How to Give Feedback to ESL Students

December 12, 2021
feedback for ESL students

Feedback for ESL students is more than saying, “Good job!” It can take various forms (written, verbal, and visual) and have different purposes, such as assessing students’ progress, encouraging their efforts, and building confidence and rapport through rewards. The more you teach, the more you’ll find that using different types of ESL feedback is beneficial to both you and your students.

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

What is feedback in language teaching?

Feedback is an essential part of language teaching. It consists of delivering information to students on how they are performing with the course materials. Through feedback in language teaching, students can ultimately assess their errors in order to correct them and improve their class performance. Usually, it’s a teacher who gives feedback to a student.

Learn more about error correction in this Bridge Micro-credential course.

Why is feedback so important for ESL students?

Providing feedback is advantageous to any language learner. Feedback for ESL students can achieve the following:

Correct student errors

First and foremost, providing feedback will help students understand their errors so that they can later correct them and not repeat them. It’s important to acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes during language learning, as it’s a part of the learning process.

Find out more about error correction when teaching English.

Show progress

When students stop making the same mistakes or excel in an area, it’s also important to provide feedback. By having students realize that they are making progress, they will take on English with more confidence.

Sallie, Teaching Online with TPR
Online ESL teacher Sallie uses props, like this medal, to motivate her students.

Provide encouragement

Progress is also directly linked to students feeling encouraged. When teachers provide feedback for ESL students, there is a high probability of better test results, more active classroom participation, and higher interest in general.

Here’s how to keep your students motivated when teaching English online.

What are the characteristics of effective feedback?

Of course, English language professionals have to be smart about giving effective feedback to their students. In order to obtain the best results, keep the following in mind:


Knowing just when to give feedback is fundamental. Timing is very relevant to how a student will hold on to and process ESL feedback. For example, whether you’re teaching a group of adults or a child online, it’s most effective to not correct a mistake the moment that it is made. It’s best to wait for your student to finish their idea before correcting them.

online English teacher
EFL teacher Rachel Cordova offers positive feedback to students online.


Feedback for ESL students is best given in balance, that is, varying between positive and constructive commentary. Positive feedback will boost student morale and encourage correct English use. On the other hand, constructive feedback will help students realize what their mistakes are so that they (hopefully!) do not repeat them.

Want to learn more about what feedback strategies to use? Check out this Bridge webinar: “Oops, They Did It Again! Error Detection and Correction Strategies for the ESL Classroom.”


Feedback for ESL students varies a lot. There are different categories when it comes to classifying feedback, and using all of them is a key characteristic of effective teaching. Giving a student verbal feedback during one lesson and providing written comments during the next one, for example, will give you better results. For online students, visual feedback in the form of videos can also be very productive.

How do you provide feedback in the ESL classroom?

Each classroom is different. As you get to know your students, you’ll find that ESL feedback examples vary by age group or whether you’re teaching in person or online. These are some ways you can try for yourself:

Giving assessments

Giving an assessment is a complete way of providing constructive criticism and praise at the same time, as the student will see firsthand what they need to work on and where they excel. Keep in mind these tend to be on the longer side, so it’s probably best to use them with teens and adults.

online ESL teacher using ManyCam
Online ESL teacher Krzl uses ManyCam stickers to reward her student.

Using rewards

On the other hand, rewards are a great way to provide feedback for younger ESL students. Perhaps playing a game at the end of class or even watching a movie in English will be sure to encourage the little ones that they’re on the right track.

Learn more about using a reward system for teaching English.

Offering written, verbal, and visual feedback

As previously mentioned, giving feedback to ESL students varies a lot.

  • You can opt for written feedback, which works both for online students and those in the physical classroom (probably limit using it to older students).
  • Verbal feedback works well if you’re trying to get concise messages across.
  • And, finally, visual feedback in the form of videos will probably make you a hit with the younger crowd online!

As an English language professional, you’ll soon find that feedback for ESL students is an important matter to consider. Whether using assessments, rewards, videos, or verbal constructive criticism, you’ll see that every classroom is different. In fact, every student is different. It’s up to teachers to find what works best in each scenario.

Before you even plan your first lesson, you should conduct a needs assessment with your students. Find out more about how to create a needs analysis for teaching English!