Journal for ESL and ELL Student’s

Learning Journal for ESL and ELL Student’s Silent Period

Most ELL and ESL students go through a silent period, a time when they do not say much. However, during this time they are listening and paying attention. This is a crucial time for them as they take in all of the new information. It is a time when they are not secure enough in their knowledge to speak up. They want to be sure that they fully grasp what is being taught before they speak. This is a time when teachers need to be understanding and let students be silent. One way for a teacher to help them express themselves during this time is through a shared journal.

A shared journal is a journal that the teacher and student share with each other. The teacher gives the student a journal to write his or her feelings, thoughts, and responses to the daily lesson. The student must know that the writing does not have to be perfect in spelling or grammar. It is a place where the student can express him or herself at his or her own pace without feeling pressured. Once the student has written in the journal, he turns it in to the teacher, who then reads and responds.  After the teacher responds, she returns the journal to the student. This process continues for as long as the student needs it.

The silent period is an important time in the ELL and ESL students’ learning process. Writing is an excellent way for a student to express himself without stress, at his own speed. It is also a way for the teacher to tell what a child has learned and how the information is being processed, the student’s strengths, as well as areas that need more attention. The learning journal meets many different learning styles and abilities because it is not high pressure, and is self-paced.

Introducing ESL Students to Reading Passages

As English as a second language (ESL) students build their language skills, the day will come when they’re ready, with guidance, to read passages of a few paragraphs. Guidance is important because it will maximize students’ success and prevent the frustration that comes from having a book written in English for them to read plopped onto their desks. Structure initial reading activities with attention to students’ interests and with pre-reading to ensure ESL students read effectively.

Consider Students’ Interests

With the wide variety of texts to choose from, use students’ interests to guide your selection of reading passages. A week before introducing the passage, or even at the beginning of the course, ask students what they’re interested in, what hobbies they have, where they want to travel, and so on. Use the feedback you get to find interesting passages.

Recipes, descriptions of tourist attractions, movie reviews, and descriptions of cultural behaviors were all reading passages my teachers used when I studied German. If you want other ideas, consider connections to concepts you or other classes are teaching. For example, recipes fit well when teaching how to give commands in English. Use reading passages that are relevant to students, and they’ll be more motivated to understand them.

Use Pre-Reading Activities

You must ease students into the daunting task of reading multiple paragraphs.

  1. Ensure students can read aloud by working on pronunciation. Review silent letters, the effect of single versus double consonants on pronunciation, and vowel combinations.
  2. Draw attention to and define new vocabulary in the text.
  3. Have students skim the passage. They should then be able to explain what the text appears to be about.

Pre-reading is more important than the actual reading at this level of English fluency.

Read!

Have students take turns reading a sentence or two out loud. Tell them to underline words and phrases they don’t understand so that you can help them understand at the end of the paragraph, if by then context hasn’t helped. After each paragraph, ask questions about the content, or ask a student to summarize. Throughout the exercise, provide positive feedback to encourage students.

Little by little, you’ve helped students take on the challenge of reading their first passages. These strategies are also useful if you teach other languages. As students read more, they can do more of the work of translating and determining the meanings of words from context, but if they get the gist of the first reading passage, that’s sufficient progress.

Effective Ways to End ESL Lessons

Just as a hard workout should end with a warm down, an English as a second language (ESL) lesson should end with a short, easy, purposeful activity. Don’t sacrifice the effectiveness of a lesson by allowing the bell to end it for you. James Andrew Farmer’s article, “Warm Downs: Effectively Ending ESL/EFL Lessons,” gives ways to end on a strong note: review, correct, give feedback, and assign homework.

Reviewing what the lesson covered is a natural way to wrap up. Farmer says that reviewing reinforces understanding and boosts confidence by showing students how much they’ve progressed since the beginning of class. However, rather than simply telling the students what they learned that day, he advises asking them to say and give examples of what they learned.  This way, teachers can assess how much students understood.

A more focused way to review is to end with corrections. Interrupting activities too often to correct grammar or pronunciation can discourage students from trying the language skills they’re learning, so Farmer suggests giving corrections at the end of class. To keep correction time brief, focus on major or persistent mistakes. Farmer suggests writing each mistake on the board and eliciting the correction from students to ensure that everyone is aware of the mistake and correction.

Feedback is broader than correction because teachers can individualize it to each student and mention what students did well in addition to what they need to work on more. Farmer writes that students who know their strengths in their language skills are more motivated to continue learning.

The end of class is usually the best time to assign and explain homework, the fourth way to warm down. After all, you want students to pay attention to the lesson, not the upcoming homework, during class. Farmer says that homework need not be complicated; it should be an activity that reinforces the lesson in a clear, approachable way. Teachers can also ask students to learn some new vocabulary in preparation for the next lesson.

I wonder if I would’ve retained German better if my teacher had done warm down activities more often. They seem like a great way to ensure students retain what they learn. Assigning homework is just one way to end a lesson, so consider using the last five minutes of class to review, give corrections, or give feedback.

Giving Feedback to ESL Students

Giving feedback to students is important for language teachers to provide their students with an idea about where they are and how they can improve. In order to give feedback, students need to be assessed by their teachers in different and varied ways so as to give them relevant and constructive feedbacks.

Giving feedback can be very challenging in communicative classrooms. However, communication does not only include the oral form. It is both oral and written. Giving feedback depends on the type of assessment teachers give to their students. In the case of the continuous assessment, it reflects constantly the students’ progress in all the language patterns. For instance, students can be assessed through group work, discussions, debates, drama, role-plays, reflective writings, tests… etc. Opting for different types of assessments enable the teachers to give constructive feedbacks and in different forms depending on their preference, time and students’ need.

From my own teaching experience, I think the most effective feedbacks are the ones which are given individually since students, whatever their ages, do not like to be embarrassed in front of their peers. Moreover, it is better to keep feedback till the end of the task to avoid correcting students while working individually or in groups. For example, giving a written feedback to a group will help them discuss their errors or mistakes in group as not to be repeated and also look for ways of improvement.

Before giving any feedback, the teacher should set his objectives and expectations vis-à-vis what students should perform. In case the focus is on accuracy, the teacher should make sure the students communicate accurately and then can intervene to correct their mistakes. However, if the focus is on fluency, the teacher should not stress oral mistakes as long as the meaning is conveyed.

Finally, informing students about the assessment criteria will help them to work on the areas where they still have problems such as fluency, pronunciation, content, body language, voice projection… etc.

The Importance of Creating an English Club for ESL students

An English club is a place for ESL language learners to use English beyond the ESL classroom and in real life situations. The practice of the language skills in the classroom is crucial, but it is not enough to master the language. In the English club, the students have the chance to use different skills and discuss a variety of topics.

There are many reasons for creating an English club. Students who lack interaction, motivation in the classroom, either because they are introvert, shy or they have a low language level, the English club might be a good solution to involve them with their friends in doing various activities and to make weak student active. The good thing about creating an English club giving chance to students to study English with fun and it is also a place for students to improve their English. For instance, students can be given stories and books to enhance their writing skills. They also watch documentaries, films, listen to songs and engage in discussions with their teacher; they can play games and sports to change the atmosphere and practice the language in funny ways. The English club paves the way to students to build up their personality, discover, understand and become themselves and develop their cultural competences. It makes them aware of the national and international issues and events; so that they can be useful for themselves and for their community as well as to develop their sense of citizenship and belonging.

In addition, there are other goals for creating an English club:

  • Enhancing communication and collaboration.
  • Fostering creativity and innovation.
  • Encouraging autonomous learning.
  • Creating an atmosphere of ease and relaxation.
  • Cultivating good hobbies and habits.
  • Making new friends

Here are some types of the activities that can be used in an English club: the first one is school press which can be run by students and it enables them to think and express their thoughts and feelings in a written form. The second one is school drama which is an artistic and literary genre that helps in the cognitive and emotional development of the students. The third one is contests which aim at increasing the students’ performance and retention. There re types of contests: photo contest, art contest, sport contest, etc.

Finally, I do really appreciate the efforts that the teachers do some countries like Morocco, in order to create these clubs even that they do not have enough time or financial support and how they struggle to make them survive. So as a suggestion, it would be interesting to add some ideas to enliven these English clubs; I propose using a suggestion box; the teacher encourages the students to write their comments, criticism and suggestion for the group. Also, it is a good idea to on excursions as a group. This helps creating strong commitment between students: going on a picnic, having lunch together, visiting a charity, etc. So, whatever your activity, the student should speak only English.

Learning About the Community:

An Adult ESL Lesson Plan

Lesson Topic:

Students will become more comfortable with volunteering at their child’s school. If students do not have children, they can learn how to become volunteers at a local school or community center.

Level:

Low Beginning ESL

Lesson Goal:

Students will become comfortable with the idea of volunteering at their child’s school regardless of their limited English skills. This will help English learners feel connected with their community.

Student Outcomes:

Students will learn the vocabulary necessary to be able to ask a few questions at their child’s school about volunteering.

Vocabulary Focus:

help, volunteer, child, community, helper, teacher, What? How? When? What time?

Engagement

Materials:

Chart paper, pictures of volunteers at schools doing various tasks

Outline:

1. Students will look at pictures of people helping at their child’s school (ex. photocopying, reading with child, filing papers).

2. Teacher will ask if students have done this before by showing a thumbs up, thumbs down approach.

Presentation

Materials:

  • Same materials used in Engagement:
  • photos for questions and skills/tasks

Outline:

1. After the teacher tells students that it is important for them to help at their child’s school whenever possible, she will review ways they can help through the pictures.

2. Teacher can demonstrate questions they can ask on the board by using key vocabulary (What, How, When, What time?) they can use to ask a teacher at school. Picture cards will be used for these questions as well as the teacher demonstrates asking questions.

3. Teacher will elicit responses on ways/skills students may have that they can use to help volunteer (i.e. filing, reading, photocopying) using picture cues.

Practice

Materials:

  • Paper and pencils
  • Teacher made scramble sheet or scramble word cards

Outline:

Students will match pictures with words in pairs as teacher monitors and checks for understanding.

Students will scramble words in pairs to create questions they can potentially ask their child’s teacher about volunteering. Then they will practice reading the questions as teacher supports each pair of students.

Using sentence starters, students will work on practicing their responses using key vocabulary.

Application

Materials:

  • Premade teacher questions for role-playing

Outline:

Students will role-play being the teacher (more advanced students that can ask premade questions made by teacher) and parent asking for how they can help, their availability and when using vocabulary words.

A separate application activity can be a version of Conversation Café where students ask each other questions they made and place them in an envelope for students to answer.

As an extension: Students can visit school and ask their teachers to volunteer. After, they can come share their experiences with the class and tell how they will help at their child’s school.

A Critical Assessment for Adult ESL Learners

What is a needs assessment? A needs assessment is a group or individual assessment you can give adult ESL learners at the beginning of the semester to determine what their interests are. The purpose of the assessment is to determine the interests of your students. These interests will then identify what the topics of study will be for the semester. Adults are driven by interest just as all other students. So, if you can determine what these are, then the learning will be more effective and meaningful.

The usual topics of study for adult ESL learners are community, shopping, work, transportation, time, health, school, and friends and family. As you can see, these topics are part of our everyday lives and therefore crucial for ESL students to learn and talk about. With semesters being relatively short, it is impossible for all the topics to be covered. Therefore, your class should select three or four topics to cover within the semester. It is important to explain to your students that not all topics will be covered.

This is especially important for them to know if they have a book because they will see that they didn’t get through all of it. How can you assess your students?

  • · Students can vote on their top four topics of interest.
  • · A survey can be given where students choose their top interests.
  • · Students can interview each other and practice asking each other questions about what their interests are at the same time.
  • · Students can take an individual simple assessment where they circle their top four topics.

Since adults need to learn English rather quickly to communicate with others on a day to day basis, these topics are crucial to helping them get around in the U.S. and be able to communicate with others and participate in their community. Most adult learners are very anxious to learn English and when they are interested in their learning and able to choose their own topics, they are vested in the learning.

Depending on the level of your students, the assessment should be modified. For beginning students, the topics need to be explained in detail as the students may not know what the topics consist of or mean. This can be challenging but not impossible. With the use of visuals and videos, students will be able to determine which topics they would enjoy learning more about. The lessons following the assessment should also be modified depending on the students’ language level. Vocabulary in all topics are highly necessary to teach students. Through the use of visuals, dialogue, and role-playing, all students will find the content engaging.

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