Tuesday, May 1, 2007

ESL Strategies for Content Classrooms

Hi all,

For those who came to the workshop today and still have questions/comments, please feel free to add your ideas/questions and we can continue the conversation here if there is an interest.

Thanks and sorry we ran out of time!!


Suzanne C. Shaffer, M.Ed. said...

For me, of greatest interest at the moment is understanding the distinction between the resident students and international students in terms of language struggles: the residents being those who have learned English mostly in social situations and the internationals as those who have mostly (not always but often) more formal academic training, but may struggle in spoken English. The residents appear to be quite fluent in English, until they put pen to paper, or struggle with reading assignments.

I just started reading a text about these groups of students in terms of language acquisition and it is very interesting that their difficulties are very different from one another and so classroom strategies that support one group, don't necessarily support the other.

Suzanne C. Shaffer, M.Ed. said...


Noel, this is the question, now, isn't it?!

I can say a few things:
1. the long answer obviously is tied to overall standards and our raison d'etre in HE - but a good conversation to have!!
2. more direct answer - matching assessment and assessment criteria to the learning objective - IF it is a writing course, then obviously, those are the skills that you are assessing, but for literature or other courses, perhaps the learning goals are different - ability to analyze a text, or compare versions of a text - so you are looking more for the quality of the thought process and ability to apply what they have learned about analyis to a text... In this case, language issues take on a different light.
Reid, in Essentials of Teaching Academic Writing (2006) talks about error gravity - that not all errors carry the same weight - some are more serious than others - obviously, those that get in the way of your comprehending the message are more weighted than those that don't - Your rubric can take this into account. Some errors are more treatable - that is, in language acquisition (and especially for resident students who learned English in social settings through "ear") have a longer time acquiring all the subtleties of language and frankly there are some things that they may never get - so with this realization - suggesting strategies for students becomes important - like getting a proof reader - becasue they may never notice or be able to "fix" certain errors even with direct instruction!!