Ideas for Constructing an ESL Syllabus
Robert Brantley, BYU TESL Program
I. Why a syllabus?
A. Teacher organization
B. Students' expectations
C . Organization's expectations
II. Designing a Syllabus
A. Decide what you NEED to teach.
1. Ask yourself WHY your students are studying English, and WHAT do
they need to know?
2. Do some sort of needs assessment.
A. Find a good needs assessment instrument or create your own from various
B. Do not just ASSUME what your students need to knowask them and make them feel like they are involved in the planning of the course in order to create a nice learner-centered atmosphere.
3. Do not forget to incorporate the things that YOU know (as a professional) that they need.
A. For example, students can't take TOEFL preparation classes only. We should be able to know generally what they need based upon their goals. (Don't expect your students to tell you everything they need and want to know.)
4. Remember that the level of the students determines, to a great extent, what they need to learn.
A. Beginner students want and need survival skills, whereas advanced
students want to focus on difficult areas such as research, critical, and
creative writing, etc.
B. Decide what you CAN teach.
1. Remember that you will not likely be able to teach everything you
feel you NEED (or even want) to teach.
2. Prioritize topics and areas of study according to the needs of the students.
3. Review various sample lesson plans and ideas, if available.
C. Decide how to organize the syllabus.
1. Design your syllabus from your list of prioritized topics or areas
2. Be mindful of topics that build upon others and construct syllabus accordingly.
A. For example, you should probably teach demonstratives BEFORE teaching students how to shop for clothing. (Examples: "How much is this shirt?" , "How much are these pants?")
3. Make use of a wide variety of resources and activities.
4. Be mindful of the four skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) and which ones are most important for your students. (Also, don't spend three hours on grammar instruction only and one on Listening/Speaking. L/S is probably the most important for most students.)
D. Teacher Expectations
1. It is good to include on the syllabus the things that you expect from the students. Students sometimes perform better when expectations are in writing.
A. What are things you might expect? (Attendance, homework, etc.)
E. Helpful information (if you are giving your students a copy of the syllabus, which is advised):
1. Place your phone number, office number, etc., on the syllabus so
the students can contact you. Often times conscientious students want to
call you before they miss a class or an assignment.
2. Valuable resources and texts can also be listed on the syllabus. Most likely, you'll be planning your lessons and developing materials throughout the course and will, therefore, not have a complete list of sources for your students. However, if you know of some you will definitely be using, it's good to list them on the syllabus.