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There is a general misconception among some teachers new to English Language Teaching (ELT) that it’s perfectly reasonable to just rock up to a language school, get given a textbook, and walk into a classroom and start teaching.

This approach – and it does happen in some ‘academic institutions’ – is definitely not in the best interest of students.

Any university, college, academy or school that’s truly concerned about providing an environment that allows its students to reach their academic potential must have curricula – documents that outline the academic content taught in a course or subject.

Curricula academic content revolves around learning aims or objectives that students should be able to attain by the end of their course or subject.

The units and lessons in a curriculum, along with the teaching resources, are designed to help students achieve those aims or objectives. And the assessments used to evaluate student learning show to what extent the aims and objectives have been achieved.

In addition to these elements that appear in all curricula documents, high quality TESOL curricula have several additional sections that are ESL specific.

Let’s look at how to construct an ESL Curriculum – I’m going to use an IELTS Foundation Course Curriculum for reference.

Course Rationale

A Course Rationale explains why a course is being created and why it has value to students.

You should write about preparing students to take the IELTS test, the entry and exit levels, the mode of delivery, the use of mock tests, the importance of formative assessment, and the focus on becoming an autonomous learner.

Your rationale can be used as an introduction to the rest of the document.

Entry Pre-requisites

Entry Pre-requisites are generally either age related, academic related or both. For example, for a student to be accepted for an IELTS course with an entry requirement of an overall band score of 5.0 and an exit level of 6.0, you could write the following:

In order to qualify for this level, prospective students must achieve:

  • IELTS 5.0 OR
  • PTE Academic 36 OR
  • TOEFL iBT 40 OR
  • Achieve an Intermediate level on the pre-entry test OR
  • Pass the General English Intermediate level

Articulation into Other Courses

If a student completes an IELTS Foundation Course, they would be able to transfer to an IELTS Advanced Course or articulate into a higher education or vocational course.

Learner Profile

Include dot points on a range of topics: country/ies of origin, age group, expectations, current language skills, and why they are planning to take the IELTS Test.

Course Aims or Objectives

In my Curriculum, I distinguish between Aims and Objectives. My Aims are more general in nature, written around common ESL skills: Accuracy, Fluency, Motivation, and Confidence.

FOCUS OF AIMS = Accuracy Fluency Motivation Confidence

The Objectives are more specific, looking directly at the IELTS TEST and the four macro-skills it assesses: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking.

English as a Second Language Curriculum  FOCUS OF OBJECTIVES = Reading + Writing + Listening + Speaking

Choice of Course Content

Choosing a core textbook is very important when it comes to course content. I prefer an IELTS book published by Cambridge – as they are involved in writing the tests, you can count on them to provide high quality material.

Organisation of Course Content

Explain when mock tests and summative tests are held, when test reviews and feedback will be given, and how much and how often homework will be given and marked.

Skill Balance

Construct a table that shows which Course Objectives are covered in which week/s.

Daily / Weekly Syllabus

Choosing between a daily or weekly syllabus is probably the most important decision to make when constructing a curriculum.

I prefer a weekly syllabus because it gives a TESOL teacher a lot more flexibility – they can decide what to do on any given day based on the needs of the students, rather than robotically following what the syllabus says to do.

If you have a weekly syllabus, you need to include a Record of Work (ROW) sample, showing teachers how you expect them to detail what work they cover in their classrooms on a daily basis.

Teaching Resources

This is where you write all of the course resources, including the core textbook, supplementary materials and online sites.

Role of the Teacher

I believe there are three key components: expertise in the English language, a range of teaching strategies and effective classroom management.

Role of the Learner

Learners should expect to have a participatory role in the classroom, not be afraid to make mistakes, ask for assistance if required, contribute to a cooperative environment, and take a pro-active approach to learning.

Teaching Strategies for Different Learning styles

Each student prefers different learning styles and techniques. English Language Teachers need to be aware of these learning styles and what teaching strategies are suitable for each.


Learning Style Teaching Strategies
  • Visual
Use pictures.
Have power point, video presentations.
Write on the whiteboard.
Do reading exercises.
  • Aural
Have group and pair work.
Include listening to music exercises.
Do listening exercises based on a recording.
Practice pronunciation and intonation.
  • Verbal
Have group and pair work.
Practice pronunciation and intonation.
Practice public speaking.
Have task-based learning activities.
  • Physical
Do role-plays.
Give presentations.
Discuss gestures and facial expressions.
  • Logical
Have task-based learning activities.
Practice giving explanations.
Give reasons or examples for opinions.
Practice debates.
  • Social
Work in pairs or small groups.
Work on a class project.
Have a class discussion.
Have team presentations.
  • Solitary
Work individually.
Set homework.
Write essays.
Do comprehension exercises.

The role of learning outside the classroom

Many students come to class and speak English, and then speak in their native language for the rest of the day. Passing a test like IELTS isn’t an easy thing, so students need to maximise their potential.

They can achieve this if TESOL teachers encourage students to speak English at every opportunity.

Formative Assessment

Types of formative assessment include mock tests, homework, peer assessment and participation.

Summative Assessment

Include when summative assessments are held, when and how test feedback is given, applicable test conditions and an example of a transcript.



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