What Are ESL Classes?

Instructor: Jessica Munk
English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are designed to teach a variety of language skills to non-native English speakers (also known as English language learners). Read on to learn what these courses have to offer and discover options available to school-age children as well as adults and prospective college students.

Overview of ESL Classes

ESL classes can help school-age children and adults learn English listening, reading and writing skills; these classes can also help them develop conversational and culturally appropriate speaking skills. Further, ESL classes can be designed for college students who need to pass English language tests to pursue advanced education or for professionals who need specific English skills for their field.

ESL for Kids and Teens

ESL classes for grades K-12 are generally offered through the school system. These classes are taught by state-certified teachers who've received TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language) training as part of their teacher education programs.

Before receiving instruction, English language learners typically must take an English language assessment, so that teachers know where they should be placed. Once students' needs are determined, ESL teachers deliver instruction to their students in separate ESL classrooms or work with other teachers in traditional classroom settings to help students develop the language skills needed to understand instruction.

ESL classes for children and teenagers can also take the form of ESL summer camps, which include both language and cultural learning opportunities. There are also sports camps that offer sport-specific training alongside ESL classes.

Teaching Resources

Teachers often use technology and hands-on interactions to teach ESL classes in fun, interactive ways. Kids can play Spiderman spelling games, work crossword puzzles, learn funny English words and find a host of other activities. To see examples of these activities, check out this collection of lessons outlining vocabulary activities, games and reading activities used to teach ESL students.

ESL for Adults

Adults can typically find ESL classes through community colleges' continuing or adult education departments. These are often noncredit classes that teach general speaking, reading, writing and listening skills. Adults can also find citizenship classes or classes that offer intermediate and advanced training to help them improve their conversation skills or focus on accent reduction. To enroll in these programs, an adult may have to first take an assessment test to determine which class is appropriate.

Additional options include courses designed to help adults pass the TOEFL and enter a college or university academic program. Many colleges require students whose first language is not English to earn acceptable scores on this standardized test prior to admission. Students can enroll in a campus-based TOEFL prep course to bolster their English language skills and improve their test-taking abilities.

Online options, such as Study.com's TOEFL study guide, can also prepare students to do well on this exam through self-paced video lessons and practice quizzes.

ESL for College Students

College students who meet minimum TOEFL score requirements can enroll in noncredit and credit-granting ESL classes designed to help them develop the English skills needed to succeed in an academic environment. These options include undergraduate courses as well as specialized ESL courses offered to graduate students. Programs designed for graduate students can focus on such areas as legal English and business English.

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