TEACHING THE ESOL STUDENT IN THE MAINSTREAM CLASSROOM:
A MAINSTREAM TEACHER'S GUIDE
Abigail Hunting, 2005
"I'd like the teacher to speak slow, and please don't use slang words."
"If ESOL student ask
something, then explain with easy words."
"If the teacher says
words I don't know, I couldn't take notes on them and I miss the time. Also, I never learn cursive writing so don't
understand script type notes."
"Some teachers act like it's a pain so we don't want to
ask questions. It's embarassing. Please be patient and wait."
These are some of the frustrations and suggestions of
ESOL students. Few undergraduate or even postgraduate courses in education have prepared teacher-trainees in the area
of how to cope with ESOL students in the mainstream classroom. In addition, many ESOL students are mainstreamed before
they achieve absolute fluency. As a result, the majority of mainstream teachers have simply had to rely on their own
institution and develop their own techniques and ideas with regard to learning strategies, language development, teaching
practices and resources.
In light of this problem, I have developed a research
project with the hope that its results would help to equip mainstream teachers, who often work in isolation, in their day-to-day
teaching of ESOL students in their mainstream classes.
Based on the results of my survey and current research, I
have come to the following recommendations for mainstream teachers:
- Provide photocopies of notes for ESOL students whenever possible.
- Create a “buddy system” for ESOL students. Pair an
ESOL student with one of your more bright, helpful, and friendly students so that the ESOL student will feel comfortable asking
for help. Ask the mainstream student to help the ESOL student when they can. Many ESOL students feel intimidated by their mainstream peers, and would benefit from
- Be sure to go over difficult vocabulary. Provide ESOL students
with a vocabulary list to refer to during lessons (or, give them a list of vocabulary words prior to the lesson that will
help them prepare for it).
- Be sure to write legibly on the board/overhead.
- Make connections between the material and real life.
- Allow them to use a translator or dictionary so that they can express their knowledge.
- Do not write in cursive. Many ESOL students have never learned
- Speak clearly and avoid slang words.
- Try to monitor your rate of speech.
- Pause frequently to allow students to process.
- Use easy vocabulary (when possible) on tests so that ESOL students can understand the questions.
- Begin the school year with a “get-to-know-you” activity that will enable mainstream students and
ESOL students to socialize with each other. Many ESOL students feel isolated
in their mainstream classes. You can even do one of these activities mid-year,
or provide opportunities for cooperative learning exercises that will enable the students to interact.
- Use cooperative learning in your classroom to promote interaction.
- Explain concepts in many ways, using different vocabulary.
- Help the student to feel comfortable. Be sure that you are pronouncing
their name correctly. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help them.
- Provide them with more time to take tests or complete assignments.
- Know whether they are comfortable being called on or reading in front of the class.
- Use visuals: Gestures, demonstrations, graphic organizers, pictures.
- Write notes on the overhead/projector instead of only lecturing. Or,
provide ESOL students with a copy of your own notes before you lecture.
- Make sure that they are clear on instructions for assignments.
- Allow them to rewrite and improve their work.
To view the entire document (including surveys,
student results, and academic research),
please view the following link: