Common ESL classroom issue 9: the inappropriate length of the course


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This issue comes to three waves;

  1. The day is just too long
  2. The number of months is just too long
  3. No breaks or too many breaks

The long day:

Some students and schools do request that students stay at school and study English for up to 8 hours a day. As an adult this may seem a great way to completely immerse yourself in English (and it is), but it is also something that will often end up backfiring on the student and the teacher.

Students are often committed at the beginning but feel when they finish the day they have no time to do their homework or worse still no energy left to digest what they learned. Too much immersion can be bad for you brain. Each of our minds requires always relaxation time to rejuvenate and assimilate what has happened.

Just like the idea of going to the gym for 8 hours a day may seem like a good idea, most people would bail after the 3rd week. Same too for the English student. Resting time is important.

Too many months in the course:

My experience has been that students need about 6-8 months to go from a basic English level to a Band 6.0 IELTS level, that is of course assuming that the student does work hard and is motivated. If a course designates a 12 month period to stay the school, the student will definitely get bored of everything by month 10.

Language Schools generally are small and though they offer great teachers by month 6 the student may have had every teacher and pretty much knows every classroom desk, chair, mark on the wall and ceiling panel.

Making the course interesting of course is important but even then, getting the students out of the classroom is also important. Keeping everyone interested and motivated at the end of month 7-8 isn’t easy. But doable.

To limit the course length to 6-8 months but make the day a little longer could sort out the issue.

No breaks or too may breaks:

Keeping a student in a class for 4 hours without any kind of break is literally imprisoning them. They will definitely revolt after a while. Everyone needs a breather and more than a toilet break, at least a 15 minute chance to sit relax, eat something and have a chat..

If you have too many breaks e.g. one break every 45 minutes, your students just may never come back after that 5th break in the day. Going to yet another class after 5 breaks can make students feel like they are never getting enough time to gt into anything, by the time you settle down and then wind up the class, it’s easy to not take anything seriously and just end up counting the minutes – there are only 45 of them after all!


Designing a great course isn’t easy. There are different styles that are required for adults compared to children. But the ultimate goal is that everyone needs to learn English. Cracking the right formula for the group you are teaching is important.

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