Although Middlebury does not have an intensive English acquisition or ESL program, CTLR is committed to supporting students who are non-native speakers of English.

We offer language support in a number of ways:

  • The Writing Program offers a First-Year Seminar and Writing Workshop courses (WRPR 0100 and WRPR 0101).
  • Workshops in reading, writing, and speaking, as well as individual sessions with peer tutors and writing faculty. 
  • Collaboration with staff and faculty across the campus to support students within their programs of study.
  • Peer tutors are given training and resources for working with these students.
  • Courses, workshops, and faculty development opportunities are occasionally offered.

Tips for Supporting the Writing Process

  • Be very explicit about expectations and grading criteria for assignments. Take time to discuss key terms and disciplinary language that are used in assignment prompts and handouts. Give students time to ’digest’ and clarify what you are asking for. Remember that many of your assumptions about students who have grown up in the U.S. may not apply to international or immigrant students. For example, many multilingual/ESL students do not know what the five-paragraph essay is. They also may not recognize colloquial vs. scholarly language.
  • Encourage multi-stage writing by requiring that students complete “scaffolding” assignments that build up to the final draft. This may include asking students to submit a thesis, outline, abstract, bibliography, and/or first page for the paper before the draft is due. This also includes encouraging (or requiring) that students get feedback from peers and/or tutors during the writing process.
  • Help students prioritize what to work on throughout the process. Thesis formation, overall organization, and use of support are usually the most important aspects of early drafts. Students who become too concerned about stylistic or mechanical issues early in the process often miss the big picture.
  • Share your own writing strategies (and struggles). As teachers and scholars, we have a good deal of first-hand knowledge about how difficult writing can be. We also know what our strengths and weaknesses are as writers. By sharing this with students, we not only offer insight into the scholarly world, but also ease some of their anxieties about how challenging writing can be.
  • Support long-term language growth, rather than short-term fixes. Research into second language acquisition has found that it may take students up to 10 years of academic work in a language to become fully fluent. Even then, there is usually some degree of spoken and written accent.

Tips for Helping with Grammar and Language 

The best way to support multilingual/ESL students with grammar/language concerns is to develop a support model that includes yourself, your peer mentor (if applicable), and other CTLR tutors.

  • The first step is to talk with the student(s) to learn more about what challenges were faced on the assignment. Did they understand the assignment (and/or the course readings it references)?  Did they know what they wanted to say?  Did they allocate enough time for completing and reviewing the assignment?
  • Keep in mind that in many cases, unclear writing results from confusion about content—not just grammar. In addition, rhetorical strategies differ by language, so what appears “off-topic” or “irrelevant” in one context may not be seen as such in another. Citation and use of sources differ by context as well.
  • Once you and the student have considered the various factors which might have impacted the writing process for this assignment, develop a plan for how this assignment might be revised (if possible), and/or how the student might produce clearer work for the next assignment. You may wish to encourage students to make an appointment with one of the CTLR professionals. In addition, all peer mentors/tutors receive training in supporting multilingual/ESL writers, as well as in how to help students with grammar (while still avoiding becoming the de facto editors for student work). Together, we are the authorized aid for student writers.
  • Consider giving a separate grade for grammar/style/language use within your evaluation rubric. This allows you to acknowledge strengths in content/argument/organization while still recognizing that some students need to continue to work on the clarity of their writing.

For additional information on supporting Multilingual and ESL students see the Writing and Rhetoric Progam Faculty Resources.

Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research
Davis Family Library, Suite 225
Middlebury, VT 05753