CALPRO - ESL New Teacher Resource Guide - Before You Start Teaching

Before You Start Teaching: Questions to Ask About Procedures At Your Site

TeachingMany types of agencies provide educational services to ESL students in California. You may be working or volunteering for an adult school run by a local school district, a community college, a library literacy program, a correctional facility, a county office of education, or a community- or faith-based organization.

You will want to find out the answers to the following questions about your teaching assignment before you start.

  1. What do I need to know about my classroom? What about the school site?
    • Where is my classroom? Is it locked? If so, who will open it?
    • What are the security procedures?
    • What hours and days will the classes be held? Will I work evenings or Saturdays?
    • Is there an instructional aide to help out in the classroom?
    • Is the room furnished appropriately for adults?
    • Who is the agency contact person?
    • Where are the restrooms? Are they always open?
    • Is there a designated smoking area?
    • Where can I park my car?
    • Is there another teacher on site?
    • Is there access to clerical staff and audio-visual and copier equipment on site?
  2. What routine procedures at my teaching site do I need to know?
    • What's the procedure for getting paid?
    • How do I handle student attendance?
    • What forms are required and to whom do I submit them?
    • Is there a minimum and/or maximum number of students required for my class?
    • How do I request substitute teachers?
    • What is the instructional calendar?
    • How do I obtain professional development?
  3. How are students registered and placed in my class?
    • Your agency may have a formal process to register new students. In this case, when students enter your class, they will have completed an intake form and possibly a placement test to determine their level of English proficiency.
    • Some agencies, however, require that the teacher conduct the registration and placement process with new students.
    • Ask your supervisor about your responsibilities in this area and about the forms, tests, and other resources that are available to you.
  4. What is the level of the class I will be teaching?
    • The California Department of Education (CDE) publishes the Model Standards for Adult Education Programs: ESL. This publication defines seven levels of English language proficiency: Beginning Literacy, Beginning Low, Beginning High, Intermediate Low, Intermediate High, Advanced Low, and Advanced High.
    • If all your students fall into just one of these levels, you will be teaching a single-level class. This occurs most frequently in mid- or large-size programs where there are several different levels of classes.
    • It is common practice in smaller programs to place students of several proficiency levels into one class; this type of class is designated a "multi-level" class.
  5. How do I assess my students' needs?
    • Although it is obvious that your students come to school to learn English, they have individual needs and goals.
    • Your agency may conduct a survey of student needs during the registration process, or you may be expected to administer your own.
    • For a few examples of ESL needs assessments, see the following Appendix [PDF].
  6. What is the core curriculum and what books and materials will be available to me and my students and me?
    • Your site supervisor or ESL Coordinator most likely will provide you with the core curriculum for the class you will be teaching. In addition, the Model Standards for Adult Education Programs: ESL identifies topics and language objectives that are appropriate for each instructional level.
    • Sample ESL course outlines also are available on the Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN) Web site at
    • Your site supervisor will provide textbooks and other supplemental materials useful in teaching ESL. These may include visuals, real-life objects, video programs, audio-visual equipment, computers, etc.
    • For a list of instructional materials appropriate for certain topics and levels, see the Quick Search Materials. Click on "Curriculum and Resources" on the California Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS) Web site at

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