What are instructional phrases that English (ESL) teachers use a lot in the classroom? The following list of typical classroom instructions is situational and worth practicing by new, non-native English-speaking teachers who may feel insecure. Students should be taught these phrases until they have fully internalized them.
Use positive classroom Instructions
The words we use have power. So as teachers we have to be intentional in our choice of words.
As teachers we want to focus on positive language and also use group words as it promotes unity.
So we tend to use a lot of pleases in instructions to be more polite.
And we say “Let us/Let’s.” “We need to do this together.”
If it is something you need – “I need you to… /I want you to…”
When asking students to do something, phrase it as if it’s their choice. Students rebel when they don’t have options. Avoid using “You have to… You must…” It’s better to say “you may, you can.”
But, if it is something really important, then the teacher has to put pressure on them. “You have to study! You should do this. I need you to…, I want you to…”
Let’s look at some Classroom Language teachers can use
Welcome students to class
“Hello everyone/ Hello Class
How are you today?/ How was your weekend?
Comment about the weather – “It’s so cold/hot today
Please sit down and take out your books.”
“My name is Mr. Wesch, you may call me Eric.
I will be your teacher this year, you can call me Mr. Wesch or sir.
I’ll see you every Tuesday for the 2nd period.
In this class only one person talks at a time. When I speak, please listen.
There are a couple of rules in this class.”
“Let’s take register/ Time to take register/ Let’s take rollcall.”
If you set times during class – Learners understand that it’s time for a certain routine activity. “It’s time to study. Time to clean your area. Nap time.” It reinforces that there is a structure in your class. When training students they need to know what is expected of them.
“Let’s see who’s here today
Who is not here today?
Does anyone know why Jenny isn’t here?
Does anyone know where Jenny is?
John, why were you absent last week?”
In class instructions
“Let’s start today’s lesson. Open your books and turn to page 50.
Jack, can you please read out loud for us.
Peter, continue. Jessica, you’re next.
The whole class read together.
Follow along in your book./ Read along in your book.
What is the answer to number 4? / What is number 4?
Jason, what do you think about that?
Repeat after me.”
“Time to stop.
I’ll give you 5 minutes to finish
Bring your book to me.
Show me your answer.
Take out your books.
You’ll need a ruler, so bring one for next week.
Don’t forget to bring your…”
“Let’s begin the activity – (“Let us” implies a group)
I want us to do the work together.”
“Answer in full sentences, please.
Say it again, louder this time.”I’ll be back in a second. Continue your work.
You may leave the room.
You are excused.
Come back straight away. Don’t mess around. Don’t play around.”
“Work well with your partner.
The three of you make a group.
Stop bothering your friend.
Is there a problem here? What is going on here?”
When there is an issue, start by asking a question. Students are programmed to answer questions.
If you charge in there with accusations you are giving your cards away. They can say, “No sir, that’s not what happened.” “I saw you. No, sir.”
But if you go in there you have the position of power. The authority asks questions.
So if something has happened, start by asking your students: “What is going on here?!
What are you doing?
It seems like you are doing that, is it true?”
Get them to explain themselves – you are in a position of authority.
Ask and check for understanding
“Does everyone understand?
Are there any questions? Are you ready?
Luke, what are you supposed to do?
Raise your hand if you need any help. / If you don’t understand.
Is everyone done?/Have you all finished?”
“First, then, after that, lastly/finally…
As I’ve said before.
In summary/To conclude…”
You did really well
I’m proud of you
Don’t worry about it
You’ve improved so much.
Good! Excellent! Well Done!
Congratulations! That’s exactly what I wanted.
I think you can do a lot better.
I expect more from you.
This isn’t what I wanted.
If you aren’t sure, you can ask me.
I expect you to do better next time
That’s not right.
That’s not what I want.
Try again. Do it over.”
“Please line up.
No playing with your friend. Eyes to the front.
I want you to walk quietly without making a noise.
Let’s show the other classes how quiet we can be.”
“Please settle down. Please be quiet.
Please quiet down.
Please pay attention.
Don’t interrupt your friend, how you feel if you were constantly interrupted?
We’ll start once everyone is quiet.”
A good way to start class is to wait until everyone is quiet. It shows that you are the one in charge, waiting for them to settle down. But, I don’t mean sitting down and pouting. That is a weakness. Smile and wait.
“Don’t rush the work. I want you to complete it thoroughly.
Everyone, you have 5 minutes left. Please complete your work.
Right, aaannnnd stop./ Time’s up. Everyone, pencils down.”
“Please pick up that trash for me and throw it away.” For me implies that the student feels that he or she is doing the teacher a favor, which also establishes authority. Imagine a grandma asking their grandkids this way. That is what sixty years of social application have taught them!
“Remember your homework.
Do the worksheet for tomorrow.
Your homework is from page 5 to page 7 in the workbook.
Prepare chapter 6 for next week,
Do exercises 10 to 12 on page 14.”
Greeting students/ Ending class
“That’s the bell. We’ve run out of time
Tracy, please collect the books for me.
Everyone, send your books to the front. Everyone in front, place the books neatly on my desk.
That’s all for today. You may leave./go
Close your books. We’ve reached the end of today’s class.
We’ll finish this tomorrow.”
“Is everyone done?
That’s all the time we have for today.
Pack away your things. Put your books away.
Clean up around your desk. Make sure your desk is tidy before leaving.
Please leave the room in an organized manner.
Push in your chairs and quietly leave the room.”
See you next time.”
These hundred sentences are typical classroom instructional phrases and represent a vocabulary of over five hundred words. The phrasal nature of language means that mastering these instructions is of great value for ESL students.