The syllabus is an important component of course development. It lists the subjects to be covered, the class readings and assignments. The syllabus also usually establishes rules for the class and grading procedures. A good syllabus gives the students a clear idea of the class objectives and expected outcomes. When teaching English as a second language classes to adults, there are several methods you can use to create an effective syllabus.


Obviously deciding in which language to write the syllabus is a major consideration. Syllabi for beginning classes should be written in the students’ native language. For advanced students, the syllabus should be written in English because that is the language they are studying. Avoid using English words in the syllabus that the students would be unfamiliar with when beginning the class.


Many syllabi emphasize the course schedule. They detail each class period, stating what students should read for each class period, the subject to be covered and assignments due. This type of syllabus works well when the teacher knows the class is going to follow a set schedule. It is less effective when the teacher wants to work at the students’ pace, because it is usually difficult to get back on schedule without rushing the students.

Flexible Schedule

Another method is to have a more flexible schedule. This type of syllabus usually lists the sections to be covered along with the readings and assignments required for each section. However, specific dates are either not included or presented in very broad terms. This allows students to know what is expected of them when each section begins while giving the teacher flexibility.

Course Objectives

This type of syllabus devotes less space to explaining schedules and timelines and instead emphasizes the purpose of the course and expected outcomes. The focus is on the class material and what students are supposed to learn from the various sections. It explains topics in detail and how the course will be graded.

Rules and Regulations

Part of every syllabus should be devoted to establishing the rules and regulations for the class. These include rules for absences, late assignments and tardiness. Some teachers prefer to make this the focus of their syllabus to prevent future misunderstandings. Such teachers are usually more flexible about timelines and schedules, concentrating more on making sure students understand the rules of the class.