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ESL Teacher Materials and Resources

Dr. Glen W. Probst

There are many characteristics, techniques, etc. that make for a successful teacher. These may be as varied as the teachers themselves. However, there are certain time-tested attributes, characteristics, and practices which contribute immensely to teacher success. The following list contains items that students have used to describe their best teachers.

Best Classrooms - Best ESL Teacher Characteristics

  1. Enthusiasm
    • Students can feel the excitement
    • Students easily detect the teacher's love for job and subject
  2. Preparation
    • Teacher knows the subject
    • Teacher plans and prepares lessons daily
  3. Punctuality
    • Always arrives on time
    • Begins and ends class on time
    • Expects and encourages students to arrive on time
  4. Support and concern for students
    • Lets students know that he/she cares about their success
    • Takes time with students
    • Allows for creativity
    • Is friendly and courteous
    • Is supportive and encouraging
    • Is smiling, caring and loving
  5. Consistency
    • Does not miss class
    • Is consistent in attitude and dealings with students
    • Is always well prepared to teach class
  6. Politeness
    • Treats students with respect
    • Does not condescend
    • Avoids embarrassing students in class
  7. Firmness and control
    • Is firm in a kind manner
    • Avoids tangents in teaching
  8. Does not play favorites
  9. Provides personal help
    • Takes time to explain concept
    • Gives individual attention
  10. Accepts individual differences
  11. Employs an effective delivery
    • Clarifies for understanding
    • Creates a sense of fun with the learning task
    • Eliminates bad, irritating and/or distracting habits
  12. Does not make students lose face
    • Avoids criticizing students
  13. Has high expectations of class members
  14. Is humble
  15. Is fair
  16. Uses variety
    • Uses a variety of learning activities
    • Experiments
    • Allows for spontaneity
  17. Has a sense of humor; is relaxed
  18. Use of engaged time
    • Sets a good pace and provides for a change of pace
    • Avoids engaging students in "busy work"
  19. Use of text
    • Is not a slave to the text
    • Uses text as a road map
  20. Keeps within 1-2 days of the scheduled course outline
  21. Field trips and other activities
    • Applies student experiences to classwork
  22. Does not always teach from a sitting or leaning position
  23. Interpersonal relationships with students
    • Does not allow students to call him/her by first name
    • Does not try to win a popularity contest
    • Maintains a healthy teacher-student relationship
    • Respects students (remember that sometimes what you think is healthy, fun joking with students may be interpreted by them as disapproval and dislike.)
  24. Does not allow one or two students to monopolize or dominate the class
  25. Keeps accurate records of
    • Work completed
    • Attendance
    • Test results
    • Grades

Additional Suggestions

  1. Provide for activity changes -- perhaps something not on the lesson plan; for example, scrabble, hangman, pictionary.
  2. Be somewhat unpredictable -- Students will not know what comes next. Keep students in some suspense.
  3. Variety -- In teaching, variety provides for renewed interest in the subject matter. Use variety in how you have students work together. Do not always pair the same ones together. Provide for a variety of learning activities. Some suggestions are:
    • Assignments
    • Brainstorming
    • Buzz sessions
    • General discussion
    • Panel discussion
    • Problem-solving discussion
    • Music
    • Instructional games
    • Questioning and quizzes
    • Reports and talks
    • Role playing
    • Worksheets
    • Demonstrations
    • Dramas
    • Storytelling
    • General chalkboard use
    • Chalkboard illustrations
    • Charts and maps
    • Displays and mobiles
    • Filmstrips
    • Flannelboard
    • Flashcards
    • Motion pictures
    • Opaque projections
    • Overhead transparency projections
    • Pictures, posters
    • Tape recordings
    • Video tape recordings
    • Videodisk recordings
    • Videotaping class presentations or activities
    • Guest appearances
    • Combined activities with another class.
  4. Instant Involvement -- Create a variety of instant involvement techniques that can be used to capture students attention for what will be presented.
  5. Give eye-to-eye contact.
  6. Change teaching style for variety.
  7. Pace -- A change of pace is refreshing and helps students re-enter the learning process.
  8. Change of setting -- At appropriate times it is stimulating and interesting to meet in a different location or setting for a specific learning task.


Student Feedback

By Julie Madsen

I missed the day where a student panel from the ELC was asked some questions about what makes a good teacher and what a good teacher should do in some classroom situations. I contacted three students at the ELC and interviewed them to find out their opinions. The three students I interviewed were Rika from Japan, Humberto from Peru and Harike from Korea.

The first question I asked was who their favorite teacher was and why. They all seemed to be pleased with all of their teachers, but one of their favorites was David C. They like him because of the comfortable atmosphere he creates in his classroom. He apparently doesn't rush the students, even when there is a push for time (i.e., the bell is about to ring and he hasn't done everything he wanted to). It was interesting that the students would tune in to the fact that he had more to say and do but was sensitive to the students' needs.

They also commented on classroom rapport. They like teachers that are patient and kind. They also like it when humor is used in teaching. They felt relaxed when their teacher would tell them funny things about American culture. Some of their teachers have taught them jokes in English, which they really enjoyed learning. It seems to make them feel like they are more a part of the culture and "in" on the humor going on around them.

Some other things they feel are important in the classroom environment are a smile, the use of loud, clear speech, clear explanations, fun activities, etc. They also appreciate good visual aides that keep their attention. One of the most important things they think a teacher should keep in mind is a sensitivity to students' mistakes. They feel good when a teacher takes time to help students overcome their mistakes through patient, clear instruction.

Some of the things that are challenges to them include the following:

  1. teachers speaking too quickly, especially at the end of class when class time is running out
  2. getting bored when a teacher is answering other students' questions
  3. textbooks that are difficult to understand
  4. other students talking out of turn
  5. teachers not planning well and having to go overtime (not releasing the class at the bell).

Interestingly enough, the students also indicated that the teacher wasn't the only person that should work on problems. The students should share in the responsibility. In conclusion here are some of the other words used in describing a good teacher:

  • interesting/fun
  • kind
  • smiles
  • good explanations
  • gives synonyms
  • always helps
  • low pressure/not intimidating
  • kind spirit

On line since May, 1996
Last Updated November 11, 1999

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