3 STUDY SKILLS THAT HELP ESL STUDENTS BOOST THEIR ENGLISH PROFICIENCY:
An article published by Yi Yang in the March 2005 Internet TESL Journal highlights the three most effective study skills that enables ESL students to significantly boost their English language skills. Yi Yang tells about a class of adult immigrants who had been living in the US for more than seven years. Despite being extremely motivated to improve their English, they remained at only basic levels of proficiency. Their lack of advancing in skill was attributed to poor study skills. One of the most important strategies found to effectively develop their proficiency was their ability to pick up on the natural flow of the language by listening to recorded readings. Following along and reading aloud, along with the recording, and then reading aloud again, after listening to the recording a second time, was key. Practicing like this helps students to enunciate the sounds of the words more clearly. Another very important factor that impacted the students’ ability to move to the next level was finding material at their level—both in terms of difficulty, and also in terms of interest level. Without these two essential components, students quickly lost motivation. Being immersed in the language does not help the learning when they cannot understand what they’re hearing. Meaningful input is essential. The third skill that made the difference was daily journal writing. Writing down newly learned expressions and new vocabulary–even if the writing is supplemented in the first language–writing as much as possible in the new language helps students to think in the new language, which brings about fluency. These students, despite being extremely motivated to improve their language skills, had not moved beyond basic levels for more than seven years even though they had been enrolled in literacy classes. The literacy classes never demanded that they push themselves. Because they had demanding jobs and children and family obligations, they were not expected to complete homework. These students say that they benefited from eventually finding a tutor who pushed them to achieve more. Insisting upon homework completion and daily journaling outside of class made the difference. A key factor in their reading practice that led to greater fluency and improved comprehension was practicing timed readings in which they had to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words through context. In other words, they were not allowed to use their electronic dictionaries. As a result, they discovered that they could gain understanding by reading more, even though they didn’t necessarily know every word.
I ensure students receive plenty of opportunity to practice paired reading aloud, with interesting material that engages the student with relevant information, and I expect students to keep the practice of journaling. Every good tutor should be able to provide students with relevant material at the appropriate level of difficulty that is meaningful to the student. The bottom line is this: ESL students need tutors that will provide the gentle push necessary for moving students to the next level. Yi Yang. (2005) Teaching Adult ESL Learners. The
Internet TESL Journal, XI (3), March. http://iteslj.