Your advanced students have really come a long way.
They have gone from having no knowledge about English to reading articles and websites and listening to television and podcasts. On top of that, they understand the language they are hearing and using. But just because your advanced students have become capable speakers of English doesn’t mean they are done studying grammar. If you(and they) look, you will still find areas in which they need to improve their English grammar. When it’s time to tackle grammar in the advanced ESL classroom, here are some tips to make the most of your lessons.
Issues to be Aware of Dealing with Advanced Students
Be on the lookout
Students in advanced classrooms have all made great progress, but just as every student is different, their accomplishments in grammar will be individualized as well. Pay attention to your students in class when they speak, and take time to do formal assessments of their language abilities. You should include both written and oral assessments in your plans, and note the areas each student struggles. You might want to include both formal and informal assessments, and vary telling your students that you are assessing them and doing it on the sly. Also note if your students’ mistakes happen more frequently when they know you are listening for them or if they happen more when they are speaking naturally.
Target your teaching
Once you have an idea where different students are struggling, base your grammar lessons around those areas. If more than one student struggles with a given grammatical structure, that’s your indication that you should do some instruction on that topic. You can cover a wide range of grammar topics in the advanced classroom including idiomatic expressions, dependent clauses, pronoun use and slang. When you teach these topics, use realia whenever possible. Watch news videos, read popular articles, and take every chance you can to get real language material into your classroom. Point out common errors your students make, and then show them how to use the structures correctly.
Have students keep a record
The more your students are aware of their own trouble areas, the more careful they will be about making corrections in their langue use. Have each of your students keep a notebook of troubles they encounter in language use, and sort their notes strategically. They may keep a page for new or unknown vocabulary, another page for trouble areas, and pages for repeated errors in their written and spoken language. Encourage students to review their notes regularly and ask for clarification when they need it.
Though you should be careful not to interrupt your students when they are speaking, you should make notes about the language they are using when they do. Note any grammatical structures your students repeatedly use incorrectly as well as the areas in which they excel. When possible, write down the exact words your students use. Then, when they are finished speaking, point out the errors and achievements you noted. Also, use your notes to choose grammatical concepts to teach to your class, and use real sentences that they have used thierselves without identifying the students who made them.
Teach target editing
When your students become familiar with mistakes they make on a consistent basis, teach them how to target edit. While they should review and revise any writing they do, advanced students will find it beneficial to do an additional target search for errors in their written work. Each student should choose one area in which they consistently make mistakes. They should then scan their writing for sentences in which that particular structure appears. If they used the grammar correctly, they should give themselves a mental pat on the back. If they have made a mistake, however, they should correct it. For example, a student who consistently omits a comma before coordinating conjunctions should scan his or her paper for every use of and, but and so and check for the necessary comma before that word.
Over all, your job is to encourage and inspire your students. Anyone who feels consistently criticized and reprimanded for making mistakes will not be motivated to learn. Instead, point out the things they are doing right just as much if not more than the things they are doing wrong, and praise them when they overcome their struggles. Even advanced students need encouragement. In fact, they sometimes need it more than students not as far along in their studies. After studying English for months or even years, it can be hard for students to forgive themselves for making mistakes. Reminding them that making mistakes is a part of getting better can make the difference between frustrated students and those who just want to get better.