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Non-Native English Speaking TAs

If you are a non-native English speaking TA, you may find that your TA assignment creates some unique problems for you due to differences in both language and culture. This section provides you with some suggestions to help make an easier transition into the undergraduate classroom.


Planning for your sections, as mentioned earlier, is an important key to you success as a TA. In addition to specifying and sequencing your instructional objectives and selecting appropriate materials and strategies of accomplishing your section goals, you might want to consider the following suggestions in planning your sections:

  • Develop written materials (i.e., handouts) which summarize or highlight what you intend to cover in a given section. The use of handouts can serve as an effective teaching supplement for any TA, but they may be especially useful for you if there is a chance that your students will have difficulty understanding your spoken word.
  • Make a list of any new discipline-related words or concepts (e.g., supply function, demand curve, criterion-referenced test, null hypothesis, etc.) that you plan to introduce or discuss for the first time in your section. The suggestions for using these lists will be included in our discussion for implementing what you've planned.


  • You may discover that, on occasion, you have trouble understanding your students and they have trouble understanding you. The suggestions below may help with these problems:
  • CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE IN YOUR CLASSROOM WHICH PROMOTES OPEN DIALOGUE between you and your students. If you're willing, acknowledge that your English isn't quite perfect (but you're working on it) and encourage students to ask you to clarify what you've said or to help you out if you're mispronouncing something.
  • TEACH YOUR STUDENTS TO USE THE PHRASE, "I DO NOT UNDERSTAND..." The freedom for students to say this may help to further promote open discussions in your sections.
  • WRITE NEW TERMS OR CONCEPTS ON THE BOARD as you introduce them (you should have them on the list you made when planning your section). This will serve to reinforce the new term in writing as you say it. Your students will quickly learn to associate what they see on the board with what you are saying.
  • AVOID TALKING WITH YOUR BACK TO YOUR STUDENTS. You will increase the probability of being understood by facing your class while speaking to them. This provides students with an opportunity to see you form your words.
  • TRY TO SPEAK SLOWLY AND CLEARLY so that students will have every opportunity to understand what you are saying.

a. ask the student to repeat or rephrase the question;
b. ask another student to rephrase it;
c. redirect the question back to the class (e.g., "That's a good question...can someone answer it?");
d. attempt to rephrase the question yourself and answer it only after you are sure of what the student is asking.


You will want to find ways to assess the success of your students in mastering the material that is being presented. Throughout this manual there are suggestions about formally evaluating what you've done (quizzes, TA evaluations, etc.). What follows are some informal methods of evaluating your instruction and student learning:

  • Provide students with ample opportunities to ask questions. Try asking "What are your questions?" to let your students know you expect and encourage them to have questions. This will help to identify where students are confused and to pinpoint areas which need further instruction or clarification.
  • Periodically ask questions designed to assess whether students have understood what has been presented or discussed in section. If answers flow from your students, continue with the material. If your students seem unable to respond, spend some time diagnosing the problems with the material up to that point (e.g., "Where are you having trouble? ) before you continue the lesson.


ESL: TA Workshop

This course is offered through the Linguistics Department for graduate students who have been awarded teaching assistantships. Classwork will involve observation of successful TAs in an individual student's department, preparation of lessons to be delivered to the practicum class, discussion of the interaction between teaching assistants and their students, and discussion of and practice with various teaching styles.

consultation contacts

George Michaelsexecutive director2130 Kerr Hall
lisa berrysenior instructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
mindy colininstructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
Mary Lou Ramos database and ESCI administrator1130 Kerr Hall
TBD ESCI assistant1124 Kerr Hall


Laurel Shaddixoffice manager 1130 Kerr Hall
faxfax: 805-893-5915