Need advice re: adult esl class

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Need advice re: adult esl class

Unread post by jennieinsac » Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:18 am


I'm sending out an SOS for help with an adult ESL class I just started teaching last month. I taught high school ESl for years but I had totally different issues. The main problem is attendance. I'm only getting between 4-7 students per class, and it's usually closer to 4. The students are mixed level but most of them are very beginner. So I have these fun lessons prepared but I can't really use them because I don't have a critical mass to do the group work and vocabulary building exercises that I have in mind. Also, I can't build on previous lessons b/c of sporadic attendance :? I'm at a loss--any suggestions are welcome!

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sporadic attendance...

Unread post by eric_p_m » Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:40 pm

Dear Jennie,

Last year, I just finished teaching for over five years in China and with classes normally between forty-five and sixty students, four to seven students sounds like heaven to me. I have had a lot of experience also teaching companies where the employees have had sporadic attendance. Absenteeism does damper class cohesion, but my advice to you is to turn the tables on them and make what you now regard as a negative situation into positive factors that will allow your classroom to thrive on communication.

Do you remember the teaching methodology called Suggestopedia? Try incorporating this methodology into your lesson plan. In fact, maybe you should put your lesson plan down for a few minutes and focus on communicating with your students. Take advantage of the time you do have with your students to get to know them better and help them the best you can while they have time to learn. Don't focus so much on accountability that you forget about the purpose of education: to prepare individuals to function in and benefit society as a whole.

In addition, rethink how you plan lessons. Inundate your curriculum with open-ended questions to cater to multiple ability levels. Redefine your course objectives to meet the situation and context you find yourself in. Moreover, when you are planning your lexical development exercises, keep in mind the concept of ( n+1 ), where "n" equates to a student's proficiency level in the target language.

With such a small student-teacher ratio, there is no reason why you should not be able to engage your students with interactive communication. Once you master how to form open-ended questions, you will be able to meet all your students' linguistic needs.


Eric Paul Monroe

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Unread post by pthompson4 » Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:30 am

Hi Jennie,

I have had the most success by being right upfront, e.g."I am a bit frustrated, Jerry, because I am working pretty hard to help all the people in this class. When someone doesn't show up for a class, it kind of stalls my plans. I don't know what your situation is unless you tell me. That way it would help me to understand." The next step, Jennie, would be to seek commitment to regular attendance. I have said something like this: "I hear you saying you want to be here. I'm going to write on this paper that you will be here every session for the next 4 (or 5 or 6). We will both sign it, and I am happy. My plans will move forward.Thank you."
It may sound weird, but try it, Just watch your wording... no pointing the finger or accusing...

Paul :idea:

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Unread post by Ele » Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:54 am

Bad attendance is always a problem, esp. in lower levels. After one lesson missed, a student has a knowledge gap and cannot fill it in by him/herself unless at the higher level. The teacher must spend time for that student, which makes other students not so happy.

I would agree with talking about the importance of attendance during the first lesson. However, if they are adults and pay for he courses, it's their right not to come because other things happen. That doesn't help their learning much, though!
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Unread post by bibina » Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:00 am

Dear Jennie,
Ive been teaching adult classes for 4 years and know that poor attendance can be a nightmare, specially if the course is taught in a company, not in a language school. I believe that adult people should take responsibility for their learning, but on the other hand, if they are not happy with your class they won´t sign for your class next year. When I have poor attendance in a class, I usually put content of the lesson, worksheets with answer key and all material to our school´s website or e-mail it directly to the students. Then it´s up to them what they do with it. It works quite well in my classes. Even students who were at the lesson appreciate it as many of them prefer to download and save handouts in their computers rather than in files (I distribute quite a lot of handouts). I am not sure if it helps you, but wishing you good luck with your classes.

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Unread post by Heads Up Eng » Sat Aug 25, 2007 1:19 am

Poor attendance doesn't necessarily reflect on your skills as a teacher, or how enjoyable your class is. Just think: How many people get all gung ho about joining a health club, only to quit after a few sessions? The same holds true for college extension courses, or whatever. In the busy world of today, miss one lesson, then another, and before long, it's been a month and the student has fallen behind. And it doesn't matter how alluring the class, the gym, etc. actually is.

Now for the caveat: You can still motivate your students to come more often.

I've been setting goals with my students recently. Sit down individually before the course begins, and talk about what each wants to accomplish. The meeting only needs to be five or ten minutes, so this works very well in small classes or private lessons. If the goals are completely unrealistic ("I want to speak English fluently within six months!"), then you can help set a more achievable target. You can also work in steps towards the goal, so students can map their progress throughout the course. Finally, you have some additional insight into what interests the students, allowing you to design more interesting and motivating lessons.

I've found this has helped for the adults I work with. Every few months, we take a look at the initial goal once more, and briefly discuss that student's progress. With the realization that he has improved, there also comes motivation. Lastly, if a student begins to slack off or feel discouraged, I now have a means to talk about their poor attendance in a supportive manner. We can discuss their initial target, perhaps scale back if the student feels overwhelmed, and encourage him back to the class.

Good luck!

Chris Cotter
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Solution To Gather Consistent Attendees

Unread post by saltukt » Wed Sep 26, 2007 7:02 am

Hi Jennie,

I'm a business planning teacher in Turkey, and I do understand how you feel about this issue. it is really important to see the reason of the desultory attendance. If your attendees are working and having a busy schedule everyday, there is nothing you can do to motivate them. Because it's not about your teaching quality or methods; they need to feel relaxed and ready for the lesson.

Have you ever tried online teaching tools via the Internet. I suggest you start your own online virtual classroom to gather consistent attendance. Thus, the attendees can find enough time to get home, relax and join your classroom. Think about it Jennie. I've been using Wiziq's virtual classroom ( ). It is quite easy to use for both teachers and learners. And of course, it's completely free.

If you ever want to ask me about teaching online, please feel free to write me.


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