Language barriers can be frustrating when one attempts to communicate with another. While English is the most widely spoken language in the States, many struggle with the language. For those who have come here at an adult age to work or to study, navigating through everyday life with a foreign language can be especially challenging. By offering English classes to ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers, you can help build their confidence and ease their transition to this country.
- Determine the need for ESL classes. Check if there are existing programs/ministries in the area.
- Recruit teachers and helpers. Post teaching invitations through the church bulletins, Sunday School groups, and newsletter. Have at least two teachers.
- You will need to meet and discuss the following issues:
- The curriculum of the classes. Will you use Bible-based materials (e.g. bilingual Bible studies), academic language materials, or both?
- The class levels. To best meet the students’ needs, have at least two levels of classes: beginners and advanced. Classes can also be divided into three categories: basic (pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary), intermediate (conversation and listening skills), and advanced (skills for professional verbal interactions).
- The duration of the classes. Some ESL classes meet once a week for two hours for a 10 to 12-week session.
- The format/structure of the classes. Group activities are always helpful in ESL classes. Enlist a helper for small group dialogues and activities. Consider planning a brief time for announcements and prayer, and refreshment after class. Due to the nature of an informal academic class (some may not come every week or more students may join the class later in the sessions), it is good to plan self-contained lessons so that they could easily catch up.
- Budget. You will need a budget for teacher training, teachers’ books and resources, student books, stationery, or other materials (e.g. Bibles/Christian literature in foreign languages). Will you need to raise funds within your church or seek donations? Will you need to charge the students to cover basic curriculum and supplies?
- The location of the classes. Conduct your lessons in one of the Sunday school rooms or at the church’s community center/building.
- Training and orientation for teachers. This is a good time for teachers to discuss lesson-planning ideas, assessment tools, and gain a basic understanding on cultural awareness. Assemble a teaching tools kit that includes different exercises, speech activities, cultural studies resources, games, and word lists.
- Advertise the classes a month before your start date. If possible, advertise both in English and whatever language that best represents your audience. Your flyer should include description of classes, location, dates and times, cost, and contact information (to answer questions or to pre-register students).
- Check with local businesses if you can post flyers at their establishments. Other areas to post flyers are public libraries, places that wire money (Western Union offices), international grocery stores and restaurants, thrift stores, ethnic churches, flea markets, elementary schools (for ESL students’ parents), dry cleaners, construction companies, etc.
- Word-of-mouth remains the most effective way to publicize. Pass out flyers to church members to give to someone they think might benefit from the classes.
- Pre-register students to get an estimate of how many students to expect. Get their basic information (name, phone number, address). In case telephone communication is difficult, have a pre-recorded message in the second language predominant in your community, or have a prepared cue card that language that the church staff can read.
- On the first day of class, distribute a basic information sheet for students to pass to their friends, family, and acquaintances who might be interested in the classes.
- Keep an updated list of the students’ contact information. This list allows you to follow up with students who have been absent for a while.
- Other needs may arise as classes start. You may need a plan for childcare or find volunteers to provide transportation for some students.
- While your main goal is to offer English lessons, that should not be your main focus. This is an opportunity for you to share your stories, show the love of Christ, and develop long-lasting relationships with the students.
- Be flexible and ready to adapt the curriculum according to the needs of the class.
- Having some sense of cultural awareness is important and helpful as you encounter someone from another cultural and social background.
- A fluent speaker may not necessarily be a fluent teacher. It is ideal to have formally trained teachers at local high schools, colleges, or universities. If not, look to experienced Sunday School teachers or Bible study leaders who are experienced in planning a lesson and leading a group in learning exercises.
- ESL classes can be spin offs to different ministries such as international Sunday School class, international student ministry, book club, tutoring, friendship partners, homework clubs for children, and cooking classes. In one case, a church started teaching conversational Spanish to English speakers. http://www.kansan.com/news/2010/oct/25/church-teaches-casual-spanish-learners/?news