Blog 27

Introducing (and Deconstructing) York’s ESL Open Learning Centre….

OLC wordcloud site2016

Geoff Lawrence, Coordinator, ESL Open Learning Centre; Assistant Professor, ESL & Applied Linguistics

Tucked away on the third floor of the South Ross Building, lies a hidden teaching and learning gem that may have slipped under your radar: The ESL Open Learning Centre (ESL OLC) – in Ross S327.

For those of you wondering how to better support and engage the range of multilingual speakers in your classes  who are simultaneously navigating challenging course content with a new academic culture, course expectations AND aspects of the English language, this may be a resource you want to tap into.

The ESL OLC offers a range of services and resources for multilingual English-as-a-second/additional language (ESL) undergraduate and graduate students at York.

These services include:

  • One-on-one 50-minute tutorial sessions for students who want individualized guidance on English language use or help with academic communication skills.
  • 50-minute small group sessions for up to five students that offer students a chance to improve their academic speaking/listening skills or to work on specific areas of language use.
  • Dedicated small group sessions that focus on a range of topics that include building conversational or classroom discussion skills, organizing academic papers and providing guidance on course assignments (papers, group presentations, etc.)
  • Weekly workshops on improving pronunciation skills or refining presentation skills.
  • A Story Hub where students share and publish personal narratives about themselves, their journeys and their successes.
  • A range of resources and individualized guidance on academic and English language learning.

The OLC services are uniquely oriented to meet the evolving needs of York’s multilingual student population and act as a collective centre of specialists on academic English language learning.  Tutors and language facilitators working in the centre are experts in academic English language teaching and learning and can help students expand a range of communication and intercultural skills, building confidence in the process.  The tutorials are a place where students can receive individualized feedback and guidance on course work, including written assignments and presentations.  Tutors do not edit student’s work but instead work with students to develop autonomous learning strategies to be applied and expanded through class work.

Our small group sessions are particularly unique teaching environments where students work in a group on specific areas of language and/or academic work.  Students often stumble into the small group sessions as they tend to have more availability than the tutoring sessions.  These students then often get hooked as they connect with other students, the facilitator and work collaboratively over a series of sessions to refine their academic communication skills.

This year we’ve been launching dedicated small group sessions on specific areas of interest: sessions on building classroom discussion skills, organizing academic papers and working on class specific assignments.  Over the next academic year, we’ll be launching a series of new workshops, dedicated sessions and student-centred services.  If you have a specific area you’d like us to work on with your students (that relates to academic English language skills), email me glawrenc@yorku.ca and I’ll be happy to discuss this with you.

Students can register online for weekly appointments or come speak to one of our expert Monitors in our office who can guide students on appropriate pathways to meet their needs. We’ll be open on a reduced schedule throughout the 2016 summer session from May to July, so please include us in your teaching resource repertoire.  Next fall/winter we’ll be open Monday to Friday from September through April. As the 2016-17 year approaches, I’ll return with another blog entry on strategies to support and engage multilingual learners within your classes.

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