Department offers advanced courses

By Karla Juarez, Advocate Staff

The English as a second language (ESL) department prepares its students for regular English courses by offering advanced grammar and writing classes.

Students that learn a second language go through a process to reach English proficiency.

Throughout that transition ESL students need advanced ESL classes, like Writing 5, which is equivalent to English 142B, and grammar 5 in order to be prepared for English 1A.

ESL instructor Shelley Ruby said, “We (ESL instructors) work hard on levels (reading, writing and grammar) 4 and 5 especially in the past 10 years.”

Ruby said, “We work really hard to raise our expectations for students, and really focus on academic writing, idea development and strong critical thinking skills, which include reading skills and applying those critical reading skills to their writing.”

Ruby said grammar classes emphasize the importance of editing and help students to practice reading their own writing, finding mistakes and it reminds students that, in regular English classes, professors expect minimal grammar mistakes.

“I think the Writing 5 class is a better preparation for English 1A than anything else because it has a research paper, so that’s a curriculum issue that will help,” Ruby said.

Ruby said ESL professors plan to keep open communication with English 142B and 142A professors.

ESL instructors work with regular English instructors to look for better strategies for their students.

ESL instructor Anoosheh Borhan has a rubric and a grading sheet for the checkpoint test that would given in 142B to check what English teachers are looking for at the midterm, compared to what they (ESL teachers) are looking for, Ruby said.

“That’s valuable information for us, to see the specific qualities such as clear thesis, having a certain numbers of run-on sentences. Those things I try to incorporate to my lessons in my writing class.

Ruby said she is going to observe English professors and discuss what the expectations are for those (142A and 142B) classes, in oder for the ESL (courses) can better prepare students for those classes.

Their expectations are high, so many students do not pass Writing 5, she said.

“The stereotype is that ESL classes are easy, but I taught Writing 5 class in spring 2016 and I had just one A. There are a lot of Cs and Bs, but not for students’ lack of trying. It’s just because they are not ready yet for English 1A,” Ruby said.

Some students prefer to finish all ESL levels before taking English classes and this is something that she recommended as well.

Business major Victor Ivan Oliva said taking Writing 5 was one of the best decisions he made since when he took English1A, he didn’t have difficulties, and he passed it with a strong A.

“The ESL department prepared me for regular English classes since it offers advanced grammar classes as well, so I took all the advanced levels in order to take regular English classes,” Oliva said.

He said, “Writing level 5 class prepared me to organize and write a research paper. Also, ESL teachers  offered office hours after class. It is convenient for students to ask questions about something that they don’t understand during class.”

Borhan said, “A lot of my students, especially high school students, share that they had bad experiences with ESL (classes) since in their high schools have low expectations.

“ESL classes in Contra Costa College are not the same as high school. Our classes are very useful and prepare students for regular classes.”

Borhan said, according to ESL department research, ESL students who took Writing 4 and Writing 5 courses had a higher success rates in English 1A than native speakers. 

She said ESL classes are useful and help non-native speakers succeed.