Skip to content

Improving literacy in ESL students

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) can be challenging and rewarding. One way to improve upon the literacy of ESL students is to be consistent with your teaching methods. Stick to your goals and make them measureable. Literacy development is the ability to read, write and speak effectively. It goes way beyond just this, however. It is the development of lifelong skills and abilities that assist in functioning in the classroom, at the job, at home, around town and in daily life. ESL students already know a language fluently in most cases, but they need to learn English to be effective in English-speaking society.

Texas has a large ESL population

According to (a website with statistics about the ESL population), there are more than 800,000 ESL students in Texas. These are the ones actively becoming educated in English. Here is another statistic: Literacy programs in Texas are only serving 3.6 percent of the 3.8 million in need of adult basic education services. Additionally, approximately 40 percent of Texans do not speak English at home.

What can be done to improve literacy for ESL students?

Here are some solid, specific and measurable strategies for ESL students:

  • Ask that ESL students give verbal answers to homework in class at least three times a week.
  • Offer one content lesson daily that will provide English vocabulary and/or the basic structure of the English language.
  • Ask all ESL students to answer content questions verbally at least one time per class session.
  • Interact with the student's parent(s), if appropriate, at least once a week.
  • Have ESL students engage in a weekly writing assignment that includes the use of vocabulary, peer editing or the structure of an essay.

Why a master's program with a focus on ESL literacy

ESL literacy and the teaching of ESL students is a unique and satisfying undertaking. The teacher of ESL literacy requires an education in language skills. These skills are necessary to communicate with students and may include additional skills related to sentence structure, pronunciation, word endings and tenses; furthermore, literacy development and teaching ESL students requires a proficiency in reading and writing skills and the ability to process and gain considerable meaning from the written word and context. Teachers are necessary to bridge the literacy gap for ESL students, and a master’s degree with an emphasis in literacy studies helps educators build these necessary skills.

The instruction of ESL students needs to be consistent. The goals set by the instructor need to be measureable. There are more than 3.8 million Texans in need of adult education services, and only 3.6 percent of this number is getting the help they need with literacy development, shedding light on the need for qualified ESL teachers.


Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.

Need More Info?

Submit the form below, and a representative will contact you to answer any questions.

*all fields required
or call 866-489-2810 866-489-2810
By submitting this form, I am providing my digital signature agreeing that The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) may email me or contact me regarding educational services by telephone and/or text message utilizing automated technology or a pre-recorded message at the telephone number(s) provided above. I understand this consent is not a condition to attend UTA or to purchase any other goods or services.

Ready to Go?

Start your application today!

Apply Now