All over the world and on almost every campus, there is a need for well-qualified teachers/tutors who understand grammar terms and who can “lead” ESL students to discover and correct their own mistakes, and by so doing, become better at self-editing. Unfortunately, many teachers/tutors merely tell students what their mistakes are and how to correct them. This approach has been proven to be ineffective at making students aware of their mistakes and at helping them become independent. The purpose of this posting is to give a brief introduction to an innovative and at the same time straight-forward techniques which teachers/tutors can use when conferencing individually with students about their writing assignments.
How to teach ESL conversation
One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching a conversation class is that when you teach your ESL students conversation techniques, you get to hear them talk about their culture, their experiences, opinions and dreams.
A student-centered approach doesn’t mean the teacher just puts students in groups, gives them a topic and tells them to talk about it. It doesn’t even mean that the students are put in pairs (Student A/Student B), given two different “information gap” papers and told to complete the exercise by talking.
A student-centered approach to conversation-skill development is much more than that.
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “the student-centered lessons.” Teachers who experience this type of approach for the first time will often say, “I don’t feel like I’m ‘teaching’” using air-quotes when they say “teaching.” In their minds, a teacher stands in front of the class lecturing.
But in a student-centered approach, the teacher is more like a coach because teaching ESL is mostly about skills not about teaching content.
This technique requires minimal preparation, but it will help you zero in on the words/sounds that a student is struggling with. And it will enable you to help him/her improve their pronunciation in a non-threatening way.
A tutor recently told me about her student who was confused by “where” and “which.” She was wondering how I would approach this student’s question. He had two sentences:
Shanghai is a city which has a population of eight million people.
Shanghai is a city where eight million people live.
One of the best pieces of advice that I received early in my teaching career came from a Japanese administrator. Over the years he had witnessed visiting American instructors showing their frustration with Japanese students vocally or through their body language. He said that with Asian students, these demonstrations can have the opposite effect of what the instructors were hoping for. According to him, only children or someone immature is unable to control their emotions, so the students will probably lose respect for the instructor.
I can say that in my 35-plus years of teaching international students, I’ve never been in a situation in which my only option was to show anger. This isn’t to say that I’ve never felt inside like screaming; I just know that nothing would have been gained by actually doing it.
My “never show anger” mantra was recently challenged by a student.