Lesson 10 - Tutoring English Language Learners Illinois State Library

English as a Second Language (ESL): Instructional Strategies

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Language Experience

Language experience is a technique in which a story or experience is dictated by the learner and written verbatim by the tutor. In language experience, the purpose is to demonstrate the connection between thought and oral language and writing through dictation. This technique allows even beginning ESL learners to create oral compositions, giving the learner immediate success. The language experience technique can be used again and again as a learner's language ability improves.

In addition, it can be the basis for a learner becoming the writer of original stories. Using the learner's own words and experiences is an effective way to work with learners and can be an icebreaker in a new tutoring situation. As the learner dictates, the tutor will hear about the learner's world. That information may help the tutor select appropriate materials for future lessons.

To see one's own words written down is a powerful tool. The experience or story is an expression in each learner's own words of:

To use the language experience approach, follow the steps below:

  1. Converse to identify an experience or topic.
  2. Ask the learner to talk about what they want to write. Learners are creating the story with the language they know and can say.
  3. Ask permission to write the learner's story down.
  4. Record the students' words without correcting grammar. You could use a story board or flip chart to help with this step.
  5. Read the story to the learner. They will hear the correct pronunciation.
  6. Ask for changes.
  7. Rewrite a clean copy of the story. Remember to print.
  8. Reread the story.
  9. Read the story in unison.
  10. Ask the learner to select words from the story. These may be words that they are not sure of or that are meaningful.
  11. Teach each selected word. Make word cards for each. Some may be appropriate for building a word pattern.
  12. Give students a copy of the story and word cards for home study, keeping a copy.
  13. Invite the learner to copy the story in his or her own writing.

With language experience, you may also add another step in which the learner reads their words into a tape recorder. Then they listen again to see if the words "sound right."

Know, Want to Know, Learned (KWL)

As you introduce a topic, ask learners what they know and what they would like to know about the topic. Chart this information on paper in columns: "know," and "want to know."

After discussing the topic, refer back to the chart. Revise what was noted in the "know" column if necessary. Discuss with learners what they learned about the topic and note this in the "learned" column.

Use authentic materials

Materials that learners see everyday are good sources to build speaking and reading vocabulary. Using authentic materials in this way allows the tutor to work with the learner as he or she goes through progressively more difficult stages of reading development. The tutor should use every day products such as food packages like soft drink cans, fast food bags, soup cans, pasta boxes, tubes of toothpaste, or medicine containers. Try following the steps outlined below.

  1. Have the learner identify and talk about the product. Some leading questions might include, "What is it?" "Where do you find it?" "How do you use it?" Use an actual product with beginning level learners before using pictures. For a learner who is not literate in their native language, real products are concrete and relevant. This stage is the one in which the learner recognizes common products and labels.
  2. Next, use print that the learner sees, is interested by and contains lots of pictures. Examples would be grocery store flyers, Sunday paper ads and department store catalogs. In this stage the learner recognizes a word when the product picture appears with it.
  3. Next, use environmental print that has some pictures, but fewer pictures than the amount in the previous example. For instance, some ads might be good, TV Guide, magazine articles, or brochures. In this case, the learner recognizes a word when it is written separately from the product. For instance when Crest is written on a drawing of tube of toothpaste.
  4. When the learner becomes comfortable with that level of print, try using environmental print that does not have visual support but still reflects every day tasks. Examples of this would be lottery tickets, medicine labels, maps, or street signs. At this stage, the learner is beginning to manipulate words. The tutor can ask which word says "Crest" which word says "toothpaste" or "Where is your street name on this map?"

English as a Second Language Tutoring - Reflective Activity

Take a minute to reflect on the instructional strategies and cultural norms you have just read about.

Describe an instructional strategy you would use to tutor a young Mexican woman who does not speak much English but who is literate in Spanish. Include information on how you would assure that your tutoring was culturally sensitive.

Compose an email to your trainer. Put the title English as a Second Language Tutoring - Reflective Activity in the subject line. Copy and past the paragraph into the body of the email. Then type in your answer and send it. Completing this assignment is a requirement of your training. Your trainer will respond to you through email.