Instructional Practices

There are many different instructional practices used in an ESL classroom. Below you will find some tips for instructional practices found to be effective with particular types of activities. 

For general teaching tips, please click here to browse Liz Regan's 20 top teaching tips!

Needs Assessment/Learner Self-Evaluation

It is important for you, as a teacher, to have a solid grasp of your students' needs in the classrooms. You need to know why your students are in the classroom - what their goals are - so that you can assist your students in reaching those goals! Part of this also includes having learners assess their own skills and identify areas where they feel like they need extra help so that you can incorporate those needs into your instruction! Below you will find an article from the Center for Applied Linguistics which includes a large variety of learner self-evaluations and needs assessments. They are labelled as beginning/intermediate/advanced/all levels so that you can find one appropriate for use in your classroom. These assessments are great to use on your first day in class as a way to get to know your students!

Needs Assessment & Learner Self-Evaluation
Needs Assessment & Learner Self-Evaluati
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Reading Activities

Below is a synopsis of the 4 stages of a reading-based lesson, and some suggestions for activities that could be used in each stage of the lesson.



Objective: to generate the learners’ schemata (context building). Pre-reading tasks will serve to get the learners thinking & talking about the content of what they are about to read. This will enable them to anticipate content and facilitate comprehension of the text. Possible tasks include: 

  • Questionnaires
  • True/False questions
  • Discussion questions
  • Word combining (i.e. word webs)
  • Word matching
  • Pre-teach vocabulary
  • Look at and talk about pictures which set the scene

Reading for the Main Idea

Objective: to give learners practice in understanding the main ideas of a text. We need to give learners practice in this skill because it is not always necessary to understand the details of what we read. Possible tasks include:

  • True/false questions
  • Yes/no questions
  • Check off the main idea (multiple-choice)
  • Choose a picture that corresponds to the text 
  • Order main idea statements
  • Fill-in with main points (grids, open-ended questions)

Reading for Specific Information

Objective: to give learners practice in picking out specific information in a text without expecting them to understand every word. Possible tasks include:

  • Fill-in-the-blank activities
  • Check off details from a list
  • Order information as it appears in the text
  • Multiple-choice
  • Correct misinformation in a text
  • Matching exercises

Follow up

Objective: to give learners further practice using the content of the text; to further check understanding of the text through another medium. Possible tasks include:

  • Discussion questions
  • Role plays
  • Writing tasks: reports, summaries, journal entries
  • Interviews and surveys


Listening Activities

There are 3 stages to a listening activity lesson: pre-listening, during listening, and post-listening. Listed below are activities that can be included in each stage of the lesson.


  • Set context for the content of the listening activity
  • Pre-teach vocabulary words in the listening activity that learners are not familiar with

During Listening

  • Give different task that include listening for the gist, listening for detail, or listening for specific information
  • Let learners listen to the audio as many times as necessary for understanding
  • Pause the audio track, if necessary, to allow learners time to listen and process


  • Review the pre-taught vocabulary
  • Work on grammar and pronunciation pulled from the audio track
  • Develop the thematic topic from the audio track into a reading, writing, or speaking activity