Must Have Materials for the ESL Classroom

ESL tools.

Teacher collects and decorates with these materials but the children should make most of them in class. They take possession of the room in this way, something like territorial marking for animals.

1. Small rooms are better than big. There should be 10 children or fewer and they need to be at the same learning level, so pretest them orally.

2. ESL teaching is not lecturing, so I prefer one large central table with the teacher sitting at the front near the white or blackboard. This is the correct distance for conversation or dialogue.

3. Noise control. Language classes need noise control. If the walls are too thin you are going to be very frustrated as a teacher. If the chairs make a lot of noise scraping on the floor, get some masking tape etc. to tape the bottom of the legs and ask the children to help you make the room a bit more quiet. Those cylindrical metal pencil cases are teacher torture devices. They fall over, roll and crash on the floor again and again. Maybe I will ban them!

4. Make sure children's book bags are stored under or beside the desk and not in the walk way.

5 .. Find and hang the largest calendar you can and a world map in English.

6. Post the days of the week and animal charts on the wall.

7. Post the months of the year, preferred in a big wheel showing the seasons too. Post years too.

8. Post numbers and ordinal numbers: 1st first, 2nd second … Use both styles.

9. Post colors and the words: Make sure you include light and dark, silver, gold, bronze, beige, violet, and red-wine color. Post the heavenly bodies and sky features on the ceiling: star, moon, sun, cloud, rain, lightening, wind etc.

10. Have a clock on the wall. You can not pace your lesson if you do not know the time. Wrapping up the lesson is especially important. The children need it too.

11. Food treats are best at the end of class when they can wash their hand near the end. We often do a noisy action game at the end of the class. The children blow off steam, get excited and leave. Do not get them too worked up at the start of a class as they will be difficult to settle down. I begin a 50 min. class with quiet activities, usually book work and then move on to new activities after 15-20 min. the normal attention span.

12. Post the big Small Words chart (found in the ESL resources of

13. You need tissue in the classroom and a waste bin, a CD player and music for the kids as they arrive. I keep a plastic or wooden bowl of extra pencils, erasers crayons and small pencil sharpener in the middle of the table. Children can borrow these for the period of the class. I restock it with things that kids lose. I do not allow a wall mounted pencil sharpener as it is disruptive and noisy.

14. I also have small gifts, or prizes I bring to class. Good behaviors and work are rewarded. The children are motivated by this. I generally do not use sweets. They get too many elsewhere. The strangest things are interesting to children: I collect the small bottles of shampoo and tooth paste from hotel rooms. Foreign coins are prized, recycled toys, etc. etc. I sometimes reward with prepared food on a plate, like cucumber slices sprinkled with lemonade powder. This is a great summer treat and not expensive. Insist on good eating manners and have the kids clean the plate and wash hands.

15. Occasionally I bring in a pet or a bug that we can hold and talk about in a glass tank. This is a great time to break down cultural prejudice about some animals, eg. girls must scream if a bug touches them. The animal can be a great way to teach basic anatomy by making a sketch in their notebooks and labeling parts. For some children it is their only contact with nature. Sad but true.

16. As children advance I like to make big posters for the wall showing how essential verbs change, eg verb To be. I am, you are, he / she / it is, we / they are. Children glance up and use these posters to help with their written textbooks. We also have a poster of contracts, a poster of plurals, articles, prepositions, use of a and an (aeiou) etc.

17. My favorite books are the Let's Go series 1 to 6 but they are pricing themselves out of the market. Kids should each have the workbook but can share the reader book with the colored pages. I generally insist that kids store these books in the class locker with me. That way they can not forget or lose them. Generally I mark the books in the class as soon as kids finish a page. They want and need instant feedback, plus praise, and have to correct their mistakes right away. Needless to say, they must use pencils not pens.

There are several good Phonics Books but some are overly artistic and confuse the children. I like books that have many A words and pictures, B words and pictures, Ch words and pictures, etc. I like 'Up and Away with Phonics' produced by Oxford. Nice and simple.