How to Prepare A Thorough ESL Curriculum


Some schools and programs already have ready-made ESL curricula that the teachers need to follow, but in many cases the teachers have to plan their ESL lesson plans themselves, or at least parts of them.

Planning an ESL curriculum to teach English to kids can sometimes be a tough task, especially for beginner ESL teachers, but we are here to help. In this article, we are going to discuss what should be taken into account when preparing your English as a second language curriculum and give some examples of strategies that work.

ESL Curriculum Components

esl curriculum

First of all, let’s elaborate on what a typical ESL curriculum should include. As a rule, ESL English lessons for students from beginner to intermediate levels should focus on all language skills – readingwritingspeaking, and listening. It is important to incorporate these four parts in your lessons and devote an equal amount of time to each of them.

Besides, the language skills need to be actively recycled, i.e. repeated many times until the students adopt them. Get in the habit of reviewing the subject of the previous lesson at the next lesson. Finally, encourage your students to constantly practice the skills that they have learned. This practice can consist not only of boring exercises but also of some fun and engaging ESL activities and games. Students of all ages will love them.

For examples of ESL activities, see this article.

Basically, ESL English lessons are divided into the following sections:


Introducing or reviewing the grammar or function (5-10 minutes).

Development or input 

Working with the grammar or function by using various activities (15-20 minutes).

Review or output 

Reviewing and practicing the concepts that have been covered during the lesson (15-20 minutes).

Age-Based ESL Curriculum

esl curriculum

ESL curricula may deviate from a basic plan if the teacher takes into account the student’s age. For example, an elementary ESL curriculum may include warm up activities, fun games and songs to keep the kids engaged. And an ESL lesson for elementary students can last less than an ESL lesson for adult students.

Younger kids aged 3-7 typically learn to introduce themselves and follow simple instructions, such as identifying and recognizing the colors.

Kids aged 8-12 can dive deeper into grammar activities and learn modal verbs and tenses. And remember to encourage your young students to practice the language with each other, not only with yourself as a teacher.

Level-Based ESL Curriculum

An ESL curriculum can also depend on an ESL level of your students. There are the following ESL levels:

Beginner level

The students have no or very little knowledge of English. For this level, the English as a second language curriculum should be intensively built around all aspects of language – reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Elementary level (A1)

The learners understand basic phrases and instructions that are used in specific situations. They can interact in a very simple way and use incomplete sentences, without real grammatical content. At this level, the teachers should also focus on grammar.

Upper elementary level (A2)

The students master simple sentences and can write them. They can participate in a simple conversation and uses vocabulary that is generally taught in school. For the A2 level, the teachers can add more vocabulary activities to enrich the speech of their students.

Lower intermediate level (A2 – B1)

The learners can understand spoken English, but still have difficulties. They can read and write simple texts and are able to participate in in basic ESL conversations on familiar topics. At the lower intermediate level, the teachers should include new topics in their ESL curricula.

For examples of ESL conversations, see this article.

Intermediate level (B1 – B2)

The students can understand the key ideas of a complex text. They can participate in spontaneous conversations, but often have problems with grammar and vocabulary, so the focus here should be both on grammar and vocabulary.

Upper intermediate level (B2)

The learners understand everyday language. They can speak fluently and interact with native speakers. B2 students are typically adults, so you can start focusing on professional and business topics, because the B2 knowledge is sufficient to use in professional settings.

Advanced level (C1)

The students can understand idiomatic expressions. They can produce complex texts and use the language in professional, academic, and social settings. At this level, the students already know the most of the grammar and vocabulary, so focus on advanced speaking and listening skills. For example, you can watch movies and/or news in English or discuss them. The students can also prepare reports on various subjects and defend those reports in front of the class.

Proficiency level (C2)

The learners can understand almost everything and master the language perfectly, at the nearly native level.

What are your best tips for building an ESL curriculum?

With the students’ age and skills in mind, you will rarely have any problems with your ESL curriculum. We want to know what you’re doing, whether you’re a classroom teacher or you teach English online.

Please leave any tips or comments you have in the comments section to help your fellow ESL teachers build their curricula. If you want to expand on or react to anything we provided here, feel free to do so as well.

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  1. Having a lot of visual age for the lower level students is extremely important. Even just pictures in a book or off the internet can make the difference in your student understanding & being successful!

  2. Input, input, input and recycle. I have started using more and more comprehensible input in my brick and mortar classes and my students are lightyears ahead of where they have been in the past. I have also found that teaching grammar as phrases/vocabulary structures also helps them acquire complex grammar faster into their writing and speaking and they naturally begin to experiment with that structure and use it in other ways.


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