Teaching Matters: Preparing Student-Centered Materials for the Classroom


Teacher in front of students at an adult education class

“If it is language that makes us human, one half of language is to listen.”

– Jacob Trapp (1899-1992), American religious leader


Part 3 of Teacher Edition Tuesday, a weekly series based on ten teaching tips from the recently released Compelling American Conversations – Teacher Edition!

We previously discussed the importance of classroom design in fostering a communicative learning environment. What about the ESL lessons themselves? Is there a simple teaching method that I have consistently found effective in creating authentic classroom conversations?

Yes! Know your students, and focus on their interests while expanding their working English vocabulary. Give English students a clear structure, a definite task, and plenty of opportunitiy to talk with each other. I also prefer to to motivate our English students more out of choice than duty, and acting as a coach to a referee. Therefore, I find tailoring ESL and EFL material to the actual individual students in each class remains the ideal. (Tutors have a great advantage of ver ESL and EFL teachers for this reason.)

Yet the gap between ideal and the real always exist. Therefore,  it is crucial that ESL teachers prepare flexible, student-centered materials and adopt standand textbooks to match the teaching context.. When we show an awareness for their intestes and concerns,  students will often devote more energy and focus to developing and deepening their speaking skills in our English classes..

Here is a handy lesson planner I’ve developed for my English classes. It’s also designed to make lesson planning  easy for Compelling Conversations materials – and other quality ESL textbooks.


Give Opening Quote:


Make brief opening comment to class:


Select three questions to introduce the topic:





Review Vocabulary:

  • Expand vocabulary for class discussion (5-10 minutes)
  • List new words that could be used for academic discussion


Pair Students off for conversation (Record starting time):

  • Allow 20-40 minutes for conversation
  • Circulate among students and take notes


Conversation Content:

What did you hear the students say?




Select three class discussion questions (Prepare to lead 20 minutes class discussion):





Lead Class Discussion:

  • Lead 20-30 minutes discussion
  • Call on wide range of students


Provide Pronunciation tips:

  • Review overhead “good mistakes”  made by students (10 minutes)
  • Model proper pronunciation, review sound patterns
  • Find a minimal pair to contrast sounds


By leading student-centered discussions and asking questions that provoke personal responses, you’re opening the doors for a truly engaging classroom dialogue. It’s also quite helpful to use authentic “good mistakes” from our own English students to make general grammar and pronunciation points. For a reproducible copy of this worksheet, click here.

Do you have a favorite lesson plan or structure that you use to adapt lessons so they better fit your students? If so, please feel free to share!


Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Create Compelling Conversations.
Visit www.CompellingConversations.com

Teacher Edition Tuesdays feature material introduced in Compelling American Conversations – Teacher Edition, the companion text to the original Compelling American Conversations. Sample chapters of each are available on CompellingConversations.com and ChimayoPress.com. We also offer a free copy of the Teacher Edition with class sets for adult ESL schools, literacy centers, Intensive English language programs (IEP) , church and other non-profit groups offering ESL classes to immigrants and refugees. Contact Eric Roth here for more information.

Comments are closed.