Teach Abroad

Tips for Teaching Advanced ESL Students

Adelina Wong

Adelina is a curious globetrotter and storyteller who shares stories from her meaningful travel experiences around the world.

Teaching ESL to intermediate and advanced students is a rewarding experience, as you have the opportunity to watch students learn and flourish in a foreign language (and there are tons of opportunities!). As students get closer and closer to fluency, you’ll be able to communicate with them effortlessly in a language that was previously foreign to them. The ease of communication will allow you to get to know your students better and over time; students will more than likely become your friends, with lessons turning into conversations about day-to-day life in addition to the expected grammar and vocabulary. These relationships, built in the classroom, will become some of the most rewarding.

Where to teach ESL to Intermediate and Advanced Students?

All over the world, you can find intermediate and advanced English students planning to learn how to speak this world language. In Europe or Africa or Asia, you’ll be sure to find someone learning and practicing their English language skills with a native speaker, whether it’s in school, private tutelage or an after-school program. However, there are some regions that focus heavily on English language education. Asia especially is experiencing a strong push into the English language and you can find schools popping up all over South Korea, China, and Japan (to name a few).

Another thing to keep in mind when selecting a location is the overall fluency of the country. If the majority of students are at an intermediate or advanced level, then demand for teachers are lower and thus competition for a teaching placement is higher.

Your students will more than likely become your friends, with lessons turning into conversations about day-to-day life. These relationships, built in the classroom, will become some of the most rewarding.

The Pros and Cons of Teaching Higher Level Students English

If you're less interested in singing pre-school songs or helping small children learn their colors, there are plenty of opportunities for teaching abroad. Before you sign up for a course geared more towards advanced students, you might want to first weigh the pros and cons:

Pros of Teaching ESL to Advanced Students

  • Students have a larger vocabulary and will be able to understand you easily.
  • Students already have a basic understanding of the English language.
  • Activities can be more complex and immersive.
  • You have the ability to use material from authentic publications and media such as movie clips and books to supplement textbooks.
  • Conversation can flow easily, allowing you to build a stronger student-teacher relationship.

Cons of Teaching ESL to Advanced Students

  • Students have varying knowledge of the foundation of the English language (not all students are created equal).
  • You might need to reteach basics before delving into complex material.
  • It will be trickier to explain the more complex aspects of grammar, especially as a beginner teacher.
  • The learning progress for intermediate to advanced students is much slower compared to beginners, as concepts are more difficult and take longer to master.
  • Many students will have a good grasp of grammar, but may find it hard to speak fluently.

Types of Platforms to Teach ESL

There are different ways to teach students at an intermediate or advanced level. These students, because they have a solid base for the language, may elect to have a more immersive experience by going abroad, away from their home country, to an English-speaking country for their language courses. Typically these run for a month or two and involve lessons in the classroom as well as activities outside where English must be used.

Alternatively, others will stay in their home country and receive lessons either as a part of their regular schooling or enroll in an after school program for extra practice and study. Local schools, as well as after-school programs, are always looking to hire native speakers of English. Additionally, you can teach as a private tutor as well. This is especially useful for intermediate and advanced students so that they can pick up the subtle nuances of the English language that may not be normally used in a classroom environment.

There is also the option to teach English online. There are a number of different programs where you can sign up and teach. This option enables to you be able to teach in the comfort of your own home and have a flexible schedule.

What does this all mean for TEFL Certification?

In some countries it is not required for you to have any kind of certification to teach other than the fact that you are a native English speaker. However, most countries and schools will require you to have a certification and to have had some teaching experience even if it is only as much as tutoring or student teaching during your certification process. Typically those schools that ask for certification will offer a higher salary as well.

There are a number of programs where you can earn your Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. Some programs are offered online, others are in a classroom and some offer a combination of the two. Programs range a variety of price and it ultimately comes down to what you are looking for in a program. You can decide which one is best for you with this guide to TEFL certification.

In addition to receiving a TEFL certification, many schools and programs will require you to have a college degree. They don’t typically require a particular degree, but just that you have one. While it is possible to find a placement without a degree, your choices are much more limited.

Ideas for Advanced ESL Lessons

Teaching students the complexities of the English language will mean that you, the teacher, need to have an excellent grasp of some of the more technical aspects of the language. Unfortunately, the explanation of "because it sounds better" or "that's just how we say it" won't be very useful to your curious and advanced students. You will need to plan.

  • Watch movies: Students may be able to watch an entire film at this stage of the learning curve. You may challenge students to not use subtitles in their native tongue or in English to really up-the-ante.
  • Read longer texts: Your students might not be up for an entire novel, but having them read multi-page stories (and perhaps asking a set of questions to check their comprehension) will help their English skills in more ways than one.
  • Teach them humor: The ability to be funny in a different language is quite a feat - you're tackling a new sense of humor as well as cultural tonal norms. Teach your students jokes and sarcasm if they are up for it.
  • Take them out of the classroom: Meet with students in a more casual environment, like a cafe, bar, or restaurant. This will allow them to speak English in a more relaxed setting, and to emulate the complexities of small talk.

Teaching ESL to intermediate and advanced students is a rewarding experience, as you have the opportunity to watch students learn and flourish in a foreign language.

Teaching English to intermediate and advanced students is a lot of fun and a great experience. In the classroom, it is a test of your persistence and ability to get creative in order to teach a concept to your students. As a result, you’re able to build a great relationship with your student, and the feeling of being able to impart knowledge on another person is incomparable.