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  • Writer's pictureYvette Appiah

How to Customize Your ESL Curriculum

In January I added ESL Teachers and organizations to the list of people I will share my Instructional Design expertise to educate and service. I have a very short list.

The truth is many ESL teachers also homeschool their children and many homeschool parents need ESL services.

I am an ESL Instructor and a homeschool mom. I found ESL online instruction when we had to leave the workforce as an Instructional Designer because I was recovering from a major surgery and the stress was not healthy.

At first I signed with one company while looking for another high powered ID job but the universe had other plans for me.

Now I am in ESL full time, signed with 4 companies and my ambitions continue.

I have studied the ESL curriculum from a designer’s perspective and there is room for a lot to be improved.

In a marriage of my passions of ID and ESL and homeschool. I started Creative Curriculums LLC, to help ESL teachers who want to go independent build a curriculum that is completely customized to their students’ needs.

So let’s talk about what a customized education means. Customized is more than personalized. Many companies offer learning material that they say are personalized but they are not because anyone can use them. Customized focuses on the specific needs of an individual learner.

While homeschool parents can really benefit from a curriculum that focuses on their children specifically, ESL teachers cannot. ESL teachers need a curriculum that is customized to the situational needs of the student but can be used for many students.

How do you do it?

Creative Curriculums begins every lesson plan with an interview with the learner. Determine the needs of your learners. Focus on topics that they experience and what they will experience.

Many ESL teachers make the mistake of choosing lesson topics that interest them and not their students. Ugh! You will spend most of your class explaining your topic rather than teaching your student to speak English.

The spotlight is always on the student and not on the teacher. Sorry teachers, I know for some that is tough love.

If you go independent, tell the parents you would like to interview the family to know more about the student’s learning needs and interests. If you cannot do this, then base tour topics off of things you know your student encounters daily.

Some daily activities of the typical ESL student is:






Reading for pleasure


Always keep in mind your objective is to teach them to speak the language. So I will give you an example. This example will also be available on a slide presentation on my website which is coming soon.

Let’s use “questions” as our lesson plan subject and I will show you how to customize it to an activity important to your student.

Use each question word as vocabulary. Discuss what each question word wants to know, the definition. Then make ‘real life’ sentences about the important topic, homework for example.

  1. What homework will we have today?

  2. When is it due?

  3. How do I solve this problem?

  4. Who has to do the homework?

  5. Can you help me with my homework?

A “question” lesson can be designed for any level and any subject.

Ask the student to think of questions he has about his homework? What does he want to ask his teacher? What does he want to ask his parents? What does he want to ask his friends? You can make a slide of each guiding question.

Questions can be developed into a series of lessons. You can have a whole module on questions. Change the important topic once the student has had sufficient practice and feels good to move on.

As the late, great Prince once eloquently sung. “there is joy in repetition.” This should be an ESL teacher’s theme song.

The lessons I see in most ESL companies do not allow the student to repeat the words enough to fully grasp and remember them.

As an independent teacher, you will get kudos, and I am sure more money if you include many opportunities to repeat words and sentences.

Learning a language is hard. I barely remember the Chinese words I learned. I studied French for many years and do not remember most words because I did not practice them.

Trust me, your student will appreciate grasping one concept and mastering it per class than being introduced to several things and remembering none.

If you want a session with me to learn the details of designing customized lessons that focus on your students’ needs, really help them master the language and will get you great business then go to my contact page and sign up to see me.

In a few weeks I will have my website up with a booking link.

Work smarter ESL teachers, not harder.

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