How to Work with Academic English or ESL/ELL Students by Kelley

A Brief Overview on How to Work
with Academic English Students or
ESL/ELL Students
NOVEMBER 12, 2013
What Do I Focus On?
 By now, you might have an idea of what you should be
working on with students. Keep in mind:
You cannot focus on everything. Ask the student what they want the
most help with in the time they have with you.
However, you will probably get some or all of the following answers
to the above question:
 Grammar!(*)
 Proofreading!*
 Revising!
 Does it flow?
 But what does that all mean? You have to do a little digging to find out
what the student is really struggling with.
* = don’t attempt
(*) = attempt minimally
What Do I Focus On? (cont’d)
 When all a student says is “grammar,” there are usually
more pressing errors that they do not realize exist OR
they believe grammar to be the most pressing issue.
 Try to focus on some of the following & then try to tackle
some grammar issues. These are larger issues and often
the most important things when writing an essay:
Overall content. Does the student answer the prompt correctly?
Is there a clear and identifiable introduction, body, and conclusion?
If a thesis statement or claim is required of the assignment, does the
student have a strong thesis/claim?
If a professor gave a sample essay structure, does the student follow
Does the student support his/her claim with evidence?
Does the student provide enough analysis?
Grammar Trouble Spots
 Remember: You are not a grammar teacher.
 Don’t worry if you don’t know all of the answers to questions
the students are asking in terms of grammar.
 Some students would benefit from a class that focuses solely
on grammar, but unfortunately, most do not have the time in
their schedules—or just don’t want to.
 It’s fine to say you aren’t sure of how a grammatical form or
rule works. Point them to another resource that can help them
(people, print sources, web sources, etc.).
 If you field confident enough, explain to the best of your
Grammar Trouble Spots (cont’d)
 Some of the common grammatical errors you will see
in ESL/ELL writing are:
Subject-verb agreement (She are going to the store.)
Verb tense/form (She runs yesterday; they are run a race.)
Sentence structure issues
Word choice issues
Article issues (United States is a nice country.)
Sentence fragments (Because I am going to UCI. I am getting a
good education.)
Comma splices (I like pie, pie is my favorite food.)
*There are, of course, other issues besides grammar & content such as citation issues and formatting issues.
Other Resources
 It all boils down to this: You have a limited time with
Don’t feel bad if you can’t answer all of their questions in one sitting.
Do not overwhelm yourself.
Because of this limited time, you should feel free to point them to
other sources for help, which they can pursue themselves. THEY
Purdue Owl (website)
 Grammar for Writing 1 (GW1); Keys for Writers (Ann Raimes, print)
 Their professors
 WC & IPG Study Hall (Wednesdays; 5-6:30; Ayala 193)
 Myself or other writing specialists: 949-824-4124
 Mention that they can get more help if they’re willing to make an
How to break down a prompt
 Try identifying the VERBS in a prompt.
 For example:
Ellen Goodman, Gloria Steinem and Richard Rodriguez write
about the subject of employment. What motivates people to
work? Write an essay in which you discuss the reasons jobs are
so important. To develop your essay, use the short stories and
your personal observations or experiences to develop your
 Break it down. There’s usually some sort of “introduction” to a
prompt before diving into the real assignment. The actual task
often starts with a verb such as “write.”
Tips for tackling an in-class essay (especially AE)
 Make students aware that brainstorming and outlining is one of the easiest
ways to become more successful when writing in class.
 Get your ideas down on paper first in bullet points.
 Try to outline an essay based on the following template:
Background information (not all will require this)
Thesis + 3 main points that help support the thesis
Several paragraphs organized around the 3 main points
Evidence for each supporting point
Restatement of the claim and the supporting ideas
 If you do not outline, it’s very easy to get lost in your thoughts or start
rambling. Students often start summarizing a reading or a personal
example and neglect their claim.
 SAVE TIME TO PROOFREAD. Ideally, students should save 10-15 mins.
toward the end of the allotted time period to give them a chance to catch
grammatical errors.
 If you have any more questions, feel free to email me
at [email protected]

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