Emory Report
November 5, 2007
Volume 60, Number 10

O’Connor’s tips for teaching ESL students:

• During lectures, pause, summarize and ask comprehension questions. Write key words and names on the board or distribute handouts before lecturing.

• Use your hands and facial expressions to aid comprehension.

• Watch the complexity of the words you use. Students should understand but still have some challenge. Students should be encouraged to keep track of vocabulary in journals.

• Don't make assumptions. A student’s background knowledge may be very different to that of an American student.

• Students will be more vocal in the classroom when instructors make certain provisions, for example by leaving extra thinking time for an ESL student to answer discussion questions.

• Spoken errors should not be corrected overtly in class. It’s better to echo what the student has said using proper grammar.

• Encourage small group speaking activities and student interaction. When assigning group study, ensure that ESL students are placed with native speakers. Allow 10 minutes at the end of each lecture for student groups to summarize what has been taught.

• Clear transitions between topics are important, and providing a summary or PowerPoint of lectures can be extremely helpful.

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November 5, 2007
English as a Second Language services bridge student, teacher communication

By amye walters

Jane O’Connor might be new to the Emory campus, but she’s certainly not new to education. The director of English as a Second Language in the Learning Programs unit of the Office for Undergraduate Education has the deep-rooted desire to impart information, whether it is to undergraduate students or faculty members.

O’Connor aims to make learning easier for ESL students and provides tools to improve professors’ teaching methods. Twenty years in this profession has taken O’Connor to Spain, her native United Kingdom and the United States. Among the institutions she has taught at are the Cambridge Academy of English, Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania. She also has worked as a test developer and rater for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J.

An increasing number of ESL students led Emory College to create the new position, a role O’Connor filled in August. Since then, she has implemented English study groups and has plans for further services.

O’Connor sees many opportunities to work in collaboration with departments and other administrative units to help students with significant ESL needs, but she recognizes that change takes time. For now, she teaches two ESL support study groups: “Academic Essay Writing and Grammar” and “Listening to Lectures and Discussion.” For future incoming students, she plans to implement assessment tests and hopes to begin summer school with pre-college and pre-freshman programs to help with academic issues.

For any ESL student not already enrolled in O’Connor’s support classes, help is still readily available. Faculty may recommend — or students can directly book — an individual consultation with O’Connor where “anything the student would like help in is covered: grammar, vocabulary development, writing, reading comprehension techniques … basically anything in the English language.” O’Connor tailors the assistance to meet each individual’s needs and desires. “Some students just have one meeting, but others come back every week. We want to encourage students to come, but not feel they are then locked in for life,” she said.

O’Connor is willing to visit with interested faculty anywhere on campus. Upon request, she can conduct teacher assistant training or make presentations to departmental meetings.

Learning Programs provides materials students can borrow. “There are books on any aspect of language development,” said O’Connor. Students may also use technology in the new Learning Enhancement Lab. Here hardware and software help students with reading, writing and study skills. (see story, p. 7) ESL students often have similar writing concerns as native speakers. For these students O’Connor recommends the University’s on-campus Writing Center. After reading a student’s paper, tutors offer their opinions, advice and suggest improvements. The goal is not proofreading but rather teaching a student how to revise and edit his or her own work.

O’Connor’s techniques are beneficial for all students. Likewise, many of Learning Programs’ services are not limited to ESL students but open to all undergraduates. To learn more about the variety of services Learning Programs offers, visit www.epass.emory.edu.