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Why Earn a Master's Degree Focused on ESL?

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the number of English language learners (ELLs) participating in English language learning programs grew by more than 200,000 between 2004 and 2014. The need for experienced teachers who know how to effectively teach students for whom English is a second language is growing as well.

What Does an ESL Classroom Look Like?

On the surface, an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom may look like most other elementary classrooms, with the customary textbooks, tables, chairs and desks. It has classroom rules, student work and, depending on the grade level, an alphabet strip, posters about math, vocabulary, sight words, historic timelines and scientific information.

Two elements, however, are unique to the ESL classroom:

  • Many languages are spoken in an ESL classroom. Although the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods may include a higher number of people speaking the same, non-English language, an ESL classroom is not limited to a single ethnic population.
  • Contrary to what many people may believe, the teacher in an ESL classroom is not required to be fluent in other languages. Although it may be helpful to have a handful of key phrases in the languages represented when classroom management is an issue, a well-prepared ESL teacher is equipped with strategies and skills making fluency in another language unnecessary.

What Is the Role of an ESL Teacher?

ESL teachers at the elementary level work with the same content area materials and standards as their colleagues in general education classrooms. What ESL teachers offer to their students, however, goes far beyond simple vocabulary instruction.

  • In the area of English language instruction, ESL teachers provide basic reading skills and vocabulary development. They help students develop understanding of the structure of the English language, grammar rules and sentence construction, as well as techniques of writing in a variety of genres.
  • A less academic, but equally important component of the ESL teacher's responsibilities is to "provide a cultural bridge between the student's native culture and the new cultural experience." In the regular activities of the ESL classroom, ESL teachers demonstrate similarities and differences between cultures, helping students become familiar and comfortable with the culture, images, music, literature and even diet of the language groups represented in the classroom.

The Value of a Master's Degree in ESL

Earning a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: English as a Second Language from a well-respected school like LSU Shreveport prepares you for success in ESL classrooms. The program includes foundational courses in research, curriculum and data-driven instruction, as well as courses designed specifically for the ESL teacher: learning and culture, linguistics and methodology.

This degree, however, is not just for those interested in teaching in an ESL classroom. ELLs from diverse backgrounds who speak a variety of languages are enrolled in general education classes in many schools throughout the United States. The skills and strategies you will learn in this master's degree program can be applied to your everyday teaching style as you help students of all language backgrounds find greater academic success.

In addition, upon completion of the master's degree program in ESL, you will be qualified to teach with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), teach English to adult ELLs and teach English abroad.

According to, there will be a growing need for ESL teachers for at least the next 10 to 15 years. Earning a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: English as a Second Language degree from LSU Shreveport may be the ideal next step to take in your journey as a successful educator.  

Learn more about the LSUS M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction: ESL online program.


National Center for Education Statistics: Table 204.20

Chron: Roles of an ESL Teacher How to Become an ESL Teacher

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