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Three Important Ideas I Keep in Mind when Tutoring

I have tutored several adults in English as a Second Language through WyzAnt. Over the past year, I have also led an enjoyable, weekly, two-hour adult ESL conversation group at the Brooklyn Public Library. These experiences have some things in common, two of which I'll share here.

The best ESL activities ask students to use more than one of the “Four Skills”: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. An exercise might focus on one of these skills, such as speaking. However, if another skill, perhaps reading, is also involved, students learn more quickly. This "integrated skills" approach also helps adults to learn in a way that resembles how young children learn language.

My ESL teacher training program has taught me that individuals learn best in different ways. Tutoring with WyzAnt confirms how individual learning is. One size does not fit all when it comes to learning! This wisdom applies to adult learners as much as to children. Some prefer to jump right into activities once they see the basic idea. Others want to listen for a while before they join a conversation. Still others want to learn more about exercises beforehand, while others love to learn things by analyzing them. Others are eager to discover how something works simply by working with it.

Adult students like to have choices of materials and ways of learning, especially at the start of tutoring. Allowing the students to experiment with different materials helps to assess their needs, interests, and skills. Adult students naturally want to play an active role in their learning; giving them choices is one way to honor their independence.

I continue to work with students by using and refining these methods. Comments from other WyzAnt tutors who specialize in working with adults would be great.