Your Name and Title:

Mei-Yan Lu, Ph.D. 


School or Organization Name:

Department of Educational Leadership

Lurie College of Education

San Jose State University

San Jose, CA 95192-0072

Co-Presenter Name(s): 

Grace Y. Ling

Area of the World from Which You Will Present:

San Jose (a.k.a.) Silicon Valley, California, U.S.A.

Language in Which You Will Present:


Target Audience(s):

University faculty, Adult educators, high school teachers who are currently teaching in the U.S. or interested in teaching in non-English speaking countries.

Short Session Description (one line):

Teaching English Learners/non-native English speakers

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

Many faculty members or high school teachers or adult educators are surprised to discover the number of students in their classes for whom English is not a “first language”, and who may struggle to excel as a result.  Or, Below, the authors provide some strategies that can help them – and indeed all of the students in your class – succeed.  Our focus is on preparing your class, lecturing, organizing class activities.


Getting to know English language learners:

Many times, they could be called non-native English speakers, ESL (English as a second language Learners). In general, they can be broadly divided into two groups: international students and US residents (immigrant or non-immigrant students who may have completed part of their formal education in the United States.) These two groups are quite different in many ways such as Time in U.S., Cultural comfort, Language learning, Listening/speaking, Educational culture and more. The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina has a helpful tip in teaching ESL students.


Tip sheets for faculty to understand common speech patterns of English language learners by Ann Rim who is an ESL scholar on working with students who speak Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, Farsi(Persian), French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese.


General considerations:

  • In addition to language challenges, per se, many English Learners may also have expectations about appropriate roles for students and teachers that differ from the expectations of classmates who have had more experience in US educational settings.
  • Many English Learners may feel uncomfortable communicate with native speakers for help or clarify homework requirements.
  • Many English Learners may feel reluctant to ask questions in class, come to you for assistance, or to let on that they are struggling.  This places a greater responsibility on you to recognize their needs and to provide appropriate supports.
  • Here’s a short article that offers 10 general tips for new teachers of English Language learners. It includes a reference list for further readings.


Before the semester starts…


  • Consider sending a “welcome” letter, along with the course syllabus and a questionnaire, to get a better sense of the students in your class.
    • Example 1 (Due to the fact that many SJSU faculty has access to student email addresses before the semester starts. It is helpful to send out a welcome letter to students to briefly introduce the class, tasks to complete to make the class run more smoothly, asking students to complete there CANVAS profile to establish a welcoming classroom environment and more. Attached is a welcoming letter from Mei-Yan Lu to her EDUC 186 Instructional Media class and sample needs assessment questions to identify EL in your class.)
    • Example 2 (recommended welcoming letter template)
    • Example 3 (Ask a STEM professor for his/her welcome letter.)


On the first day of class…

  • Considering an ice-breaking activity. Check out Fun Games, Icebreakers and Group Activities from Mesa Community College
  • Consider arriving class 10-15 minutes earlier to chat with the students informally.
  • Consider to bring a stack of Spartan Daily for students. While they are reading, point out helpful resources on campus.  For example, the Writing Center, the Counseling Center, and more.


Once the semester is under way…strategies to help English Learners get the most out of in-class time

  • Helping students follow your lectures
    • Consider give out an outline of your lecture in advance
    • Consider start a re-cap of last lecture to connect with today’s lecture
      • Speak clearly and example academic terminology and idiomatic expressions. Many EL may not be familiar with American idioms.

                          - 8

  • Group activities
    • Pair-share
    • Effective Group Work Strategies for College Classroom from Cincinnati State. G...
    • Consider asking students to get together in a group of 3 or 4 to maximize opportunity for each person to talk. Have discussion questions posted on the wall or power point in the front of the room for students to follow. While students are engaging in small group discussion. Walk around the room and encourage “quiet” students to contribute to the discussion. At the end of the small group discussion, ask each group to summarize their findings to share with the class.


Special support:  strategies to assist English Learners with oral presentations

  • Tips for focusing ELL student presentations

For English language learners, it is also helpful to focus on the oral language that will be used during the presentation. This guide should help your students avoid some of the most obvious pitfalls when making presentations to the class.

After setting up the visual component of the presentation and making introductions, the students should

  • Explain why they are doing that assignment ("our assignment is ...").
  • Tell the audience what to expect ("you are going to see ..." or "we will show you ...")
  • Give the audience a task ("see if you can tell ... or "try to find X on Slide 3")

More tips and examples such as Strategies to help English Learners Participating in class will be included during the presentation.

Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session: (under construction :-)

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