As many English language teachers will testify, for an international student, studying A-levels in English away from home can be a particularly challenging experience and certainly one that doesn’t always come naturally to either native or non-native speakers.
At Bellerbys Cambridge, the English faculty has developed and refined innovative approaches to teaching English to its international students looking to progress to university. This ensures the experience of learning a new language is less daunting, and provides a smooth transition into higher education, enabling them to focus on their studies.
As part of the intensive curriculum, students are exposed to a range of teaching exercises during their two-year programme:
Team teaching is one strategy which underpins the way in which the English faculty supports students in their other subjects at Bellerbys. For example, a Physics teacher will provide detail to the English teacher about the experiment the students have to conduct as part of their syllabus. The English teacher will then support the students during their practical in the lab, from following the method, to guidance during the subsequent write-up. Asking questions throughout this process is vital to making sure students have the language they need to carry out the task in hand.
Developing a ‘word wall’ in conjunction with your students is a fantastic way for students to commit vocabulary to memory. Having a visual display of technical vocabulary (illustrated if possible) in the classroom helps embed a word or phrase. Encouraging students to update the wall helps reinforce the learning process and promotes an interactive and creative approach.
Gap-fill, matching and labelling
Gap-fill, matching and labelling exercises are good ways to test comprehension/word recall. For example, students are given a sentence or paragraph with a word or phrase missing and will be provided with a clue in the form of a synonym or illustration; they will have to fill in the blank.
Word association is a powerful mechanism for English language learning. Students are given opportunities to reinforce key language by learning-by-doing as well as by studying the language. For example, students are given a microphone and asked to point out and name the parts of a microphone while they explain how it works to their peers. This brings language and subject content to life and engages the kinetic aspect of the students’ brains in the learning process.
A popular method for listening and reading comprehension is having students watch a clip on YouTube before answering related questions. Outside the classroom this allows students to receive individual feedback from their teacher (if this is on a shared intranet), and inside the classroom this benefits the students vastly when it comes to revision, as they’re more likely to recall and review audio/visual segments.
Subject and English teachers have together devised frameworks which enable students to develop their English writing skills at the same time as learning how to write specific types of text such as a Lab Report. Having a hands-on approach during this exercise is key to student success; allowing them to ask questions and tailoring their language learning according to their pace and learning style is key.
Source evaluation is an indispensable skill and essential university preparation. When conducting secondary reading, it’s important students research useful sources and understand how to evaluate their relevance and use. The English faculty at Bellerbys develops this skill in international students by teaching them how to ascertain if a given source is trustworthy, whether it’s up to date, and crucially, what the author’s agenda is. Students also learn how to compare sources and present facts in their write-ups.
Those teaching English in an intensive environment to international students will know how rewarding it is when they see their students thrive. Teachers who seek new ways to teach and evolve their teaching style/material will provide the best learning experience for their students and give them every opportunity to excel academically.