a few words of Chinese in class). I taught kids with almost no English skills my first year here. You need objects, pictures, actions, and phonics for beginners. I've found a picture dictionary works quite well. Try to have simple conversations--questions and answers. Also, get some simple stories from EFL websites... there are plenty out there. Ideally, you'll want to get a textbook for all the students (be sure it's age/level appropriate).

Just be patient and remember to speak slowly.

Good luck.

10-21-2007, 09:21 AM
Two things might help. Figure out how much education your student has. It is going to be very difficult to teach them to read English if they have trouble reading Spanish. The other thing can seem very strange; quite a few Spanish speakers living in America don't get enough opportunity to practice speaking English. They speak Spanish at home, watch Mexican TV and speak Spanish to their foreman at work. What they most need is confidence they will be understood and practice in understanding. I remember trying to learn to speak Russian. I'd say something and they would answer at a hundred miles an hour and totally lose me.

10-21-2007, 08:52 PM
Everyone we'll be teaching is currently in school, the woman is taking night classes with my husband and the kids are his teacher's children, so I'm assuming they can all read, but that's a good point. As for practicing, we're in Mexico so they may not have much opportunity to practice English beyond talking to tourists.

I feel a lot more confident this morning after going over some things with my husband. We also have a bunch of National Geographic magazines to play with. I plan to have a goal - things to accomplish after the first class - so that's calmed be down a bit. We'll see how I am tomorrow at 5pm, ha!

10-23-2007, 03:24 AM
Thought I'd update:

I spent all weekend practicing my Spanish and last night went out with my neighbor who is learning English. Good pratice for both of us. I cleaned the house, pulled out all my books & props and...

no one showed up.

No one. Nadie.


Thanks again for all the advice here. We do plan to (try to) give English lessons so this will be put to good use.

hasta luego.