Common ESL Classroom Problems, How to Fix Them and Not Panic


Some of these ESL classroom problems are not just found in the ESL classroom so don’t be alarmed! Must read for teachers!

They are found in classrooms the world over, no matter the subject being taught. Hopefully by identifying what ESL classroom problems you may face, you can plan for them and rectify them, to become a better ESL teacher which will lead to success for your students.

Remember all students are different and all classes are different, unfortunately not every student will have success, and that isn’t always your fault.

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Students continue to use their first language rather than English in class

This is one of the most common ESL classroom problems any ESL teacher will face. This can be somewhat managed by encouraging the students to only use English even when they are struggling. If the classroom is a supportive environment for those who haven’t grasped certain concepts they are more likely to ask for help rather than give up.

Personality clashes between students or student and teacher

Personality clashes affect all classrooms, no matter the subject so it’s not just ESL classroom problems. As a teacher you have to accept student’s personalities and learn to work with the student, as long as you are both polite you should be able to develop a good working relationship. If there are students who clash, you may have to separate them and ensure they never partner together.

Students are unprepared for the class

Again this happens in all subjects and is often due to lack of interest or external pressures on the student. The best way to manage a student consistently not being prepared is to focus on a shared learning experience and ensure that the student understands concepts before moving on to the next topic. By making the topics interesting and relevant to the student you will encourage their individual commitment to learning. And you may even be able to fix these ESL classroom problems.

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Experienced students taking over the class

Often when a student has more experience with a subject or has stronger language skills they can dominate the classroom with their knowledge. When this happens those who need more practice or have questions to ask can be drowned out or missed, creating an imbalance in the classroom.

To help fix this ESL classroom problem, teachers must be aware of the issue and call on the quieter students where possible, and gently deflect the more confident students so that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the classroom.

Disruptive classroom

We have all been in a class that has been disruptive, whether as a student or a teacher. If it is just one student that tries cause disruptions, the teacher must ensure they use the disciplinary remedies open to them as recommended by the school.

That is not to say you should start with the most serious punishment, in the first place a simple request should be made for the student to respect that others in the classroom wish to learn.

Unfortunately there will always be students who push the limits.

If the entire classroom is being disruptive, it may be due to boredom from either boring material or that the material is either too simple or too advanced for the students. In this case, the teacher must make changes to make the lessons more appropriate for the learners. So it may be that the teacher is actually to blame for these particular ESL classroom problems.

Students not completing homework

It can be difficult for adult learners to find the time to complete homework when they are often managing full-time jobs and a family as well so giving simple homework is the best chance for success.

Perhaps finding activities that they can do while doing other things such as reading books to their children in English or listening to English podcasts on their way to work.

As for children, they have been avoiding homework since school was invented!

Sometimes if they continue to not submit homework, you have to speak to their parents or instigate the schools disciplinary procedures for failing to complete homework.

While there are many problems in the ESL classroom that a teacher can face, there are also many positives!

Don’t get discouraged.

If you continue to face challenges make sure you ask for advice from those more experienced than yourself. In time you will become the experienced one, and will have new ESL teachers coming to you for advice.

Further Reading:

8 Easy Side Hustles for ESL Teachers

13 Ways to be a Better Online ESL Teacher

QKids – A Comprehensive Guide for ESL Teachers