Project SHINE

Levitt Center
315-859-4451 or 315-859-4894

The Levitt Center is located in Kirner-Johnson 251.

Coaching Tips

Suggestions For Working with English Learners

  • Speak a little slower than usual while learners are getting used to communicating with you. You can return to a more normal speed little by little.
  • Pronounce words as clearly as possible without distorting sounds. Don't be discouraged by blank stares. When learners don't seem to understand, try drawings, gestures, acting out verbs, and pointing out items in pictures to get through to them. Also, paraphrasing questions may help.
    What is your address? (silence)
    Where do you live? (silence)
    Where is your house? (draw a house if necessary)
  • A good get-acquainted activity with learners at all levels is to talk about yourself and your family and encourage them to talk about theirs. Photographs are very useful for this.
  • You could also bring pictures which illustrate sports and hobbies you are interested in. You may find learners who share your interests and start a conversation from there.
  • When learners do not want to speak, you can find out if they understand you by asking them to do something. (Please sit in this chair. Put the pencil on the book.  Could you close the door? etc.)
  • You can also work with picture and word cards this way to help improve their listening comprehension.
  • When learners repeat what you have just said instead of responding, try to make sure that they understand the meaning of whatever they are repeating. 
  • When helping students with a written assignment, give them time to do as much of it as possible on their own, then ask questions to help them identify errors or problems with their work.
  • When leading a small group discussion, make sure that everyone in the group understands the vocabulary which is relevant to the topic before the conversation begins. Keep in mind that a student's level in one skill area may be completely different from her level in other areas. Some learners at the Refugee Center can communicate well orally, but are virtually unable to read or write. Others read or write well, but cannot participate in conversation.
  • Always let the ESL teacher know if you need more material or clarification. We will assume that everything is going fine unless you tell us otherwise. If you alert us to a particular area of difficulty for a student, we can provide practice activities and give more reinforcement in class, too.
  • Remember that English is a difficult language to learn.  Help the students to relax as much as possible. A student who is nervous or intimidated cannot possibly learn, so try to be very encouraging and smile a lot!

Above all, HAVE FUN! You can learn a lot from this experience, too.  Get to know the students as well as you can.  It makes them feel good to know that someone is interested in them, their country, their family, and so on.

Courtesy of the ESL Instructors at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees.

Working with Beginning English Learners

In general:

  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Use repetition.
  • Use gestures.
  • Use Total Physical Response (TPR), e.g. the cocah says, "Open your notebook" or "Get up and walk to the door," etc. and the learner has to perform the action.
  • Work on practical skills such as telling time, working with money, basic social interactions (e.g. greetings, expressing thanks, etc.).
  • Be careful of too much physical contact or closeness until you can assess the learner's personal and cultural level of comfort as far as body contact is concerned.
When teaching the alphabet (if necessary), especially for illiterate learners:
  • Teach the letter name (e.g. "double u") and the letter sound ("w").
  • Reading and writing is very difficult for many learners of English since in many words there is so little correspondence between the written and the spoken form. Therefore:
  • Teach series of word in which the letter is always pronounced the same way (e.g. "get, go, game, glass"--do not mix "gentle" at this point--or "cat, come, classroom"--don't introduce "cent" at this time). It's important to show patterns.
  • Vowel sounds are difficult too (short vs. long). With beginning students, I suggest modeling the sound and a number of words with that sound and having the learner repeat it many times.
  • Be positive.
  • Be patient.
  • Relax.
  • Have fun!

Courtesy of Carola Zavalidroga, ESOL Instructor at the Utica BOCES ACCESS Site

Critical Elements in Tutoring English to Speakers of Other Languages

  • We do not learn a language by learning grammar; rather, we learn a language through conversation.
  • The learner is the most important thing in a lesson plan, NOT THE PAPER!
  • As a coach, you need to be tuned into the learner, his level of learning, and his style of learning. You don't want to do something that is too easy--he'll be bored--and you don't want to do something that's too hard--he'll get frustrated.
  • Linking and Reduction: Significantly improving speech clarity and comprehension of spoken English. We link words together and often completely reduce certain sounds. 
  • Reduce confusion concerning the use of the problematic determiner: a, the, this, that, his, her, my, some, any, etc.
  • Making sense out of our confusing English language: the fundamental need to focus on PATTERNS and responsible REPETITION.
  • Assuring the phonics serves as an underpinning to independence in speaking and reading English effectively: the critical use of LONG and SHORT VOWELS; the ONE VOWEL RULE; the TWO VOWEL RULE.
  • Focus on ASKING rather than telling: Placing problem solving consistently in the hands of the learner and providing time for the learner to think and act

Courtesy of Bob Schaffer, ESOL Instructor at the Utica BOCES ACCESS Site