Three Creative Tips for Tutoring English Language Learners

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Even as English language learners (ELL) take classes designed to build their competence and confidence when speaking English, they may be in need of additional support when class is not in session. English language learners often turn to a tutor for one-on-one assistance, which often allows for unique and effective teaching methods not commonly found in ESL classrooms.

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Here are three tutoring tips that can be used outside of the classroom that are sure to accelerate language proficiency for English language learners:

Grammar Notebooks – ELLs may commonly ask for help with their grammar. There is a fine line between outright editing the writing and showing students their mistakes so they can catch them on their own later. A simple way to track long-term success in mechanics and grammar is to have the student bring a “grammar notebook” to the tutoring session.

The purpose of the notebook is to record the mistakes found in each session so they can track them later. If all goes well, there will be fewer mistakes in each session, and the need for the notebook will eventually disappear.

Comic Books and Graphic Novels – Often times, English language learners may struggle with slang terms and speech patterns that native speakers are very familiar with. Comic books can be a great method for ELLs to study English dialogue because of the additional communication found in the art. Things like detailed body language in their art create an extra layer of communication.

For an ELL, it is easier to discern the meaning of casual dialogue when paired with descriptive art, helping the student adopt a more natural tone. It may be easiest to read old classics like Spider-Man or Superman because of the simple plots.

Educational Videos of Keynote Speakers – In addition to reading comics, ELLs can watch TED Talks online. Learning this way has multiple benefits. TED Talks provide information on countless disciplines and in a format that is natural for native speakers. The key is not to turn English language learners into native speakers, but to have them adapt to what native speaking usually looks like.

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Similar to reading graphic novels, these videos often include visual aids that supplement speech with on-screen graphics and the body language of the speaker. It may also be beneficial for the learner to use subtitles, depending on their progress.

These are only a few of the creative solutions available to give English language learners the tools needed to adapt to speaking English naturally.