rev. 8/2013 8/11, 8/10, 7/10, 6/09, 3/08
ESL Teacher Orientation
Standards of Good Practice in ESL Teaching
Table of Contents
The Spanish-American Institute encourages ESL teachers to employ the standards of good practice endorsed and practiced by the ESL teaching profession. Institute textbooks such as NorthStar, WorldView, and the Next Generation TOEFL iBT embody these practices.
ESL teachers must often unlearn ways of teaching based on how they were taught. Older forms of foreign language teaching evolved from the study of “dead” classical languages like Latin and Greek. They taught people to read and write (but not to hear or speak). The traditional “grammar/translation” method works well for learning “dead” unspoken and unheard languages; however, it does not work well in learning and applying a living language. Spanish-American Institute ESL texts like the NorthStar series use more modern and effective methods based on the most advanced knowledge we have about how people learn language.
The lexical approach is consistent with the natural way we learn language. We learn language by first hearing it, then by speaking it, then by reading it, and only then by writing it. The lexical approach fills in the gap between grammar and vocabulary left by the older tradition of language teaching.
The Spanish-American Institute offers English language instruction for every level of language learning from those in need of English Literacy to those preparing for the TOEFL.
English Literacy: English Literacy provides a basic introduction to English for adult students who:
· have had little or no prior school experience,
· have difficulty with the material and pace of a beginning ESL class, and/or
· come from a primary language background using a non-Roman alphabet and need to learn Roman script.
The course uses the Longman ESL Literacy text. Like all language learning materials used at the Institute, the textbook is supported with instructional resources such as reproducible flashcards, listening CDs, and practice activities. The practice activities develop “receptive skills” (listening and reading) before “productive skills” (speaking and writing). This approach helps students “receive” the language and internalize it before they are asked to “produce” it.
ESL 1: This first level ESL course introduces low beginner ESL students to basic vocabulary, spelling, grammar, conversation, pronunciation, and other ESL skills. ESL I uses Longman’s WorldView 1 text designed to build low beginner adult learner’s fluency using topics with an international perspective. The text includes a unique feature, 4 World of Music units. Like all language learning materials used at the Institute, WorldView uses modern active language learning methods referred to below as “The NorthStar Method.”
All Other ESL Levels: With the
exception of TOEFL, all other Institute ESL courses use NorthStar, a five-level
ESL series with Listening and Speaking and companion
Students must master Intermediate level English skills before they can expect to proceed successfully to the High Intermediate and Advanced levels. We encourage teachers to explain to students why ESL 4/Intermediate is a pivotal course that lays the foundation for the far more sophisticated application of English skills taught in more upper level courses.
See further Section VI. NorthStar Level Changes below, for more discussion of the several levels of Intermediate English learning.
TOEFL: TOEFL is not a language learning course. It is a language application course. TOEFL students apply the language skills learned in ESL 6 and ARW to testing situations requiring integrated language skills at a level required to receive a satisfactory score on the TOEFL Examination. (For further discussion about TOEFL, see Section XII, below.)
The Spanish-American Institute uses the five-level NorthStar series in ESL 2-6, Business English, and ARW. NorthStar employs the ESL teaching profession’s model of best practices which the Institute promotes in all its ESL classes. Each NorthStar unit integrates reading/writing with listening/speaking to help students build language competence while encouraging personal expression.
The NorthStar Method incorporates the following:
3. Vocabulary Comprehension Learned From Context. The purpose of NorthStar's “vocabulary” work is not to teach words. Words are not ends in themselves. NorhStar’s vocabulary and other word-work integrates several language skills at once. “Vocabulary” in NorthStar requires reading, thinking, writing, etc. Sections called “Vocabulary” or “Focus on Words” provide practice in the use of words within larger contexts. “Words” are the variable raw material that develop the target reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.
· heard the grammar forms many times,
· spoken the grammar forms many times,
· read the grammar forms many times, and
· written them (to the extent that the teacher has provided students with writing opportunities based on the Unit’s activities).
they want to learn grammar. What do students mean by this? Often, it means that they are more comfortable doing passive grammar then doing the harder work of really using a new language. Good teachers will explain to them why they will learn more English by actively using it than by doing grammar drills.
Just as often, students who say they want more grammar really mean that they want more work in writing. They know that they need more work in the application of English. And they know that to pass the TOEFL test requires a lot of writing.
Please explain to students that NorthStar requires students to actively use English in an integrated fashion. Teachers in ESL 1-6 should explain to students that Educational Testing Service (ETS), the authors of the TOEFL exam, have stated that NorthStar is the best preparation for the TOEFL exam. It is the best preparation for the TOEFL because NorthStar requires students to use English in reading, writing, speaking, and listening in the integrated ways tested by the TOEFL.
NorthStar is organized around a carefully developed sequence of activities. Each NorthStar activity is there for a reason. Each unit leads students from a more limited or more controlled practice of English to a more independent practice.
In NorthStar, everything is there for a reason. The Spanish-American Institute encourages teachers to spend up to three weeks if not more on each NorthStar Unit. Do not rush through the activities. Do not skip around. Do not skip any activity. The student’s ability to understand the next activity such as listening passages and then to understand the more complex activities that come after listening depends on mastery of the earlier activities. .
“Predicting.” Spend at least one class period on “predicting.” "Predicting" provides a relaxed introduction to the Unit’s theme that gives students an opportunity to share what they know in English in a relaxed fashion. Typically, “Predicting” asks students to react to a visual image, then respond to general questions and share opinions. Most important, “Predicting” also gives teachers some insight into students’ actual command of the language before beginning a new Unit. In this sense, “Predicting” is there as much for the teacher as it is for the student.
Implementing “Predicting.” In “Predicting,” encourage students to speak as much as they can without correcting them. Before asking the questions in the text beneath the graphic,. ask students to describe what they see in the graphic. If necessary, ask them simple detailed questions about the graphic (e.g., how many people do you see in the picture? what are they doing?). Gradually move the discussion to the meaning of the unit’s title and theme. Do not attempt the printed questions until you have done the previous activities. Encourage students to speak freely as best they can without correction. Respect their ideas and opinions about the topic, even if they do not express themselves very well.
“Sharing Information.” In “Sharing Information,” students typically respond to questions by entering simple information on a chart. The questions to which they respond are more specific and focused that those in “Predicting.” After students enter their information, they share it orally with one or more students. The purpose of “Sharing Information,” is to get students talking about the theme in response to simple but focused questions that contain the introduction to the Unit’s theme, language patterns, vocabulary, etc.
Implementing “Sharing Information.” Like “Predicting,” “Sharing Information”
should take at least a full classroom period and may require more than one day of class time.
Remember that NorthStar designs every activity to prepare students for the next, more demanding activity. It is, therefore, imperative that teachers spend enough time on each activity for students to master its content.
In “Sharing Information,” students will initially “fill in” sentence blanks or chart columns. However, the Spanish-American Institute expects teachers to go beyond the “fill in” answer mode that requires only bits of answers. Teachers should require students:
· to speak in complete sentences when answering the questions,
· to copy the complete sentence with the correct answer, and/or
· to write out the complete question’s answer during a portion of class time or as homework.
In other words, in “Sharing Information,” as in other Unit activities, help students integrate the four language skills in an integrated fashion as they hear, speak, read, and write, in preparation for the progressively more challenging activities to come.
If students have difficulty with the next section, “Preparing to Listen—Vocabulary for Comprehension,” they have not mastered “Sharing Information.” If so, please return to “Sharing Information,” perhaps asking students to do something more with it than they did previously (such as write out complete sentence answers or combine sentence answers in a short paragraph.)
“Preparing to Listen --Vocabulary for Comprehension.” In this section, students work with words, expressions, and grammatical patterns selected to help with listening comprehension. The emphasis is not on learning “words.” The purpose is to develop comprehension skills from context.
“Vocabulary for Comprehension” may be the most important activity in the Unit. It introduces students to the language patterns and thematic emphases of the upcoming Listening activities and beyond.
Implementing “Vocabulary for Comprehension.” Spend one to two days on this section. Use “Vocabulary for Comprehension” to generate reading, writing, and speaking. Again, ask students to do more than merely pick the right answer to questions from a multiple choice list. Unless students can fluently read, write, and speak in response to “Vocabulary for Comprehension” activity, they will have great difficulty with the rest of the unit, especially its “Background” reading, listening, and writing sections.
“Preparing to Listen—Background.” This section introduces students to information and language that will help them comprehend the upcoming listening passages. Teachers may need to return to the previous “Vocabulary for Comprehension” activity for more extensive work if students have difficulty with the “Background” reading passages and questions.
As in all NorthStar activities, maximize the activity as much as possible by:
· requiring full sentence oral responses from students and
· requiring full sentence or paragraph writing generated from the reading questions.
“Listening One.” NorthStar always divides Listening One into several listening sections. Listening One’s various listening activities move students from lower to higher order thinking/language skills in steps taking them through—
· comprehension of main ideas,
· comprehension of details, and
· inference (implied meaning).
“Listening Two.” In “Two,” NorthStar presents students with new recorded material that builds on ideas from Listening One. Listening Two delivers the material at a much faster pace. If they have mastered all of the preceding Unit material, students should have the skills needed to understand Listening Two. If they do not understand Listening Two, return to preceding activities to reinforce the needed skills.
“Linking Listening One and Two/Reacting to the Listening.” This section asks students to employ much more sophisticated higher order language skills in order:
· to relate Listening One and Listening Two,
· to consider consequences, and
· to distinguish points of view.
Again, if students cannot do this activity, return to earlier Unit activities to assure enough mastery to respond to the “Linking” activity.
“Reviewing Language”/”Focus on Vocabulary.” NorthStar Introductory calls this section "Reviewing Language," a good description of its purpose. The activity emphasizes the employment of language, not words. Language consists of patterns. Words are the variables that students fit into the patterns.
Other NorthStar levels call this section “Focus on Vocabulary.” As in the earlier Activity “Vocabulary for Comprehension,” work, students do not study words. They work with them. These Activities help students explore, review, and play with language from the listening selection, while building reading, writing, and speaking skills.
“Pronunciation.” Every unit focuses on a specific pronunciation element supported by recordings.
“Style.” "Style" helps students use language appropriate to different settings, such as everyday life, business, non-academic environments, etc. The section helps students practice the North American cultural and social use of language which may differs from their cultures.
“Grammar.” Near the end of the unit, “Grammar” provides students with the formal rules of grammar used in the unit and reinforces the grammar through additional speaking exercises as well as reading and writing.
“Speaking Topics/Focus on Speaking.” NorthStar leads students in each unit from a more controlled to a more independent practice of language. (NorthStar Introductory” includes “Speaking Topics/Focus on Speaking” in a section called "On Your Own,” a good description of its purpose in allowing students to apply everything learned so far to a more independent use of language, “on their own.”)
“Fieldwork/Research Topics.” NorthStar Introductory included “Research” in “On Your Own" to emphasize its purpose in asking students to create with language based on everything learned so far. In "Research" or “Fieldwork,” students go outside the classroom “on their own” to gather data from personal observations, from interviews, from conversations, from the Internet, etc. The activity provides guided questions and directions to help them structure their oral and written reports, part of NorthStar’s “safety net” that never asks students to do more than they were prepared for.
NorthStar unit is a tightly knit sequence of interrelated material. The material engages students by organizing language study thematically. Students learn language in context. Each section of each unit prepares students for the next section, and so forth. In each NorthStar unit, students are led from a more controlled to a more free practice of language.
NorthStar provides the following supplementary instructional materials. Teachers can check these most of these materials out from the Bookstore.
1. A "Scope and Sequence" section at the beginning of each book that summarizes each unit's learning objectives.
2. A CD with recorded listening passage instead of cassettes.
3. A Teacher's Manual with testing material, including listening passages.
4. A DVD with video segments keyed to each unit.
5. A Teacher’s Guide for each DVD Video Unit with the audio script, key vocabulary, guiding questions, etc.
6. Student Activity Worksheets, one for each DVD video segment, that provide 1-3 days work of comprehension, discussion, and writing based on the DVD video material for each unit.
On-Line Teaching Resources.: Longmans also offers on-line resources for teachers and students keyed to each unit such as Vocabulary Exercises, Crossword Puzzles, and Internet-based activities.
For NorthStar 2nd edition texts, go to: http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae/northstar2e/northstar2e/index.html. Select "Companion Websites" from under the appropriate textbook. On the "Companion Websites" page, find the listing for "Grammar and Skills" and select "NorthStar." Click on the title of the NorthStar text you are using. On the menu to the left, select "Teacher" or "Student" Resources.
For NorthStar 3rd edition texts, go to: http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae/northstar3e/index.html. Select from the menu on the left. Note that this menu also includes the DVD Video Worksheets for the 3rd edition.
Students who found NorthStar Introductory for ESL 2 difficult may find the Basic/Low Intermediate for ESL 3 text easy by comparison. This is deliberate and natural.
Second language learners tend to plateau at the Intermediate level after Beginning courses. NorthStar responds to this by teaching to three different Intermediate language levels—Basic/Low Intermediate (our ESL 3), Intermediate (our ESL 4), and High Intermediate (our ESL 5 and Business English).
For example, NorthStar Basic/Low Intermediate for ESL 3 repeats many of the grammar and structure elements found in NorthStar Introductory for ESL 2 such as the present tense. However, the ESL 3 text employs elements like the present tense at an increasingly more sophisticated language level. At the higher level, students will still use the present tense but they will have to develop longer, more complex sentences, select answers from a wider range of choices, listen to longer passages with more speakers, etc.
The chart below focuses on some of the ways that the NorthStar’s texts used in ESL 2, 3, and 4 texts reflect different levels of language use.
The ESL 2 Introductory text asks a lot of “what" questions requiring answers that use only simple sentences.
The ESL 3 Low
Intermediate text asks more
"how" than "what" questions. Why?
Answers to "how" questions often require adverbial and
prepositional phrases and clauses.
Adverbial and prepositional phrases add complexity to sentence structure
because they reflect more thinking about relationships such as the main idea to
its time, place, emotional context, etc.
For example, look at the
relationships of time, place, and means that students must establish in a
sentence like: "I took the bus to
the movie on
The ESL 4 Intermediate text asks more "why" questions requiring answers that use complex sentences. Complex sentences require subordinate (dependent) clauses. They reflect a very high level since the speaker or writer must communicate how one idea depends upon or relates to another (is subordinate to the other).
Language Complexity Comparison in ESL 2, 3, and 4.
More "what" than "how/why."
More "how" and "why."
More simple sentence complexity (e.g., adjectival, prepositional, and adverbial phrases and clauses).
Longer and more complex sentences with dependent (subordinate) clauses.
Structures that help communicate relationship, inference, assumptions, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, etc. (higher order skills)
Verbs + gerunds and
"Can, should, ought to,
Modals of preference,
ability, and possibility.
Infinitives of purpose.
Pair and group work
More pair than small group work—communication usually between 2 people.
More small group work—communication usually between 3 or more people.
Larger groups and more group work—communication usually between 3 or more people.
Sharing, linking, comparing
Using one or two sets of information.
Using two or three sets of information.
Using three or more sets of information.
Interpreting graphs, charts, tables, etc.
Interpretation limited to a limited number of simple illustrations.
Graphical illustrations more complex than ESL 2 text.
Graphical illustrations more complex than ESL 3.
Style (cultural/social use of language)
Situations drawn from culture of daily life (e.g., telephone talk, asking questions).
More emphasis on expressing difference and emotion. Communication “style” skills used in workplace or life (e.g., providing examples to support statements).
More situations drawn from workplace and life (e.g., leading group discussions or asking for clarification).
In keeping with the NorthStar method, students move from lower level to higher language skills in the video activities. Consequently, each video worksheet is divided into the following sections: Predict, Focus, Comprehension, Discussion, and Writing. Students also move from more controlled to more free exercises. For example, at the beginning, they merely identify the topic on the video worksheets. At the end, they write independently about the topic.
Observe the following principles in teaching reading to ESL students.
Never, never ask students to read aloud until they are fully able to communicate understanding and meaning by their oral delivery. This means that students will rarely read aloud until they have done all the other work required in the reading sections.
Oral reading readiness means that students fully understand everything they read and can deliver the print text orally in ways that communicate meaning though intonation, enunciation, and other oral delivery skills. That said, students should ever read aloud?
Should Teachers Correct Pronunciation? Teachers who correct student pronunciation in mid-sentence or mid-passage are not teaching pronunciation—they are interrupting the reading process. Do so very sparingly, if at all.
Should Students Use Dictionaries in Class? Seldom if ever. Discourage dictionary use when reading silently. NorthStar helps students develop reading skills by figuring out meaning from context and from the notes provided in the text, not by looking up the meaning of words.
Institute uses NorthStar Reading and
Writing: High Intermediate in Business English and NorthStar Reading and Writing:
Advanced in Advanced Reading and Writing. These are companion textbooks to NorthStar High Intermediate Listening and
Speaking used in ESL 5 and to Advanced
Listening and Speaking used in ESL 6.
ESL 5, ESL 6, Business English, and ARW Course Sequencing. Since both ESL 5 and Business English parallel High Intermediate texts, teachers and staff should encourage students to take Business English after ESL 5. (Very well-prepared students may take the two courses simultaneously.) Likewise, since both ESL 6 and ARW use parallel Advanced texts, teachers and staff should encourage students to take ARW after ESL 6. (Very well-prepared students may take the two courses simultaneously.) In all cases, students should complete these four courses before TOEFL.
NorthStar Reading and Writing Method. All NorthStar texts integrate reading, writing,
listening, and speaking skills. However,
As always, teachers should:
· do all activities in sequence;
· repeat a preceding activity, if necessary; and
· never jump around in a unit or skip any activity.
Reading Passages. Instead
of Listening selections, students prepare to read extensive
Formal Writing. Students will also do a great deal more writing than they did with the LS texts. Each R&W unit leads up to a formal writing requirement, usually an essay.
Professionally Recorded Audio CDs. NorthStar Reading and Writing texts come with audio CDs. The audio CDs contain professionally recorded oral readings of the reading passages.
Please make use of the professionally recorded audio CDs. The professionally recorded reading passages serve three important purposes:
· They provide NorthStar Reading and Writing students with a listening experience to complement their silent reading attempts to understand the printed text.
· They help them hear correct pronunciation and intonation.
· They help them understand how the voice is used to communicate meaning.
Unlike the Listening and
Speaking texts, the
Extend writing. Teachers can and should extend writing from most every NorthStar activity by adapting it to a writing activity.
Think about each unit's formal writing requirement. Each unit requires a formal essay or report (Section 4, Activity C, "Writing Topics"). Before starting a unit, review the Writing Topics section to see how the unit develops the skills needed for the essay.
Consult the Writing Activity Book and Teacher's Manuals. The Writing Activity Book provides invaluable assistance to teachers in helping guide students through the essay writing process. The Teacher's Manual provides useful writing ideas.
Students should exit the Advanced Reading and Writing course knowing how to write essays and reports. They should also know how to apply the writing process (prewriting, organizing, reviewing, and editing) to writing tasks. Writing tasks include:
· reports summarizing data
· statements of opinion
· short articles
· cause-and-effect essays
· compare-and-contrast essays
· definition essays
· advantages-disadvantages essays
· descriptive essays
· argumentative essays.
The Institute provides the following additional instructional resources for teachers using the NorthStar Reading and Writing texts. Borrow from the Bookstore.:
· reviewing each unit's skills and vocabulary and
· assisting students with the process of prewriting, organizing, revising, and editing.
· suggestions for teaching each part of each unit and
· Achievement Tests that can be used at the end of each unit.
While teachers should discourage students from using dictionaries in class, students should be encouraged to have good dictionary resources.
Please encourage Level 5 students and above to purchase Longman’s Dictionary of American English . . . with Thesaurus and Interactive CD-ROM available in the Bookstore.
Longman’s Dictionary of American English is a desk dictionary designed for intermediate to advanced students. It contains 52,000 words and phrases, including all words on the Wordlist (critical for TOEFL students). It has 35,000 examples, 2,500 Thesaurus boxes, and much, much more. It provides a useful resource to ESL students studying from ESL 5 and ESL 6 to the TOEFL.
The Dictionary’s companion CD alone is worth the price. The CD contains all the example sentences pronounced, as well as an integrated thesaurus, an extensive exercise bank, photos, and videos illustrating words. Hundreds of interactive exercises include grammar, vocabulary, and dictation practice intended to help high intermediate, advanced, and TOEFL ESL students.
To promote student purchase and use, please:
· show students the Dictionary in class (borrow from the Bookstore),
· encourage students to buy it and use it, and
· assign homework in the dictionary from time to time.
TOEFL is not a language-learning course. It is a language application course.
Computer Skills Needed for the TOEFL iBT. The iBT test is done completely by computer. This includes word processing the two essays. Test takers may no longer submit handwritten essays. Test takers also have to have elementary word processing skills to cut, to paste, and to move items in answering certain questions. There are no computer tutorials. Therefore, in addition to having the necessary language skills, TOEFL test takers will also need to be proficient in keyboarding and elementary word processing.
Institute ESL students may also register for Keyboarding and/or Word classes. TOEFL teachers should encourage students without these skills to do so.
Skills Integration. Although the TOEFL text is divided into Listening,
TOEFL teachers are expected
to include all four skills in almost every class session as a matter of
course within their assigned section of the textbook. For example, while working with the
Some examples follow. They are only a few of the possible strategies that can be used to do some reading, some writing, some speaking, and some listening at the TOEFL level each class session:
· Require oral and/or written explanations for the choice of correct answer. Do this for every question.
· Require students to speak in complete sentences (no little bits of answers).
· Require oral and/or written explanations for wrong answers as well. Do this for several if not all questions.
· Have more than one student participate in explaining each right or wrong answer.
· Have students frame oral and/or written questions about a reading or listening passage.
· Require oral and/or written paraphrasing of selected sentences or passages.
· Require written explanations for at least one correct and/or incorrect answer per class session.
· Require written paraphrasing of selected sentences or passages. This is a good homework exercise that can be reviewed the next class session to create continuity and links between class sessions.
· Ask students to summarize reading selections both orally and in writing.
Ask the following questions in developing bi-monthly and other exams:
· Do the exams correlate to the textbook and other teaching material?
· Do they make use of the publishers’ testing materials, especially for WorldView and NorthStar, as well as any additional material you have developed?
· Do the exams reflect principles of good practice and up-to-date language teaching
· Do the exams test all four language skills—reading, writing, listening, and speaking,
· especially the first three of these skills?
· Do the exams reflect the objectives of their ESL levels? Are advanced students, for
· example, being asked to demonstrate an advanced command of English?
· Do the exams make full use of the publishers’ testing materials keyed to the unit(s) of
· student study?
Avoid questionable testing practices like the following:
1. Avoid Passive Grammar Testing. The Institute discourages grammar testing except though application in writing and speaking. Grammar is not one of the four language skills. Its use is tested through its application in one or more of the four language skills—reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
2. Avoid Fill-in-the-Blanks and Sentence Completion Testing. Tests should rarely if ever ask students to complete sentences. Asking students to complete sentences, especially a series of disconnected sentences, is contrary to all of the principles of good language teaching practice employed by NorthStar, WorldView, the TOEFL iBT test, etc.
Tests should not ask students to merely fill in the blanks, except, perhaps, in a Cloze activity that simultaneously requires reading comprehension and structure or other language choices to fill in the missing material.
3. Avoid Testing at Too Low or Too High an ESL level. Tests should challenge students to create with language consistent with their ESL placement level. The Institute encourages teachers to use the publishers’ tests that come with textbook material, in addition to one or more essays