Your ESL college students may be ready to hit the books, but there are other ways that they may need to get prepared.
What about eating in the dining halls, taking notes and hanging out in the dorm rooms? ESL students need to know the vocabulary and routines for these activities in order to have a better all-around experience as a college student.
Help Your Students Prepare for College Life
Some or all of your students may be living in a dormitory setting. This may be their first time away from home, and/or their first time living in a different culture. Begin with some vocabulary, such as using “dorm” vs. “dormitory,” bathroom, showers, flip flops, roommate, privacy, resident assistant (RA) and the like. Explain that it is a good idea to talk with your roommate about study, sleep and party habits to become familiar with one another, but emphasize that the student cannot dictate what the roommate does. Particularly if there is a kitchen or bathroom to be cleaned, the roommates should discuss who is going to clean and when. Also, discuss where they need to go and with whom they need to speak (usually the RA first, depending on your school) if they have any dorm issues. You will need to prepare several role plays for them, model one first, and then have the students act them out.
Another possibly unfamiliar area for your ESL students may be the dining hall. If most of them use the dining hall or some type of food court on a daily basis, it would be great if you could arrange a visit there. Speak with a contact person at the dining hall to see if you can come in at a time when they are closed in order to have a tour and teach the routines of eating at a dining hall. Before your visit, cover the relevant vocabulary and phrases, such as “waiting in line” and “Swipe your card here.” You may also want to review or introduce several of the common food and drink items available at the dining hall. Take the tour with your students, reinforcing the vocabulary along the way. If it is an intermediate or advanced group, you may want to have each student prepare a question for the tour guide at the dining hall.
One idea your students may need to become familiar with, and may be a bit hesitant because of their limited English skills, is going to an instructor’s office hours for extra help. Begin by explaining the term office hours, and let them know that most instructors will list their office hours somewhere, and will probably even mention them in class. Explain that office hours are a great opportunity to get the extra help them may need in the class. If your students are worried about communicating one-on-one with their limited English skills, teach them that preparation is the key. Brainstorm with your students different possible questions that they may have for an instructor. Tell them to use their real life questions, if possible, because now would be the time to compose them in English.
Review how to write a question properly, if necessary. Write the questions on the board. See if the students can find any errors in the questions, or if they can improve any. Have one or two students practice going to an instructor’s office hours with you in front of the class. Have them give their name, practice a greeting and say, “I am here for extra help, and (if they wish) “I only speak a little English.” Have them ask their question, and as the teacher give an appropriate answer. Then have them thank the instructor and say good-bye appropriately. Next, have them pair up and take turns being the instructor and the student in office hours. Role-playing this scenario will help them become more comfortable, and will make them more likely to really seek out an instructor during office hours for the extra help they need.
Let’s Be Social
Your students may be interested in joining extra-curricular activities, such as clubs or intramural sports, but they may be shy about it due to their limited English skills. However, it is these very types of activities that will help your students’ English improve. A great way to introduce these activities to your students would be to get a representative from various activities across campus to come and talk to your students. This may be during one class, or it may be spread out over several classes. Be sure to speak to your guest speakers about speaking slowly and clearly because of the limited English of their audience. Have them bring materials or links to websites so your students can look at them later and ask you questions about them. If this is not possible, present about the different available activities yourself. Provide the materials and/or websites, and do your best to answer questions. Letting your students learn about the activities in a low-pressure (your classroom filled with other English learners) situation may make them more likely to join a social group. This will be very helpful for them in making friends and improving their English.
What’s Your Question?
Your students probably have many questions about college life. Have each student write down one or two questions about college life and give them to you. Explain to them that it must be a question on a topic that can be answered appropriately in this classroom setting. You may want to do this in the class before this one, so that you have time to compose your answers, and do research if necessary. Again, your students will probably feel more comfortable asking questions among fellow English learners. If there are questions that are not appropriate for general discussion but ones that you would like to provide information about, you can give them the name, phone number and websites of the offices you think may be able to help. In the event that someone writes an extremely inappropriate remark that you feel requires outside attention, please follow your school’s protocol for such a situation.
Learning English is just one part of your students’ adjustment to campus life.
Use these activities to help them increase their comfort level in the many situations they may encounter on a daily basis. They will appreciate it, and their confidence will increase.
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