Beginner ESL students are sometimes the most challenging, especially if you use a complete immersion methodology and speak only in English during your class. How can you best teach A1 students without using their own language? Here we give you some great tips to help you become an expert at teaching A1 students!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

If you are interested in learning more about teaching A1 students, check out our other blog.

Teaching A1 Students

Pictures are a great tool for teachers in any level but for the very beginners they are more than just helpful, they are essential.  Even verbs and basic grammar concepts can be conveyed through images in a way that provides clarity for your students and also keeps them interested.  For teaching vocabulary they are crucial, given that students at this level often don’t have enough of a grasp of the basics to handle contextual examples.  Confusion or lack of understanding could lead to frustration or worse- translation into the student’s native language.

Speak Slowly

Teaching A1 Students

You may feel like you’re speaking really slowly but you will probably need to

speak even more slowly for beginner level ESL students.  Enunciate as clearly as you can and try to more or less match the speed of your students’ speach.  It’s normal, especially when teaching low level adults, to worry about seeming condescending.  However, learners appreciate a teacher who is easy to understand.  Rather than stressing over every word, they’ll begin to feel more confident as they understand more.


Often, nervous teachers leap into a second question or a different synonym when their students hesitate. Take your time here as well, as extra words will overwhelm your students and they may panic.  Pause instead and you’ll find that often they just needed a bit of time to process the information.  If there really is confusion, repeat the exact sentence again as slowly as you can. Don’t push them to rush or feel embarrassed that they don’t understand or can’t answer immediately. It’s all part of the learning process!


Beware Layered Instructions and Narration

Word are currency in the ESL world and with A1 Teaching A1 Studentsstudents we must spend them very carefully.  Many teachers find it especially difficult to limit their word count when they have to give instructions for a game or activity.  Sometimes we also attempt to focus ourselves and our students’ attention by giving a sort of running commentary of the class as it happens.  Sentences like ¨We’re going to play a game, it’s called Charades” or “I’m going to put you into teams” may seem innocuous but stating the obvious is redundant and could confuse your students (“Teacher! What’s charades?!”) and could create chaos in the classroom.

A much better strategy is to break absolutely everything down into steps, speaking only a sentence (or even just a word!) at a time.  If you can communicate your needs non-verbally with gestures, even better!


Keep it Fun!

Teaching A1 Students

Teaching beginners is challenging for ESL teachers but that’s no reason to make it boring for your students or for you.  At any level, students who are having fun will be more engaged in class and will learn better and faster than students who are not motivated. Limit your class to content that is relevant to your students’ needs and as close to real-world experiences as possible.

Follow a textbook that you like and supplement the basic activities with creative ideas of your own.  Most importantly of all, don’t forget to use games as much as you can to bring life and energy to your classroom.  Generally, it’s best to adapt the rules to playground games, card games and board games that your students will already understand how to play.  But of course, with the right instructions any categories game, picture-based activity or movement exercise is possible and your students will absolutely appreciate the effort.

If you have any more ideas about how to help teach A1 students, leave a comment on our Facebook page!