Tutoring ESL Students: Tutors to the Rescue!

“We should recognize that along with different linguistic backgrounds, ESL students have a diversity of concerns that can only be dealt with in the one-to-one setting where the focus of attention is on that particular student and his or her questions, concerns, cultural presuppositions, writing processes, language learning experiences, and conceptions of what writing in English is all about” (Harris and Silva, 525).


This was a great article to pick up where I left off from my first presentation about teaching in a multilingual world. After hitting the shell of how teachers and students are becoming more accustomed to multilingual students and integration of different types of speakers in a single classroom setting, this article hits the core of one of the major problems in our learning-teaching environment, which is tutoring ESL students. Muriel Harris and Tony Silva, educators and authors of this article talk about the importance of ESL requiring “individualized attention” to become proficient writers. They break down the problems in the writing centers, but they also suggest how tutoring ESL students could be improved. Throughout the reading, they emphasize that aside from ESL students having different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, there are various learning styles across the board. The key is to find what strategies and learning styles work for each individual student. What I also found interesting was that Harris and Silva also shine a light on how teaching style works for the tutor for them to teach and guide the students in the right direction in their writing.

The authors brought up a point about tutoring ESL students that I had not thought about before. The students want to know the rules, not just told how to fix their grammar mistakes on a paper. “Although tutors do not work primarily on grammar and mechanics, some ESL writers-especially those whose first acquaintance with English was as a foreign language taught in classrooms in other countries have a tendency to want to know rules” (Harris and Silva, 530). ESL students should not be cheated out of the experience of learning English but should be granted the same opportunity and time that native speakers of English are given. (Simply my personal opinion). This connects with another problem that was brought up; some ESL students would rather have the grammatical errors corrected for them by the tutors instead of learning the rules. This puts the tutors in an awkward position where they are not able to do their job effectively. Thus leading to low productivity from the tutor and the student. The role of a tutor is not to simply tell the student what is right or wrong in their papers. “ESL students need to know that tutors are expected to help them with strategies that will make them effective, independent writers” (Harris and Silva, 531). A tutor should be given a high level of respect, and we (in the educator world) need to stand behind these tutors and defend them as real educators, even though they are not in the traditional academic setting.

One strategy that Harris and Silva suggest that would help ESL students excel in learning English and having sessions with their tutors is reading out loud. The students are able to find more mistakes, and it helps. However, the con to an ESL student using this strategy is that not all students can edit “by ear.” These students are not at a certain level of English proficiency to hear what mistakes are being made on their papers. With the help of a tutor, who is a native speaker of English could read their work out loud and guide them through this strategy.

The last point I would like to make is that there is research available for tutors on what ESL writers have the most issues. According to this research, Harris, and Silva state that there are, “four error types account for most of the errors made by ESL writers with a fairly high level of English proficiency…”(534). Those four are “verbs, nouns, articles, and prepositions.” My presentation will discuss further the specifics of each category. At the end of the day, teaching ESL students are about help and guidance. “Understanding and accommodating cultural differences is, to a great extent, what ESL instruction is all about. This is especially true when working with students who are very new to and not very cognizant of the workings of American culture” (Harris and Silva, 528).

As far as my final project goes, I am not sure what my classmates and I want to do. Since I was not here last week, I am hoping to come up with something great for our final project during our class on Monday. I apologize for the brief discussion on it!

‘Til next time!

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