A New Hat

On Tuesday night, Sean and I began supporting adults with their English development. Sean’s uncle’s company here employs many Thai people who are quite good at communicating in English, both verbally and through writing. However, as learners of a second language, they make grammatical and syntactical errors in their speech and written correspondence. Most of them email their bosses and the company’s clients regularly in English, so they are in need of some assistance in becoming more fluent.

In preparing for my new role as an educator/helper/supporter/tutor of adults/students/participants, I had to make some word choice choices! My biggest concern was avoiding seeming condescending to these intelligent, educated, gainfully employed adults (who are all older than me). The only reason I can even have this new job is because I happened to have been born in the United States. As a native English speaker, I automatically have a HUGE advantage over everyone in this entire country. This is not because I’m gifted or because English is inherently better than Thai (or any other language); it is simply because the world has decided that English is our lingua franca (sorry, French) and I was lucky enough to be born into an English-speaking middle class family in California. Of course, my teaching background helped make me a good candidate, and living here with Sean made me available, so it was a perfect storm.

Sean and I learned that we make a great teaching team (I really like this co-teacher of mine)! His role is mainly to help me tailor my instruction to the individuals we are helping. He works with them on a daily basis, so he knows their personalities, as well  as their English levels. Though he won’t be able to teach every class with me, he is at work every day with our participants, and he has made himself available to them at all times. So while I teach in class once a week and correspond with them via email, Sean is there in person all the time. We want our instruction to be based 100% on errors that we recognize in their speech or writing, and their requests. So far, we have taught about using definite and indefinite articles (which do not exist in Thai) and conjunctions (the good ol’ FANBOYS). The class structure will generally go like this:

1. Icebreaker/game to get everyone speaking comfortably in English. Last week it was “Two Truths & A Lie”; this week, it’ll be a series of “Have You Ever…” questions (to practice past participles), and maybe some “Would You Rather” questions for fun.

2. Mini-lesson about a particular grammar or syntax error that Sean or I have observed (articles, conjunctions, word order, common phrases, subject-verb agreement)

3. Practice (a worksheet or a dialogue of some sort)

4. Editing — Participants will bring emails or documents they’re working on and get support from us for anything (general editing, creating templates for weekly reports, etc.)

Tomorrow is our second week of teaching. We have two classes (based on observed and self-prescribed levels) with four participants each. This is where the two classes will veer from one another. One clearly moves more quickly than the other. It’s always about differentiation, right?

The goal is that these lessons and immediate feedback will give our participants English knowledge that they can apply TOMORROW. We want our instruction to be practical and immediately usable.

If you have adult ed or ESL tips, please share!

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