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Professional Development: September 2013

This page is a brief summary of content from Keith Folse's sessions that is relevant for non-language teachers in the upper school. The links in each section lead to pages on the FIS ESL website where there is much more detailed information and advice on the issues covered by Folse.

Keynote: Helping your students comprehend your material

Students will not learn your content unless they understand the language in which that content is conveyed.

There are three aspects of English that are difficult for all learners of the language, irrespective of the language family of their own mother tongue. These are: prepositions, present perfect tense and phrasal verbs.*

The rate at which students acquire English (and hence the ability to learn subject content) is based on several factors, some of which teachers have control of. The two most important of these factors are :

Three classroom strategies for mainstream teachers of non-native speakers are:


*  Prepositions and the present perfect tense can be very difficult for ESL students to produce correctly, but generally they do not have trouble comprehending the meaning of the phrases that contain them. For this reason mainstream teachers need not give them any special focus.

Conversely, phrasal verbs, which are extremely common in spoken language, can render oral instructions and explanations incomprehensible to ESL students. It is helpful, therefore, if teachers can identify and explain the phrasal verbs in the key information they convey in class. [Comment added by P. Shoebottom]



The importance of being comprehensible - introduction

How to help students understand what you say

How to help students understand what you give them to read

How to write comprehensible worksheets and tests

Classroom strategies

FAQ on helping ESL students in the classroom

Language learning

Factors affecting the speed of language learning

Difficult aspects of English - general

Language differences: what makes English difficult for our various native-language groups

FAQ on language learning

Phrasal Verbs

Explanation for teachers

Phrasal verb quizzes

 Note: Please contact Paul  Shoebottom if you would like to view the video recording of this session.

Breakout 1: Helping ESL Students Cope With Writing in ESL

ESL students need explicit instruction in how to write in the various genres, since their own writing cultures may have different ways of organising text in those genres.

After the beginning stages of learning a language vocabulary development is of greater importance than grammar development.

Sentence combining practice, using key concepts from the current unit of study, is beneficial in three ways:


Academic Writing (Google Books)

Sentence combining (About.com)

Breakout 2: Practical Advice For Writing ESL-Friendly Worksheets And Tests

The session focused on the various features of questions in worksheets and tests that can cause diffiulties for non-native speakers. The key recommendations for maximising worksheet and test comprehensibility are:


Preparing ESL-friendly worksheets and tests

Breakout 3: Spelling

English is notorious for the frequent mismatch of spelling and pronuncation. ESL students cannot reliably predict the spelling of the new words they hear. Nor, conversely, can they reliably predict the pronunciation of the new words they read.

For this reason it is helpful if keywords for the lesson are visible to students on the Smartboard during class. Furthermore, homework instructions should be provided in written form, not just conveyed orally.


 Examples of and reasons for the spelling/pronunciation mismatch (Wikipedia)

Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)