Success Stories: Learning to Participate

In these posts, I want to share the stories of my past students and clients. I’m very proud of their accomplishments, and I think their successes reflect my skills as a teacher and coach. I hope these stories will paint a clearer picture of my goals for Artglish and how I can help others to succeed in reaching their dreams.

Who is this story about?

Jeff was a graduate student at the art university where I worked for five years. I was his first English teacher in the program, and I also supported him in his art classes. (In our school, ESL teachers would attend the art and design major classes to take notes and assist the ESL students with their English.) Jeff was very talented at both drawing and photography, but he rarely shared his ideas or opinions in class.

What was the problem?

After getting to know Jeff for several weeks in my classroom, I could tell that he had things he wanted to say, but couldn’t. He would start to share an idea but then would get flustered and give up because he felt embarrassed. Or he would just sit quietly and not participate at all. I noticed this both in my class and in his major art classes. I realized that he had two problems that we needed to solve.

The first problem was that he didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about his work or the work other students were making. He’d try to explain but then wouldn’t know which words to use and eventually got too frustrated to continue. There is a lot of specialized vocabulary in the art and design fields, and knowing how to use it correctly can be difficult.

The second problem was that since my students were beginner-level English learners, they had not yet learned the language for critique. This is the kind of language we use whenever we share an opinion, but knowing the correct phrases to use is something that non-native speakers have to learn. It’s also important to learn how to give feedback politely so that you don’t offend the person whose work you’re looking at. So Jeff needed the vocabulary to describe his work and the phrases to share his thoughts!

How did I help?

First, I created vocab study sets in Quizlet, which is an awesome free program with many different tools and games for learning vocabulary. My students loved it and they quickly learned many of the art and design terms they needed to express themselves. It’s a great way to memorize anything on flashcards or diagrams!

I also created some language cards with phrases for different kinds of language tasks. There was a card for asking questions, another one for sharing an opinion, a card for agreeing and disagreeing, and a card for responding to feedback. Each card had some sentence starters on it, like the examples below. We used the cards to play a game, and every time a student used a card in critique, he or she would get a point. At the end of class, they added up their points to get a small bonus to their grade for the day.

It was a really fun way to get the students to participate more, and it worked! After a couple of weeks, Jeff was jumping right in and couldn’t wait to use his cards! It was great to see his transformation and to finally hear his ideas and comments about the art and designs we were looking at in class. As a teacher or coach, it’s a great feeling to see your students overcome their challenges and begin to shine!

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I want to help you too!

If you are looking for this kind of help, I’m happy to work with you too! I’ve coached clients in different areas of art and design who have trouble expressing their ideas or opinions in meetings or in the classroom. I can teach you many strategies to help you succeed and I’m happy to practice with you until you feel you can say what you want with confidence.

If you’d like more tips on how to become a better speaker, you can download my free guideHow to speak with confidence (10 tips for non-native English speakers). If you want to know more about working with an English language coach, you can take a look at the Learn page or schedule a free trial lesson so we can talk about what you need and how I can help!

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Jessica

I help artists and designers with their English so they can focus on being creative and changing the world.

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