How to Volunteer to Teach English

Teaching English to Immigrants

You don't have to travel abroad to teach English; there are plenty of immigrants who need help learning the English language. Depending on your qualifications, you can teach English as a second language (ESL) at a public school, community college, community center, church, library, corporation or for a private group.

No matter where you're teaching, it can be daunting to get up in front of a classroom, particularly one filled with students you don't share a common language with -- yet. Class can quickly turn into a game of charades. But there are plenty of free online resources to provide you with handouts and lively lesson plans [source: Teaching Tips]. There are also many ESL teachers willing to share their best tips online.

Some of those essential tips include:

  • Limit student work groups to three students so everyone gets a chance to talk.
  • Ask a student to read the lesson instructions rather than doing it yourself.
  • Have students underline words in a text that they don't know.
  • Stop a classroom activity in the swing of things, before the students start to get bored.

[source: Regan]

Seasoned ESL teachers also recommend having the students talk to each other as much as possible. You can facilitate that by having another student answer a classmate's question about pronunciation or a word's definition rather than doing it yourself [source: Regan].

Pause periodically throughout lessons to ask students, "Is that clear?" If someone says it isn't, ask for a volunteer from the class to explain. The more time your students have to practice their English, the better it is for them -- and you.

Read on to find out what requirements you need to teach English at home and abroad.