10 ways to make the best out of your ESL class

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You’ve finally made the choice to sign up for ESL classes. Maybe you are feeling nervous or unsure about what to expect in a typical ESL class. Fret not – read this list to prepare yourself and get some pointers on what goes on in most ESL classes.

1. Come prepared
The first day of any class is usually stressful. You don’t know what to expect and who you are going to come across. Then there’s the added stress of possibly getting lost! Find out where your class is located a few days before it starts. You can use Google maps to locate the building. Once you’re inside the building, have a plan for asking for directions to the classroom. Being prepared for a class will go a long way in reducing your anxiety levels.

2. Come equipped
Having these few stationary items will be very useful – a few pens, a highlighter, a ruler, a binder, a notebook and some loose leaf paper. Stationary items can be purchased in large grocery stores and dollar stores. A hint – there are massive back-to-school sales on stationary items right before September.

3. Read the course outline carefully
A course outline is usually given to students at the beginning of most ESL classes. It contains a description of the course and outlines specific topics or goals for the course. It will also contain information on ways to contact the instructor and due dates of assignments, tests, quizzes and any other activities.

4. Participate!
ESL instructors like to vary the classroom activities so that the students have a chance to interact with others and practice their language skills. Sometimes you may have to read an article quietly or complete certain activities yourself. However, you can bet on having group discussions, pair work, and even a group presentation as part of your learning experience. You will get plenty of opportunities to speak, ask questions, state your opinions and present your findings. It can be nerve-wracking for students who are uncomfortable with public speaking or those who are not used to sharing their opinions. Just remember that an ESL class is a safe place to make mistakes because everyone else is learning as well. Start small – try sharing your opinions with a partner, ask questions, and work your way to sharing it with the class.

5. Create a vocabulary journal
Some ESL instructors may require students to create a vocabulary journal as part of the course. Even if your instructor doesn’t, it is a good idea to have one. You can use it to write down the meaning of new words you come across. Create a table with two columns – one for the word and the other for the meaning of the word. Look up the meaning of the word in a dictionary and study how it was used. Revise your vocabulary journal every week.

6. Speak to your instructor
Make sure you know how to contact your instructor – he/she will let you know the best way to do so. Let your instructor know if you are unable to make it to class and the reason why. Don’t hesitate to talk to them about issues you may have during the course – be it a schedule conflict, difficulty understanding certain concepts or even a difficult classmate. They are there to help you. Short queries are acceptable for break time, right before or after a class. It is best to schedule an appointment with your instructor if you have a more complicated concern.

7. Know your classmates
Your classmates are the best people to practice your English language skills with! You can feel comfortable making grammatical errors or mispronouncing your words because everyone is learning and probably making similar mistakes. Ask them what strategies they employ for improving their English. They can also be a source of information or advice for matters related to settling in Canada. Many friendships are forged during ESL classes because of the shared experience of settling into a new country.

8. Create a study plan
If you are in an academic-type ESL class, it is highly recommended that you create a study plan. You should allocate a certain number of hours every week for revising your work, studying for tests and completing assignments. Have a timetable (with all the important dates clearly marked) in a visible area to keep you on track.

9. Supplement course work on your own
If you are interested in learning more or would like to delve into concepts not covered by your ESL class, you can look to the internet. There are many ESL websites that you can peruse on your own to download free worksheets, read articles or practice pronunciation. Here are some online resources you should check out.

Grammar Quizzes
Grammar Bytes
Sounds of English
The Learn portion of livelearn.ca
English Club
The local library has resources for ESL workbooks and audio resources. You will need a library card to borrow the materials.

10. Have fun!

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Community Resources

Here is a list of Language training programs in Manitoba.

The Enhanced English Skills for Employment Program is focused in teaching English used in the workplace.

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10 ways to make the best out of your ESL class

Maryam is about to start her first ESL class next week. June, her neighbour, is giving her some advice. For each of the sentences below, decide which word in bold is more suitable. Type in the correct word in the space below.

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