As an ESL teacher, the content and focus of your teaching will vary depending on the teaching situation and student needs. While many TESOL training courses provide a foundational curriculum and methodology, the practical application can differ significantly. Here are some common teaching scenarios you may encounter and the main areas you will likely need to cover:
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Preschool age (under 5-years old) children form a very large part of the ESL market. You may well have seen in your own area, a number of Kindergartens dedicated to teaching English. Obviously you are working from the very foundations of all four skills, these being, reading, writing, listening and speaking. You will probably be involved in phonics, where students will learn to recognize and use sounds. Most curricula in this area are based around active learning or learning through play.
There are some exam courses at kindergarten level as offered though the British Council for example.
This is probably the largest area of the ESL teaching market as it encompasses all schools, state and private (language centers). Students range from 11 years (younger learners are considered separately) to any upper age. They are generally graded into one of five language levels, these being, Starter (or beginner), Elementary, Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate. There are some higher levels but these are considered in the Academic English section.
Teaching involves all aspects of English grammar in these five levels up to C1 or C2 of the CEFR scale.
Also read: What is an ESOL curriculum?
The first thing to appreciate about teaching business English is that over 90% of the English used in business is the same as general English. Many teachers worry that they are not going to be able to teach business English as they don't know anything about business. Other than a few technical terms that may be needed, most business learners do not need you to teach them anything about business itself (as they already know their job). One useful thing to do if you are going to teach a business English class is to arrange some form of work-shadowing, to see what your students will actually use English for in their everyday occupation.
Sitting between the categories of Kindergarten and General English is the section of young learners, which in our categorization would be 5-11 years of age. Here you would probably have to cover all the material that students would cover in kindergarten (as most will probably not have been to such a school). There are exam courses for young learners, such as those offered by the Cambridge examination system, with names such as, Starters, Movers and Flyers.
Academic English is the type of English used in schools, colleges and universities for books, resources and lectures. This is a specific type of English and is important for students who are studying, so that they can read and write in an academic way. Many colleges and universities have their own departments dedicated to teaching academic English, particularly for non-native speakers studying there. Teaching this type of English requires you to know about the writing skills required by the college or university.
There are a whole range of specific occupations that have their own set of vocabulary, which requires specific training in English. The most obvious example is aviation and particularly air traffic control. ATC is by convention carried out in English and all aircrew must be capable of conversing in English. Other professions also need to use the Lingua Franca of English such as maritime, medical, law and others. Whilst it is beneficial to have a background knowledge of whichever specialism you are teaching, it is not always essential.