English CoachingTechniques

Grammar Reading Vocabulary Semester Projects

The techniques, activities and projects discussed here can be used with any student to instruct, practice, and improve grammar, reading, and English vocabulary.

Basic Strategies and Activities for Improving Grammar

    • Sample Writing: This can also be called free writing. Sample writing should be completed at the first coaching session, but can also be repeated many times throughout the semester, especially times when the student brings nothing to work on. This is a good way to determine areas of weakness.

      Explanation: Give the student a topic, and have him/her write a sample paragraph (you could also write one of your own while the student is writing, and share yours with the student when you are finished). Only allow 15 minutes (at the most) for the student to write. After they are finished writing, there are many ways to use your time. You could go through the paragraph and underline grammatical problems. Give the student an opportunity to make changes to these areas without telling him/her what is wrong. Many times students will be able to correct themselves. For those mistakes that they could not correct, explain the grammar rule that was broken. Or, if you think the student needs more positive reinforcement, don't comment on the grammar. Simply point out the strong areas in the paragraph and encourage them to try this exercise at home.

    • Grammar Notebooks: This is a good way to have the student begin to recognize mistakes in his/her own writing.

      Explanation: Have the student write in a "grammar notebook" the mistakes that he/she made in the sample writing, or those that the coach sees repeatedly after a few sessions. The student should write down each grammar mistake, and the rule that was broken. Keep this notebook throughout the semester, and have the student add to it each session so that he/she will start to recognize repeated mistakes. After a few sessions, the coach should have the student check his/her own writing for the mistakes he/she commonly makes before the coach even looks at it.

    • Cartoons, Comics and Pictures: This is a fun activity that does not rely on books or computers. This is especially good for students who feel intimidated by writing long paragraphs.

      Explanation: White out words in a comic strip or editorial cartoon, or just bring in an interesting picture and have the student write sentences to fit the comics/pictures. Then review the grammar together. Encourage the student to correct him/herself before you begin to explain the grammar rules broken.

    • English Center Web Page: The English Center Web Page has a wealth of practice exercises geared toward Gallaudet students.

      Explanation: The coach should either print out exercises to work on with students, or work directly on the computer with the student. Some of our grammar exercises can be used to determine areas of weakness (the coach will be able to see what repeated errors the student may make). If the student works through all of the relevant grammar exercises on the Web, encourage the tutor to use the many books that we have in the resource room.

    • Dialogue Journals*: These give students a place to write and to express their thoughts freely without worrying about grammar or structure. These help the student develop college level thinking and reasoning skills. Students who continue to practice their writing in dialogue journals will eventually pick up on grammatical rules and sequences. (Dialogue journals also help a student's reading and vocabulary).

      Explanation: Dialogue journals are simply a notebook or a composition book shared by both the coach and student. The coach should have his/her student write in this notebook on a specific topic for 5 minutes at the end of each session. Then, before the coach's next session with the student, he/she should write a response in the journal to what the student has written. These responses should be open-ended and focus on the content rather than on the grammar, quality, or quantity of the student's entry. The coach's replies should subtly encourage logical thinking and reasoning skills on the student's part. They should leave the student with some new aspect on which to focus his/her next entry. The entries should remain private unless both parties consent to making them public.

    • Role Reversal**: This encourages the student to think for himself, and assimilate what he has learned in class and in coaching sessions. This can force a sleepy, unmotivated student to become active and involved during his coaching session. It also works well as a review session.

      Explanation: Give the student a sample writing approximately one paragraph long with some clear errors in it. If you wrote the paragraph yourself, you could incorporate errors that you know your student tends to make him/herself. Have the student play the role of the coach, and point out errors in the passage and tell you what is wrong. Or, you could also have the student "teach" you how to map, outline, or summarize a passage. Keep in mind that this activity will only work if the student has the foundation of knowledge necessary to deliver the lesson to the coach. Be sure that the student understands the significant information before having them trade roles with you.

  • Summaries: This is great for improving grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension. Doing a summary requires that the student read a written text, understand it, and express its meaning in his/her own words using correct grammar.

    Explanation: Bring in a short passage for the student to read. (A one-paragraph magazine/newspaper article is long enough). Have the student read the article, and summarize it in his/her own words on a separate sheet of paper. When the student is finished, read over his/her summary. First, you should focus on whether or not the student understood the article he/she was reading. Point out places where he/she demonstrates clear understanding of the article. Second, you should underline grammatical errors that you find. See if the student can correct his/her errors him/herself before you explain the grammar rule that was broken.

Basic Strategies and Activities for Improving Reading Comprehension

    • Title Analysis: This helps the student begin to begin to use critical thinking skills in his/her reading.

      Before the student begins reading the poem, chapter, story, essay, etc., have them look closely at the title. Discuss what the title could mean, and what the passage is likely to be about based on the title.

    • Reading and Summarizing on the Text: This activity assures that the student is really paying attention and thinking about what he/she is reading. It is a great study technique that the student should use when they are doing homework. It will also help the student when he/she reviews the chapter, paragraph, etc. for a test.

      The coach and student should read together, one paragraph at a time. Then the student should write (directly on the text, if possible) a very brief summary of the paragraph. The summary should be no more than 1 or 2 sentences, and can be incomplete sentences. It should just be enough information to indicate that the student understood the main idea of the paragraph, and to help him/her remember what it meant when they are reviewing the text later. Don't worry about the student's grammar here, it is overall understanding of the text that you are working toward. The student should get in the habit of summarizing each paragraph he/she reads.

    • Signing the Passage: This is useful for students who get easily lost in a paragraph, or thrown off by unfamiliar words. This helps the tutor determine where the student began to misunderstand the passage.

      Explanation: If the student does not understand the paragraph enough to write a summary, have the student SIGN THE PARAGRAPH to you. You will be able to see exactly what phrase of words confused the student. You should then discuss the confusing phrase or words, asking questions to lead the student toward understanding. Use a dictionary only when absolutely necessary. An overall understanding is more important than understanding each word by itself.

    • Vocabulary Notebook: This helps the student remember unfamiliar words and expressions. The student can refer to this notebook when he/she encounters the same unfamiliar word or phrase again.

      Have the student write down any unfamiliar words or slang expressions and their meanings in a separate notebook. Have the student write the meanings in his/her own words, so that he/she will be sure to understand them later.

    • Predicting: This helps to be sure the student is being an active reader and thinking about the text. This works particularly well with stories.

      Explanation: After summarizing a paragraph, have the student sign to you what they think might happen next. Then continue reading to determine what really happens.

    • Dialogue Journals: Explained above.

    • Summaries: Explained above.

English Center Web Page:

     Coaches should be sure that they are familiar with our resources before they refer a student to resources. Coaches should review the following areas on our web site that are related to Reading Comprehension:

Basic Strategies and Activities for Improving Vocabulary:

  • Title Analysis: Reading and Vocabulary are inextricably linked, and many activities that are used to improve reading can also be used to improve vocabulary.

  • Flash Cards: These help the student to memorize new vocabulary words. This is helpful, but can be boring and should not be relied on to fill an entire session.   Explanation: Use index/flash cards with vocabulary words on them to increase the student's vocabulary. The coach can either use vocabulary words from books, or he/she can make individualized flash cards for the student based on which kinds of words the tutor knows the student needs work on.

  • Reading with the Student: Explained above.

  • Vocabulary Notebook: Explained above.

  • Summaries: Explained above.

  • Crosswords and Cartoons: These activities are fun, and different from the usual drills. These can help to increase the student's vocabulary. Explanation: Do a crossword puzzle with the student. Be sure you use one that uses appropriate words for the student. You could also read cartoons together and discuss any unfamiliar words/expressions.

Projects Using ASL and English***

If you are going to be meeting with a student for an entire semester, you might consider doing a semester long project with him/her that helps to improve reading, grammar and vocabulary. Many students benefit from activities that compare ASL and English. Doing one of the following projects gives them the opportunity to compare the two languages. However, keep in mind that these are time-consuming projects. These would only be appropriate for a student you will be seeing at least three times a week for a semester.

    • Life Story: Have the student write their life story or autobiography. First have the student video tape him/herself signing a his/her life story. Then, watch the tape together (either in the Learning Center, or in using the English Center TV and VCR). After watching the tape, discuss how to write the student's story in English. It may help you to rewind the tape and watch only a small section at a time.

    • Movie and Book Review: Pick a novel that has already been made into a movie, preferably one in which the movie follows the book closely. Watch the movie (this can be done separately, as homework). After watching the movie, read and discuss the book in ASL. This will take several weeks. Then have the student draft a review of the book and the movie. The review should discuss the similarities and differences between the book and the movie, their quality, their believability, etc.

    • Current Events: This helps improve your student's reading comprehension and vocabulary. Research a current event that grabs your student's interest. Start by looking for articles on the internet and in newspapers and magazines, then discuss in ASL the results of the research.

ASL Videos:

    English Center has some ASL videos that come with written materials that can be adapted for coaching purposes. You could both could view a videotape and then read and discuss the corresponding written text. Or you could ignore the written text and come up with your own activity. You could view a part of an ASL video, and then have your student try to write a summary of what he/she just watched in English. English Center has the following tapes available:
    • When the Mind Hears, by Harlan Lane;
    • Cokely and Fernadez American Freedom Speeches, (with an instructor's guide);
    • Bird of a Different Feather, (with Ben Bahan and Sam Supalla)
    • For a Decent Living, (with Supalla).

*Original by Alan Wilding, 1997. Adapted by Jules Nelson Hill 1999.
**Original by Margie English, 1997. Adapted for English Works 2000.
***Adapted from "Ideas for Semester Projects" by the English Tutorial Center Team, Summer 1994.