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The Six Principles For Exemplary Teaching of English Learners

5 Aug 2018 8:18 PM | Anonymous

TESOL International Association has defined a core set of principles for the exemplary teaching of English learners. The 6 Principles are universal guidelines drawn from decades of research in language pedagogy and language acquisition theory. They are targets for teaching excellence and should undergird any program of English language instruction.  Here are some highlights...


Teachers learn basic information about their students’ families, languages, cultures, and educational backgrounds to engage them in class and prepare and deliver lessons more effectively.

Some Practices for Principle 1
Teachers gain information about their learners.
Teachers collect information about their students’ linguistic and educational backgrounds to determine correct placement for students. They also seek to learn a new student’s cultural and geographic background as a resource for classroom learning .

Teachers embrace and leverage the resources that learners bring to the classroom to enhance learning.
Teachers tap their learners’ prior knowledge purposefully in their teaching. They try to determine what gifts and talents students bring to the classroom, what interests motivate them, what life experiences they have had that are curriculum-related, and what else in their backgrounds has influenced their personalities and beliefs.

Check out these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 1.


Teachers create a classroom culture so students feel comfortable. They make decisions regarding the physical environment, the materials, and the social integration of students to promote language learning.

Some Practices for Principle 2

Teachers demonstrate expectations of success for all learners.

Student achievement is affected by teacher expectations of success. Teachers must hold high expectations and communicate them clearly to all their students—English learners and other classmates, which will motivate them to perform at a high level.

Teachers plan instruction to enhance and support students’ motivation for language learning.

Language learning is difficult and takes a very long time. Learners may not see the benefits of spending time and energy in learning English if the effort does not have an early payoff or it feels outside their own comfort zone. However, we know that motivation is an important condition for language learning, so teachers need to engage their learners and motivate them to work persistently at learning the new language.

Check out these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 2


Teachers plan meaningful lessons that promote language learning and help students develop learning strategies and critical thinking skills. These lessons evolve from the learning objectives.

Some Practices for Principle 3

Teachers use comprehensible input to convey information to students.

Comprehensible input is of primary importance for progress in the target language. Whether oral or written, comprehensible input helps English learners understand the meaning of the communication. Teachers scaffold the language input in multiple ways to aid learner perception and promote understanding.

Scaffolding for ​Comprehensibility

Teachers communicate clear instructions to carry out the learning task.

Teachers use and teach consistent classroom management practices and routines throughout the school year in an effort to help students understand what is expected of them in a classroom and throughout a lesson. Teachers use simple directions with patterned language that they repeat each time.

Check out  these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 3


Teachers continually assess as they teach—observing and reflecting on learners’ responses to determine whether the students are reaching the learning objectives. If students struggle or are not challenged enough, teachers consider the possible reasons and adjust their lessons.

Some Practices for Principle 4

Teachers check student comprehension frequently and adjust instruction according to learner responses.

To teach effectively, teachers need to evaluate what students know and what they do not know, in real time. We do not want to wait until the end of a lesson or the end of a unit to discover that our students have misunderstood a key concept or have incorrectly learned critical vocabulary.

Classroom Example: Teachers check comprehension with group response techniques.

Teachers can use quick comprehension checks during a lesson to gauge how the class is doing. Some group response activities include

     Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

     Response Boards (all students respond individually on a dry-erase board or sheet of paper and show the teacher)

     3-2-1 for Self-Assessment, and

     Technology options (websites and apps) using handheld devices or tablets.

Teachers adjust their talk, the task, or the materials according to learner responses.

If teachers notice student confusion or misunderstanding during a lesson, they make adjustments so that all learners can meet the learning goals. They may vary their oral language input, use home language or alternative texts, present visual aids, or arrange peer support. They might adapt a task by adding more time, finding supplemental resources, or pulling a small group of students together for reteaching.

Check out these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 4


Language learners learn at different rates, so teachers regularly monitor and assess their language development in order to advance their learning efficiently. Teachers also gather data to measure student language growth.

Some Practices for Principle 5

Teachers monitor student errors.

By interacting frequently with our students, we can acquire a great deal of information about their progress. Some teachers record the results of their interactions (e.g., correct and incorrect uses of English) in an anecdotal way, use a check list, or change student grouping patterns and/or partners, depending on their newly developing proficiency.

Classroom Example: Teachers reteach when errors indicate that students misunderstood or learned the material incorrectly.

When errors are not part of the language development process, teachers plan for reteaching or additional practice. They may present a mini-lesson on the topic for the whole class or work with a small group of learners who need the support.


Teachers provide ongoing effective feedback strategically.

To be constructive, a teacher’s feedback in response to a learner’s error is delivered strategically and in a timely manner but it must also suit the age and language development level of the student. The feedback can be positive or corrective. It is important that the feedback be specific and related to what learners are doing well in addition to what they can improve.

Classroom Example: Teachers deliver feedback in a timely manner.

Students may be more able to use feedback if it is not delayed. Timeliness is more important with oral feedback than with written feedback. Private feedback is appreciated by all students, no matter their age.

Check out these Classroom Activities That Support Principle 5


Teachers collaborate with one another.

Exemplary teachers collaborate with others in the profession to provide the best possible support for their learners. They meet with colleagues to co-plan and share their expertise about second language acquisition as well as instructional techniques appropriate for students at different levels of proficiency.

Example: Teachers meet with colleagues regularly to co-plan for future learning.

ESL/ELD teachers need to become co-planners to ensure their students’ success in developing English language and content proficiency. These planning opportunities permit ESL/ELD teachers to become aware of the extent of the content learning required for students. They also allow ESL/ELD teachers to share information about students’ language proficiency with content teachers. The school administrators can help by making certain that scheduling allows teachers to collaborate with colleagues for planning.

Teachers are fully engaged in their profession.

Teachers participate in continuous learning and ongoing professional development and they also reflect critically on their own classroom practices. They develop leadership skills so they can be a resource in their school and get involved in designing programs and developing curricula.

Check out www.tesol.org/the-6-principles for additional videos, resources and information on The 6 Principles.

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