Frequently Asked Questions about Small Group Classes
Who are the students?
Each of your students has a unique story. They may have just arrived in the U.S., or they may have lived in this
country for many years. The age range is wide, as are educational backgrounds. Some are refugees while others
have come for a specific job. They have come from Asia, Central and South America, Europe, and Africa, but here
they are all isolated and limited by their inability to communicate and their unfamiliarity with the culture.
How long is each class session, and how often do classes meet?
Our ESL classes meet for two hours, once a week. Classes do not meet on holidays or during school closures, if the
meeting place is in a school. If you or your class needs to cancel a session please notify the ESL Coordinator as
far in advance as possible.
How many weeks does each class run?
With the exception of "Citizenship" and a few special focus groups, classes begin in October and continue (with breaks)
into June, in three 10-week sessions.
Is it necessary to teach for all three sessions?
Although it is not required, we prefer to have teachers stay for all 30 classes. A change of leadership generally
results in a drop in attendance and always interrupts the continuity of the class.
Do volunteers have to be trained if they already have educational training or experience in teaching ESL?
Yes. In order to fulfill grant requirements, all of our ESL volunteers receive training through the
Tacoma Community House Training Project.
Will I be teaching by myself?
You may be working alone, but whenever possible we try to assign two volunteers to each class. This allows the
teachers to share the responsibility of lesson planning, to give special assistance to students who may be having
trouble, or to divide the class into smaller, ability-based groups.
What if I have to miss one or more classes?
If you are teaching with another volunteer, he or she may be able to conduct the class alone. It is best to phone
Hopelink Adult Education and speak to your ESL Coordinator. Please try to speak directly with a staff person rather than
leaving a message. Class may be cancelled if there is no one to take your place. Occasionally we have a substitute,
in which case we will need your lesson plans.
How can I encourage students to attend class regularly?
Read the Effective Leadership tips. Don't be discouraged if attendance fluctuates. There
are many reasons that students might miss class, most of which are beyond the teacher's control.
Why not charge a tuition fee to encourage attendance?
Because our program funding is grant-based, classes must be free.
What information do I need to keep track of?
Volunteer Hours: At the end of every month you will need to report (online, in person or by phone) the number of
hours you have spent volunteering, including time spent on: training and meetings, preparation for classes and teaching.
Student Attendance: You will need to keep a weekly attendance record.
A copy will be collected from you at the end of each month and at the end of each quarter.
What is meant by ESL levels, and how many different levels are there?
The Washington State Office of Adult Education identifies 6 skill levels for adult ESL students.
Hopelink's Adult Education program provides classes for ESL levels one, two, and three.
How will I know what my students' levels are?
Each student is assigned to a class level based on his/her performance on an oral screen and on a reading placement
assessment. We use the national standardized CASAS tests.
Is there a curriculum for group leaders to follow when teaching an ESL class for Hopelink's Adult Education Program?
No. We offer student-centered lessons therefore lessons should focus on meeting students' real-life needs, and those will differ for each individual class.
Lesson topics should be determined by reviewing students' goals. We will provide a "Pre-survey" goal-setting
form (Level 1, Level 2,
Level 3) for leaders to administer at the beginning of the year; a copy then goes into our student files.
Where can I find lesson ideas? That's what this web site is for. Here you will find resource lists, lesson ideas and teaching tips.
Look in the Basic ESL, Workplace Skills, Talk Time, Citizenship, and Reading/Writing sections for good ideas and practical advice.
What other opportunities for second-language learners are offered at Hopelink Adult Education?
We offer Citizenship classes for students who test at level two or above.
Talk Time sessions are informal conversation classes intended for students at multiple
levels. Some students, having good oral skills but lacking in basic literacy, may be placed with an individual tutor for one-on-one sessions.