In our college, there was a category of ESL students who stymied the instructors. They were fluent speakers but continually struggled with basic the grammar on writing tasks. Any ESL program that has immigrant students will probably have these types of students described as “ear-learners” or Generation 1.5.
Gen 1.5 students are sort of between first generation and second generation immigrant. They immigrated with their family when they were elementary or high school age.
A growing number of these students indicate a goal of obtaining a college degree. However, unfortunately, many of them struggle to make the transition from studying basic English skills in ESL courses to taking academic ESL and mainstream academic courses.
Among those who do apply to colleges, a considerable number do not meet the minimum standards for writing and are thus not accepted.
I, along with two colleagues, were able to get a grant a few years ago to study these students and to develop an approach to helping them learn grammar for writing by taking into consideration their special learning styles.
In this posting, I’ll describe these students and their learning styles. I’ll also explain the type of materials and include examples that we used with them. And finally, I’ll summarize the very positive results that we got from the study.
Opportunity for creativity
A student of mine once wrote an essay about requiring parenting courses for future parents. In her essay, she mentioned her husband and 2-year-old child, which made for powerful support. I was quite surprised because, up until then, I had no idea that she was married, much less a mother. While conferencing with her, I told her about my surprise; she smiled and said that it was not true; she had just made it up.
Wow! What a clever idea!
Discussion and Writing Skills
It may surprise some how closely discussions and writing assignments are intertwined in an academic integrated-skills course. The writing assignments are often related to the readings in the course, and the students are required to summarize and paraphrase from the passages. One of the best ways to helps students do this is if they’ve had a chance to talk about the ideas in the passages. In other words, they “orally paraphrased” the readings before they are asked to paraphrase from them in writing tasks.
To illustrate how reading, discussion and writing can be integrated to help students develop each skill, we’ll follow up to the reading passage about why Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners from Part 1. Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview) I’ll include some specific activities:
Feeling shy in social situations
Why do Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners?
To illustrate how the subject of cultural differences is the best subject, I’ll include a reading passage about this followed by discussion and writing activities related to this.
This “shyness” topic is an effective one for demonstrating the important aspects of this “best” subject:
“That’s interesting!” Photo by Alvesgaspar
Some students (and even some native-English speakers!) think that a good conversationalist is someone who just asks a lot of questions. Anyone who has tried to have a conversation with my former roommate (name unmentioned here) will know that that’s not true.
A: “This is Mt. Baker.” B: “Did you actually climb it?”
Do you want someone to feel like they have interesting idea? Ask follow-up questions.
The second activity involves maintaining and extending the conversation by questions about what their partner has said. It’s called “Using Follow-Up Questions.”
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.