ESOL students lead workshops

April 22, 2010, 11:38 a.m. | By Eli Okun | 11 years, 7 months ago

Programs focus on the value of good listening

Members of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Level 4 classes conducted student-run workshops in other ESOL classes on March 22 and 23, emphasizing the importance of open communication and listening, according to ESOL teacher Ailish Zompa.

The sessions, which Zompa coordinated, stemmed from a conflict resolution workshop in which the roughly 65 ESOL 4 students participated last fall that was led by staffers from the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County (CRCMC), Zompa said.

According to Zompa, students worked in groups to prepare for the workshops. In classes, ESOL 4 students used three activities to engage the classes and demonstrate the value of effective communication and led subsequent discussions about how to be good listeners. Student leaders wrote in post-workshop reflections that the experience bolstered their confidence in their public speaking skills and illuminated the importance of clear articulation, said Laura Rothlisberger, the Special Projects Coordinator in the Office of Student Life at Montgomery College, who assisted in the planning of the workshops. "It was a powerful experience," said Rothlisberger, who works with Blair ESOL teachers to develop classroom service learning projects. "When they got back, they all felt really energized."

Photo: ESOL students use a communal marker to corroborate visions of their dream houses silently.

The incentive to focus on conflict resolution and improved listening skills arose from the ESOL 4 curriculum, particularly the novel "The Outsiders," which the students read last fall, Zompa said. "One of the main themes in 'The Outsiders' is conflict and the negative consequences that can result from a lack of communication," she said. Rothlisberger, Zompa and ESOL teacher Kristin Ruopp brainstormed ideas for a service project based on the book, and CRCMC co-executive director Donnie Meurer led a free workshop about conflict managements and perceptions of conflict with the ESOL 4 students in the fall, according to Zompa. "They were different themes, but all with the goal of emphasizing how communication is the key to working out problems," she said.

Meurer said that communication skills are an essential ability for everyone to have, since breakdowns in interpersonal relations can occur regardless of language. "I think it's essential for all students, but frequently when there's language barriers there's also maybe cultural differences, so in those situations, instead of jumping to conclusions," he said. "Using conflict management can help to get clarity or find out where somebody's coming from."

ESOL 4 students said a few weeks after the experience that they had learned new lessons from conducting the workshops. Senior Adi Megayo, who moved here from Cote d'Ivoire in 2006, said that working in a group to lead a class activity helped strengthen her self-confidence. "We practiced and memorized what we wrote on paper," Megayo said. "It has helped me in many ways, because at the beginning I was nervous, but at the end I wasn't."

Similarly, senior Nazma Begum, who moved here from Bangladesh in 2006, said that listening to the students' varied responses provided a unique perspective. "[We would] ask, 'How do you feel? What's your experience?'" Begum said. "And each student had a different kind of answer."

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