How to Create Engaging Student Centered Adult ESL Lessons for Reading Comprehension

adult ESL student taking lessons online for reading comprehension at computer wearing blue denim shirt over a white tshirt and wearing grey headphones with a black microphone



Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In this blog post, we will explore student-centered learning in the context of online adult ESL lessons.

We will discuss the importance of interaction in the learning environment and provide techniques for designing a student-centered learning toolkit.

Additionally, we will examine student-centered approaches and techniques for reading that promote engagement and comprehension. Let’s dive in!


As an experienced educator with over 24 years of teaching adult ESL students, including business professionals from Fortune 500 companies internationally, I have witnessed the transformative power of language learning.

Throughout my career, I have dedicated myself to designing and developing comprehensive adult ESL curriculum catering to unique needs and goals.

Working closely with adult ESL learners in China, I have gained valuable insights into their challenges and strategies that effectively engage and inspire them.

From this wealth of experience and expertise, I bring you this blog post to empower fellow teachers with effective techniques and approaches to online ESL instruction for adult English language learners.

How to Design a Learning Toolkit for Online Adult ESL Lessons

To ensure a successful student-centered learning experience, providing students with various opportunities for interaction is crucial.

These interactions are categorized as student-content interaction, student-student interaction, and student-teacher interaction.

Here’s a breakdown of each category:

Student-Content Interaction

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a valuable framework for designing online lessons and activities to foster student-content interaction.

By aligning lesson plans with the milestones in Bloom’s Taxonomy, educators progressively enhance students’ thinking and synthesis of the content.

Here are the milestones:

  1. Remembering: Recall information.
  2. Understanding: Comprehend the meaning of information.
  3. Applying: Use information in new situations.
  4. Analyzing: Examine information and break it down into parts.
  5. Evaluating: Assess the value or quality of information.
  6. Creating: Put together information to form something new.

To enrich the learners’ experience, educators incorporate deeper learning opportunities beyond the initial stages of remembering and understanding.

Reflection activities, such as journaling, real-world examples, creating posters, and digital art projects, can help students make sense of the content and serve as formative assessments.

Watch this short video explaining Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Student-Student Interaction

Creating opportunities for student-student interaction is crucial for fostering a classroom-like experience in the online environment.

Educators achieve this through small discussion groups, think-pair-share activities, group projects, and breakout rooms.

These strategies enable students to engage and interact with one another while focusing on the content.

Online platforms offer features that support student-student interaction. Exploring the available tools and integrating them into lessons enhances student-student interaction.

Some examples of technological tools include:

  1. Padlet: Create collaborative mind map boards and presentations.
  2. Prezi: Develop interactive presentations with text and media.
  3. FlipGrid: Collaborate on video presentations.
  4. Biteable: Collaboratively annotate video presentations.
  5. VoiceThread: Create collaborative voice clips.
  6. Jigsaw Method: Engage in content-related puzzles and collaborate with the class to complete them.

Encouraging collaboration among students is crucial for student-student interaction.

By incorporating a variety of options for discovery learning, teachers can prepare lessons and activities that promote engagement and cooperative learning.

Student-Teacher Interaction

The relationship between a teacher and a student plays a significant role in the student’s success.

According to John Hattie’s research on learning influences, making teaching and learning visible is key to making a difference in student achievement.

To establish this visibility, teachers should:

  1. Call students by name.
  2. Know students’ personal and academic interests, achievements, background experiences, peer and social relationships, and family dynamics.
  3. Develop a relationship with students that fosters connection, belonging, and security in the classroom and school environments.

Student-teacher interaction promotes students’ confidence and autonomy in learning the content.

When students feel connected to their teacher, they are more likely to succeed in classroom activities.

Student-Centered Approaches for Reading

Reading is an essential skill for adult ESL students.

Teachers employ various strategies to implement a student-centered approach to reading based on learners’ experience, proficiency, and interests.

Components of a Student-Centred Approach to Reading

A student-centered approach to literacy instruction involves:

  1. Exposure to complex, engaging texts spanning socially relevant topics, cultures, and themes.
  2. Allowing students to select the tools or skills they will use while reading.
  3. Giving students the freedom to choose how to demonstrate their understanding of texts or topics.
  4. Equipping students with the skills to analyze complex texts in writing and supporting their claims with textual evidence.
  5. Facilitating rich, text-based, student-driven discussions to develop students’ listening skills through self-reflection and peer feedback.

Student-Centered Techniques for Reading

Here are some student-centered techniques for reading that can be applied to adult ESL lessons:

  1. Flipped Classroom: Introduce new or introductory content outside the classroom, utilizing technological tools and offering student learning choices.
  2. Reading Circles: Engage students in reading novels or literature and facilitate focused discussions about the content’s relevance to their own experiences.
  3. Interactive Word Wall: Post vocabulary and topics from the reading on a word wall, allowing students to interact by answering questions, expanding on ideas, and providing real-world examples.
  4. Gallery Walk: Have students prepare posters or illustrations related to the story or characters from the reading. Students can then review each other’s work, post questions, and engage in further discussion.
  5. Fish Bowl Discussion: Facilitate focused discussions by encouraging students to ask questions and share their opinions about the reading.
  6. Philosophical Chairs: Assign students a preliminary claim supported by evidence from the reading. Line them up in two rows facing each other, present a question, and encourage students to convince their peers to join their side with textual evidence.

Developing reading comprehension skills through student-centered approaches promotes critical thinking and helps students find meaning in real-world applications.

Read this article to get strategies to help adult ESL students listen for linking clues.


Designing a student-centered learning toolkit fosters student-content, student-student, and student-teacher interactions.

Online adult ESL lessons should focus on meaningful content, collaborative activities, and developing a strong teacher-student relationship.

In reading lessons, student-centered approaches encourage engagement, comprehension, and critical thinking. By implementing these strategies, educators create a vibrant and effective learning environment for adult English language learners.

So, designing an effective online ESL curriculum for adult ESL students requires a student-centered approach that fosters engagement, interaction, and meaningful learning experiences.

Educators create a dynamic and supportive learning environment for adult English language learners by incorporating student-content, student-student, and student-teacher interactions.

The strategies and techniques discussed in this blog post, such as utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy, integrating technological tools, and implementing student-centered reading approaches, have proven to be successful in promoting active learning and enhancing reading comprehension skills.

As an experienced educator with a deep understanding of the needs of adult ESL learners, I encourage fellow teachers to embrace these approaches and techniques to unlock the full potential of their students.

Ready to take your adult ESL teaching to the next level?

Consider purchasing my ready-made adult ESL lesson plans, carefully crafted based on years of experience and expertise in the field.

These comprehensive lesson plans provide a structured framework for effective instruction, saving you valuable time and effort in curriculum development. Visit the Shop to explore the range of lesson plans available and start transforming your adult ESL classrooms today.

Empower your students with engaging, student-centered learning experiences to propel their language acquisition journey forward.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,


Related Topics


Blooms Taxonomy :: Resource for Educators. (2001).

Moffett, J., & Wagner, B. J. (1991). Student-Centered Reading Activities. The English Journal, 80(6), 70.

Student-Centered Literacy. (n.d.). BetterLesson.

Student-Centered Online Learning Strategies for Teachers. (2020, November 27). Europass Teacher Academy.

Visible Learning. (2015). Hattie effect size list – 256 Influences Related To Achievement. VISIBLE LEARNING.

Recent News

Visit the blog for more!

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap