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Tips for Getting Started as a Volunteer ESL Instructor

Sue Ann Ma

Sue Ann Ma brings over three decades of financial experience to her role as president of Seminal Financial Group, Inc., in Houston, Texas. Dedicated to her community, Sue Ann Ma supports the American Red Cross and has an interest in volunteering to help learners of English as a second language (ESL).

With ESL programs at libraries, schools, and community organizations, there are plenty of opportunities for volunteers who would like to serve as ESL instructors. Many of these programs are also underfunded, so volunteer support is necessary to ensure that those who need help can get it.

When you get started as an ESL volunteer, it’s important to keep a few things in mind so that your instruction is effective. First, be sure that you make yourself understandable to the students in your class. Always remember that they are trying to learn a new language, so it’s important to simplify your grammar and vocabulary and even slow down your speech to make sure you are understood. As your students’ skills improve, you can use words that are more challenging and speed up your delivery, but always repeat important information and be prepared to provide definitions when needed.
Along with making yourself understandable, creating interesting lesson plans is an important part of effective ESL instructions. When students are bored, engagement is low, and it’s less likely that they will remember what was taught. An easy way to make lessons more interesting is to break them up into smaller chunks and use a variety of teaching methods to keep students engaged in the learning process.
Obviously, teaching ESL students involves much more than creating lesson plans and providing clear instructions, but these are two good places to focus your initial efforts.

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