How to Use Visual Cues for ESL Students

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.

When used appropriately, visual cues can be a huge benefit for ESL (English as a Second Language) students. This lesson provides teachers with advice on how to effectively use visual cues in an ESL environment.

Make it Visual

There are several benefits of using visual cues, such as a signal or gesture, with ESL (English as a Second Language) students. First of all, they can reinforce the information a student reads, writes, or hears. When students can associate information with specific visual stimuli, they are more likely to remember that information when required.

Additionally, visual stimuli can help your learners better organize information. For instance, young ESL learners can learn to associate colors with specific objects. The color red, for example, can be used to help students group common vocabulary words such as stop sign, apple, fire truck, etc.

It's also important to consider the importance of body language as a major component of communication. When students can see how you move your mouth to pronounce words or gesticulate to emphasize parts of a sentence, they can gain a better understanding of how to effectively convey information in English.

There are several types of visual cues that can be used when teaching. These cues include:

  • Hand gestures
    • Hand gestures can help students better understand emphasis, even if the understanding is subconscious.
  • Facial expressions
    • Observing facial expression can help students understand the subtleties of communication and specific words.
  • Pictures
    • Pictures are a great way to help students visualize descriptive information.
  • Words and phrases
    • Writing words and phrases on the board enables students to see the words they are hearing and can bolster word and phrase recognition.

When you use a combination of the above visual cues, your students will be better equipped to both learn and retain English communication knowledge.

Visual Cues as Teaching Tools

Employing the visual tools outlined in the previous section needs to be done effectively; otherwise, their usefulness will be lost on your ESL learners. As you teach, keep the following points in mind:

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