7 Common Mistakes ESL/EFL Teachers Make and How to Fix Them

esl teaching tips

Whether you’re a first-time online ESL teacher or an expert in the field, you are still likely to make mistakes—and that’s normal! 

You may be thinking, “I want to teach English online as perfectly as possible,” but truth be told, even the greatest teachers have slipups now and then. It is not healthy to strive to be perfect because first, it is impossible, and second, you will burn yourself out in the process. The best way to approach these mistakes is to be wary of them and think of ways to fix them.

To keep your ESL teaching skills in tip-top shape, keep these common mistakes in mind along with these tips on how to fix them. 

1. Talking more than your students

Sometimes, teachers may get carried away. They may mindlessly go on with their lecture or even just the explanation to something that the student had asked about. As a result, students don’t get the chance to practice speaking.

The fix: Remember that effective ESL teaching does not always mean longer teacher talk time. Ask questions that allow the student to practice speaking often.

2. Helping your student finish their sentence

When teaching English to Chinese students and other non-native speakers online, some teachers unconsciously complete their students’ sentences. They do this thinking that they can help their students express themselves.

If you do the same, it helps to remember that your student may already know what they want to say but just lack the English vocabulary to express it.

While you are well-meaning, doing this all the time will not help your students hone their skills. 

The fix: Simply let them speak for themselves, even if the sentence might be wrong. After they speak, that’s when you correct their response and help find a solution for their concerns or mistakes.

3. Forgetting to check for comprehension

Most of the time, teachers forget to ask students if they understood the lesson. Additionally, some students may be too shy to ask questions and would rather keep silent and nod their heads. You should remember, however, that silence doesn’t necessarily mean the student understands.

The fix: Guide your student through the examples for the lesson, and break the examples down for them if necessary. It may also help to have them repeat what you just taught and commend them if they do a great job. 

Lastly, always ask if your students have questions and wait for them to reply. They may be shy to interrupt you while you are teaching, so it will help to give them the time and opportunity to raise their questions 

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4. Echoing your students’ answers

One mistake ESL teachers unconsciously make is repeating their student’s responses. For example, when the student says, “I played all day,” some teachers respond with “That’s good! You played all day. It’s fun that you played all day.” or something along those lines.

Although these so-called filler responses may help some students become familiar with other uses of a certain phrase, it’s best to avoid excessive use as it doesn’t move the conversation forward. It also uses up valuable talk time. 

The fix: Instead of affirming their response, you can ask follow-up questions or bring up another topic to keep the conversation going.

5. Rushing through the material

English teachers can sometimes be too caught up on the time limit that they rush through their ESL lesson plans. As a result, certain words or topics are not covered properly and the students don’t really absorb the lesson. Additionally, since the teachers are rushing, they also forget to ask if the students understand the lesson.

Getting too caught up in the time limit will only make you panic and rush through your lesson.

The fix: If you know you are guilty of rushing through the material, you must do this for your next lesson: take a deep breath and remember that you are in control of the lesson’s pacing.

In some cases, you will have to be authoritative throughout the session and dictate the flow of the lesson. You are the teacher; despite any unforeseen instances, you are still in control of the session. However, always remember to consider your pacing and check if the students can follow. This will help you guide the student and teach English online more effectively.

6. Not using enough visual aids

Relying on words alone is not an effective way to help your ESL students learn. You need to find ways to help them understand what they learned so that they can retain it better.

The fix: As you give your lesson, use appropriate visual aids to help them better comprehend what you are trying to convey. You can use flashcards, realia, written cues, and more to aid your students’ learning. Additionally, you can use gestures, facial expressions, and proper intonation to guide students on what you are saying, especially if you are giving instructions.

7. Failing to plan ahead

Whether you’re new or experienced, there may be instances when you can’t find enough time to prepare for your classes. However, you must remember that planning your lessons will make a big difference in your teaching.

The fix: Although it may be difficult, strictly allotting time for planning and practicing discipline are the only ways. Don’t fall into the temptation of just winging it!

When preparing for your lessons, go through the material and think of all the activities you can do to help your student absorb new concepts. This is also a good time to assess your teaching skills and see what you can improve on.

Mistakes help you learn and grow 

There are other mistakes to be wary of, but these are the most common ones that you should watch out for. Despite all these reminders, don’t be afraid of making mistakes! Rather, be afraid of not learning from them. 

As long as you have the right mindset, making mistakes can be a learning experience that spices up your teaching journey and moulds you into a better English teacher. Rather than be held back by the fear of failing, keep your head held high! Find the best sites to teach English online with, constantly challenge yourself, and you’ll surely learn every step of the way.

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