As a major in the education program (and not having a car on campus), I chose to observe the English as a Second Language courses right here at Gannon in order to fulfill the observation field requirement for my ESL methods class.

I found them to be some of the most interesting I’d ever observed.

Maybe it was because I was observing students my own age. Maybe it had to do with the fact that all of the students spoke languages other than English and came from all over the world. Either way, this observation was a great experience.

I learned many things from observing the classes. Thing one: there seemed to be aspects of American culture that came as shocks to English-language learners, and I learned that it’s my job as a teacher to help them become more familiar with those things.

On my second day of observing, I had the opportunity to see the introduction of American cultural ideas again. This time, the English language learners had the opportunity to go on their first Easter Egg hunt [an experience common to students growing up in America, but a completely foreign concept to those here for the first time!].

In the class, I learned some key tricks for helping someone learn a new language. For example, when reading an article, there will always be unfamiliar words to a new English-language learner. After the students read an article, the teacher I observed would find a word that the students did not know and show what the prefixes & suffixes meant as well as the base word. Then the students determined what the meaning of the new word was – and learned how they could continue to do so with other similar words.

I also noticed that whenever the teacher used figurative language, she would always explain what she meant.

For example, she said one of the other teachers was a teddy bear, but had to explain that he is not really a teddy bear. He is like a teddy bear in the fact that he would never harm anyone despite his imposing stature.

After observing these ESL classes at Gannon, I learned new tips for introducing an international student to new English words and American cultural ideas. I feel significantly more comfortable teaching students who are learning English, but I still have a lot to learn if I ever teach ESL.

Looking to learn English as your second language? Explore our English Language and Global Training program here.

Interested in getting certified to teach ESL? Explore the English as a Second Language Program Specialist program here.