Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Using a Christian-Based ESL Curriculum

Sally in the U.S. wrote this question about a Christian-based ESL curriculum. Unfortunately, she didn't give me an email address to answer her. Hopefully, she'll come back for the answer.

Sally writes:

"I will be teaching ESL to Spanish speakers through my church.
I'm excited, but nervous. I've never taught ESL.

I taught HS 20 years ago -- Media and English degrees.

I have just found your site and think it will help me. I'm open to any other
help anyone wants to offer.

We don't have a curriculum or supplies. We have thought it would be good to be able to use a biblical, Christian based, curriculum. I haven't been able to find one. Any thoughts?"

My response:

Dear Sally,

That's great news, and you're right, teaching ESL is exciting. It seems that churches and other non-profit organizations are great places for non-English speakers to get low-cost or free English classes. And it also seems that these organizations are often expected to provide services with limited or no resources! That's a shame.

What and how you teach will depend upon (1) the English level of the students, (2) their age, and (3) their purpose in learning English.

You didn't mention the specifics of the first two items, but there are tons of free resources online to address the first two issues. It just takes time to find them. However, I want to address the third issue in more detail.

One thing that ESL/EFL teachers, especially teachers of adults, need to ask themselves is WHY are these students taking this English class.

In your case, Sally, is it to get a deeper understanding of the Bible or of their Christian beliefs? Or is it so that they can get a job or make advancements on their current jobs? Is it so that they can take care of the day-to-day tasks of living in an English-speaking country? Is it so that they can feel better about themselves and have more confidence in their English speaking abilities? Is it to gain "survival skills?" Etc.

The teacher has to put the students' needs first. While it's fine to approach a class from a particular orientation, in this case a Christian orientation, the lessons should be something that the students can use in the "real world," in their day-to-day lives. The material and topics covered should be transferable to the students' lives outside of the church.

I don't know of any Christian-based curriculum, Sally. You may be the person to create such a curriculum. I would just suggest that you find a way for students to transfer the English skills that they learn with you into their day-to-day lives.

Best of luck,



Anonymous said...

I go to Moody Bible Institute where I believe there is a biblical based ESL curriculum that is used by the ESL majors...It is by Wally Cirafesi and is called English in Action

Name: Debra Garcia, M.A. said...

Thank you very much for this tip. I hope Sally will stop by again to see it!


Debra said...

it occurs to me that there is a lot of information on the web by Christian families who homeschool. Perhaps a google search for homeschool curricula might be useful?

Eric said...

Good discussion. As you may know, many Christian organizations have done an exceptional job of both teaching English and spreading the gospel. Do you TESOL.org yet? It's the largest international English Teachers organization, and I believe they have an interest group called Christian Educators.
Go to their website, look around, and consider joining.

At our California CATESOL conferences, for instance, you will find many excellent presentations from BIOLA University (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) students and faculty that focus on effective teaching techniques. If you Google "Korean" and "Christian" and "English Curriculum", you will find some resources of potential interest.

Let me also share another fine resource for both secular and religious volunteers leading conversation clubs: http://eslconversationclubs.blogspot.com/

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, religious groups teaching English is deeply concerning to me. Is their true goal to help their students in their daily lives, or is it to "Westernize" or "Christianize" them? If the students are already Christians, then fine... but do not exploit students desire to learn English as a means to assimilate them.

Craig said...

I have thought about this "exploitation" of the student mentioned above. My opinion, as of now, is that it would depend on the situation. I think that if the methodology and goal of the teacher as well as the student were clearly stated and understood by the students beforehand, if there were other avenues of learning English which were similar in accessibility, if children were not taught (the only possible exception I could think of is if the parents were directly involved and completely understood the teaching methodology and goals.) and absolutely no coercion or pressure were used (i.e."I'll teach you English if you stay for my religious study after wards. I'll teach you English if you go to my religious group. I'll allow you into the advanced course if you go to my religious group. Now that you've heard the message won't you please accept it now... etc.)These people are by no means stupid or gullible; we're not talking about brainwashing here; no one is being tricked into anything or pressured to accept any kind of position. These are rational intelligent adults who are perfectly capable of benefiting from the English instruction and judging the merits, or demerits, of a presentation of ideas that may be a part of the instruction. If everything is clear and above board, no coercion or pressure is used, and it is in an environment where other means of studying English are, more or less, equally accessible then I don't see this as crossing any kind of ethical line.

Anonymous said...

There is a wonderful Christian Curriculum for ESL out there. You can find it at http://englishgift.org/
I have used it and it is of great quality.

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