Carol Clark’s Facebook ESL Tips

CClarkCarol Clark is an editor who volunteered for many years as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor and then became an ESL instructor with the Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC). From 2011 to 2013, Carol posted a weekly tip for fellow tutors on DCLC’s Facebook page.

Carol introduced herself to DCLC Facebook visitors in September 2011 this way: “I’ve been tutoring ESL for 11 years, first with Chester County, now with DCLC. I’m also a fiction writer and editor, so sharing my passion for language with English Language Learners is a real joy. I’ll be posting a ‘tutor tip’ here each week—some tool or resource I hope will assist you with your own tutoring experience. Know that you’re such a valuable person in your student’s life: you’re helping them develop the gift of language.”

Most of these tips apply to both Adult Basic Education (ABE) learners and ESL adult learners (sometimes referred to as ELLS—English Language Learners). The tips are listed chronologically. Some links may no longer be active.

2013 Tips

October 1, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Respect Goes Both Ways

In tutor training we learn various methods and tips for teaching. We also learn that having patience with and respect for our learners is vital. Remember to apply these qualities to yourself as well! Most students are punctual and eager to learn, but sometimes you get a learner who shows up late or not at all, or doesn’t do the work you’ve assigned her. Just as you want your student to voice her concerns with you, make sure you tell her in a professional way that your time and efforts are valuable too. Keep communication open for the best possible student-tutor experience.

September 11, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Teaching ESL: FREE eCourse

We’ve been trained as ESL tutors, and some of us have attended tutor recaps as refreshers. Kenneth Beare, a professional ESL instructor with great insight, offers a free e-mail course for teachers/tutors. The course consists of (8) weekly lessons, delivered straight to your Inbox. There’s much to learn & use here: teaching techniques, assessment strategies, and an abundance of ready-to-go lesson plans. The fall season is the perfect time for a refresher – I hope you will join me.
http://esl.about.com/c/ec/34.htm

September 3, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Staying on Course

Sometimes you introduce a topic to your ELL, the past tense with irregular verbs, for example. You study this with your student for a few sessions, giving him practice exercises. You then see that your student is getting bored, but you know he hasn’t gotten a good enough grasp on the material yet. He announces, “I want to learn the future tense.” It’s great that he’s anxious to learn and start something new, but is he ready yet? It’s been my experience that abandoning a content area for something “refreshing” is fun, only to find out later that my ELL never really understood the material well enough to use comfortably in speech or in writing. So, the moral here: stick with a topic for (3) or (4) sessions (or more!), and vary the exercises to keep learning interesting (more on FUN, PRACTICAL lessons in the weeks to come). In the short and the long run, he’ll remember and be able to use what he’s learned much more effectively.

August 20, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Practice with Prepositions

As native English speakers, we use prepositions in almost every sentence we speak. Therefore it’s vital that your ELL or ABE student understand the definition and use of all these prepositions. It’s been my experience that ELLs have the most trouble with prepositions of place: “in,” “at,” and “on,” with regard to stating their address: “I was born ‘on’ Lu Street ‘in’ China.” They also struggle with prepositions of time: “ She was born ‘on’ September 14, 1980,” vs. “She was born ‘in’ September,” or ‘in’ 1980.” See how confusing it gets? Kenneth Beare (about.com) comes to our aid once again with printable preposition practice sheets and quizzes. Follow the link below for a quiz of 20 such questions. Make sure you also check out the other preposition printables, which are listed under “Related Articles” at the bottom of the article. Above all, spend at least a few sessions reviewing these prepositions with your student (don’t rush!), and make sure they have lots of practice both speaking and writing with them.
http://esl.about.com/od/printablequizzes/a/p_prepositions1.htm

August 14, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Worksheets Galore!

I’m very excited to share a website I found this week. ”www.learnenglishfeelgood.com” is a very navigable site, full of grammar and vocabulary exercises. There are lots of printable worksheets for use with your ELL or ABE student, as well as online pronunciation practice tests for your learner’s use at home. There’s even a link that lists vocab differences between American and British English. This website is wonderful – I highly recommend it.
www.learnenglishfeelgood.com

August 6, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Working with Absolute Beginners

Working with ELLs who are absolute beginners is not easy, but it can be done with patience and perseverance. Some things to keep in mind when working with beginners: 1) Smile: your warm, pleasant attitude will be a comfort for newcomers to our country who are likely dealing with many life issues. 2) Practice speaking & listening first, *before* moving to reading & writing. 3) Use gestures & body language to help your student understand words like: LISTEN, SPEAK, REPEAT, STOP and THAT’S RIGHT! 4) Introduce only 4-6 new vocab words at a time, using repetition and multiple examples. These are just a few tips. And remember always to be sensitive to cultural differences.

July 24, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: “Daily ESL”

Today I offer you a site with more conversation starters: “Daily ESL.” As tutors, it’s vital to help build our learners’ vocabularies, and then have dialogues with them to practice using this vocabulary in everyday situations. That’s the key – communication for every day. So follow the link below to find a variety of conversation starters that present common vocab and expressions. Make sure you check out the orange link, “Using this site,” for some tips on using the topics.
www.dailyesl.com

July 17, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: iSL Collective

I stumbled upon a really cool website yesterday, called “iSLCollective.” It’s a place where teachers submit worksheets for other teachers to use. There are over 30,000 FREE printable worksheets here, and it’s also free to register to the site. The thing I like best about this website is its accessibility. You can easily search by: grammar topic, vocab topic, student level, and more. The site also displays, “Most liked resources,” “Most downloaded resources,” and “Newest resources.” Once you’ve found the worksheet you want, download it, then print it in either full color or B&W. *Additional tip*: I find it useful to print out these highly visual sheets on cardstock, so I can save them in a binder for use over and over again. Great site. Follow the link below and click on the “Resources” tab up top to start browsing.
http://en.islcollective.com/

July 3, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Talking about Hobbies

Hobbies may not be on the minds of your students, as they struggle to find work and raise families. But in my experience, some ELLs and basic literacy students have even more time on their hands, as jobs and school hang in the balance until they can better master the English language. That being said, why not talk about hobbies? Define “hobby” for them, and then work casually through Kenneth Beare’s list of “Hobbies Vocabulary.” There’s a treasure trove of lesson plan ideas here, and who knows, maybe your student will discover a new activity to explore further on his/her own (I’m sure there’s something there for you, too.)
http://esl.about.com/od/related-words/a/Hobbies-Vocabulary.htm

June 25, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Countable vs. Uncountable Nouns

This grammar area is a source of confusion for many ELLS. They’ll ask you, is it “how many milk,” or “how much milk?” It’s only confusing, however, until you help them understand the fairly simple rules that differentiate countable and uncountable nouns. Follow the link below for Kenneth Beare’s easy-to-follow explanation of the differences, and the words and question forms used with each type. A valuable follow-up lesson to this would be, “this, that, these, those,” as these words are used constantly in English, and require a knowledge of countable/uncountable nouns (see “Related Articles” in bold under the main article.)
http://esl.about.com/library/beginner/blmuchmany.htm

June 11, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Vocabulary Cour
se
As tutors, we recognize the importance of helping our students expand their vocabulary. Kenneth Beare (about.com) offers a FREE, 8-week Vocabulary course, with a new lesson delivered to your inbox each week. I’m posting this for tutors as well as for students. Students with access to a computer can study tips and strategies for learning new words, and become familiar with idiomatic English. For tutors, we can use these lessons to help build our own lesson plans. Other areas covered in the course are: most important nouns grouped by theme, on-the-job vocab, and phrasals. All you have to do is subscribe at the link below to receive the (8) FREE lessons (just an FYI, Kenneth’s ESL site is widely known and respected – your e-mail address will go no further than “about.com.”
http://esl.about.com/c/ec/1.htm

June 3, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Taking Charge

About a month ago, my ELL expressed the desire to start practicing job interview skills. I knew he needed more work with basic conversation, and at the time we were also working on the crucial concepts of expressing present and past time. But I incorporated some job vocab into our lessons. Within two weeks, he told me he wanted to study to get his Driver’s License. Okay, hold the phone. Now I’m not one who likes to tell people what to do, in fact it’s taken a lot of practice for me to put my foot down to ensure some organization with my students’ learning needs/wants over the years. But I had to take charge. My ELL and I couldn’t possibly cover all the areas he wanted, so I thought things over and formed a new plan. I told my ELL that first and foremost, he needed to improve his basic conversation. We’d spend ½ of each session speaking dialogues, and the other half studying the PA Driver’s Manual. That’s working out well, and we’re focused now. Moral here: we have to let our students’ goals drive our lesson plans, but as tutors we must stay focused and enforce some structure if our students are to experience solid progress learning English.

May 22, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Using the PA Driver’s Manual

One goal your student may have this year is to get his/her driver’s license. Pick up two copies (one for each of you), of the PA Driver’s Manual (FREE) at any Driver License Center. The booklet has all the info your student needs to prepare for the Driver’s exam, and includes an application for a driver’s permit. Each chapter has a quiz with answer key for review. The manual is also a great teaching tool for non-drivers, as it offers great visual vocab lessons with keywords like, RIGHT, LEFT, WARNING, EXIT, STOP. Use the manual with students who are already licensed to re-study the many highway/construction signs that can be so confusing. Click on the link below and you’ll also find an on-line version of the manual.
http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/drivers_manual/pa_driversman.shtml

May 16, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Guide to Word Order

As native English speakers, we generally don’t need to study word order. We grow up hearing and then speaking sentences. For ELLs and some basic literacy students, however, the placement of words in sentences can be a very confusing thing. “Does the adjective come before or after the noun?” “What is an adverb and where is it placed?” Follow the link below for Kenneth Beare’s basic guide to word order. Use it to create interesting and valuable lessons for your student.
http://esl.about.com/od/grammarstructures/a/Word-Order-English.htm

May 7, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Phrasal Verb Worksheets

Is it any wonder phrasal verbs are so difficult for our ELLs to understand? Take the verb “bring,” then add “up,” “out,” or “on” and you have three entirely new meanings. But these phrasals are important to know as Americans use them in speech all the time. Follow the link below and scroll down to “Phrasal Verbs” to find 30+ printable worksheets you can use to help your student with these constructs. You’ll find an abundance of other worksheets/handouts there as well.
http://www.usingenglish.com/handouts/

April 29, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: The Value of Warm-up

Even if you’ve been with your ELL or basic literacy student for a while, it’s important to start your sessions with some brief warm-up conversation. You may have a student who starts talking right away – great. But for the shyer student, it’s nice to break the ice with, “How are you doing,” or “How was your weekend?” This chat is not a waste of time, but loosens up both you and your student before diving straight into lesson material. You may glean from this time that your student needs help with some forms he/she needs to fill out, or has a question regarding some strange words or conversation he has heard. Take some time, slow down, and show the learner that you care about his/her life. You’ll be surprised at how much more receptive and active your student is with regard to learning the concepts presented in your lesson plans.

April 23, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Gerund and Infinitive Reference L
ists
Verbs can be one of the most confusing grammar areas for our ELLs and basic literacy students. The correct usage of gerunds and infinitives is just one example. Students want to know, do I use the “-ing” form of the verb (gerund), or do I use the “to + verb” form (infinitive)? Follow the link below, and scroll down to the heading, “Gerund and Infinitive Reference Lists.” Use the drop-down box to find some great pages on these usage issues. I think you’ll quickly see the value of this information.
http://www.englishpage.com/gerunds/index.htm

April 16, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: LET YOUR STUDENT SPEAK

It’s tempting when you begin tutoring an ELL or basic literacy student to do a lot of the talking. Resist this urge. You will probably speak more in the first few sessions, but as you continue to work with your student, let them produce as much speech as possible. Try to get them talking for 80% of the session. By listening to their sounds, words and sentences, you can assess what areas need improvement, then use that knowledge to form vital, relevant lesson plans.

April 9, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: The “Adjective-Noun” Game

Here is a quick and fun activity to use with your ELL or basic literacy student, to help them with the use of adjectives, nouns, and sentence building. Give your student proper names, one at a time (Betty, Linda, Sam), and have them come up with an adjective-noun descriptive sentence for each. Ex: “Betty likes bright days” (adjective-noun = bright days), Linda takes long walks.” This activity asks that all words start with identical letters, but I think asking for just the adjective or noun to start with the proper name letter allows the student more flexibility. A great idea for beginner or high-beginners would be to have a pre-prepared list of nouns and adjectives, copied and ready for them to choose from. (This activity was created by Scott Greene, for “The Internet TESL Journal”).

April 2, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: HELP WITH JOB INTERVIEWS

Remember how nervous you were for that first job interview? Now imagine a language barrier thrown in there: problems with word usage, pronunciation and listening. These issues can double or triple the nervousness. So give your ELL or Basic Literacy student some hints and key vocabulary, and then role-play a sample interview before their big day. They’ll thank you for it. Click below for more information.
http://esl.about.com/od/businessspeakingskills/a/j_interview2.htm

March 27, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: “Daily ESL”

Today I offer you a site with more conversation starters: “Daily ESL.” As tutors, it’s vital to help build our learners’ vocabularies, and then have dialogues with them to practice using this vocabulary in everyday situations. That’s the key – communication for every day. So follow the link below to find a variety of conversation starters that present common vocab and expressions. Make sure you check out the orange link, “Using this site,” for some tips on using the topics.
www.dailyesl.com

March 20, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Help with E-mail

Just as with speaking, our ELLs may lack the confidence to compose and send e-mails. Whether it be a message to a friend, or more formal correspondence with a potential employer, our ELLS or basic literacy students may refrain from sending an important message because they don’t want to look foolish. For some helpful e-mail tips, follow the link below. You must create a login at this site, but registration is free. After you log in, click on “Worksheets” in the blue area up top, then “Vocabulary, then “Business Vocabulary” (you’ll find other great materials along the way!). “Business Emails” is the leftmost worksheet, and you can click on the blue “Download” button to view and print it.
www.busyteacher.org

March 11, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Prepositional Phrases

Kenneth Beare states at his website: “Prepositional phrases often do more than just add minor details to a sentence: they may be needed for a sentence to make sense.” Once our ELLs and basic literacy students understand simple sentence structures, we can help them build upon these sentences with prepositional phrases that tell who, what, where, and when. Consider the following sentence: “Allison went to the bank.” This sentence supplies only basic information. The addition of prepositional phrases gives the sentence its necessary details for clarity: “At 4PM, Allison went to the bank in town.” For more info on these structures and sentence building, follow the link below.
http://grammar.about.com/od/sentencestructures/a/ExpandingWithPrepositionalPhrases.htm

March 6, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Conversation Practice = Confidence

I know I’ve posted this link before, but I believe the importance of “conversation practice” cannot be stressed enough. Many of our students will speak English with us for just three hours a week, then go home and resort to their native tongue. We can’t control this as tutors, but we can have repeated conversations with our ELLs so that they gain the confidence & desire to engage in more English conversation. We can also strongly suggest that they practice speaking English as much as possible, outside our sessions! Follow the link below for a wide variety of discussion ideas (scroll down the page to “Conversation Topics”). You can even print the pages onto cardstock, for a durable set of cards to use again and again.
http://www.eslpartyland.com/teachers/nov/conv.htm

February 26, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: The Thirteen Tenses

The way I see it, it kind of figures that there are 13 tenses in the English language: the perfect number to make us unsure and even a bit nervous at times. Kenneth Beare says this about tenses: “The most important thing to remember is that there are thirteen verb forms or tenses that are used for different situations that happen in the past, present or future.” He offers a concise list of all tenses, with links to detailed explanation, sentence examples, and a visual chart (I love these visual tense charts, they make teaching this content area much easier!). Follow the link below for this very useable material.
http://esl.about.com/od/tense-review/a/Tenses-In-English.htm

February 19, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Common Mistakes in English

Native speakers often struggle with confusing words in English. It’s no wonder our ELLs have problems with these constructs! The most common mistakes include: “too, two, to,” “good vs. well,” “bring vs. get,” and the use of double negatives – to name just a few. Kenneth Beare offers a list of these common mistakes, and each link leads to a clear explanation of the words plus example sentences. Remember: your primary goal is to get your student communicating. But once you’ve reached this stage, it might be time to clear up these confusing areas, so your ELL can speak and write using the best English possible.
http://esl.about.com/od/gramma1/a/cmlist.htm

February 12, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: First Meetings

About three weeks ago, I started with a new student. I was excited and also a little nervous. When I got to the library, I saw a car pull up and it appeared this might be my student in the passenger seat. He looked very apprehensive, and rather scared. I knew he was a beginner, having been in the US only three months. As we found a table inside, I pulled out my sheet of notes, then reminded myself – Relax. There was no need to race into any goals or skills, my first job was to help him feel more comfortable. I put my notes aside, and we talked as I tried to guide him (slowly) with some basic words and gestures. I remembered the best things to do at first meetings: 1) smile, 2) relax, and 3) let your learner know you have the confidence to help him/her. By session three or four, I was amazed to see my ELL seated at a table in the library waiting for me, and yes: he was smiling.

February 4, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Telephone Language

As native English speakers, we often get frustrated on the phone when someone’s speaking too quickly or unclearly. For your ELL, there’s this problem plus the anxiety of using their own fragmented English. EnglishClub.com features some great pages on telephone language. You can practice these (printable) dialogues with your student during your sessions: answering the phone, introducing yourself, leaving a message on an answering machine, and making an appointment. Follow the link below, and make sure to click on the tip/practice at the bottom of each page (followed by >>) for more “telephone talk.”
http://www.englishclub.com/speaking/telephone_language.htm

January 29, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Keeping a Journal

OK, so I’m a writer. I love to record things, write it all down. At my tutoring sessions, I jot down ideas and my ELL’s problem areas, things we’ll need to focus on in the next sessions. Often I’ve carried this note-taking a step further, by keeping a journal of the overall experience with my student. Try it. Record how you started with your ELL or basic literacy student, the progress you’ve made, and feelings you have about the shared adventure. Take notes for lesson purposes, but try this journaling too. It’s rewarding, and you may discover you have a real story to tell.

January 22, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: How To Teach the Tenses

Teaching verb tenses and helping your ELL determine which one to use can be one of the most challenging tasks for tutors. Kenneth Beare has compiled a list of links to guide tutors in teaching each tense, and today I’ll focus on the “present simple.” I like the way he lays out a plan: 1) introduction of the tense, 2) explanation of the forms, 3) practice, and 4) continued comprehension activities. He offers links to reading comprehension plus a lesson plan on daily routines (learning the usage of present simple with daily routines is vital for your beginner ELL). So check out this link and the others – lots of good stuff here.
http://esl.about.com/od/verbtenses/a/How-To-Teach-Present-Simple.htm

January 16, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Gonna, Wanna, Gotta

So here’s the question: do we teach our students these expressions? The fact is, while they’re certainly not proper or even correct English, our ELLs need to be able to understand these words because Americans use them all the time. They’re called “reductions”: “Reductions take a few words and compress them into a shorter slang expression.” (Kenneth Beare, www.esl.about.com). The first two are obvious (“going to,” “want to”), but the third one even expands to a slang expression! (I’ve “got to”; formally, “have to.”) As tutors, we don’t have to teach our ELLs to speak this way, but it’s important that they understand what the words mean.

January 9, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Homework Assignments!

Assigning homework to your ELLs is a great way for them to continue learning outside of the sessions with you. DCLC encourages all tutors to assign homework between sessions. My experience has been that most students appreciate the extra work, because they want to make more progress. Others are very busy, and can only handle a minimal task. Follow the link below for a list of homework ideas, including reading assignments, worksheets, and crossword puzzles. This article was written for classroom use, but the ideas will work for your one-on-one student as well. Here’s a quote from the end of the article that I think is key: “Talk to students at the beginning of the course about what they expect in regards to homework and ensure that you always give students plenty of time to complete exercises.”
http://busyteacher.org/4286-adult-esl-learners-homework-assignments-that-work.html

January 3, 2013
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Resolutions for ELLs

Happy New Year to all tutors and learners! I hope 2013 proves to be productive for both you and your student. And while we’re on New Year’s – many of us make resolutions. They help us get focused and move forward. Why not help your student make some of his/her own resolutions? Kenneth Beare has prepared a simple list of ideas that will keep your ELL active practicing English at home. For Ex.., having frequent “listening” sessions each week, and looking over learned material right before going to sleep. Many of these will work for basic literacy students, too. Follow the link for more tips.
http://esl.about.com/od/intermediateenglish/a/English-Learning-Tips.htm

2012 Tips

December 4, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Clear Lesson Objectives

A good lesson plan should always begin with a clearly stated objective, summed up in a single sentence: “Upon completion of this lesson the ELL will be able to identify a noun.” “Upon completion of this lesson the ELL will be able to conjugate the verb ‘to be’.” The objective should 1) define what is going to be learned, 2) give an indication of how that learning will be assessed. Also very important – the objective must be measurable. Please be aware that in many cases it takes several sessions to complete one lesson, including meeting the objective and assessing the student’s mastery of it. In summary, clear objectives help students understand what is expected of them from the lesson, and provide tutors with a blueprint for focused teaching. Follow the link below for more on this important topic.
http://712educators.about.com/od/curriculumandlessonplans/a/Writing-Excellent-Lesson-Objectives.htm

November 14. 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Learning about Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving approaching, your ELL may wonder and want to know what this holiday is all about. Then again, he/she may not. Our students come from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds, so my philosophy on teaching American holidays is to do so “only if your student is interested.” Having said that, if they want to know more, Kenneth Beare has posted a good reading comprehension text called, “The History of Thanksgiving.” He introduces key vocab words (probably more suitable for the intermediate-advanced learner), plus a quiz and other facts about the holiday. The reading and activities would also be useful for beginning literacy learners. Follow the link to learn more.
http://esl.about.com/library/weekly/aa110800a.htm

October 23, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Understanding the Presidential Election

With the US presidential election just two weeks away, there is much talk and campaigning going on. To help your ELL better understand the election process, Kenneth Beare has provided an explanation of the basics from primaries and campaigns, to voting and the Electoral College. He provides relevant key vocabulary and a dialogue you can print for use with your student. There’s also a printable and on-line quiz to test comprehension. http://esl.about.com/od/readingintermediate/a/r_election.htm

October 17, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: On-line Resources Up and Running!

This is probably the most important tip I’ll post all year. DCLC has compiled a list of websites for both tutors and students, at their On-Line Resources page. I perused the list this morning, and find it easily searchable and highly useable. Tutors/students can locate articles, lessons and printables quickly, in the areas of ESL, Grammar, and Life Skills (my weekly tips are all archived in the ESL area). As a tutor, use the list and re-visit it often to streamline your tutoring experience. Encourage your student to explore the Life Skills area for great info on Citizenship, the Driver’s test, and workplace skills. If there’s a topic you don’t find, please e-mail volunteers@delcoliteracy.org with “Carol” in the subject line, and I’ll try to help you locate more information. http://www.delcoliteracy.org/online_resources.html#resources_section

October 1, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Bring vs. Take

These two verbs are so misused by native English speakers, it’s no wonder a new language learner struggles with their usage. As a rule (and there are always exceptions), use “bring” when someone or something is moved towards the place of the speaker/writer; use “take” when something is moved away from that place. I.e., “She’s bringing her friend tonight.” (to the place of the speaker). “I’m taking the 7PM train to New York.” It’s all about the point of reference. For more grammar tips, check out the link below for Mignon Fogarty’s “The Grammar Devotional”. It’s a handy little guide. http://us.macmillan.com/thegrammardevotional/MignonFogarty

September 17, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Word Stress for Continued Pronunciation

English is a very rhythmic language, much of its melody coming from natural word stress and intonation. To an ELL or immigrant literacy student, the stress we put on some words and the reduction we apply to others can be quite confusing, especially if their native language is “syllabic” (each syllable receiving equal importance). To help your student improve their pronunciation, help them identify the “content words” of a sentence, usually the nouns, principal verbs, and adjectives/adverbs. Follow the link below for a more detailed explanation.
http://esl.about.com/od/speakingadvanced/a/timestress.htm

September 4, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Working with Absolute Beginners

Working with ELLs who are absolute beginners is not easy, but it can be done with patience and perseverance. Some things to keep in mind when working with beginners: 1) Smile: your pleasant attitude will be a comfort for newcomers to our country who are likely dealing with many life issues. 2) Practice speaking & listening first, before moving to reading & writing. 3) Use gestures & body language to help your student understand words like: STOP, LISTEN, SPEAK, REPEAT, and THAT’S CORRECT! 4) Introduce only 4-6 new vocab words at a time, using repetition and multiple examples. These are just a few tips. And remember always to be sensitive to cultural differences.

August 28, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Hooray for Hollywood!

TV and film are universal media, enjoyed by millions around the world. Many ELLs get their first exposure to the English language through American TV shows. If your ELL has this interest, use the opportunity to have fun “entertainment” dialogues, while also teaching some grammar and vocab. Follow the link below for Kenneth Beare’s ideas about including Hollywood in your sessions. (Make sure you scroll down to “Related Articles” for even more lesson ideas.) http://esl.about.com/od/conversationlessonplans/a/l_film.htm

August 7, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Using photos for LEA

This activity uses the Language Experience Approach strategy. Have your ELL (English Language Learner) bring a favorite photo or interesting picture from a magazine to your session. Prompt your student to talk about the photo, and write down verbatim what he/she says. Then go over each sentence together – your student may be surprised at what he/she said. Give your ELL the chance to correct mistakes first, then offer suggestions for improving the sentence. Have them copy the original sentence with corrections into their notebook.

July 30, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Travel Vocabulary
It’s summer, a time when tutors and learners may be taking a much-needed vacation. But the words associated with travel can be confusing. Your ELL may ask, “Do I go on a trip, or a journey?” “Do I drive, or do I take a drive?” Kenneth Beare explains the distinctions between “travel”, “trip”, “journey”, and also provides their parts of speech and status as countable or uncountable nouns. Follow the link below to help your student understand these very important “travel” words. http://esl.about.com/od/vocabularyintermediate/a/v_travel.htm

July 24, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: White Boards

I’ve used dry-erase white boards with my ELLs for over 12 years. I find them so useful, as they’re lightweight and just the right size (11X14) to place in front of you and your student as you study. Whether it’s a word my ELL is having trouble spelling, or grammatical issue I want to explain, the board has always come in handy. The markers come in many colors, but I find black the best for teaching. You can buy these white boards at AC Moore or at some local dollar stores.


July 17, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Respect Goes Both Ways

In tutor training we learn various methods and tips for teaching. We also learn that having patience with and respect for our learners is vital. Remember to apply these qualities to yourself as well! Most students are punctual and eager to learn, but sometimes you get a learner who shows up late or not at all, or doesn’t do the work you’ve assigned them. Just as you want them to voice their concerns with you, make sure you tell them in a professional way that your time and efforts are valuable too. Keep communication open for the best possible student-tutor experience.

July 9, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Time Expressions and Tense
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I’ve found that many ELLs have difficulty expressing habitual action, and other time-related activities. “Time expressions are used to indicate the time at/during which an action takes p lace.” (Kenneth Beare). Students are often confused with which tense to use, and the adverbs of frequency. Follow the link below for an easy-to-follow guide to time expressions and tenses. http://esl.about.com/od/gramma1/qt/t_expressions.htm

June 25, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Using photos for LEA

This activity uses the Language Experience Approach strategy. Have your ELL bring a favorite photo or interesting picture from a magazine to your session. Prompt your student to talk about the photo, and write down verbatim what he/she says. Then go over each sentence together—your student may be surprised at what he said. Give your ELL the chance to correct mistakes first, then offer suggestions for improving the sentence. Have him copy the original sentence with corrections into his notebook.

June 18, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Basic Sentence Structures

The formation of complete, coherent sentences is a vital skill at every learner level. Follow Kenneth Beare’s link below for great information on the building blocks of sentences. Choose from the list to help your learner understand and identify nouns/verbs, subject/object, and the more complex structures of adjective/adverb clauses. The great thing about his list is that you can start simple, then add complexity for strong and expressive sentences. http://grammar.about.com/od/basicsentencegrammar/a/basicstructures.htm

June 13, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Conditionals

There’s something about the mention of “conditionals” that makes both students and tutors balk. It’s probably because these structures come with first, second, and third forms, and verb tenses that can get confusing. But it’s important that your learner understand these forms in order to express wishes and outcomes. Follow the link below for clear explanations and worksheets http://www.eslflow.com/conditionalsrealunrealsituations.html

May 29, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Lesson Plans

A good lesson plan has clearly defined goals, with activities that reinforce the language being learned. Don’t try to cover too much in one session—you want your learner to be focused, not overwhelmed. I keep small notes during and after sessions, to remind myself of problem areas that need addressing next time. Stay flexible, ready to alter your plan if your student has a more pressing need. Well-organized lesson plans help you the tutor feel more confident, and provide your student with a focused plan for optimal learning.

May 21, 2012: TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Grammar Check
Do you ever find yourself moving along with your lesson plan, when your ELL asks a grammar question that stumps you? Happens to me a lot. We’re tutors, yes, but we don’t know every English rule and exception. If you need to brush up your grammar skills or check a rule, follow these links (then share some of the lessons with your student). The first is a FREE Intensive Grammar Workshop from Kenneth Beare. http://esl.about.com/c/ec/20.htm. The second, a book I’m working through right now, is shown at left. Don’t let the “Dummies” title fool you.

May 7, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Five Common Writing Mistakes

As editor of an online fiction e-zine, I find many common writing mistakes made by native English authors. Imagine how hard writing can be for our ELLs! Kenneth Beare has compiled a list of the top (5) common writing mistakes, including examples of the incorrect and corrected sentences. Follow the link below to familiarize yourself with these problem areas: Use of definite/indefinite articles, Capitalization, Slang/Texting language, Punctuation and more. http://esl.about.com/od/common_mistakes/a/Common-Writing-Mistakes.htm

April 30, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Learning Vocabulary

When your ELL encounters a word or phrase they don’t know, do not give them the meaning. You’re a tutor, not a dictionary, and you want to encourage independence so that your student can learn vocab outside your sessions. First, suggest that they “guess” the word’s meaning from the context of the sentence. If they can’t, have them use a monolingual dictionary. The danger of bilingual dictionaries is that you can’t verify they’ve learned the correct meaning unless you know their native language. Also, English modal and phrasal verbs will be almost impossible for your student to understand by direct translation.

April 23, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Small Talk—Big Task

Making small talk comes easy to Americans. It’s the everyday language we use with friends and colleagues. It’s also an important part of our culture, vital to making new friends or breaking the ice before a job interview. But to your ELL, this light conversation may not come so easy. “Small talk”, or “pleasant conversation about common interests”, is difficult for students who have a limited vocab to converse on such a wide variety of subjects. Follow Kenneth Beare’s tips below to help your ELL with making small talk. http://esl.about.com/od/speakingenglish/a/smalltalk.htm

April 16, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Study Guide for GED Language Arts, Writing Test

Is your basic literacy student preparing to take the GED? This resource from Purdue University’s OWL (Online Writing Lab) provides test breakdown and scoring info for the two-part writing exam, as well as review of the subject areas covered. Students and teachers also have access to sample essay questions. All materials can be printed for use in tutoring sessions. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/

April 9, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: The Creative Tutor

It’s great if you and your ELL or basic literacy student are using a text, workbook, and regular lesson-plan steps during sessions. Just be careful not to adhere so strictly to them that your lessons become boring. Students want to be stimulated while learning English, and you can do this by varying tasks. Start conversations with them, play a game (SCRABBLE®, a synonym-antonym exercise using words on flashcards), or even add colors to liven up your lesson.

April 2, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Graphic Aid
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This week I’m excited to share with you another terrific resource from Kenneth Beare’s ESL website please note these tools can also be used for basic literacy students). Follow the link below for (6) different templates to aid English language learning in the areas of reading comprehension, writing, and vocabulary. I’ve used the ‘Timeline Organizer’ to explain verb tenses, and the ‘Structured Overview’ template for teaching vocab by categorization. The ‘Series of Event Organizer’ will help your student arrange both the ideas they’ve read and the ones they’d like to write. Mark this website, you’re going to want to come back! http://esl.about.com/od/writinglessonpla2/ig/

March 26, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: “Have To vs. Must”

These two modals are often used interchangeably, but they have different connotations. When teaching their usage to your ELL or basic literacy student, stress that “have to” usually pertains to daily routines: “I have to take a shower.” “Must” is reserved for more urgent statements of personal obligation: “I must see her now.” Follow the link below to a lesson plan that offers exercises with these modals, in both their positive and negative forms. http://esl.about.com/od/grammarlessonplans/a/Have-To-Do-Not-Have-To-Must-And-Must-Not.htm

March 5, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: The TOEFL

You may be working with an ELL who wants to start his/her university education in the US. Their first step is taking the TOEFL exam (Test of English as a Foreign Language). This test measures a student’s ability to use and understand English at the university level in the (4) areas of: listening, reading, speaking, writing. The TOEFL is known to be very difficult, and online prep materials can be costly. But follow Kenneth Beare’s link below for a wealth of FREE info and sample test questions. http://esl.about.com/cs/toefl/a/a_toefl.htm

March 2, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Using Texting to Teach Reading and Writing
(A Guest Tip from ESL Tutor Patricia Boccella)

Here are some ways to use text messaging as part of your tutoring. (1) Ask students to read a short article and then summarize it for you in one to three text messages. (2) Send out a “Word of the Day” and ask your student to respond, by texting the definition of the word. (3) Share grammar tips. (4) Ask students to text you their opinions related to a discussion or an article covered in a lesson recently, or ask them to text you and and tell you something that they learned in a recent lesson. (5) Create a glossary to help “translate” text message abbreviations and acronyms. Try sending out a message with various abbreviations or acronyms and encourage students to decode the meaning. (6) Share announcements. If class is canceled due to a blizzard, students may be more likely to respond to a text message than an e-mail or phone call.

February 27, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: English for Medical Purposes

Feeling sick or having pain is frustrating enough. Imagine not being able to tell a Dr. what is wrong or where it hurts. Use the first link below to help your student with English for use at the doctor/dentist’s office. Each sample dialogue comes with key vocab you can teach.
http://esl.about.com/od/englishformedicalpurpose/English_for_Medical_Purposes.htm

February 20, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Sentence Structure

The many tenses in English can be difficult for our students to study and use in everyday life. Kenneth Beare (about.com/ESL) provides a useful chart that shows no matter which tense is used, the basic sentence structure stays the same (Subject, Auxiliary verb, Main verb, Object). The chart displays positive, negative, and question forms of sentences. Use this chart to review for yourself, then help your English Language Learner master the tenses. http://esl.about.com/od/Intermediate_Verb_Resource/a/Sentence-Structure-Chart.htm

February 13, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Forming Questions

Most post-beginner and intermediate English Language Learners can express their ideas and desires in statements fairly easily. But they often struggle to form questions when prompting others for information. This is mainly due to the inversion of subject and auxiliary verb in the question form. Start with simple statements, then guide your student in creating corresponding questions. Follow the link below for examples. “Question asking” is a necessary skill for your student’s everyday life. http://esl.about.com/od/conversationlessonplans/a/ask_low.htm

February 6, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Language Correction

As tutors, we often want to correct our students as soon as we hear a mistake. Resist this urge. Since the primary goal of most English Language Learners is improved communication, let your student finish a speaking activity uninterrupted. Jot down problem areas. After the activity, you can focus on one of the issues. Plan the next week’s lesson from remaining issues. This approach (1) allows natural speech to flow from your student, and (2) helps you to focus instruction where your student needs it most.

January 30, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: www.learnenglishfeelgood.com

I’m very excited to share a website I found this week.”learnenglishfeelgood” is a very navigable site, full of grammar and vocabulary exercises. There are lots of printable worksheets for use with your English Language Learner, as well as online pronunciation practice tests for your student’s use at home. There’s even a link that lists vocabulary differences between American and British English. This website is wonderful.I highly recommend it.

January 23, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Business English for the Workplace

Chances are, your English Language Learner is holding down a job (or two!) when they’re not studying with you. So it’s crucial that you help them with vocabulary phrases used in the American workplace. Click below for links to the top 200 words used in the IT and Food Service industries, as well as to essential English for resume writing and interviews. Your student will appreciate the help. http://esl.about.com/od/businessspeakingskills/Business_English_Speaking_Skills_for_the_ESP_Workplace.htm

January 3, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Using the PA Driver’s Manual

One goal your student may have this year is to get his/her driver’s license. Pick up the PA Driver’s Manual (free) at any Driver License Center. The booklet has all the info your student needs to prepare for the Driver’s exam and includes an application for a driver’s permit. Each chapter has a quiz with answer key for review. The manual is also a great teaching tool for non-drivers, as it offers great vocabulary lessons with keywords like, RIGHT, LEFT, WARNING, EXIT, STOP. Use the manual with students who are already licensed to re-study the many highway/construction signs that can be so confusing. You may find you’re learning right along with them.

2011 Tips

November 21, 2011
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Using Pictionary®

Teaching your English Language Learner new vocabulary can get dull. Use cards from the “Pictionary” game to stimulate your student’s thoughts/images on a word, then engage in conversation and writing exercises.“Pictionary” is great because words are color-coded by category. You can teach what a “category” is (clothing, place, famous person), then help your student discover other words in each group. By helping your student describe a word, you can also teach the concept and use of adjectives and synonyms/antonyms.

November 7, 2011
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is (a verb) + (1 or 2 prepositions) to form a single unit of meaning. This new meaning is different from that of the individual words used by themselves. I.e., “Tom put up a shelf”, is quite different from the phrasal form, “Tom put up with the children.” Phrasal verbs are often difficult for English Language Learners, as many other languages do not have them. Teach phrasal verbs as they arise in speech, then, practice, practice, practice. Click on the link for reference list of phrasal verbs. www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/phrasal-verbs-list.htm

October 31, 2011
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: “Conversation Strategies”

I’ve recently purchased a book titled “Conversation Strategies,” by David Kehe and Peggy Dustin Kehe. It’s full of practical methods designed to help English Language Learners hold meaningful everyday conversations. I like the book because it emphasizes politeness in asking basic clarification and confirmation questions. There’s even a chapter called, “Interrupting Someone.”

October 25, 2011
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Teaching Verb Forms

One of the challenges English Language and Basic Literacy Learners face is learning the 12 verb forms (tenses), and knowing which one to use in spoken/written English. Kenneth Beare offers links to explanations of the forms, with example sentences for each. My favorite link is “Visual Guide to Tenses”, which gives a pictorial timeline for each tense. This is a simpler, visual method for teaching the verb forms.

October 17, 2011
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Let Your Student Speak

It’s tempting when you begin tutoring an English Language Learner to do a lot of the talking. Resist this urge. You may speak more in the first few sessions, but as you continue work with your student let them produce as much speech as possible. Try to get them talking 80% of the session. By listening to their sounds, words and sentences, you can assess what areas need improvement, and use that knowledge to form vital, relevant lesson plans.

October 10, 2011
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS : Flashcards

Flashcards are a powerful tool you can use to help your English Language Learner with vocabulary. They allow your student to connect the visuals they already know with the words they want/need to learn. Create your own cards, or check out your local dollar store.

October 3, 2011
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Job Interviews

Remember how nervous you were for that first interview? Now imagine a language barrier thrown in there: problems with pronunciation or difficulty reading. These issues can double or triple that nervousness. So give your students some hints, key vocabulary, and role-play a sample interview before their big day. They’ll thank you for it. Click this link for more information: http://esl.about.com/od/businessspeakingskills/a/j_interview2.htm

September 19, 2011
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Dialogues for ESL Beginners

As a DCLC tutor, I think the most important thing we can help English Language Learners develop is their ability to speak with others. Students with strong reading/writing skills may lack the verbal skills needed for everyday life. Click this link (under Articles) for several beginner dialogues, which can also be expanded for use with more advanced learners. http://esl.about.com/lr/beginning_dialogues/421406/1/

March 12, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Literature Choices for ELLs and Basic Literacy Students

Once your student has gained a basic mastery of English vocab and sentence structure, they are going to want to read, read, read! The key is finding quality literature written in simple English. Here are some suggestions: Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea,” Wilson Rawls’ “Where the Red Fern Grows,” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” These authors’ simple but poignant prose will provide a gateway for your student’s entry into the world of books.

March 19, 2012
TIP FOR LITERACY TUTORS: Pronunciation Practice

It’s obvious – good pronunciation is vital for ELLs. Varied practice methods will improve both their speech and their listening comprehension. I teach vowel sounds first, forming sounds, words, then sentences—then repeat. This “listening time” is crucial to your ELLs’ learning the sounds themselves. To combine listening comprehension with writing, I dictate sentences to my student. It’s also ideal to use a book with audio CDS that accompany the text; your ELL can then practice sounds with you plus do work at home. Here are two excellent books for pronunciation practice. Check with the office as they have some copies of “Clear Speech” for you to use.