Do you ever feel like your students have gotten used to your teaching and language style? Do you want to make sure their language skills will be successful outside your classroom? Why not take advantage of the relationships you already have by bringing some guest speakers into your classroom?
Their language use will challenge your students’ listening skills, and speaking with your classroom guests will allow your students to practice with native speakers with non-ESL teacher articulation.
How to Find 5 Guest Speakers for Your ESL Class
From the Mouths of Babes
Did you know that, linguistically speaking, the language of a child is different from that of an adult? For the most part, it is their pronunciation which differs, but there are other elements that also distinguish a child’s speech from that of an adult. For this reason, it is a good idea to expose your students to the speech of a child who is a native English speaker. If you teach in an elementary school or other facility with young children, coordinate with another teacher to schedule for conversation practice with her class. If your school is primarily attended by older students, there may be a day care center, preschool or elementary school nearby that would be willing to have your ESL class visit them. During these interview times, you can have your students read books to the younger students and then allow the younger students to ask questions of your students. The children may want to ask your ESL students where they are from and what those countries are like, especially if your students’ nationalities tie in to a geography lesson the elementary students may be studying. Be sure to warn your students ahead of time that children are difficult for nonnative speakers to understand and that they should be patient and not get frustrated if they struggle to understand the children. The younger the children, the more difficult it will be for your students to understand them, so try to work with children no younger than four.
Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder
If you live in an urban area or a part of the country with significant diversity, you have another resource that will be highly beneficial to your ESL students: parents. Any native speaker who can come and talk to your students will be beneficial to them, but if you have speakers from different areas of the country the benefits can be exceptional. Most Americans know that people from the south have a distinguishable accent, but there are many other areas of the U.S. with specific speech characteristics. A person from Minnesota will not sound the same as someone from Pittsburgh who will not sound like a Texas native. The more geographical regions your guest speakers come from, the more benefit there will be to your students. Parents of your students or your co-teachers’ students can be a valuable resource for exposing your ESL students to geographical speech patterns. If you teach a mainstream class with ESL integration, take advantage of the relationships you have with your students’ parents, especially those who are from around the country. Ask them to come to class and speak about where they grew up or what they do for a living. Any topic they are comfortable with will be fine, as long as they speak to your students and answer questions; the main idea is to expose your ESL students to their speech variations.
Take It to the Teens
So much of what you are able to expose your students to depends on where your school is located and what type of students make up that school. If you are in a public school setting at the high school level, you have another great resource for your ESL students’ language learning. The speech of teenagers is another non-classroom style English that your students would benefit from hearing. Because of their high usage of slang and typically fast speech patterns, just having a conversation with a student that age will be a valuable experience to your students. Instead of having a formal presentation from one or two teens, match up students to be conversation partners. It is a valuable experience for native speakers to talk with students from around the world, and your ESL students will benefit from practicing their English. Schedule regular conversation practice times if you can, and then spend some time debriefing with your students afterward, reviewing new vocabulary or any grammatical questions they might have. If the partnerships work well, your students will not only get language practice but may also make valuable friendships that they will never forget.
A Blast From the Past
To make sure your students have exposure to the full range of native speakers, give them some conversational practice with older adults. Like with teens, retirees or senior citizens make valuable conversation partners for your ESL students. They will use a different set of vocabulary, their pronunciation is not that of your typical ESL teacher, and many older adults are willing to volunteer their time to tutor ESL students. If you cannot bring an older adult into your classroom, take your class on a volunteer trip to a retirement home. There are always adults hungry for conversation in these establishments. In addition, if your students can offer some type of program or performance to a retirement home, music, drama, etc., the retirement home will see you as a valuable resource to them as well. Work with the activity coordinator to schedule regular visits and get ideas about what type of presentations the residents appreciate most. Then tailor your class presentations to their likes and dislikes. The presentations do not even have to be in English. Have your students perform music from their native languages or play instruments on which they are proficient. Your students can also repeat interesting class presentations, perhaps a cooking demonstration or historical presentation.
Give a Teacher a Classroom
Finally, do not forget that other teachers, ESL or mainstream, are a valuable resource for your students. Each teacher has an individual style and manner of speaking. Exposing your students to different linguistic styles is sure to benefit their language learning. In addition, you can offer your services to your coworker(s) by trading classes for a period. Your teaching style will offer a valuable experience to his or her class as well, whether they are native speakers or ESL teachers. You can use this time to teach about cultural differences or speech style or how to relate to students from other cultures. Follow up your teacher by scheduling a time for both classes to interact and speak with one another.
Bringing a guest speaker into your class does not have to be a complicated process. Your students will benefit from exposure to speech from the people you already know, and the more diversity you bring into your classroom, the better off your students will be.
There is no need to go out of your way to bring guests into the classroom, either, so open the classroom door and invite someone in. The language practice and exposure are sure to be a challenging yet positive experience for your students.