ESL teaching methods to actively engage your language class

In today’s globalized world, speaking multiple languages can be useful in many ways. The problem with becoming multilingual is the arduous task of learning a foreign language in the first place. That being said, it is a language teacher’s job to give students the knowledge and tools to succeed in learning the language. Couple that with a large classroom and you’ve got an even bigger challenge to take on.

ESL teaching methods

Many of the challenges revolve around teaching a language stem from students not being engaged with the language. As Kate, a high school French teacher in Southern California, tells us:

I find my students becoming overly dependent on me to simply provide the answers for them instead of them actively engaging in learning the language. And they frequently use their first language instead of immersing themselves in the language they’re supposed to be learning.

Tackling these challenges involves giving your students an environment where the language and culture are intertwined. Here are some of our tips to engage your language class:

Setting standards on the first day of class can help normalize the consistent use of the language in your classroom. Try exposing your students to as much of the language you’re teaching as possible and limit native language while in class. A great way to start the first day of class is by going over simple phrases such as “I don’t understand”, “May I go to the restroom”, or “Do we have homework?”. That way, your students are set up for success at the beginning of the term. With Classtime, you can even switch the student side of the app to the language you’re teaching, for example French, Spanish, German, and more, and then create questions that actively engage every student, so even the shyest ones get involved.

Free text questions are also a great way to engage your language class in thinking about the context of the language you’re teaching. Instead of multiple choice conjugation questions, open-ended questions force students to think about what is being asked and to use contextual evidence to figure out the words that they don’t know.

Quick Tip: Classtime‘s free text bundle feature makes it even easier to create engaging and effective questions. For example, a French teacher could ask: “Pouvez-vous me donner un exemple pour une église en France?” To which there can be several correct answers — Notre-Dame de Paris, Sacré Cœur, Sainte-Chapelle…But it makes them think about the context of the language and actively engages each student. Once the answers come in, the app will group identical answers and, with a single click, you can validate all corresponding student answers. Plus, all validations are saved in Classtime, so the next time you use free text questions the answers that were previously validated will be automatically confirmed.

ESL teaching methods
Validate all corresponding student answers with one click, saving you time by not having to individually validate student answers. (

Keeping your students interested is another challenge when trying to drill grammar rules of a foreign language into their repertoire. Luckily, teaching the culture alongside the language and giving students assignments that immerse them in the language and the culture is an easy way to get them excited about learning. Try implementing multimedia into your lessons to give students a taste of the culture, from movies and news, to music and reading assignments of a local paper. You can also encourage engagement through games and fun assignments where they get to interact with native speakers. For example, if you’re teaching Spanish, have students go to a Mexican restaurant (or Colombian, Spanish tapas, or Salvadoran) and order in Spanish. You could even create one of Classtime’s Collaborative Challenges to structure the lesson around a narrative in which the class works together in an effort to achieve a common goal.

Learning a foreign language doesn’t have to be strict grammar rules and boring memorization, and it shouldn’t be! Technology gives you many ways to engage your language class in both the language and the culture.

Classtime can help you get actively engage your language class today:

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