Tutors and instructors can use a variety of instructional strategies to teach beginners without using students’ native languages. Many of these strategies are included in Literacy NOW’s Teaching English Language Learners handbook for volunteers. This is available for purchase at the ESL Pre-Service training, or to borrow from a staff member.
All listening and speaking instruction should focus on the listening and speaking process, and teach students to use listening and speaking strategies. For the components of the listening and speaking standards, see the attached documents below on the components of the standards and the two word docs on teaching listening and speaking strategies. There are also some examples of rubrics, checklists, and evaluations for listening and speaking attached below.
The Total Physical Response (TPR) technique creates situations where students must physically respond to imperative commands. Games like “Simon Says” are a great example of how TPR works. It’s a fun and interactive technique for developing beginners’ listening and comprehension skills in a non-threatening way. Literacy Source has collections of TPR Student Kits in the resource library (look for the section labeled “TPR Kits”). These kits allow students to try TPR in many different life situations, without leaving the tutoring room. Kits contain pictures related to the hospital, airport, beach, kitchen, or office. Students move the vinyl stickers on a playboard according to your directions. Each kit contains instructions, but more information about TPR can also be found on page 29 in Literacy NOW’s Teaching English Language Learners handbook for volunteers.
The Question Hierarchy technique constructively builds upon the students’ limited language skills with incrementally challenging conversations. In the question hierarchy, you start with easier questions and move towards harder questions. Easy questions have a yes/no answer, then either/or, wh-questions, personal questions, and finally open-ended questions. Tutors can use pictures as prompts, beginning with simple questions that elicit concrete answers and working their way up the “question hierarchy” to questions that elicit complex or abstract answers, building student competency and confidence as the questions proceed. Picture dictionaries (section A in the resource library) or picture files (located in the top drawer of the filing cabinet in the tutoring room) are great discussion starters, or to use with this technique. More information can be found on page 20 in Literacy NOW’s Teaching English Language Learners handbook for volunteers.
Games like “What’s inside the bag?” and “What can we do with this?” give students the chance to describe everyday objects in their own words and ask one another questions; they forget their nervousness in unrehearsed speech and begin to speak more fluently, make stronger eye contact, and become more comfortable asking for clarification.
Students can participate in projects that involve group planning and interaction with native English speakers in our community. Recently, a Literacy Source instructor led students in a neighborhood scavenger hunt. They learned to read maps and signs, identify landmarks, and follow directions before setting out to obtain specified objects and information from stores and community institutions such as the local library and bank.