This posting is discussed on my YouTube video • ESL Conversation Class: Student-Centered vs Teacher-Fronted (including some research)
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “the student-centered lessons.” Teachers who experience this type of approach for the first time will often say, “I don’t feel like I’m ‘teaching’” using air-quotes when they say “teaching.” In their minds, a teacher stands in front of the class lecturing.
But in a student-centered approach, the teacher is more like a coach because teaching ESL is mostly about skills not about teaching content.
And just like any “coaching situation” in which skill-development is the focus, for example how to play tennis or how to drive a car, lecturing is of limited use. And just like any good coach, once the students start a “practice” session, the coach is no longer the center of attention but is there as a support. A good driving coach needs to turn over the steering wheel to the learners if they are ever going to become competent drivers.
The Art of Teaching ESL
Whether you are teaching one-on-one, in a class of 15 students or a class of 50, your role is to introduce techniques and set up activities in which students can practice techniques which will help them develop their skills. You use your creativity to find activities or to write your own introductions and activities which will be engaging for the students and at the right level for them: not too hard but still challenging.
Finally, you draw on your creativity and imagination when you explain the reason for that day’s lesson. You inspire them by helping them see that the techniques they will be learning will help them in the future.
Soon I will be posting introductory overviews of teaching the various skills of conversation, writing, reading and speaking and about grammar.
For sample student-centered activities and exercises, see