This is a short mini-lesson (I hope it will be a
successful lesson to raise students' awareness) that I will present to my ACLP
classes this week. I will ask students what makes a student a good learner of
languages. The students' responses will be written on the board. I am hoping
that they will touch on some of the following:
1. Has an effective personal learner style of positive learning
2. Has an active approach to a learning task.
3. Has a tolerant and outgoing approach to the target language and empathy
with its speakers.
4. Has technical know-how about how to tackle a language.
5. Has strategies of experimentation and planning with the object of
developing the new language into an ordered system and revising this system
6. Is willing to practice.
7. Is consistently searching for meaning.
8. Is willing to use the language in real communication.
9. Has self-monitoring ability and critical sensitivity to language use.
10. Is able to develop the target language more and more as a separate
reference system and is able to learn to think in it.
A successful ESL classroom with loads of learning and negotiation of meaning sometimes rests solely on whether or not the students feel comfortable with us and with the rest of the students. One way to quickly establish a good rapport with students is to make a conscious effort in the first few days of class to learn the names of all the students we teach.
"We should be aware of the magic contained in a name and realize that this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing...and nobody else. The name sets the individual apart; it makes him her unique among all others. The information we are imparting or the request we are making takes on a special importance when we approach the situation with the name of the individual. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language" (How to Win Friends and Influence People 83).
So how to do we go about learning the names of the students we teach? Here is a simple method that works for me:
1. Be open and honest with the students: Let them know that you would like to take a few minutes in the beginning and end of the first few class sessions to learn the names of the students in the class. Students will respect the effort you make to learn their names.
2. Begin with what you know: Look at the students faces and roster and see if you already know some of the names. If so, put the roster down, look at those students in the class, and say their names.
3. Then read a new name from the roster to see who it is. Then, without looking at the roster, say all the names of the students you know + the new name you just learned.
4. Repeat the process until you can say all the names from the roster by heart.
5. At the end of class, I will have random students raise their hands, and I will say their names. The students try to trick me at times, so it turns about to be a fun
6. I use this technique to learn all the names of all my students. And it works. As you know, my TOEFL class this quarter has 25 students. By the third day of class, I will know every student by his/her first name.
7. Once you have learned the names, use them in and out of class as often as you can.
determining the success of an ESL class is how well the class is organized
and whether or not the students can understand that organization. The core
of an ESL class, the syllabus should be carefully organized. Here is a
checklist that you should consider in creating your course syllabi for Winter
1. Course identification: This includes such information as
your name, the name of the course, and quarter, and day and time on which it
2. Consultation information: This includes your availibility
before and after class hours, a phone number where you can receive messages,
and an E-mail address.
3. Adapted from the ACLP curriculum objectives, the syllabus contains
a descriptive statement of the purpose, goals, and aims of the course. What do
you want your students to learn? What should they know at the end of the
course? How will the class help prepare them for their university
education or a professional vocation? How the class help improve the
students' TOEFL scores?
4. A list of the required textbooks. Include full bibliographic
information for those students who may want to purchase their textbooks Online
5. A detailed list of the course requirements: i.e., number and
length of writing assignments, reading assignments, quizzes, drafts, exams,
journals, speaking assignments, ect.
6. Attendance requirements.
7. Extra credit (if applicable).
8. Assessment criteria: This is an explanation of how you will grade
students' work. On the basis of what standards, qualities, etc. will you
assess the students' work?
9. Grading criteria: This is an explanation of how you will calculate
students' work. Unlike #8, this is a breakdown of what grades (or percentages
or points) will be assigned to each specific assignment. In this section, you
also explain how you will calculate the final grade.
10. Course outline: The course outline helps students anticipate lecture
topics and the due dates for writing assignments, reading assignments,
quizzes, exams, speaking assignments, ect.
A syllabus is a contract that you make with your students. Carefully
and purposely written (i.e., the syllabus I wrote for Level
Five Writing took
me 58 hours to prepare, organize, and write), the syllabus will help students
understand the purpose of your class and will help them to budget their time.
In addition to having a well-organized syllabus explaining the
requirements of the course, you must have well- organized class sessions. The
students need to know what you are doing and how it relates to the overall
course. Additionally, the students can be shown how what they are doing relates
to their overall academic or vocational English proficiency. Here are some
techniques that ESL teachers use to conduct effective class sessions:
1. The outline of the class session is written on the board.
2. As you talk about a particular topic, you may point out how it relates to
your overall goals for the course. For example, if you are beginning an exercise
in a reading book on discerning main ideas in reading passages, you may say,
"Our next topic is understanding the main ideas of reading passages.
As you know, page two, section four of the syllabus says that you should be
able to discern the main idea of a paragraph. Does anyone know why it is
important to understand main ideas of reading passages."
Once the relevance of the topic is understood by the students, they can begin
working on exercises to help them improve their skill in this area.
3. As each topic on the board is discussed, it can be crossed out. That way
students can visually see that that topic has been completed and that a new one
is about to begin.
4. At the end of class, you should summarize what topics/exercises were
discussed/completed. Again explain why the students did what they did and how
these exercises relate to the overall objectives of the course.
5. You may suggest some alternate ways of improving the skills taught that
day (i.e., reading the Sun Newspaper, watching TV, etc) .
6. At the end of class, direct students to the syllabus and read the next
topic in the course outline; this helps students anticipate what will happen in
the next class session. Write on the board any assignments which will soon be
7. Let students know that they can E-mail you or meet with you after class if
they have additional concerns or questions about the organization of the course.
A successful ESL class is measured by your students' perception of what they
learned and how understandably they think you presented the material during the
duration of the class. In this respect, students will evaluate your teaching in
ten areas. Furthermore, they may make a general statement about you and the
Consequently, it is wise to study the "Teacher Evaluation Form"
before you create your syllabus and to refer to the form periodically during the
quarter. While no would suggest that you "teach" to this form,
knowledge of the phrasing of the questions and the elements of the class that
are subject to evaluation may help you to determine special emphasis or added
clarification required in your course plan and presentation. It is recommended
that you look at the "Teacher Evaluation Form" frequently to self
assess any instructional areas which might be in need of improvement.
Teacher Evaluation Form
Prepared well for class.
Used class time well.
Explained lessons clearly.
Answered questions well.
Helped me to understand my mistakes.
Kept classes interesting.
Gave exercises and homework that helped me to improve.
Gave tests that helped me to improve.
Treated each student with respect.
Was well-trained and professional.
What is your opinion of this instructor and this class?
An Analysis of the
Teacher Evaluation Form
1. Prepared well for class: Showing up a few minutes early before class
(i.e., especially your first class of the day) can make a difference between
organized and unorganized class sessions. What page, chapter in the work book
will you and students be studying? Do you need to cue any tapes before you begin
your class? There is nothing more frustrating to a student than an instructor
who spends the first five minutes of a listening class trying to find a certain
listening exercise on a tape.
Before the beginning of class:
Set up OH projectors before the class session.
Write up on the board an outline of the class session.
Open your book to the chapter in which you and the class will be
Have your answer key/listening scripts ready in anticipation of any
Have writing assignments, graded homework or quizzes ready to pass out to
2. Used class time well: Each class has a set curriculum with specific
objectives. Your goal is to help students accomplish those objectives.
Therefore, you should manage your class time well by explicitly telling students
how each part of the class time relates to the overall objectives of the class
session. You may also tell them how the class session relates to the overall
course. Additionally, letting students know that you respect their time and
money, you keep irrelevant topics to a minimum.
To use class sessions well:
Do not show up late and unprepared.
If the students have purchased a book, use the book often during the
class and assign regular homework from it.
Explain the benefits of what you do in the class, so students can see
that what you are doing is valuable. For example, if students are having a
workshop in which they read each others' papers, let them know that most
professional writers have others read their drafts. You can tell them that
this is an important step in the writing process. Additionally, you may
point out that the curriculum has encouraged this workshop.
3. Explained lessons clearly: Simply put, your challenge is to make a
topic understandable. A way of measuring your success in this area is by asking
questions to see if any students are not "getting it." But make sure
that you do not try the impossible. For example, if you begin a lesson on
articles (i.e., a, an, the), it would be wise to tell students that articles are
extremely complex and that you do not have all the explanations for their
multiple uses. However, let them know that you will present to the class some
basic rules which will allow them to understand some of the possible uses of
To explain lessons clearly:
Study the lesson before class and try to anticipate your students'
Use visual aids to help explain lesson.
Have student centered discussions where you find out what students might
already know about the topic.
Have an introduction, presentation, and conclusion to the lesson.
In the next class session, use a transition from the lesson explained to
the new lesson about to be explained.
4. Answered questions well: If you teach a grammar or a culture class, you
have probably been stumped by a question from one of your ESL students. And
while no one has all the answers to every grammar rule or cultural norm in the
history of the English language, you, as an ESL professional, are expected to
answer questions well.
To answer questions well:
Let students know that if you do not know an answer to a question, you
will find out the answer. Ideally, share the answer with the class the next
class session since the question is still in their mind.
If you are teaching a grammar or writing class, it is wise to always have
close by A Writer's Reference
by Diana Hacker and The Grammar
Book by Diane Larsen-Freeman.
Use powerful Internet search engines to find answers. One time I was
asked by a student about the origins of Halloween, a topic with which I was
a bit unfamiliar. Hence, I went into the computer lab and within minutes, I
had found more than enough material to answer the student's question.
Ask other teachers if you do not know an answer.
5. Helped me to understand my mistakes: One thing I like to do is have
students read out loud certain exercises from the book. It keeps them involved
in the lesson, while it gives me a chance to monitor their pronunciation
patterns, in which case I point out any patterned errors which might occur. In
the case of a writing class, the expectations are high and if the students
perceive that they are not getting adequate feedback, they are likely to voice
their frustrations on the "Teacher Evaluation Form."
To help students understand their mistakes:
In the case of a writing class, use a grading form when grading writing
assignments; the grading form can be divided up into two sections: the first
section evaluating the student's approach to the writing assignment, the
second section evaluating the student's sentence structure, mechanics, and
Depending on the level of the writer, you may prompt the student to
correct a sentence by writing "Subject-verb agreement problem"
next to the sentence.
In the case of a translation problem, you may have to "straighten
out" the sentence by writing what you think the student is trying to
Give student feedback at various stages of the drafting process (i.e.,
invention, planning and drafting, final draft stages). It is much easier for
a student to make some minor changes in the beginning stages of a paper than
have to radically change the organization of a paper once it is in its final
When writing marginal comments on a paper, make sure your handwriting is
Construct quizzes and homework assignments which will help students learn
and at the same time see some of the patterned errors they may be making.
For example, in a level five Oral Language class, it is useful to take note
of a student who, during a speech, consistently omits the grammatical word
endings on most nouns. The student can be alerted to the fact and then be
given some exercises to raise awareness in this area.
6. Kept classes interesting: This statement reminds me of the quote: "No
people are uninteresting." The same can be said of an ESL class: "No
ESL class is uninteresting." And since we can not rely on our
personalities alone, it is important to use a myriad of visual aids and teaching
techniques to liven up an ESL classroom.
To keep classes interesting:
When in doubt, use pop music. Sometimes as an icebreaker to introduce a
grammar concept such as adjective clauses, I will give students the lyrics
of a song, I will play the song, and then we will identify how the singer
uses that particular grammar structure and how it affects the meaning of the
To keep students interest peaked and motivation high, share success
stories of former students
-who have passed the TOEFL test.
-who have mastered English, hence allowing them to get a pay raise.
-who have used their English proficiency from ACLP to complete a
Master's Degree at CSUSB or at another university.
Tell funny stories relating to learning English. To point out how easy it
is to confuse minimal pairs in English, I tell my students about the student
who asked her host mother, "Can you wash my 'shit'?" which was
confused with the word "sheets."
To shake up the Level Three, Four, Five, and PreMBA writing classes,
invite tutors from the Writing Center to workshop with your students. This
always makes for an exciting writing class.
Certain classes (i.e., Culture) are great opportunities for field trips.
Students seem to always find something of interest on a field trip.
7. Gave exercises and homework that helped me to improve: After careful
examination of the ACLP curriculum and after careful construction of a course
syllabus, you will need to give the students exercises which will help them to
improve their English skills. Generally, any feedback is better than no feedback
To give exercises and homework to help students improve:
Let students know how the homework will help them to improve their
English. Show them how the homework relates to the overall organization of
Give a variety of homework exercises.
Tell them if they find an exercise too difficult that they can ask you
about it the next class session. Conversely, let them know that if they find
an exercise too easy that they can skip it and go on to a more challenging
8. Gave tests that helped me to improve: Whether it be a Writing or Speaking
class, there needs to be some way of measuring a student's progress in a class.
The measuring tools used should be explained to the students, so they can see
how the tools (i.e., tests) will be used to assess their progress in the course.
To give tests that help students to improve:
Construct tests that frame around the curriculum for that class.
For example, in the Level One curriculum for Culture, it says,
"Understand terms relating to international units of measure for
distance, weight, and volume." It is assumed, therefore, you will
design tools to measure competency in those areas.
Consider how many tests you want to give: too many and the students are
overwhelmed, too few the students feel they did not get enough feedback.
9. Treated each student with respect: Respect is defined as "having a
high opinion of, recognizing the value of, approving and liking someone."
Recognizing that the students' tuition is our sole source of revenue, you always
hold them in highest regard. It is important to avoid an ethnocentric point of
view as students share cultural beliefs.
To treat students with respect:
Do not show favorites in the classroom.
Give all students an equal chance to participate in class discussions.
Sometimes, you may forget to call on a student during a class session. An
oversight on your part, it could be construed by a student that you do not
hold him/her in high regard. If this student is repeatedly overlooked,
he/she will voice his/her frustrations in the evaluations.
In giving feedback to students' writing, grammar, listening, reading, and
TOEFL problems, avoid demeaning comments.
10. Was well-trained and professional: Our students pay a lot of money for
their education; as such, they expect that they will receive quality instruction
by an expert. Appearances and presentation of subject matter can affect
students' perceptions in this regard.
To be well-trained and professional:
Carefully organize each class by constructing a syllabus which includes a
course outline. If possible, hand out and discuss the syllabus on the first
day of class.
Prepare for each class session; at the end of the week, it is wise to
have a "lookback," in which you assess how your classes went. If
necessary, you can adjust your teaching activities or course outline, but be
sure that the students are made aware of any changes.
Have a neat, clean, and professional appearance.
Language Used in the "Teacher Evaluation Form"
Let students know that you are aware that you will be evaluated and that you
are making every effort to make the class informative, interesting, and
organized. In fact, you can restate the language used in the "Teacher
Evaluation Form" to the students at different times of the quarter. Here
are some examples of how this can be done:
1. Prepared well for class: "I have the responsibility to
prepare well for our class sessions. Likewise, you, the students, also
have a responsibility to prepare well. That means you will read
the assigned homework before coming to class, and I will make sure that I have
the lessons organized and presented in such a way that we can learn as much as
possible during our ten weeks together."
2. Used class time well: "I commit to you as your teacher to come
to class on time and to use our class time well. I also hope
that you will make the same contribution by coming on time as well."
3. Explained lessons clearly: "Some of our grammar topics this
quarter will be difficult, which will challenge you and will help you to improve
your current English abilities. If I haven't explained a lesson clearly,
please let me know either before, during, after class, or by E-mail, and I will
do my best to help you understand the subject matter more clearly."
4. Answered questions well: "Since I have a responsibility to
answer questions that you may have about this course or about the
English language in general, I will set aside the first five minutes of each
class session for questions that you may have. I will also answer your questions
before, after class, and by E-mail."
5. Helped me to understand my mistakes. "As your instructor, I
will point out any sentence structure or organizational problems
that you may be having. My aim is to help you to advance in your writing skills
so that you will be able to handle university level writing assignments. If you
have further questions about any possible mistakes you may be making, talk to me
before, during, after class or by E-mail and I will help you to
understand your mistakes."
6. Kept classes interesting: "In order to make our class
interesting and enjoyable, while providing a stimulating learning
environment, I will bring in music to which we will listen. The purpose of
playing each song is (by using close exercises) to improve your listening
skills. If you have an interesting song that you would like to
study, let me know and I will prepare a listening exercise."
7. Gave exercises and homework that helped me to improve. "The exercise
that we are going to do right now is designed to improve your
knowledge of sentence boundaries, which is why we will identify and revise comma
splices, run-on sentences, and fragments. I will also assign homework to
improve your skill in this area. Avoiding these common errors will help
your writing have a higher level of polish, an expectation that university
professors and business professionals will demand."
8. Gave tests that helped me to improve: "Next week, we will be
having a grammar test on verb tenses. The purpose of the test is to make you
aware of any potential problems you might be having regarding your use of verb
tenses. As such, I hope that your preparation for this test
will help you to improve your knowledge of verb tenses in the
9. Treated each student with respect: "Each of you have made
remarkable progress in your learning of English. I respect your
efforts in working diligently to prepare for class and to complete our
assignments in a timely manner. At some future date, if you are applying for a
job and are in need of a recommendation, I will be happy to write you a letter
10. Was well-trained and professional: "As an ESL
professional, I received training regarding theory and
methodology of ESL. One thing I learned is that there are three ingredients to
learning a language: time, exposure, and motivation. Therefore, it is important
to realize that to improve reading, you must practice reading extensively over a
period of time. The research suggests that 45 minutes is an ideal period of time
in which you should practice reading extensively. This should be done every
I hope that this document will increase your awareness in
catering to the demanding needs of the ESL students we teach. From my experience
of teaching more than 150 ten week ESL and university classes over the last ten
years, I have come to realize that students always hold in high esteem an
instructor who works hard to meet the needs of the students he/she teaches.