General Teaching Skills in the classroomThe face of the average learner in an ESL classroom is changing. In previous decades mainly college-bound students
studied foreign languages; however, today a great mix of students
with a range of needs, ability levels, expectations and diverse backgrounds populate our classrooms. More adult learners, from business-based students
to increasing numbers of refugees, can be attributed to a rapidly changing world and intensifying conflicts. Often teachers don?t feel adequately prepared to work with mainstreamed foreign students
. Most teachers always examine their instructional practices and upgrade their repertoire of strategies through professional development to meet the demands of teaching a more and more diverse student
population. One apparently successful method seems to be differentiation.
Carol Ann Tomlinson (2001 states that to meet the needs of all learners, teachers can vary three curricular elements: content, process and product. Her model proposes a flexible flow of instruction as students
move through a series of whole-class and cooperative group activities to master information. Teachers can differentiate the ?process? to meet the needs of esl students
. In order to differentiate the ?process? the focus is on the following:
o It is important to maintain a positive attitude about working with esl students
by focusing on their abilities and not that they can?t speak English properly or not at all.
o Strong lines of communication with the student
should be established to find out their strengths and interests. Contact with the parents is very useful if students
are children. This kind of interest helps to develop trust and breeds motivation.
o Furthermore, teachers should collaborate with other teachers who work or have worked with esl students
to learn which instructional techniques were successful.
Teaching clearly is vital. Teachers should select information by identifying the essential concepts and teach them well. Concepts must follow a structured instructional approach:
- state the purpose of the lesson - model the knowledge or skill - provide students
with plenty, creative and hands-on opportunities to interact with peers and the information.
Teaching explicitly neither implies a simplistic and superficial view of teaching or learning nor a singular. It also encompasses to encourage esl students
to learn in new and more efficient and effective ways.
Teach thinking skills is valuable. Academically successful students
enter the language learning process with elaborate cognitive strategies that help them to make sense of unknown information or tasks, and teachers accustomed to these students
devote little instructional time to teaching thinking skills. On the other hand, many esl students
[e.g. traumatised refugees, children of migrants from third-world countries] often missed out on continuous schooling and lack well-developed thinking skills. To ?unearth? or build students
? abilities either the teacher or other students
can ?think aloud,? or orally explain the steps taken when approaching listening, reading, writing and speaking assignments in English. Another way to teach thinking skills is to show students
how to simplify or break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. And finally, the teacher can show students
how to use tables, acronyms and prompts to master a foreign language.
Other proven methodological approaches should be considered.
o teaching information that is relevant to students
o making learning active through the use of manipulatives, dialogues and role-plays
o using authentic tasks and materials
o assessing learning with formative, traditional and alternative techniques
o motivating students
o providing scaffolding or instructional support throughout the lesson
o and establishing a structured classroom management system with clear rules and procedures.
Adherence to this recommendation should aid teachers as they differentiate instruction for children or adult learners in the ESL classroom.
Tomlinson, C.A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.