ESL Grammar/Composition Class Tries a New Approach

June 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm 1 comment

In an innovative approach, ESL faculty member, Nick P. Cooper ,engaged his Advanced ESL Grammar/Composition class. Nick received the course outline and realized that he wanted to take the course in a new direction. The students had some proficiency in speaking and writing English and some had even been in Nick’s classes the year before. Nick said, “I don’t believe that you learn a new language from a book. It doesn’t work that way. It needs to be relevant to a teenager. I wanted them to have to speak. When I was in high school, I loved speech and debate. I discovered that there was an ESL International Toastmasters series of speeches and I thought the students would benefit from completing the program.”  That was the inspiration for Nick to inspire his students.

As part of the Toastmasters series, each week, Nick showed jis students the next step in becoming proficient orators,  giving them a new speech topic and a new set of guidelines from which to build on. The students learned to research a topic, prepare an outline, and went through a three-step revision process, including peer-revision before they had a final academic essay. Then began the process of delivering the information to an audience of their peers in an engaging way.

Nick worked with the students to develop critical thinking and they learned to defend their statements. He worked hard in developing their writing talents. Each class started with writing for 600 seconds. Nick said, “600 seconds is much more fun than saying you have to write for the first ten minutes of class and, under this guise, students wrote without being overwhelmed.”  He created a “Journal Jar” where the first student in the classroom each day could draw one of 500 writing prompts and write it on the board. The class then followed the “five critical thinking prompts” Nick taught them to write their essays each day. “It became a game for the students to see who could arrive earliest to put the prompt on the board and this tool truly engaged the students”, said Nick. With this writing in hand, students learned to speak with greater ease and approach the argument in a more dynamic way. Students actively responded to each discussion and began to argue and debate naturally.

Below is clip of their recent debate final:

Nick recognized their natural interests and asked the class whether they wanted to learn to debate formally. He showed them the formal process of how a debate works and they started from there. Eventually, the class had their own debate tournament with students using note cards full of their own research to support their arguments. “It was exhilarating to see these international students research, write, and then use logic to argue in a language that was not their own.”

Leo Rodriguez, a freshman theatre major from Mexico, said “I learned so much from this class and it really has helped me out as an actor. Nick’s class gave us confidence. As an International student I was nervous and worried about not being accepted or succeeding – in both my art and academics. It was really cool because it wasn’t a normal class. All of the projects were different. It was more fun and we were interested in learning for ourselves. It wasn’t the teacher standing in front of the board. We had responsibility to engage with the class.”

Nick said,  “they’ve made huge and exciting improvements as English speakers. They built self-confidence and all completed the class and the International Toastmasters series quite successfully. I wanted to provide a platform for them to find their voice and share their thoughts, teaching them that everything they had to say had value. These students all wanted to learn and I’m happy to have created a class where that was possible.”

Entry filed under: Academics, ESL, News. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Phil L.  |  August 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Good to see they’re so dedicated! I wish my ESL class would do something like this…


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June 2012


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