Frequently Asked Questions

This list of the most frequently asked questions is a great source of information. Check this page for updates.

Answers to your questions are below.


A. GENERAL
1. Are your classes really free?
2. What is the class daily schedule?
3. When is the first day of school?
4. When is the last day of school?
5. Where can I see a school calendar?
6. I have a friend. Can he or she join the class too?
7. Why do you ask my date of birth?
8. My friend is 19. Can he or she join the class?
9. How many students are in the class?
10. What kind of people are in the classes?
11. Who can join the classes?
12. I am not advanced. Where should I go for free ESL classes for beginners?

B. "SMART PHONES"
1. Why do you suggest the students to have a smart phone?
2. Why is it better to have a data/internet plan?
3. Do you have any connection with Apple or any cellphone company?
4. What about phones ringing in class?
5. What if I need to make or answer a call in class?

C. STUDENT VISAS
1. Can I get a student visa from your school?
2. Can you suggest a school where I can get a student visa?

D. WHAT DO I NEED FOR CLASS?
1. Do I need a notebook?
2. Do I need a dictionary?
3. What do you suggest I bring to class?

E. WHAT KIND OF CLASSES DO YOU TEACH?
1. Do you teach a lot of grammar?
2. I primarily need to improve my writing. Can you help me?
3. Will this class help me prepare for the TOEFL?
4. Will this class help my listening and speaking?
5. I am nervous when I speak English. Can you help me?
6. What does "project-based" mean?

F. ATTENDANCE/LATENESS
1. How often must I attend class?
2. What day does the class finish?
3. How long can I stay in the class?
4. What happens if I am late?
5. What happens if the weather is bad (rain/snow)?
6. How will I know if the class is canceled for one day?

G. SCHOOL ADDRESS
1. What is the address for the school?
2. How do I get to Hartley House



H. CAN YOU SUGGEST WAYS TO STUDY ON MY OWN?
1. Podcasts
2. Social Media
3. Video
4. Music



A. GENERAL
1. Are your classes really free?

Yes, the class are really free. The government pays for the classes.
I work for the NYC Department of Education, and they pay my salary. This is a program designed to help immigrants to learn and improve their English so that they can improve their lives, get a job or go to college, etc.

The space where we have class is provided for free by Hartley House which is a wonderful charity that is dedicated to helping children, adults and senior citizens who live in the Times Square and Hell's Kitchen area.

2. What is the class daily schedule?

The AM class starts at 8:30 AM and finishes at 12:00 PM. The class meets from Monday through Friday.

The PM class begins at 12:30 PM and finishes at 4:12 PM and also meets from Monday through Friday.

Andrew, the teacher, eats his lunch between the AM and PM classes from 12:00 PM to 12:30 PM.

3. When is the first day of school?

Class begins on September 10th, 2012. However you might begin the class later in the year, and that is fine. We normally have about 25 students per class and when that number begins to drop, I will contact people from the waiting list and ask them to come try the class. We expect students to stay a minimum of 3 months in the class. However some students may stay from September 2012 until June 2013.

4. When is the last day of school?

The last day of school for this "school year" will be on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. In the USA, school usually begins in September and ends the next "calendar year" in June.
So we begin on 9-10-12 and finish on 6-26-13. However, some students will leave the school before June, and that is OK as long as you stay at least 3 months in the class from when you started.


By the way, a "calendar year" goes from January until December (12 months).
A "school year" goes from September until June (10 months)

5. Where can I see a school calendar?

See here: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B7H0k9UENVV2OVlUckhMSWVHRUU

That is a link to the calendar for the 2012-2013 school year with all the holidays noted by month. Please do your best to arrange your vacations around the days that we already have off on the calendar so you can minimize your absences from class. Students are required to attend 80% of classes in any month.

6. I have a friend. Can he or she join the class too?

Everybody who wants to attend Andrew Bell's level 6 advanced ESL must apply online at: www.nycesl.com.

Usually there is a waiting list for my classes because they are popular, free, and located near the heart of Times Square in NYC. Sometimes people need to wait several months to have a chance to join my classes. The best time of year to apply is always in August.

7. Why do you ask my date of birth?

You must be 21 years of age or older to be in my classes.

8. My friend is 19. Can he or she join the class?

No. You must be at least 21 years old to join my classes.

I also do not have very much information about where younger people can study English for free. If a young person lives in NYC and did not finish high school, they should investigate a nearby public school. If you are under 21 and have finished high school and you want free classes, you might want to try the local library or the YMCA.

9. How many students are in the class?

Normally around 25 people are in a class. That is about the limit that my room can hold at Hartley House. It is also a good number; it lets us break into 5 groups of about 5 people each for speaking activities. It also allows us to have a variety of speaking partners which will help your progress in English.

10. What kind of people are in the classes?

People from all over the world come to NYC to live, learn, and work. My classes reflect that. We have adult students from all over the world who speak many different languages. I give preference to people who apply that speak languages that are under-represented (fewer people) in my class. For example I usually have fewer speakers of Tibetan, Farsi, French or Italian (or any African language) and encourage more to apply. This results in a wonderful mix of people and makes it easier for everyone to speak English in the class. I try not to let a particular language "dominate" the class (become more than 50%) and I try to encourage diversity.

11. Who can join the classes?

NYC residents (people who live NYC including Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn,  The Bronx, and Staten Island). We do NOT accept students who live in NJ, Westchester, or Long Island. You should already be able to speak English at a high intermediate level since my classes are all advanced. (If you are not advanced or want free classes for beginners, see here). In addition, you must be at least 21 years old. You need to apply online at www.nycesl.com and get on the waiting list.

Finally, it is very helpful if you have a "smart phone" (iPhone or Android) with an internet data plan (there is no free wifi in the class) in order to fully participate in
the class activities.

12. I am not advanced. Where should I go for free ESL classes for beginners?

Andrew Bell teaches free ESL classes at the advanced level. If you want free beginning classes, please see here. You can also simply do a Google search
for: NYC DOE OACE

B. "SMART PHONES"
1. Why do you suggest the students to have a smart phone?

Andrew Bell's level 6 Free advanced ESL class is a unique class that tries to help the students improve their listening and speaking through a technological and project-based approach. The students will be maintaining their own online learning portfolios on their own blogs and need regular access to the internet to do so. In addition, we have many participatory online activities that we will be doing and need regular access to the internet to accomplish those. Finally, we will frequently be doing research on sites like Google and Wikipedia to get information about what we are working on. 


We are now in the 21st century. Andrew wants to prepare his students to take full advantage of what their smart phones can do.


2. Why is it better to have a data/internet plan?

Unfortunately we do NOT have free "wifi" in the classroom for the students. And since using the Internet is very important during the class to fully participate
, it is extremely helpful if you have a data plan to use with your iPhone (or android phone or iPad) to use in the class. We will be using the internet in several ways every day in class: students will each have their own online blog to record what they are learning in class and to reflect on that learning (this will basically replace the "traditional" notebook and pen in a class); we will be voting on topics daily related to the lessons with our smart phones using www.polleverywhere.com; a huge part of the class will be doing projects in small groups and will be using the internet on our smart phones to do research for the projects; we will be exploring the many apps that are available on the iPhone (and android phones) to help in learning English and to generally be more productive in the 21st century.

3. Do you have any connection with Apple or any cellphone company?

No, absolutely not. I am a NYC government employee. I have no connection with Apple, any mobile phone, or any computer company. I am just trying to make the best free ESL class that I can in order to help my students as much as possible. We are in age where knowing how to use technology is becoming a necessary skill for any good job and simply to take advantage of all the new opportunities out there.

And having a "smart phone" (iPhone) with a data plan in class is an excellent way to do that.


4. What about phones ringing in class?

Please set your phone to "vibrate" and turn off all "alerts" that might sound off during the class as it disturbs the class (This means any alarms, emails, texts etc that make a sound). Note if you have any electronic devices (such as older electronic dictionaries people used before the iPhone) that make sounds, please disable those noises during class as well.

5. What if I need to make or answer a call in class?

Please try to make or answer your phone calls before or after class instead. If you have an emergency, please step out of the classroom to answer your phone. Please set your phone to "vibrate" and turn off all "alerts" that might sound off during the class as it disturbs the class.

If you do need to contact someone during the class, a quick text is less disruptive to the class than stepping out to make a phone call.


C. STUDENT VISAS
1. Can I get a "student visa" (F-1 or other type) from your school?

No, we are free school and do not give out student visas. Our classes are intended for people already living in NYC.


2. Can you suggest a school where I can get a student visa?

No, I am sorry, I cannot. I do not know anything about that. Try doing a Google search.


D. WHAT DO I NEED FOR CLASS?
1. Do I need a notebook?

Not really. I am hoping you will use your smart phone as a "notebook" by either sending an email to your blog with the class notes from the day or by using an app like "simple note" which will allow you to synchronize notes automatically across your smart phone, your PC or mac, and the web.

2. Do I need a dictionary?

If you have an iPhone (or an android phone as a second choice) there are many dictionary apps available. If you are in my class, you should probably be using an advanced ESL dictionary such as the Longman's for iPhone or an English dictionary for native speakers. Using a dictionary in English and your native language (a bilingual dictionary) will probably slow your progress at this point in your learning.

If you insist on using a separate electronic English-Chinese (or whatever other language) dictionary in English, please at least mute it in class so that it will not "beep" when you type.

3. What do you suggest I bring to class?


First of all, an iPhone with a data plan. Secondly, the Longman dicitonary iOS app if you can afford it ($25.00). An iPad with a data (internet) plan is probably even better than an iPhone (easier to view and write on). It is also a cheaper monthly option.

There are a few iOS apps that I suggest as well:

pocket
zite
pulse

E. WHAT KIND OF CLASSES DO YOU TEACH?

1. Do you teach a lot of grammar?

Normally no.This is not a grammar focused class. If you need that, I suggest you try a college class or attend a private ESL academy.
We will explore topics that the students are interested in, and that are important to them and through that, we will primarily focus on listening and speaking skills.
The students will work on topics and then do projects around those topics. The projects will address whatever skill in English the students most want to improve.

2. I primarily need to improve my writing. Can you help me?

If you really want a class to ficus on writing it is probably better for you to take a college class. This class focuses mostly on listening and speaking skills. See above about grammar.

3. Will this class help me prepare for the TOEFL?

See above about grammar first.
This is not a TOEFL prep class, no. However some of things we do in class will absolutely help you improve your TOEFL score (especially the listening and speaking parts).

4. Will this class help my listening and speaking?

Yes. Sure.

5. I am nervous when I speak English. Can you help me?

Yes, a big part of the class is helping students increase their confidence in using English.

6. What does "project-based" mean?

It means that students choose what we learn about in class.
In groups, my students discuss what they are most interested in, what they most need to do or learn and then they design a project around that with the teacher. There must be some final project where we can measure what you learned and to see how it helped you. Here is an example of one project my students did about a television show form the 1980s, The Cosby Show. Here is another poject my students did about the 1990s TV show, Friends.

F. ATTENDANCE/LATENESS
1. How often must I attend class?

You must attend 80% classes in any month (an 80% average) in order to continue in my classes. Please arrange your appointments and travel around the class calendar. See here.

2. What day does the class finish?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013. However some people might leave the class earlier since the minimum stay in the class is 3 months.

3. How long can I stay in the class?

The minimum is 3 months from when you begin, and the last day is June 26, 2013. We do give periodic assessments to the students and some people may graduate earlier than others.

4. What happens if I am late?


If you are late more than 15 minutes (30 minutes on a bad-weather day), you will be sent home and marked absent. If you are absent more than 20% of the time you will be removed from class (you must have an 80% average attendance).

5. What happens is the weather is bad (rain/snow)?

Normally we will still have class, and you will be allowed an extra fifteen minutes to arrive late to the class. So for the AM class, normally you must be in school by 8:45 AM or you will be sent home for that day and will be absent. On a bad-weather day, that is extended until 9 am. (Of course class begins at 8:30 AM and I normally expect everyone to be in the seat at that time ready to learn normally). The PM class starts at 12:30 and you are expected to be there at 12:30 PM (and not before, since that is my lunch time). You are allowed to be late until 12:45 PM. After that you will be sent home and be absent. On a bad-weather day however, that is extended until 1 PM.

6. How will I know if the class is canceled for one day?

In the rare event that all public schools are closed, there will be announcements on TV and radio news. Of course, since all my students will have smart phones, I will also send emails to the whole group if the class is ever canceled due to dangerous weather or other emergencies.

G. SCHOOL ADDRESS
Please go here for the school address and travel information. Please do NOT just show up at the school; we are busy holding classes there. If you want to apply for classes, please do so online at: www.nycesl.com.

If after reading all these FAQs you still have questions, you can email me at andy.nyc at gmail.com (replace the at with @).


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This FAQ page is maintained by Andrew Bell. Adapted from various replies to emails from potential students applying to my classes at www.nycesl.com.