Most of the students I have in class are fairly organised, they file worksheets away and write down new vocabulary in their notebook. I have the occasional organisational machine who has their phrasal verbs listed alphabetically on note-cards and is hoarding folder dividers for fear of an upcoming apocalypse.
However, there is the odd student who seems to be somewhat lacking in esl study skills: worksheets end up in the bin or in a crumpled ball lining the student’s bag, you have to tell them how, where and when to write down new vocabulary and homework is consistently lost.
Many students joining ESL lessons may not have been in a classroom for a long time or ever seen themselves as particularly academic. So I was wondering if for these students, dedicating some time to esl study skills, may be of more benefit than teaching the grammar point of the day.
At ATC, one of my jobs is to give low level students private tuition when a teacher feels the student is making little progress in class.
I commonly find in these instances that it is not through a lack of effort that progress is slow but that the students don’t have the necessary esl study skills to learn a language. Even on a 1-1 basis, they are not taking notes, or scrawling on various bits of paper which they leave behind.
They then don’t have any notes to review at home and little learning takes place outside the classroom. I have found that actually giving a student a note book and dividing it into sections together really helps in this situation. Of course, in order to make note-taking a habit you and their other teachers will have to regularly prompt them to record new vocabulary and they will of course need to bring their notebook to class. They say it takes 2 weeks to form a habit, so this will take some time and patience to work but I think it’s worth it.
ESL Study Skills:
Here are some other things I do to encourage the class to be organised and promote esl study skills, please let me know if you have had similar problems or have any tips to add:
- Show them how to record new grammar and vocabulary in their notebook.
- Keep a hole punch in class and make sure they file notes.
- Teach them techniques for reading/listening tasks etc.
- Check they know the basics – what’s a noun, verb etc. There is no point in asking them to organise their vocabulary lists or write down a grammar point if they don’t know what a noun is.
- Set goals – weekly tests, real-world tasks to complete etc.
- Organise your whiteboard as you would a notebook – If you want students to categorise vocabulary, do this on the board too. Write new grammar points up neatly and ordered.
- If they forget homework, follow up on this – If they say they will bring it tomorrow, make sure you remember to ask them again tomorrow.
- Stress the importance of self-study – Ask them to review their notes for homework and have regular revision sessions in class to check they are doing this. I carry around a vocabulary bag and put any new word written on the board into the bag. At the end of the week, we play some kind of game with the vocabulary. After a few weeks there is a lot of vocabulary there which is being recycled.