An ESL Learner in Transition University of Sydney 4 November 2013

An ESL Learner in Transition
University of Sydney
4 November 2013
ESL Students
Come from diverse cultural, social and language backgrounds
Most high achieving students are highly educated in their first language and are
transferring skills and knowledge. They are used to problem solving and thinking
conceptually. They transfer and translate using dictionaries for years!!
High achieving students are exceptionally hard workers and engaged in
maximising all opportunities to learn.
International Students often come later to us at school and often have only been
studying in English for two years when they come to university.
ESL students are often from cultural backgrounds where teacher-centred work is
the norm and may be very reluctant to speak up and take risks in class. This is
exacerbated by insecurities about their language ability.
ESL students often have large gaps in their cultural knowledge and surprise you
with what they don’t know about things not academic.
Teaching Strategies
1. Create a Secure Environment
ESL students love vocabulary lists. If you want them to use the metalanguage of
your subject area, give your students a glossary.
ESL learners can give prepared talks. They are generally very poised when
prepared but baulk at expressing ideas informally and spontaneously in tutorials.
Think about asking all students to prepare one point or opinion in advance for
ESL learners need the same information in as many forms as possible. All students
will appreciate a written agenda or topic list to assist their listening skills in class.
Reinforce key ideas at the end of a lesson/tutorial.
Teaching Strategies
2. Acknowledge diverse cultural backgrounds
Value students’ backgrounds. There is great opportunity to enrich your classroom
discussion and group work through encouraging ESL students to share their
knowledge and experience. Many have lived in completely different social and
political climates which can be a valuable counterpoint in discussions.
Provide socio-cultural information which enables students to participate and
understand cultural knowledge that is assumed. Examples might be old TV shows
or films, concepts like ‘The American Dream’ etc
Ask ESL learners for their ideas and opinions. They usually have one but will wait to
be asked.
Do group work. Discourage friendship groups. Use confident native speakers as
leaders or models.
Teaching Strategies
3. Scaffold Writing
Decode instructional language.
Model beginnings or whole texts.
Provide sample paragraphs to edit or colour code with key elements of writing. (For HSC
English essays I use thesis/explanation/evidence/effect. These are a great teaching tool.
‘Seeing’ the integration of key elements of writing is fascinating. Students can colour
code their own responses and compare.
Get students to assess an average response (past student?) using the marking criteria
and give feedback for improvement. Make sure they know it is not an ideal response.
This works well in groups and is great for generating discussion.
Give students a sample extended written response that is a good model, perhaps from
a different year or course, without the question. The task is to write the question that
the essay answers. This is a great way to model a response and get students thinking
deeply about sustaining a thesis in their own responses.