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Teaching ESOL Students of Varying Levels

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endlesscheer
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Teaching ESOL Students of Varying Levels

Unread postby endlesscheer » Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:08 pm

I am volunteering an English Learning Center in a community college, and am designated to tutor beginner ESOL students (level 1-2) in conversational English. Most students in my group have more or less the same understanding of English, but I have this one student who is supposed to be in level 3-4 (beginner/intermediate), but refuses to go to his assigned group. I have no problem with this, I don't mind tutoring him and having him participate in our conversations. However, this man is a lawyer and holds a PhD in Thailand, so there's obviously a discrepancy between the things we discuss in our group and what he really could be learning in another group. How do I keep him engaged, while also make sure that my other students don't get lost and confused? I know that he likes to talk about abstract subjects (freedom of speech, political unrest, purpose of life, etc), but the other students don't have the vocabulary to be able to participate in those conversations. I also don't want to kick him out, because he said he feels more comfortable in our group than in the intermediate level groups. I'm not sure if I explained everything, or I just sound like I'm whining, but I hope you guys can help. Thank you!

natnicmo
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Re: Teaching ESOL Students of Varying Levels

Unread postby natnicmo » Thu Mar 02, 2017 2:03 am

Hello endlesscheer,

I have had a very similar situation with a student who is also a lawyer! He is definitely more of a Level 3-4, but has chosen to start in our ESOL program from Level 1, so as to brush up on basics and fill in any gaps in his grammar and other skills. I had this student in a Level 1-2 conversation class last semester.

I understand your concern for the conversation class, especially with Level 1 students, who can often feel intimidated and/or shy about speaking already. I'm not sure how your tutoring/conversation classes are structured, but mine was a very casual setting, with the sole purpose of getting students to talk. Although the idea is to get the feel of natural, open conversation, there is definitely a need for moderation to keep the conversation appropriate, etc.

What I found worked best for me was to start the class by posting 3-4 discussion topics on the board - these could be in the form of questions ranging from "would you rather...?" to "what is your definition of success?" or - one that really got them talking and laughing - "Can men and women be just friends?" A great source with different discssion topics: http://iteslj.org/questions/
I also often incorporated YouTube videos that might spark discussion appropriate for their level.

Sometimes, I would post 3-4 questions on the same topic, and other times I would post 3-4 unrelated ones and ask the students to vote for the most interesting topic, and we would focus on that. The students get to talk about something interesting to them, but there's also some guidance so that everyone (including the more advanced student) has to keep it relevant to the topic. Even my Level 1 students were comfortable discussing topics such as corruption/politics in their own countries, as much as they could with their limited vocabulary. During our very first conversation meeting, I asked for general topics of interest to get a feel for the class's interests.

Hope some of this helps!

natnicmo
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Re: Teaching ESOL Students of Varying Levels

Unread postby natnicmo » Thu Mar 02, 2017 2:10 am

One last note: With the student that I referred to, who has been in several other Level 1-2 classes (Writing, Reading, Listening/Speaking, Grammar), a couple of instructors spoke to him about holding some of his higher level questions and/or comments until after class, or making sure to allow opportunity for other students to answer in class. He has generally been very understanding and conscious of this. Maybe simply talking to the student about the concern might help.

LeesaJohnson
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Re: Teaching ESOL Students of Varying Levels

Unread postby LeesaJohnson » Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:42 am

Hi,
Actually, it depends on the student to choose the level of learning because some students need to develop their confidence so they decide to learn from the very basic level of learning.


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