The broad topic of English as a Second Language can be divided into smaller topics, and both young children and older adults studying ESL need a class geared toward their specific needs. Grammar and vocabulary classes work best for beginning students of any age. Reading, writing and conversational English classes also benefit students of all ages, but business English mostly benefits adult students.

Grammar and Vocabulary

Grammar and vocabulary lessons provide the basic structure needed before ESL students can move on with additional English topics. Grammar lessons must include the parts of speech -- nouns, verbs and so on -- and how to arrange those parts within a sentence. Students must learn how to form and structure questions, imperative sentences and declarative sentences.

Vocabulary lessons should cover the basic vocabulary most individuals need to know. Beginning vocabulary lessons generally include information on numbers, introductions, asking for directions and asking for help. More advanced lessons cover a broader range of topics, such as shopping, travel and history.

Reading and Literature

For beginning ESL students, start with short, simple stories to build reading comprehension in English. Many ESL textbooks contain stories or equally suitable blocks of prose designed to be read by users of those textbooks. If you do not use a textbook like this, consider starting with linear children's stories for use with beginners of all ages.

For more advanced ESL students, progress to longer stories and short novels. Discuss the novels chapter by chapter to ensure that students have any understanding of the text. Non-fiction prose, such as newspaper and magazine articles, also work well.

Writing and Essays

Beginning ESL students should start with simple assignments in order to foster solid writing skills. Begin by writing one- or two-paragraph essays on common topics of interest, like personal goals, family history and favorite books, movies, music and seasons. As students progress, expand these essays into several pages in length, using similar topics.

ESL students at an intermediate level or later should write more structured papers, five to seven paragraphs in length, with an introduction, body and conclusion. Examples include short history papers, biographies and short literary analysis papers.


ESL conversational skills depend on pronunciation and the ability to interact. Students can practice pronunciation through the use of short speeches, but a class meant to build on conversational skills must primarily involve actual conversation. Beginning students may benefit from classroom discussions and small group conversations on material from the textbook. As ESL students progress, conversations should break apart from the textbook and involve topics like personal interests and current events.

Business English

Adult ESL students may consider focusing on the topic of business English, especially if they already have a basic foundation in grammar and vocabulary. Business English focuses on language, interaction, correspondence and presentations. Business language emphasizes the vocabulary and phrases often used in the business world. Business interaction covers proper introduction, meeting etiquette, telephoning and negotiation. Correspondence covers the structure of business letters, memos and proposals. Presentations involve learning how to prepare and deliver presentations in a business setting.

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