Advanced ESL students have their own unique set of traits and challenges that an ESL teacher must deal. This post will explain some of these unique traits as well as how to support advanced ESL students.
Supporting Advanced ESL Students
By this point, the majority of the language processing is automatic. This means that the teacher no longer needs to change the speed at which they talk in most situations.
In addition, the students have become highly independent. This necessitates that the teacher focuses on supporting the learning experience of the students rather than trying to play a more directive role.
The learning activities used in the classroom can now cover a full range of possibilities. Almost all causal reading material is appropriate. Study skills can be addressed at a much deeper level. Such skills as skimming, scanning, determining purpose, etc. can be taught and addressed in the learning. Students can also enjoy debates and author opinion generating experiences.
The Challenges of Advanced ESL Students
One of the challenges of advanced students is they often have a habit of asking the most detailed questions about the most obscure aspects of the target language. To deal this requires a Ph.D. in linguistics or the ability to know what the students really need to know and steer away from mundane grammatical details. It is very tempting to try and answer these types of questions but the average native-speaker does not know all the details of imperfect past tense but rather are much more adept at using it.
Another frustrating problem with advanced students is the ability to continue to make progress in their language development. With any skill, as one gets closer to mastery, the room for improvement becomes smaller and smaller. To move from an advanced student to a superior student takes several small rather than sweeping adjustments.
This is one reason advanced students often like to ask those minute grammar questions. These small questions are where they know they are weak when it comes to communicating. This can be especially stressful if the student is a few points away from reaching some sort of passing score on an English proficiency exam (IELTS, TOEFL, etc.). Minor adjustments need to reach the minimum score are difficult to determine and train.
After beginners, teaching advanced ESL students is perhaps the next most challenging teaching experience. Advanced ESL students have a strong sense of what they know and do not know. What makes this challenging is the information they need to understand can be considered somewhat specializes and not easy to articulate for many teachers.