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Tips and Gentle Advice for ESL Teachers
ESL conversation teachers stimulate conversation in English among their students, help students with English usage, and evaluate student participation. These tasks are your main responsibilities. Students learn by doing, and your classroom provides a safe place for them to expand their verbal skills in English.
Select a word with multiple purposes in English (e.g. play) and identify with them the differing definitions of the word.
In order to accomplish these goals, you may use a variety of structures within a class period, depending upon the skill and comfort of your students in using Compelling Conversations. For example, you might introduce a lesson topic by discussing one or more of the quotations. Or, you might choose to introduce a topic by examining the vocabulary.
We’ve often found it helpful, especially in the beginning of the semester, for you to role play for the class a question/answer session with a student. At this time, you could demonstrate how to pass on a question if it makes one uncomfortable. Setting a time limit for the question/ answer activity also helps and meets students’ desires for structure. In general, each class should begin and end with the class as a single unit even if you have used small groups or conversation partners during the period to build greater class cohesion.
Also, many students stay more on task if they are required to report back to the class or hand in an assignment as a result of the small group or question/answer segment. While students are engaged in small groups or conversation, you may go from group to group to maintain their focus and encourage or evaluate participation, or you may use this time for one on one practice with individual students. In all these situations, you will be modeling appropriate, authentic conversation for your listeners.
Teachers can use the materials in Compelling Conversations in many ways. We’ve written no direction or suggestion in stone. We hope the materials stimulate interest and creativity in teachers as well in students.
Here are some suggestions for additional activities which have been successfully used in ESL:
- Start a lesson by selecting a question (e.g. What’s your native country? How long did you live there?) and having each student tell his response to the class.
- Ask each student to tell the class a proverb from his country and explain it.
- Select a word with multiple purposes in English (e.g. play) and identify with them the differing definitions of the word. Students can write a sentence for each of the meanings.
Have students create a word search using at least seven of the vocabulary words from a lesson.
- Select a common English word (e.g. play) and help students create a list of rhyming words (e.g. play, say, stay, day, bay etc.) and use the words in sentences.
- Identify a common prefix and help students create a list of words with this prefix.
- Identify a common suffix and help students create a list of words with this suffix.
- Have students create a word search using at least seven of the vocabulary words from a lesson. Students may then exchange these word searches with others in the class.
- Divide the class into groups of three or four and assign a quotation to each group. The group discusses the meaning of the quotation for 10 minutes and then a representative of the group reports back to the class as a whole.
- Pick two quotations with opposing points of view. With the help of students identify the meaning of each quote. Ask students their responses to each quote. Then take a class vote to determine which quotation seems most apt to students.
- Ask students to identify a situation in which they might use a proverb or quotation.
- Have students role play a situation in which they might use a proverb or quotation.
The possibilities are endless. Build on your successes. Relax and have fun. Remember, the greatest motivators in your classroom remain your encouragement, enthusiasm, and example.