Roberta Reiss- “ESOL Conversation Clubs: Design and Delivery”

Just like any endeavor, successful conversation clubs require some careful thought and planning to meet the needs of the adult learners seeking to improve their listening and speaking skills.

The design should grow from the needs of the participants and your motivation for forming the club:

  • Is it a request from existing learners already active in your literacy program?
  • Is it an idea coming from tutors who see a need for their learners to get more conversation practice?
  • Do you need a way to keep learners on your waiting list connected to the program in a productive setting?

If you are meeting the needs of existing learners, be sure to ask them what they want to practice specifically.  Are they focused on life skills English, current affairs or grammar in use?  The content of your sessions should reflect their preferences.  It will also be feasible to have sessions with a start date and end date that build on one another.

If it is to help your learners on the waiting list start their learning before they are matched with a tutor, you should consider an open-ended, open-enrollment, drop-in model for the club.  This will require the facilitator to create stand-alone sessions with a different topic for every meeting.  It will also require skill in facilitating multi-level sessions with learners of varying skill levels.

Roberta Reiss

For any model, adult learners will appreciate having the chance to master and practice specific skills, whether it is life skill dialogues, grammar in use, or pronunciation.  This can be achieved with learning activities in which there is two-way interaction, time within the session to allow learners to plan what they might say, and a task with a closed solution or end product.

Within the session, the facilitator can rely on a set procedure no matter what the topic:

  • Announce the topic
  • Present vocabulary and allow for practice
  • Model the learning activity
  • Create pairs/small groups to do the activity
  • Walk through the room to offer help, monitor work flow and clarify the task
  • Have learners report back to the whole group

Meeting the needs and expectations of your adult learners is the best way to ensure attendance and gains in skill levels.

If you would like to see the full “Conversation Clubs” webinar hosted January 22, please click here.

Fine Tuning Pronunciation for ESL Learners

Have you ever been in a store and overheard someone say to the cashier, “receipt, please?” and realize that he or she pronounced the “p”?  It is a little startling – until you realize: how would you know that the p is silent?  Unfortunately, our language is full of pitfalls – with words that have spelling that barely resembles their pronunciation

Once, while teaching an advanced class, I could not understand what one of my students was saying regarding cookies and cakes. He was saying “bisquit” – so I thought he was referring to the brand of pancake and cake mix called Bisquick.  I finally realized that he was trying to say biscuit!

Spanish is my second language, so one would think that I should have known what he was trying to say.  After all, I know the spelling and pronunciation rules for my second language.  However, when I am speaking in one language, I tend to think in that language. 

If you have had situations like this and would like to know more about improving  pronunciation by ESL learners, please consider attending my workshop at 9 a.m., Thursday, May 6, during the Florida Literacy Conference.  

See you there!   Enjoy the conference!