Developing Messages: Teaching ESL
During my sophomore year of college, I taught English to Spanish-speakers once a week. I did this in a Hispanic community through a ministry my church had. Most people who came to the classes were mothers whose children went to English-speaking schools and wanted to increase their ability to communicate in their everyday lives.
Creating an effective teaching method for them to learn English
We found an effective way for the ladies to learn English was to:
-Talk to them in Spanish first so they’d feel more comfortable and we could get to know them
-Use repetition of helpful, everyday phrases such as “I live in Bryant. Where do you live?.”
-Use props as visual cues such as food, pictures of family, kitchen items, school supplies, etc.
-Provide journals for them to record vocabulary and take notes
-Give them lists of vocabulary and/or worksheets with basic exercises
–Simulate conversations using the “circle” method. Students sit in a circle and use the phrases learned to create conversation. For example, the first person says to the one next to her, “I live in Bryant. Where do you live?” and she responds, “I live in Little Rock.” Then she turns to the person sitting on her other side and says, “I live in Little Rock, where do you live?” and so forth until every person in the circle has practiced telling where they live and asking someone where they live.
–Partner conversation-after a series of questions and responses are learned, students pair up to practice the conversation with each other. For example, a “meeting and greeting” conversation would allow them to practice phrases like their name, where they’re from, where they work and how to respond to someone else who says those things to them.
When I started helping with ESL for this group, the program had just started, so we went through several periods of trial and error to see what would be most helpful for this group of people. Through the process of adjusting our methods, I learned that it was important to be relational, simple, clear, and practical. The ladies learned more than just vocabulary; they learned full sentences, which they could say by the end of the semester with much more confidence than they started out with. It was always exciting when one would come in the next week, enthusiastically greeting me, “Hi Lauren, how are you?” and then respond “doing well thank you.”