Monday, March 8, 2010

Some Helpful Instructional Tips for Teaching Adult Literacy ESL

Dear ESL Volunteer Teachers,

Here are some helpful instructional strategies for teaching your adult literacy ESL Class:

1. "Too Many Words" Vocabulary is an important component of reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension skills. It's a tedious task to teach a huge chunk of words in such a short amount of time, but teaching vocabulary does not necessarily mean having to translate every English word for your students.
Instead: Try teaching vocabulary-building strategies and independent learning. You can still keep your momentum and cover the basics with good techniques.

Quick Vocabulary Building Strategies:
A. encourage your students to bring Spanish/or other native language/-English dictionaries to class. During breaks or beginning of each class, they can be working on looking up words and how they translate in their native language (this allows them ownership of their learning). You can also grab a copy from Half Price Books and bring it with you as part of your own classroom materials to share with your students, if you wish.
B. Teach Phonemic Awareness (the ability to hear and identify sounds in spoken words) by allowing students time in class to pronounce the vocabulary words in small group practices. Allow students to break away from the whole-group classroom and break them up for at least 15 to 20 minutes during your 2 hour class. This gives all students a chance to speak (especially those who are typically shy or uncomfortable speaking in a larger group). Walk around, monitor their conversations, sit with them, and practice the activities with them.

2. "Classroom Interaction - Don't Depend on the Book to Liven It Up"
In a good classroom environment, the textbook will not be the center of classroom interaction. Textbooks are typically dry, but they are designed to meet the assessment and the standards of the curriculum. They do little to help liven up the classroom, but they still remain one of the most important tools to meet the standards. Don't depend on the textbook to be creative or lively.
Instead: Adopt the principles of collaborative learning. In this type of learning, the teacher designs a learning problem or a task (this is where you as volunteer teachers can get creative outside of the book), and then assigns small groups of students to address the problem collaboratively (I can give you specific examples for each lesson if you want). The purpose of collaborative learning is to enhance learning and achievement by peer-to-peer interaction with careful guidance from the teacher.

3. "Pick Up the Pace" - Since a huge part of the Level 1 course is designed to build vocabulary to the ESL learners, the classes can be a bit redundant. Don't despair! Change the pace of the lessons by breaking things up a bit and move away from doing one activity straight after another.

Instead: Allow time for something different (pronunciation work, brainstorm sessions, creating a chart, practicing conversation, etc). Also - "wake them up" by giving them a short quiz (oral or written) on last week's vocabulary. See how well they do!

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my passion in teaching! Teaching ESL is not just about teaching a language, but more so about teaching others how to learn in a manner that is meaningful and relevant to their lives. Remember that you are all doing something that makes a lasting impact.