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Direct Instruction for English Language Learners

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Direct instruction, in which teachers lecture or demonstrate content directly to the class, is an important educational tool. In this lesson, teachers will learn how and when to use direct instruction with ESL (English as a second language) students.

What Is Direct Instruction?

When used appropriately, direct instruction (DI) can be a valuable method of delivering content to ESL students. Basically, DI involves a teacher directing information at students in the form of a lecture or demonstration. DI is commonly used in the following situations:

  • To introduce new or unfamiliar concepts
  • When students need additional review
  • To clarify confusing information
  • To demonstrate key ideas

For instance, if you are introducing food-related vocabulary to a class of young ESL beginners, confine the direct instruction of the lesson to vocabulary only (definitions and pronunciation). Don't worry about grammar structures, tenses, etc. Those topics can be covered in subsequent lessons. Keep your direct instruction as focused as possible.

DI is often used in conjunction with other teaching methods that require more student involvement. When you are teaching ESL learners, it's important to not spend too much time using DI. Any ESL lesson should include plenty of practice and interaction. For instance, giving a 50-minute, 1-sided lecture to a class full of ESL students is generally not an efficient or effective way to teach this type of student. DI should comprise no more than 30-40% of lesson time, and even less for younger learners.

How to Use Direct Instruction

Direct instruction should be specific, organized and appropriate.

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