ESL Development 3: What ESL Students are Willing to Do Provided…

1. Students are willing to do homework regularly …

  • if all of them (and all the groups) have the same amount of work.
  • if the homework is corrected or exploited on the day it is assigned for.
  • if doing homework gives extra credit or at least a better participation grade.
  • if they understand the reason for the work and what they will get out of it.
  • if the homework is corrected in PW with a key they understand.
  • if the teacher doesn’t keep saying they have no work ethic.

2. Students are willing to work seriously in class …

  • if they see that it helps them to improve.
  • if they know they’ll get a good participation grade.
  • if the task is not too difficult for them.
  • if they are working in two’s or three’s and can get help from the others.

3. Students are willing to speak in class…

  • if they are doing PW or working in threes.
  • if they have been given time to prepare outside of class.
  • if they know exactly when they will be presenting or animating the class.
  • if the teacher doesn’t correct them in front of everyone else.
  • if the others do not laugh behind their backs.

4. Students are willing to show respect towards the teacher …

  • if the teacher shows them the same respect.
  • if the teacher comes on time and has prepared the lesson well.
  • if the teacher gives fair grades.
  • if the teacher doesn’t have a teacher’s pet (favorite student).
  • if the teacher is friendly and understanding with everyone.
  • if the teacher finishes the class on time.
  • if the teacher doesn’t give surprise tests as "punishment."

5. Students are willing to learn texts, dialogues or poems by heart …

  • if you start with short texts, dialogues, or poems.
  • if everyone has to learn the same texts, dialogues, or poems.
  • if the teachers explains why it is important to learn these texts by heart.
  • if they don’t have to recite in front of the whole class.
  • if they recite in front of a partner, two classmates, or the teacher alone.
  • if no one makes fun of them in case of difficulties remembering the lines.
  • if a partner can help them when they get stuck and can’t remember a line.
  • if the short texts, dialogues or poems they have memorized are on their tests.
  • if students in classes ahead of them can tell them how important it is to work on memory capacity by learning texts, dialogues or poems by heart.


In brief, the more you expect from your students, the harder they will work. If your expectations amount to next to nothing, they will not contribute much to the class. It’s just part of human nature. So the solution is to assign substantial homework that is either relatively easy and still requires some creativity. Language learning can develop through exercises—either written or oral—and speaking skills can be honed through oral presentations that will spark their creativity.

What learners want is simple: rewards for work that is well done. So give achievement tests frequently, assign short essays every other week, and have students give short presentations several times during the term. And above all give them as often as possible positive feedback and grades that will encourage them. A little compliment can go a very long way. If students are only tested once a term and told they are mediocre, of course, they will be bored and never participate spontaneously. So be a coach who wants all the students to get ahead and benefit from the teaching—even if you have to remain silent during most of the class time!

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