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ESL methods, or just methods?


Tutoring an ESL student isn’t much different from tutoring a native English speaker. Or is it? It is easy to generalize when working with ESL students and it is even easier to be over assuming. Some may struggle with particular concepts of the English language, but it is safe to say that the methods on teaching these students are very similar to teaching rules of the language to an NES (native English speaker) student. Many ESL students seem to struggle with usage of proper tense, prepositions or determiners, and it seems as if the main struggles for NES writing center visitors pertain mostly to coherence and cohesion. Regardless of native language, you never can tell what a writer’s follies (if any) will be until reading their writing.

            A method that seems to hold effective for tutoring ESL students is to explain your suggestions while making notes. Often times the writer seems flustered when I am making suggestions, and it seems as if they have a hard time concentrating on the processes I am explaining. Making notes for them to reflect on later while they are revising their paper will ensure that the suggestions made will stick and will follow them out the door rather than sticking in the writing center. Often times without notes, students will forget what they have just talked about as they are walking to their car or to their next class.

            Another method that has proved effective for tutoring ESL students is mapping. Mapping consists of drawing or creating a type of “map” that will sort of schedule their meeting. This will allow both the tutor and student to focus on the higher order concerns of the paper. Occasionally, student and tutor may disagree on what the LoCs and HoCs are. In this case, it is important to address concerns of both parties during the tutoring session. Mapping will enable you to structure your session in order to address all concerns in the time frame given.

            Using drawings or diagrams to help explain concepts that may be foreign to a student can be very helpful. An example that comes to mind is the famous umbrella diagram that represents a thesis statement. One student was failing to comprehend the process and purpose of a thesis statement, so the teacher drew an umbrella with the thesis statement as the handle, and the upper part of the umbrella being the ideas that stem from it. Also, all ideas in an essay must fit under the same umbrella (or thesis).

            Overall, tutoring ESL students is very similar to tutoring NES students. Though many ESL students may struggle with similar issues, students themselves (ESL or NES) cannot be respectively labeled all in the same. At the end of the day we are all people, we all have struggles in certain aspects of life or academia. Saying tutoring an ESL student is far different than tutoring an NES student is comparably ridiculous as saying that people of different races require respective psychiatrists.

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