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Some groups of students are just “too” prepared. They’ve studied and are able to go through all the required content in half the allotted time. This is wonderful, but it can be difficult for the English tutor, who then needs to figure out how to fill the rest of the class time. Students who only give one-word answers can also quickly go through the course material. These tips will help English tutors expand on the required content so that they will be able to get the most out of the class regardless of their proficiency level.

Evaluate Student’s Proficiency

Evaluating how the students are handling the material early in the class can help the tutor decide how best to expand on the content. The strategies for assisting students who are struggling with using a full sentence will differ from those for expanding content for very advanced students who are easily completing the work. Evaluating the student’s level of English proficiency is essential to know how best to expand the curriculum. 1

Consider the model of hierarchical teaching, which is one of the popular methods of teaching English when considering how to teach English to your students and expand the curriculum.2 See which students need opportunities to apply what they’ve learned, which students are ready for opportunities to create their own sentences, and which students are looking for opportunities to expand on class content and share their personal feelings and opinions.  

Expansion Tips for the English Tutor

For students struggling with the work, expanding the curriculum may include the tutor modeling sentences, and then helping the students produce similar sentences. This would be considered “applying” under the hierarchical model. Assisting the students in applying the vocabulary and grammatical structures should be the emphasis. For example, when discussing food, the tutor may say, “I like noodles. What do you like?” Writing “I like___” on the screen will also assist the students with this. Props and TPR should be used to help convey the message as well. For more advanced students, a similar class could entail planning a meal with a variety of foods or discussing what foods are best during certain times of the year. 

For advanced students, giving them opportunities to share any relevant knowledge and experiences they’ve had can be a great way to expand the content. If you are discussing travel to different countries, check if any of the students have visited the relevant countries or have learned about them in school. This can also help you identify any gaps in their knowledge.3

Learning about a student’s interests can also help you expand the content in ways that interest them. Students who have expressed an interest in animals may want to discuss what animals live in different countries. Students who have an interest in cooking and food may wish to talk about different traditional dishes from different countries. Students may also be interested in learning additional words or sayings that relate to the subject. 

Props, Backgrounds, and Preparation

A little bit of preparation ahead of class time can go a long way towards expanding content in a way that will engage students. Finding appropriate props can be a great and simple way to expand the content for younger students. For older students, riddles with vocabulary words as answers or word scrambles can be a fun way to work on vocabulary. Grammar can be expanded upon by creating additional questions that will require the relevant grammatical phrase. 

Tutors can change their backdrops to images relevant to the lesson at hand. Starting classes by asking the students to guess what the lesson will be about based on the tutor’s backdrop or props can be a fun warm-up guessing game for starting class with more advanced students.

Lessons related to sports and holidays can be especially fun to expand upon. Students are often excited for the opportunity to share their experiences and can be prompted to discuss their favorite things. Students who seem unsure can be assisted by typing some suggested words or phrases on the screen. 

While open-ended questions are best for eliciting detailed responses from students, some pupils find them overwhelming. If a student seems unable to answer an open-ended question, asking them about the topic in a series of close-ended questions can help build their confidence. The English tutor may want to model their own answer to the question, as well. 

Quick games for Building on Content:

  • Word Scramble
  • Hangman
  • I spy (use a picture related to the content)
  • Word Search
  • Fill in the blank (students must decide what vocab word makes sense in a sentence)

It is essential that English tutors are comfortable with and familiar with both their students and the lesson when trying to expand upon it. Reading the lesson plan ahead of time and looking over the lesson itself is essential to finding the right props and preparing the best activities and questions for expanding the content. Evaluating the students’ comfort with the material can also help the tutor to know what kind of expansion will work best for which students. Remember that students’ comfort levels can vary from week to week. Even good students may struggle with some content. Proper preparation and a willingness to be flexible are essential in ESL jobs. They will allow tutors to make the most of the class time and ensure that every student, regardless of their proficiency level, can gain something from the class.  

Citations for “Help For English Tutors: How To Expand The Content.”
1, 2 Organizing for Instruction. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2020, from
3 Anonymous. (2019, December 19). Five Things Teachers Can Do to Improve Learning for ELLs in the New Year. Retrieved May 23, 2020, from

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