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Working with ESOL Students

BestPractices-ESOL Students

What Are Best Practices for Working with ESOL Students in the Basic Writing Classroom?

NCTE’s web page on English Language Learners declares, “According to the 2000 census 47 million people or 18% of the population in the United States speak a language other than English at home. By 2030, this number will increase to 40%” (para. 1).

Many multilingual students will be placed in basic writing courses at the university level, particularly “Generation 1.5” students: students born in one country, but now living in another. Often, more like other basic writing students and less like international students, these students may, according to Murie, Collins, and Detzner, “need courses that are rich in literacy and offer ways for them to develop a sense of self and voice in college.” “For these students it is “not enough to review features of English in preparation for college writing, there is a critical need to build academic literacy.” (Adamson, et al. in Murie, Collins, Detzner). For a history of second-language writers in basic writing classes see “Basic Writing and Second Language Writers: Toward an Inclusive Definition” by Paul Kei Matsuda.

Our intent in creating this wiki entry is to provide a resource for best practices with regard to instruction for ESOL students in a BW classroom. While ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), ESL (English as a Second Language), ELL (English Language Learners), EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and L2 (Second Language) all have gradations of different meaning, we hope that this site proves a useful resource for Basic Writing teachers working with any/all of these populations. For this site’s terminology, we’ll use ESOL. Our hope is that these best practices are applicable to mainstreamed BW classrooms with both ESOL and non-ESOL students.

In this wiki, we’ve consulted sources from basic writing literature, ESOL literature, and literature that examines their pedagogical intersections. We hope that by providing points of view from the different, specific fields, we might create an interdisciplinary resource which illuminates shared concerns and practices.

We’ve concentrated on three sub-areas within this field: Classroom Atmosphere, which includes community building, diversity awareness, and students’ perspective; Pedagogy, which includes assessment/feedback, and classroom activities/assignments; and Technology, which includes use of software and synchronous/asynchronous communication. You’ll find below a brief overview/introduction to each node. We look forward to additions to this wiki, both of new topics within our areas and new sub-areas as well.

Classroom Atmosphere

  • What is “Generation 1.5?” What distinguishes them from other ESOL students?
  • How do I ensure that the diversity of students in my ESOL classroom is being respected?
  • How can I make visible that diversity is respected in my classroom?
  • Should ESOL students be included in classrooms intended for English speaking students labeled as basic writers?


  • What are the advantages of using portfolio assessment for ESOL students in Basic Writing classrooms?
  • What are the best forms of feedback on student writing?
  • Which types of assignments are most helpful to ESOL students?
  • How can allowing ESOL students to use their native languages aid in English fluency?


  • Why should I use computer technology in my ESOL BW class?
  • How do I begin to introduce technology?
  • What is CALL and how can I use it in my classroom?
  • Is grammar software effective? How can I effectively incorporate it?
  • What is asynchronous (email, blogging, discussion boards) communication? Should I use it in my ESOL class?
  • How can I incorporate synchronous (instant message, class chat room) communication into my ESOL class?
  • What else besides software and chats should I be aware of in teaching an ESOL class?
  • What are potential drawbacks of incorporating technology into my BW ESOL class?

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Page last modified on April 26, 2006, at 09:50 PM