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Beginning an ELL Session

The Writing Center

Beginning an ELL Session

Building Rapport and Building Trust

As discussed in Chapter 2, “The Architecture of a Tutoring Session,” the rapport and assessment parts of the tutoring session can help with identifying potential ELL students as well as quickly recognizing common errors in your student’s paper. Rapport building is one of the most important elements in an ELL tutoring session because it establishes trust, encourages communication, and creates a safe space for learning. This is important for any student, but can be especially so for ELL students who may be uncomfortable with their linguistic skills. Sometimes, though not always, you can extrapolate the student’s writing needs from listening to their verbal communication. Next, reading through the first paragraph of the student’s paper allows you to quickly develop a sense of the types of issues that need to be addressed. This once-over can help you to gauge the amount of time to spend on macro versus micro writing problems. Use the rapport and assessment times wisely: thinking critically about what your student’s needs are at the beginning of the session can help to steer the session in a clear, organized manner.

Reconcile the Student’s Priorities with the Issues You Identify

When you look at an ELL student’s writing, you may see many different errors in any given sentence, let alone the first paragraph; with others, the grammar may be fine and the paper may look fine, but with further reading, you realize that there are no end marks, or the logic seems circular or without clear direction (see Chapter 2, different cognitive processes). Recognizing what your student’s goals are can be just as or more important than clearly identifying “problems” in the work. 
Once you have a clear sense of what they want to work on, you–as the writing expert–should also consider the situation. For example, if they want you to “check their grammar,” but you see that they lack paragraphs or in-text citations, you should point out these issues and why they are more problematic than grammar alone. 
Remember, you are the ambassador of academic writing, so you need to help your students achieve their writing goals and advise when there is a problem with the writing that goes beyond the scope of what they recognize. It’s all part of the learning process. Don’t bully your student, but DO advise if they are missing something that they need to be worried about!