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Adapting Materials for English Language Learners

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

When you choose the material you need for your ESL classes, you often find that the material does not exactly fit the needs of all your students. Luckily, there are ways to adapt and use such material, and this lesson tells you how to do it.

Varied Levels

The rule of thumb to adapt ESL materials to your class is to select graded materials that are specific to the level you teach. For example, if you teach beginners, your choice of materials is limited to texts and audio for beginners. While this seems obvious, it is not uncommon for schools to provide you with available materials that are evidently not appropriate for a specific level. If this is the case, you do not have to struggle. You can always search the Internet for materials that fit a specific level.

Once you find material for the level you need, it is very likely you run into another difficulty. This difficulty is the fact that within a specific class level, you have students who make faster progress than others. In other words, within a specific level (beginner, intermediate, advanced), you have varied levels of progress. Sooner or later, the varied ability that students have to make progress means that not all materials for their level are ready to use as they are. This is when you need to adapt materials.

To adapt ESL materials means to make slight changes so your students can fully benefit from the content. Below, we have a list of aspects you can vary to get the best out of the materials you have.

Adapting Materials

Let's ignore for a moment the aspect of copyright. Let's imagine you have permission to change words or entire phrases on an ESL text in order to fit the exact needs of your ESL students. This task requires you to invest a lot of thoughtful work and time, which is difficult to spare as a teacher. Besides, let's get back to reality and not forget that copyrights limit how much you can change a text, even if it is for educational purposes.

The above means we need to be practical. Provided you possess material that is specific to the level you teach, the following table shows you the specific aspects you can easily adapt when it comes to ESL materials.

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