Go up a Level ] ESL/NNS Main Document ] Paper Comments ] Sample Assignment ] [ Teacher's Comments ] Student Comments ] Gaps in Writing ] Abstract Statements ] Grading Sheet ] In a Nutshell. . . ] Links ]

Each of the comments below represent a suggestion from a composition and/or English literature instructor at the University of Minnesota in response to a Bush Diversity Grant survey asking for strategies they have used to help their non-native speakers write more effectively in native-speaker classes.

1.      Approach the students RIGHT AWAY and let them know that they can come to you for help.  While I've had lots of ESL students who are aggressive about getting help, I've had others (often young women) who are too shy to ask. 

2.      Push them to set up a Writing Center appointment or even volunteer to meet with them weekly yourself if the Writing Center proves impossible. Writing Center instructors seem extremely effective at helping students understand the nuances as well as the bigger issues that they might have difficulty with.

3.      Write out assignments and give them as handouts rather than just describing them in class. 

4.      ESL students can present a special set of challenges that I don't always feel able to overcome, try as I might. Realize that you will get used to their errors and will learn what types of commenting works best for ESL students they are often more extensive than for my native speakers.

5.      Remember that you can read three times as fast as can the native speaking student in your class, and you can read MUCH faster than a non-native speaker can. So don't assume that because you could rip through that novel in an afternoon that the students can do the same.  It will take them three afternoons and your non-native speaker six.  So give people some time and space to get the work done. You'll reduce frustration, and frustration breeds hostility. Who needs it? 

6.      Creative Writing:  Since it's a creative writing course, I do pay more attention to the tone of the story, mood, and voice, and not as much to the technical aspect. In conferences, I do bring the editorial/grammatical errors to their attention, but focus more on the artistic side of her stories.

7.      I have noticed that non-English speaking students tend to create refreshingly non-cliche images with their words, and I feel that's something to be encouraged.

8.      I have offered to let students come to my office early and write the in-class writings before class to give as much time as needed, and I have encouraged them to come meet with me in my office to get help reading the plays (it's Shakespeare).

9.      I give them extra support on adaptation from native language writing methods and in English grammar, also sometimes for cultural adjustment.  I make some way for them to feel comfortable and acclaimed in class for their multiple language proficiency.  We use their technical grammar skills (which are often better than native speakers' skills) to support native speakers and the native speakers' intuitive grasp of English wording to support the ESL students. Grading follows the usual methods with maybe a slight consideration for language issues, but not much.

10.  Enjoy them.  Learn something about their educational backgrounds and cultures.  Appreciate the minimal diversity we have.

11.  My coursework in Comparative and International Development Education has been helpful in my understanding of and appreciation for non-native students.  I'd encourage people to take some of those courses.

12.  I try to make sure that the peer review process "circulates," that is, any particular pair of native/non-native speakers don't always read each other's papers.  Two reasons:  the non-native speakers need a variety of viewpoints, and the native speakers sometimes get discouraged having to "cope" with the extra work involved in responding to the ESL students' work.

13.  For my part, I worry more, and try to get a feel for how much help with grammar any particular student wants.  If they are looking for extra help, I've always had few enough in each course to oblige.

14.  TALK to them very early in the class -- day one is best.  Find out what their confidence level is, and what their expectations are from you.

15.  I make sure they can understand me adequately when I speak; I allow for cultural differences in the ways they interact and with me and with other students and, if necessary, gently explain differences. 

16.  I look for non-native speaker patterns of errors (and strengths) in their writings; this semester I am allowing them to use some punctuation that is different in non-U.S. countries (mainly placing a comma after ending quotation marks instead of before them).

17.  I go to extra lengths to make them feel accepted by and comfortable with both me and the other students; if appropriate, I comment in their papers on differences between the U.S. cultural ways of writing and those of their countries/regions.

18.  I would suggest making a little more effort to get to know NNS students because they tend to be a bit more quiet and hesitant about participating, yet some are absolutely excellent students in one or more ways; and most will "blossom" a bit more in the class with a very small amount of additional attention.

19.  Get a writing sample early in the semester.  My Korean student did not speak with an accent, so I assumed she belonged in my class until she submitted her first critical summary and I discovered all the writing problems she had.  Then it was too late for me to tell her to change to a non-native writing class.  I could only recommend the Writing Center.

20.  During peer review, I stress looking at patterns of errors no overload of information and unless the errors seriously distract from the ideas, I try not to downgrade though this is a tough idea in a literature-based course. If the writing is not really suited just yet for a literature course, I may recommend dropping the course and taking another composition class so that students will get more fluent with writing in English first.

21.  Instructors should know the resources on campus to direct NNS students, especially referring them to the Student Writing Center which is a wonderful resource that gives them the time to work on the persistent grammar errors.

22.  There needs to be more trained ESL teachers tutors of composition and more direct training for other teachers who will have non-native speakers in their classes.

23.  I usually give non-native speakers more attention on papers and concentrate on larger organizational issues rather than marking up all their grammar errors. I also encourage them to work with me and especially the non-native speaker specialist tutors.

24.  I always conference individually once with my students, at which time I can ask them how they are doing, what their needs are, etc.  I don't do anything differently during in-class work.  My endnotes on papers try to identify recurring grammar problems and I always recommend the Student Writing Center, telling them that they can request a tutor there for non-native speakers, if there are persistent issues.

25.  Make clear that the reading load (it's the British Literature survey) is heavy and they need to be at a level to read not just for broad content but for specific uses of form, etc. in order to be able to do well in the class.

Go up a Level ] ESL/NNS Main Document ] Paper Comments ] Sample Assignment ] [ Teacher's Comments ] Student Comments ] Gaps in Writing ] Abstract Statements ] Grading Sheet ] In a Nutshell. . . ] Links ]