Engaging English Learners
The VCU English Language Program (ELP) integrates English learning with activities in the community, excursions, and projects so students can extend their language skills. Courses average 16 students, which allows students one-on-one attention and ample practice opportunities. The professional faculty, who hold advanced degrees in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), create stimulating, thought-provoking, and level-appropriate activities and tasks to broaden students’ language abilities.
Creative language projects are combined with excursions into the community to the Capitol of Virginia and the Virginia Fine Arts Academy among other locations to expand learners’ vocabulary, writing, speaking, and other skills.
English learners are also connected with American students on campus as well as diverse international students through activities at the Globe Living Learning Community and excursions to orchards, beaches, Washington D.C., and Jamestown. Students communicate through English in these settings to develop life-long friendships along with their conversational abilities and cultural knowledge.
Connecting English Learners to Academic Courses and University Degrees
An important Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) goal is to increase the number of international students in academic, degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. To reach this goal, VCU offers conditional admissions to students who need only a little English language support before they begin coursework. In other words, students can apply to VCU for international admissions and receive a conditional acceptance to begin English courses. In many cases, students may take other university academic courses in their majors or specializations while taking English courses.
The ELP links students to academics by gradually building from social language in Level 1, to “light” academic topics in Level 2, and finally to more complex academic topics in Level 3 (in both oral and written communication courses). Students learn how to listen to long university lectures and record notes, communicate in small workgroups with peers, read advanced-level academic texts and articles, and write thoughtful and complex academic essays and research reports.
As students reach the completion of the ELP, another campus office, the International Students and Scholars Program (ISSP) connects students to their academics by providing application support, academic advising, and transition student orientation.
Helping Students Reach Their Life Goals
The VCU English Language Program (ELP) serves as a channel, not a barrier, for students from five continents to reach their life goals, whether those goals are personal enrichment through language and culture immersion, professional development through academic English classes in business or engineering, or academic growth through academic English and conditional admissions.
The ELP faculty work toward English learners’ individual goals in classes designed toward students’ needs and interests. They design lessons that are supportive of learners in their language learning process so that students are not embarrassed or fearful. Students are coached on how to expand their conversational and academic vocabulary; practice grammar in realistic writing and speaking situations; manipulate language according to social and cultural factors; give stimulating presentations; listen for detail and comprehension; and read diverse short and longer essays, books, and articles.
The VCU ELP also helps groups of 10 or more by designing courses and special programs to meet the short-term specific language, cultural, and academic goals of businesses and educational organizations.
In the 21st century, English continues to play an important role as an international language, allowing speakers of differing languages to connect for work, research, and leisure. VCU encourages students to join the ELP and achieve their goals!