ESOL Conversation Program
Ziwei's Conversation Group
Hyunjong, Ziwei, Mengying, Qing and Yongdan
For Latest Program Updates, please visit our Program Blog.
Vision and Goals
The UMD ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Conversation Program is a student-centered community that specifically aims to bring students and community members from diverse cultures together through authentic language learning/teaching, cultural exchange, social activities, and a passion for minorities.
Video Clip on Our Program.
What we do in our program:
International participants who want to improve their conversational English skills are matched up with a volunteer who is a native English speakers or who speaks at a native speaker's level.
For ten weeks during a semester, participants meet with their assigned volunteer at least once a week for a one hour or one and a half hour conversation session.
During conversation sessions participants practice their oral English through discussions on various topics and other activities planned by the volunteer.
Conversation session types - We have the following types of conversation sessions:
Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Conversation partners (one participant and one volunteer)
Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Conversation Small Groups (2 participants and one volunteer in a conversation session)
Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Conversation Regular Conversation Groups (up to 8 participants and one volunteer in a conversation session)
Note: Conversation Groups: Meet weekly for 90 minutes with up to 8 ESOL participants and a volunteer. Each group meets for 10 sessions throughout the semester.
Conversation Partners: Meet one-on-one with a volunteer weekly for an hour each week. Each pair meets for 10 sessions throughout the semester
Conversation sessions for Spring 2014 start the week of February 24th, 2014 and end the week of May 5th, 2014.
More detailed explanation will be given at the registration session. Your proficiency level is based on self-assessment (what do you think your English proficiency level is).
Parking is free after 4:00 p.m. in numbered lots (lots 1-19)
*Note: numbered lots have white background and black letters (Lot 1 is recommended).
Parking permits for program volunteers may be granted through DOT but are not guaranteed.
*Shuttle bus letters are no longer distributed for ESOL participants. ESOL participants who wish to ride Shuttle UM should use their UID card or buy a semester pass from DOT. For more information on transportation, please go to Regulations under Shuttle UM on Department of Transportation's website
Carrie Lebaron's Conversation Group
Feng, Alex, Zhiwei, Carrie, Juan Li (left to right)
"Successful mastery of a foreign language will depend to a great extent on learners' autonomous ability both to take initiative in the classroom and to continue their journey to success beyond the classroom and the teacher" ~ Douglas Brown
Interested in Practicing English and Learning about different Cultures?
General Information for Students
All UMD members are eligible to participate in the ESOL Conversation Program as students free of charge.
UMD members include:
- UMD students (both graduate and undergraduate),
- international visiting scholars.
Non-UMD members are members without a university ID; they may also participate as students for a $75 fee per semester.
How to join:
- Fill out the student pre-registration form on the program blog.
- Come to the in-person registration session.
- Sign up for conversation session(s) online on Tutor Trac
Wait for e-mail confirmation from the program coordinator.
Student Registration Session:
Please check our website blog http://umdesol.weebly.com/ for up to date information about registration session dates, times and locations.
"Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Mead
- Volunteer pre-registration ends Sunday, February 2nd, 2014.
- Volunteer Registration and Training Sessions start the week of February 3rd, 2014.
- Make availabilities for your conversation session(s).
- To check the list of the tentative dates, time and location for the program Registration and Training sessions, please check http://umdesol.weebly.com/ for more information. Updated information will be posted immediately on Program Blog and Facebook Page.
Who can join the ESOL Program as volunteers?
Anyone who can speak English fluently can join the ESOL Conversation Program as volunteers. The volunteers do not have to be native speakers of English and do not need to have prior teaching experience. However, the volunteer must attend the Registration and Training session and other mandatory training workshops. Program coordinator will provide tips and guidelines on how to help ESOL participants to meet their learning goals and language needs.
What do the volunteers have to do?
The volunteers can facilitate conversation sessions to help international students, visiting scholars and community members to practice their oral communication skills. Each volunteer can determine the direction and flow of the conversation sessions. Suggestive session guidelines provide conversations around topics such as world cultures (including American cultures), values, beliefs, histories, global current events and more.
Where do we meet each week?
Conversation Partners can meet anywhere on campus in a public place. Some good places to go are Stamp, cafes on campus, and the libraries. Volunteers can request to have a classroom on campus to meet with their conversation partners. Volunteers should indicate so to the program coordinator at the registration session.
Conversation Group members will be assigned a classroom on campus. Unless pre-arranged with the students and the program coordinator, the groups should meet in the classroom weekly. Program coordinator will stop by conversation groups in order to observe and get to know the students and volunteers on a deeper level.
When do we meet each week?
The schedules for the conversation sessions are relatively flexible. Volunteers can choose time frame that are convenient for their schedule. Volunteers are asked to indicate several available time slots so that more students would be likely to be available for their sessions. The time frame for the start time of the sessions should be Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. /8 p.m. at the latest (7:30 p.m. for Conversation Groups and 8 p.m. for Conversation Partners. No groups should end after 9 p.m.
Why is it good for me to join?
This is a great way to meet people from other cultures, fields of studies while practice your leadership and teaching skills. In addition, you also learn about other cultures and ideas through joining the program. You may also request the program coordinator to observe you and write a recommendation letter for you.
How to join:
- Fill out the Volunteer Pre-registration Form for Spring 2014 on the program blog.
- Come to the in-person Registration and Training session.
- Give your availabilities for the semester at the session.
Wait for e-mail confirmation from the program coordinator.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do we have to meet at the same time every week?
- Conversation Groups should meet in the same place at the same time every week. Conversation Partners have more flexibility, but the time and location for the conversation sessions should be relatively consistent.
- Why do we need to attend the registration session in-person?
- ESOL Conversation Program registration sessions help both students and volunteers:
- get updated program information
- familiarize with Tutor Trac (software for attendance and making appointments)
- provide suggestions for the program
- engage in community building
- Are there conversation sessions during the winter and summer terms?
- ESOL Conversation Program only offers conversation sessions in the fall and spring semesters. ESOL participants are encouraged to stay in touch with their peers and the volunteers to meet on their own over the winter/summer terms.
- What have volunteer leaders done with their ESOL students in the past?
- The most common activity is simply talking. You should look over conversation topics, guidelines, and resources for suggestions before each conversation session.
Some volunteers do activities with their groups or speaking partners. This is especially helpful at the beginning when you do not know your student well or if your student's English is very limited. It is important to be sensitive to your ESOL student's language ability as well as his or her personality. Beginning students have more difficulty in noisy situations (such as a party, coffee hour, or crowded restaurants).
Some suggested activities include:
- Visit a museum in DC and take a tour
- Go out to eat: take your conversation partner to one of your favorite restaurants and have he or she take you to one of his/her (It is our program policy for students/volunteers go-Dutch: each person pays his/her own)
- Enjoy the outdoors:
- Bowling at the Stamp Union
- International Coffee Hour
- University events
- Playing or watching sports
- Picnicking on the quad
- Attending campus entertainment
- Playing games (board games, cards, etc.)
- What if I cannot meet with my student?
- If you know in advance that you cannot meet with your student, you need to:
- e-mail the ESOL conversation coordinator at least one week before your absence
- e-mail the other volunteers on the substitute list
If your absence is last minute, e-mail and call your student to let him or her know that you need to cancel that week's session. You may reschedule the missed session if it is convenient for you and your student.
- Why is rescheduling only by phone discouraged?
- Rescheduling sessions only by telephone may be difficult because some students have no telephone, live with others who speak little or no English, or just have difficulty understanding English over the phone. Consequently, messages regarding meetings may be misunderstood, garbled, or simply not passed on. All students/volunteers have e-mail accounts. Therefore, contact your volunteer/student(s) through e-mail if you need to reschedule the time and place. If you reschedule over the phone, please also make sure that you also send an e-mail to your student/volunteer for confirmation.
- What if my student asks me grammar questions that I cannot answer?
- Encourage your student to make an individual appointment with a learning specialist at the Learning Assistance Service. They can help your student with writing, grammar, note-taking, and other language and study skills.
ESOL Conversation Program Coordinator: Adam Lax
Office number 301-314-5919
Fax number: 301-314-9206
2202 Shoemaker Building
College Park, Maryland 20742
Expectations for the Program Coordinator:
The program coordinator's role is to help all participants involved in the conversation program meet their professional teaching and/or learning goals through the following:
- Shows awareness of and respect for individuals with varied backgrounds and experiences
- Shares information and resources that might be helpful to ESOL participants and volunteers with energy and enthusiasm
- Reads and responds to ESOL Participants and volunteer's e-mail in a timely manner
Our program endorses life-long learning for our faculty, staff, students and volunteers. Therefore, we are open to new ideas and suggestions for our program. You can give feedback by providing us with your suggestions, comments, and concerns in the following ways:
- e-mail or call the program coordinator
- stop by the office during the walk-in hours or schedule an appointment
- fill out mid-semester evaluation and end-of-the-year evaluation surveys
- leave an anonymous comment by clicking here (ongoing suggestion/comment link)
- Giving/Receiving Gifts
We do not encourage students to give volunteers gifts, treat them to dinners, or buy them coffee etc. However, in order to take our students' cultural backgrounds and customs into considerations, we can only require our students not to give the volunteer anything that is more than $10 in value (for the whole semester). Please do not give/receive cash, checks as gifts.
- Conversation Partners are recommended to meet at a public place and preferably on campus unless you are going to visit a museum or a restaurant.
- If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, please contact the program coordinator as soon as possible. The well-being and safety of our students and volunteers is our priority. Many cultures, including American culture, value personal space highly.
Other useful websites:
Program related Websites
Resources for Volunteers and Students
For more tips and session guidelines, please visit our program Facebook webpage and join our Facebook Group.