Can you advise me on structuring a course?

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Can you advise me on structuring a course?

Unread postby Hubert » 04 Jan 2008, 08:44

Dear Lucy,

I have just been offered a position as a teacher of a short ESL course that is run by one of the local educational providers. According to the course outline, the objectives are the following ones; that by the end of the course, the students will have improved their skills in the following;

(1) Reading comprehension,
(2) Listening comprehension,
(3) Writing everyday genres,
(4) Speaking with confidence,
(5) Strategies to study grammar,
(6) Strategies to increase vocabulary and
(7) Understanding Australian slang.

The previous teacher for the course, used authentic texts to encourage the students to understand the content and study the grammar rules of English. She also used audio and audio-visual material and pair and group discussion. I propose using a similar method.

For the reading component, the course content will include newspapers and other authentic texts, whilst the content for the listening component will be everyday spoken conversations that tell stories and the one for the writing component everyday genres, notes, letters and postcards. On top of this the content for the listening component will be discussions on topical issues, whilst the content for the grammar component will involve learning from authentic texts whilst that of the vocabulary component will involve the study of everyday texts. The course involves 6 weekly 2 hour sessions. I propose to include aspects of each objective in each lesson. Would you advise that or not? If not, why not?

I should point that the fellow who offered me the work told me that their ESL courses are aimed at speakers who are at the intermediate stage but that in reality the proficiency levels of the speakers varies considerably.

The aim of this course is that students are provided with a relaxed environment in which they will gain practice and confidence using English.

The organisation which has offered me the work teaching that course has also offered me work teaching an 8 week long course called 'Everyday Reading and Writing'. This course is aimed at (1)providing students with an opportunity to become more confident in reading and writing for everyday tasks, work and study (2) examining the common problem people have in expressing themselves clearly on paper and (3) enabling the students to read and comprehend what they have read. This course is aimed at native speakers and non-native speakers of English. The objectives of this course are as follows; (1) to explore word meanings and structures, (2) to experience different practical learning activities like written exercises, discussions and readings, (3) to have inspirational topics to encourage writing and use newly acquired skills and (4) to have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

The teaching methods involve discussions, written exercises and readings and the course content the study of the writing process, punctuation, spelling, grammar, reading, skimming, the use of the memory, writing structures, editing and a revision of the skills learnt.

The sessions will be 2 and 1/2 hours in length. How do you propose that I structure the lessons?

I should point out that I do need your advice on these matters withing the next couple of days. I apologise for this. However, I was only offered the work yesterday, Australian time and the materials are about to get sent to the printer due to the fact that the courses beging in February.

Hubert Judge.

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Advice on structuring courses

Unread postby Lucy » 06 Jan 2008, 19:58

Dear Hubert,

I have 2 major comments about what you are being asked to do.

The first is that the 7 objectives for skills improvement that you list cannot realistically be achieved in the timeframe you mention. Six weekly 2-hour sessions equal 12 hours; I usually spend around 45 minutes on a skills lesson. For receptive skills (reading and listening) I spend time introducing the subject and pre-teaching vocabulary; I then ask students to look at the questions; they then read or listen to the text and we then do a task related to the topic or we do language work. The time varies depending on the length of the recording or written text; I think 45 minutes is the minimum at intermediate level. You have been asked to work on 7 objectives, I think you could only work on each objective twice in 12 hours. By this I mean that you will spend 2 x 45 minutes on a reading comprehension, the same amount of time on listening comprehension, etc.

The objective is for students to improve their skills in each of the seven areas; of course the students will improve but I don’t think they can be expected to make a lot of progress in 12 hours. I suggest you start by asking the people you will be working for whether you could work on fewer objectives. If it’s possible to reduce the number of objectives, I suggest you write in again. If not, I suggest you choose one or two sub-skills for listening comprehension and reading comprehension and work on those. As for understanding Australian slang; I think this objective needs to be tightened up. I suggest you re-word it as understanding pronunciation and meaning of Australian slang words associated with …….. (you can choose a suitable number of themes to work on).

You ask whether it is possible to include aspects of each objective in each lesson; I don’t advise you to follow this approach because of time constraints. You could, however, devise a lesson that incorporates objectives 2, 4, 5 and 6 or 7.

My second major comment concerns the ‘Every day reading and writing course’. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have native and non-native speakers in the same class. Even if the non-native speakers are of a very high level, they have very different needs to native speakers who are improving their reading and writing. I suggest you also talk to the course providers about this aspect and write in again if you think it is necessary.

Kind regards,


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