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2020 has been a watershed year on many fronts as Covid 19 changed the way we live. Trends in ESL teaching have also pivoted to meet changing needs. Here’s a list of some of the more prominent changes in how English is being taught to newcomers since the pandemic.

  1. Mobile Learning. Education, in general, has largely become digitized since the pandemic broke out in March. But many foreign-born English students living in the US don’t have access to computers and wifi. They do, however, have smartphones. ESL lessons that can be accessed by a smartphone opens up all kinds of new avenues for learning. Students use their phones to flip through vocabulary flashcards, play grammar games, and even submit assignments -- wherever and whenever it’s most convenient in their schedules.

  2. Digital Literacy. COVID 19 has made digital literacy more critical than ever. Combining English teaching with content-based instruction in how to e-mail, create a document, and search the internet expands a learner’s world. Students feel empowered when they can apply language to develop skills for employment and life.

  3. Task-based Learning. Recognizing the need for students to connect -- even in a world with COVID -- many teachers have moved toward task-based learning where students must collaborate (often on mobile devices) to produce a project. Task-based learning forces students to use their language skills to communicate with each other, make a plan, and divide the labor. For example, if the task is to produce a one-page newspaper, the students will have to decide who will write articles, who will take photos, and who will produce the layout and design. In the end, they get to present their product to the class, and hopefully, it is something they can be proud of.

  4. DIY Learning. Because COVID has forced students to take charge of their learning, DIY approaches to ESL have gained popularity. DIY learning challenges students to use language to create something of use. For example, older students often are seeking employment or striving to enhance their career options. A DIY learning task would ask them to create a resume.

In 2020 we’ve seen our world change and we as ESL teachers must change with it. By networking within the framework of HOPE Literacy, we can help each other pivot to meet the challenges of our changing world.

Check out HOPE Literacy’s teaching resources.

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