Peer Article - How to be Effective in English Second Language (ESL) Tutoring

How to be Effective in English Second Language (ESL) Tutoring

As a tutor, you are expected to teach your student(s) in a small-group or one-on-one environment. You are expected to be knowledgeable, to offer expertise, guidance, and help.

You can provide private teaching or online tutoring in specific areas like Math, Reading, Statistics, Science, Grammar, or English as a Second Language. Whatever it is that you are teaching, use methods to motivate your students to learn and eventually become independent learners.

Whether you tutor kids, teenagers, housewives, workers, or businessmen, you have to be flexible and creative. You must be able to rouse enthusiasm so that your students love their books. You need to instill discipline so that they will do their homework.

  • Tutoring Methods

There are many methods to teach ESL to adults. Select the instructional approaches that are of most help to your own students. Vary the length, content, or schedule of your program to accommodate their needs.

  • Life skills ESL classes

This method focuses on developing general English language proficiency. It teaches adults how to express themselves in English when they go to the doctor, apply for a job, manage money, go to the market, or go shopping.

  • Vocational ESL classes

This method prepares students for jobs. Classes may teach pre-employment skills. Students are taught how to look for jobs or prepare for interviews. Classes may also teach language skills for specific jobs in the hospitality or horticulture industry.

  • Workplace ESL classes

This method takes into account specific work settings. Classes help students learn English skills that are specific and directly applicable to a particular work setting.

  • English proficiency/civics classes

This method puts together English language lessons with lessons about citizenship, civil rights, and civic responsibility and participation.

  • Family ESL classes

This method is geared towards teaching the English language to the whole family, including children. Some tutoring programs pool resources from both adult education and K-12 programs.

Comparing Adults and Children as Students of ESL

You have to adjust your teaching method depending on whether you are tutoring adults or children. Children and adults differ in certain ways:

  • Motivation

Adult students are more motivated to learn. They usually enroll for lessons because they need to learn English for study or work. They are likely to apply themselves diligently to their lessons.

Children are usually enrolled by their parents for tutoring lessons. If they do not see the sessions as fun, exciting, or appealing, they may lose interest and become less attentive.

  • Discipline

Adults are more self-disciplined. On the other hand, if you have young learners, you need to instill discipline. You need to create a routine that works for kids and be consistent in your teaching methods.

  • Independence

Adult learners like more independence. They like to have a hand in what lessons to learn. They like to figure things out for themselves.

On the other hand, if you tutor kids, you have to be clearly in charge. You have to set the direction and give precise instructions.

  • Learning Style

Adults need to engage deeply with the material they have to learn. They appreciate being given longer periods to learn tasks.

Children have shorter attention spans. They like to be given different interesting tasks.

  • Level of Anxiety

Adults need to be encouraged. They tend to compare themselves to the typical student and think of themselves as old. As a result, they tend to feel more apprehensive.

Young students are more relaxed and receptive. When they see activities as fun, they don't mind trying new things.

  • Enthusiasm and Energy vs. Life Experience

There is a marked difference between what children and adults bring to the classroom.

Children bring high energy, curiosity, and zest. They are eager to learn things about life.

Adults, on the other hand, have strong and interesting opinions. They have fascinating ideas based on a wealth of experience.


The fundamentals for teaching English remain the same, whether you are tutoring adults or children. Encourage your students. Find out their proficiency levels and use that as your basis in preparing your lesson plans. Include tasks that are practical and useful. And finally, make your classes interesting and fun.


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