Thursday, February 11, 2010

Working With Advanced Learners

As it often does, the tip for today came from an exchange with a tutor who asked a question: How do I work with a learner with high abilities and expectations? Here is the exchange:

From: Kristina Antic

To: Brian Anderson


My other learner's name is Rosalina, but her nickname is Jacqui. I actually also wanted to ask you for some advice. After meeting with Jacqui yesterday, her English appears to be already very advanced, though I think some focused work on the more complex grammar structures ... would improve it immensely.

What I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around is how to proceed and structure my lessons to best achieve her goal. The biggest goal she shared with me is to be able to write in English as well as she is able to write in Portuguese (she was involved in journalism in Brazil).

I get the sense that she has a strong desire for perfection and structure, and I really can appreciate this and want to help her - I just need some guidance as far as how to break down this goal into more achievable tasks/chunks we can work on each lesson that will move her toward her goal. Any thoughts/ideas you have would be much appreciated... thank you!



Okay, good questions. The words that popped out most in your message were structure and focus. Since Jacqui wants to perfect her English writing, I can think of a few tactics to add structure to your lessons.

  1. Find a book to work from, something that focuses on writing skills for the more academically advanced ESL learner. Here are a few I found in our library: Writing Talk by A.C. Winkler and J.R. McCuen. Voyager 8 , published by New Readers Press The Write Stuff by Jones and Evanson.
  2. Give writing assignments that focus on specific topic areas and/or grammar skills. For instance, assign an essay where she answers the question: “What will I be doing this year? Next Year? In Five Years?” in order to focus on the future tense.
  3. Focus on Grammar. You can borrow Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Schrampfer Azar to find exercises that work on more advanced topics.
  4. Focus on one thing at a time. If it’s a grammar exercise, you only correct the grammar errors (but notice the other kinds for future lesson planning).

You can also search the blog and the links from, which have a link in the signature line below my name. Hope this helps.

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