What are TESOL/TEFL Best Practices in 2021?

Written with: Dr. Kate Mastruserio Reynolds, Chairperson of the Department of Education, Development, Teaching and Learning, and Professor of TESOL/Literacy at Central Washington University

What are TESOL & TEFL best teaching practices in 2021?

Understanding TESOL and TEFL best practices is important for anyone teaching ESL or ELL students. Also, many of these best practices support teaching literacy to all students, no matter what language they are learning! 

Thank you, Dr. Mastruserio Reynolds, for you input in this piece! 

How to Best Teach as TESOL/TEFL in 2021

There are several aspects of ESL teaching that should be included in every classroom. Here, I’ll cover what ELL teachers should focus on in their lessons, as well as some helpful tips on how LessonWriter can help you do this a bit easier. 

1. Scaffolding Questions: 

As educators—and learners—many of us have had the experience of studying a new language and knowing it is common to begin with simple language drills, and then increase complexity after each step is mastered.

Instructing both sentence-level and discourse level communicative competencies is a TESOL best practice (Savignon, 2001). But, coming up with a mix of questions and tasks in the right sequence can be a challenge stumps even the most expert of teachers. 

It’s important to first ask questions that reinforce knowledge and understanding, and then progress to those that promote higher order thinking. If teachers jump between different levels of questions and content, without creating a path for their students’ to follow, can lead to a lack of understanding and effort within a lesson.

It’s also important to scaffold controlled-input activities that allow teachers to build to more open-ended communicative activities (Crookes & Chaudron, 2001). 

Within a class, Lessonwriter tracks all teaching points in the lessons you create (vocab, grammar, pronunciation) and then teaches them in a progressive sequence (e.g. simple past tense before future, or “er” suffix before “-ous”). 

LessonWriter also tracks the vocabulary taught and question types (e.g., knowledge, comprehension, etc.), so the teacher can be more aware and adjust questions to fit the needs of their students, determined as they track the data LessonWriter provides. 

LessonWriter creates specialized question prompts that provide the right questions in the right sequence for students to develop a better understanding of the text and reading skills they’re learning. 

Starting with controlled activities, the teacher is essentially guiding the lesson. As the learners become more comfortable with meaning and form, the teacher can gradually introduce more open ended questions into the lesson, at which point organic learning can occur. 

Within a class, Lessonwriter tracks all teaching points (vocab, grammar, pronunciation) and then teaches them in a progressive sequence (e.g., simple past tense before future, “er” suffix before “-ous”, etc).

It tracks vocab and does not re-teach in the next lesson (but the teacher can override) and it tracks question types (e.g., knowledge, comprehension, etc) so the teacher can be more aware and adjust questions to fit needs.

2. Repeated Exposures to Key Vocabulary: 

Some ways you can repeat vocabulary exposure (a TESOL best practice).

Previewing and reviewing key vocabulary for comprehension and retention is one of the most important things teachers can do as a TESOL (Herrell and Jordan, 2004). The most consistent finding related to vocabulary instruction is that students need varied and repeated exposures to a word to learn it well

LessonWriter provides seven different exposures to new vocabulary, including pre-teaching, in passages, and various reinforcement exercises. 

3. Focus on Form:

Focusing on form is “meaning‐focused interaction in which there is brief, and sometimes spontaneous, attention to linguistic forms.” It assumes acquisition occurs best when learners’ attention is drawn to language items at the time they’re needed for communication. That is, they’re taught within context rather than in isolation

Focus on form activities allow teen and adult students the ability to learn rules for clarity and future use by teaching within context (Doughty & Williams, 2003). It allows teachers and students to focus on meaning-based interactions, and touch on linguistic form when, or if, the student needs it. 

Focus on form instruction is learner-centered: its aim is to respond to learners’ perceived needs in a spontaneous manner, as it calls “on teachers and learners to attend to form when necessary, yet within a communicative classroom environment.”

4. Prefixes, Suffixes, & Roots:

Teaching prefixes, roots and suffixes of words DOES THIS (Nation, 1990; Schmitt, 1997). Learning a relatively few number of prefixes, suffixes, and root-words gives students an advantage when trying to decipher a vast amount of words. 

Every lesson made with LessonWriter.com automatically includes the option to focus on one of the affixes found in the reading, making it easier for teachers to support morphology instruction while teaching content-specific text. 

LessonWriter’s immediate analysis of text allows the teacher to use communicative interaction while teaching grammar, which is also considered a best practice (Larsen-Freeman, 2003).

5. Pronunciation Practice:

LessonWriter.com pronunciation example within a lesson.

Increasing learners’ pronunciation intelligibility: speech is often the quickest and most effective way for people to communicate, and missing pronunciation intelligibility can create a variety of issues for the learner. (Celce-Murcia, Brinton, & Goodwin, 1996). 

In ESL teaching, as well as other second language teaching, the goal is “to acquire intelligible pronunciation, rather than native-like pronunciation.” The goal of pronunciation practice is to help learners both speaking intelligibly and understand intelligible speech. 

This is done best by supporting skills that will promote their learners’ intelligibility (the extent to which a speaker’s message is actually understood by a listener) and comprehensibility (the accuracy with which a speaker’s intended meaning is perceived).

The importance of pronunciation intelligibility in learning extends far beyond the classroom. A lack of intelligibility can create a “barrier to social engagement, education, employment” and even affect the quality of life and self-esteem of an individual.

This can create a feedback loop to their approach and experience in the classroom. 

6. Using Advanced Graphic Organizers:

Using advanced graphic organizers helps allow insight into a reading’s meanings (Herrell and Jordan, 2004). They’re most often used during expository instruction to visually demonstrate the relationship between the new items students are about to learn, and the information they’ve already learned.

Graphic organizers aren’t a review of information, but rather, a review of the understanding of the information by students. Providing the correct graphic organizer can help expedite student learning and understanding, and make new lessons more manageable and less overwhelming. 

They help present information in a way that can make it easier for students to find connections between one concept and the next. 

Some Lessonwriter.com graphic organizer options.

How LessonWriter Conforms to TESOL/TEFL Best Practices (and More)

Within a well-designed ESL/EFL lesson, there is always a need for instruction in a grammatical form, a vocabulary set, or a phonological pattern.

LessonWriter helps teachers quickly and easily develop simply scaffolded grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation activities, along with comprehension questions and graphic organizers, to accompany any text for use in their classes. 

You can also use LessonWriter as a tool for specific needs, rather than a full curriculum. If a teacher encounters a grammatical form in the context of a reading, and realizes the students need to comprehend the form, meaning, and use of this grammatical pattern for text comprehension, LessonWriter can assist the teacher in designing and selecting activities for specific instruction and practice of that form. 

Following TESOL Best Practices Help Your Students & Yourself 

Whether or not you use Lessonwriter as a TESOL teacher, using these THIS to teach your ESL/ELL students will help everyone see greater success…which is LessonWriter’s goal! 

One last note about LessonWriter before I conclude: one of the best parts about the platform is that it doesn’t replace the teacher, or stifle ingenuity, communication, or instruction of integrated skills. 

Rather, the program automates the mundane tasks of creating grammatical, lexical, and phonological activities within a communicative-focused, integrated skills, ESL/EFL learning environment. This leaves educators more time for the creative side of teaching we’re passionate about! What do you want to teach today? 

“What are TESOL/TEFL Best Practices in 2021?” References

Coelho, E. 1982. Language across the curriculum. TESL Talk, 13(3): 56-70.

Echevarria, J. and A. Graves. 2007. Sheltered content instruction: Teaching English language learners with diverse abilities, 3rd edition. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Holten, C. 1997. Literature: A quintessential content. In the Content-Based Classroom: Perspectives on Integrating Language and Content (Eds. M. A. Snow & D. M. Brinton). White Plains, NY: Longman. 

Krashen, S. 1981. Second language acquisition and second language learning. Oxford: Pergamon. 

Larsen-Freeman, D. 2003. Teaching language from grammar to grammaring. Boston, MA: Heinle.

Norris, J. and L. Ortega. 2000. Does type of instruction make a difference? Substantive findings from a meta-analytic review. Language Learning 51, Supplement 1: 157-213.

Short, D. J. 1997. Reading and ‘riting and…social studies: Research on integrated language and content in secondary classrooms. In The Content-Based Classroom: Perspectives on Integrating Language and Content (Eds. M. A. Snow & D. M. Brinton). White Plains, NY: Longman.

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