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Tutoring Non-Native English Speaking Students

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Almost two out of five first-time freshmen at CUNY (38.2%) identify themselves as non-native speakers of English. These students have very diverse backgrounds, experiences, and needs, but they have all learned English as a second (or third or fourth) language. This unit help you understand the term "Non-Native English Speaking" (NNES) students and Introduce you to NNES students at CUNY.
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A Guide to
Tutoring Non-Native
English Speaking Students
a resource for tutor training and support
C e n t e r f o r e n g l i s h l a n g u a g e s u p p o r t , j o h n j ay C o l l e g e
C e n t e r f o r e n g l i s h l a n g u a g e l e a r n e r s , Q u e e n s b o r o u g h C o m m u n i t y C o l l e g e

Created in 2007
on a U.S. Department of Education
(Title V Collaborative) Grant
awarded to John Jay College of Criminal Justice (JJC)
and Queensborough Community College (QCC)
editor
Kate Szur, JJC
materials writers
Christopher Davis, JJC
Ashley Minihan, QCC
Wendy Small, JJC
Fasil Yitbarek, JJC
designer
Todd Betterley
Copy editor
Cornelia Preda, JJC
Printed at the John Jay Print Shop
Photo credits: Unless otherwise credited, all photos are from iStockphoto.com.
Photos from other sources include the following: Front cover (top), first and
fourth photos from left © 2007 JupiterImages Corporation; third image from
left © Corbis 2007.
 A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students

Table of Contents

4 NoN-NAtive eNGlish speAkiNG (NNes)

studeNts At CuNY: AN iNtroduCtioN
4
4 4 Understanding the term “Non-Native English Speaking” (NNES) students

5 NNES students at CUNY

8 prepAriNG to work with

NoN-NAtive eNGlish speAkiNG (NNes) studeNts

8 Identifying and working with different kinds of NNES students

10 Situations and solutions

14 Communicating with NNES students who have difficulty

speaking or understanding English

15 Using notes and diagrams to help students understand and remember

16
16 tutoriNG NoN-NAtive eNGlish speAkiNG (NNes)

studeNts iN ACAdemiC subjeCts

16
16 Recognizing and addressing gaps in NNES students’ background knowledge

18
18 Assisting students with unfamiliar vocabulary

20
0 Developing NNES students’ note-taking skills

2 1
15
21 Providing strategies to NNES students for reading in college courses

21 Reading newspaper and magazine articles

22 Reading textbooks

23 Reading and interpreting graphs and charts

24 Understanding academic journals

25 Understanding primary sources

26 Reading fiction
28 tutoriNG NoN-NAtive eNGlish speAkiNG (NNes)

studeNts iN writiNG
28 Clarifying the assignment

29 Setting priorities and expectations for the tutoring session

30 Working on development, organization, and argument



34 Giving feedback on style

34 Emphasizing the need for revising

35 Handling plagiarized work

36 Explaining and helping students to correct grammar

38 resourCes for tutoriNG

NoN-NAtive eNGlish speAkiNG (NNes) studeNts
38 Resources








39 Worksheets







39 Online exercises







A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students 

Non-Native English Speaking
(NNES) students at CUNY
An Introduction
Almost two out of five first-time freshmen at
CUNY (38.2%) identify themselves as non-native
speakers of English. These students have very
diverse backgrounds, experiences, and needs,
but they have all learned English as a second
(or third or fourth) language.
t h i s u n i t w i l l . . .
u Help you understand the term
“Non-Native English Speaking” (NNES) students
u Introduce you to NNES students at CUNY
Understanding the term “Non-Native
English Speaking” (NNES) students
“Non-Native English Speaking” (NNES) students are students who
learned another language before they learned English. They often
speak their first language at home, while using English in school.
NNES students are also
They may need
If they came to the
referred to as “English
to develop skills in
United States recently,
as a Second Language”
reading, writing,
they may also need
(ESL) students or
or understanding
to learn more about
“English Language
academic English.
American culture.
Learners” (ELLs).
 A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students

N
O
NNES students at CUNY
N
-
N
A
T
I
V
NNES students at CUNY differ in many ways.
E

E
N
G
L
I
These students could:
S
H

S
Have grown up in another country
P
E

or in the United States
A
K
I
N
G

Know all about life in the United States,
(
N
N

or very little
E
S
)

S
T
Speak English like a native speaker
U
D

or have trouble expressing themselves
E
N
TS

A
Have learned English mostly from books
T

C

or from talking with their peers
U
N
Y
Have advanced academic skills

or still need help studying for college
They might think of themselves as being:
A non-native English speaker

or a native speaker
American, another nationality (e.g., Chinese)

or both (e.g., Chinese-American)
© Corbis 2007
A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students 

© 2007 JupiterImages Corporation
SAm
I’m doing OK in my classes and
understand most of what my
professors say, but I have trouble
speaking up in class.
When I do, people
don’t seem to understand me. Also, I’m
really having trouble with my writing.
AnnA
I can’t seem to write what I mean.
I don’t even really know why my teacher
said I need help with my English. I was
Sam came to the United States in the ninth
only in ESL for a couple of years. I mean, I got
grade and then started attending NYC
all As and Bs in high school, and my teachers
public schools. In his native country he
never marked my papers like they do now.
was a good student, wrote well in his first
language and acquired good study skills.
Sam is a serious and motivated student;
Anna came to the United States at about age 4
however, since he came to the United
and attended NYC public schools. She is
States, he has mostly interacted with
bilingual, sounds like a native English speaker,
people who speak his first language, so he
and knows all about life in NYC.
is not as fluent as Anna and is sometimes a
Because Anna is an ear learner (she learned
bit difficult to understand. He is not familiar
English mainly through listening instead of
with idiomatic expressions and lacks some
reading), she writes like she speaks, so her writ-
background knowledge of American culture.
ing is often too informal for academic papers.
Sam does well with grammar exercises, but
She needs help organizing and developing the
his writing still contains grammar mistakes
ideas in her papers. She makes mistakes, such
and awkward phrases. His papers are fairly
as leaving off -ed and -s endings, and misspells
well organized; however, he has trouble
words that sound alike, such as aloud instead of
expressing his thoughts, opinions and
allowed.
complex ideas in writing.
 A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students

N
O
N
-
N
A
T
AlEx
I
V

E

E
I can speak OK, but I can’t write too
N
well! I don’t really know where to begin;
G
L
all I know is I need a lot of help with
I
S
my English.
H

jEn
S
P

E
A
When Alex came to the United States he
I just want you to fix my grammar.
K
I
was placed in the fifth grade in a NYC public
The content of my paper is good; it doesn’t
N
G
school, even though he had only received
need any changes.

(
N
a third-grade education in his native
N
country. Also, because he left his country
E
S
while stil in elementary school, he did
Jen, who recently arrived in the United States,
)

S
not gain a strong background in reading,
received a very good education in her country.
T
writing or grammar in his first language.
Even though she is a confident student, she is
U
D
As a result, there are many gaps in his
less comfortable speaking and has a stronger
E
N
education. Alex only began learning English
accent than other NNES students.
TS
when he came to the United States. He can
Jen has only been here for a short time and

A
handle everyday conversations but has a
T
therefore is not familiar with idiomatic ex-

lot of trouble discussing academic topics.
C
pressions. However, she knows more about
U
Alex is eager to do well at college. How-
academic topics, world history and current
N
Y
ever, he feels overwhelmed at times, and
events than other NNES students. Jen learned
his lack of academic skills prevents him
English primarily through reading and writing,
from progressing as quickly as he would
and though she still makes some grammar
like to. He is not that familiar with some
mistakes, she is very comfortable with gram-
academic topics discussed in college and
mar terms and concepts and prefers to focus
needs a lot of help with brainstorming
on grammar mistakes rather than on writing
and developing his ideas as well as with
issues. Her writing does contain complex and
organization and study skills in general.
well-thought-out ideas. However, her papers
Alex never studied grammar, so he has a
can be hard to follow. This may be because she
hard time understanding grammar terms
learned to write in her country in a style that
and concepts.
differs from the American style.
uNit 1 QUESTIOnS fOr rEflEcTIOn And dIScUSSIOn
1. Can you describe how . Can you recall some
. An NNES student comes to your
you have identified
tutoring strategies you
tutoring center and says that she
NNES students in the
have used with NNES
is not doing well in some of her
past? After reading this
students? Have you used
classes. You are surprised because
unit, can you think of
different strategies for
she speaks English fluently. What
some new ways to
NNES students with
kinds of problems do you think
identify NNES students?
different backgrounds
she may be having with her class
and needs?
work? How can you help her?
A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students 

Preparing to work with
Non-Native English Speaking
(NNES) students
Tutoring NNES students is a great experience for a tutor. You
learn how to interact with people from diverse cultural and
language backgrounds, and develop skills that will be valuable
for any career you choose.
t h i s u n i t w i l l h e l p yo u. . .
u Identify and work with different kinds of NNES students
u Find solutions for typical tutoring situations
u Communicate with NNES students who have difficulty
speaking or understanding English
u Use notes and diagrams to help students understand
and remember
Identifying and working with
different kinds of NNES students
QHow do I know who To identify nnES students:
is an NNES student?
Ask students who seem to have difficulty understanding
or speaking English if they speak another language.
It’s not always obvious if
someone is an NNES student.

Anote if they are not familiar with common vocabulary.
Some may have grown up in
the United States and speak

check their writing for typical NNES student errors.
English well, but still have
problems with writing and
grammar.

 A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students

P
R
E
P
A
R
I
N
G
I’m not sure why a student
Many NNES students who already
Q

TO
finished ESL classes in elementary
got offended when I called
or high school see themselves as

him an ESL student.
W
native speakers.
O
A
R
If they’ve lived in America for some
K

time, they may not think of themselves
W
as immigrants or even know a lot
To avoid labeling nnES
I
T
about the country their parents
students, treat each
H
came from.

N
student as an individual:
N
E
Ask specific questions
S

to identify NNES students, such as:
S
T
Do you speak another language?
U
D
let the student describe himself
E
N
rather than assuming something
TS
about his background.
Avoid using labels like ESL,
non-native speaker, immigrant, or
your country unless the student
uses these words.
learn students’ names. Have
the student say his name. Try to
connect his name to something
about him.
QWhy do my tutoring
sessions go well with
some NNES students but
not with others?
A To understand nnES
students’ needs:
Observe
how comfortable the student is
using English.
Ask questions like: Where did you go to
NNES students can have very
high school? Have you studied English
different needs. Some are recent
with a grammar book?
immigrants who are still learning
to understand and speak English.

Adjust your tutoring style depending on
Others can speak English well but
how well the student understands English
need help with English grammar
or grammar.
and writing.
Share ideas and techniques with other
tutors who work with NNES students.
A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students 

Situations and solutions
QSome NNES students will say: NNES students who speak English
My English is fine. I don’t
well may not understand how they
really need help with that.
still need to improve their skills in
academic reading and writing,

AHow should I respond? and English grammar.
To work with students
who are reluctant to
get tutoring:
Explain that you are tutoring
academic skills.
Academic writing
and reading skil s are important to
every student and needed in a variety of
subjects, from sociology to chemistry.
make the student aware of her
specific problems with comprehension,
writing, and grammar.
Show her how to solve problems
on her own.
motivate the student by letting her
know how improving her writing and
grammar will help her be successful at
school and in her career.
QStudents sometimes expect
to finish their assignment
in the session, but it’s not
possible. What should I do?
ATo manage student expectations:
review the assignment at the start
of the session to see what the student
needs to do.
Prioritize what needs to be done with
NNES students may need help with
the student.
understanding the assignment,
make a plan for the session and share
organizing and developing content,
and correcting grammar. There may

it with him.
not be time in one session to help the
review at the end of the session what
student with all these needs.
you’ve done and what the student still
needs to finish.
10 A Guide to Tutoring NNES Students

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