written by IEI Communications and Marketing Intern, Hyein Lee
In order to support students’ future academic plans and career paths, the IEI offers different class options to help meet students’ needs. All students are placed into the most appropriate level for them, ranging from Level 100 (beginner) to Level 600 (advanced). Students that place into levels 500 and 600 can then choose one of two tracks, Academic or Everyday, for their core Listening-Speaking and Reading-Writing courses which each meet for a total of six hours per week. Along with the electives offered, upper-level students have many choices to make.
For students, it might not be easy to decide between the Everyday and Academic English track as they advance into higher levels instruction. And there is no right or wrong choice, but one may be a better option than the other depending on students’ needs and interests. Academic or Everyday, that is the question!
So, let’s take a closer look at the first choice upper-level students will need to make – Academic or Everyday?
In general, the Academic Reading-Writing (ARW) and Academic Listening-Speaking (ALS) courses are designed for those who plan to enroll in an American university. Being in an American classroom can be exciting, but it also can be overwhelming without proper preparation. For those who are planning to continue their college level education in the US, the upper-level Academic track might be the best choice.
IEI teacher, LuAnn Sorenson, describes ARW as a bridge between ESL programs and college level courses. Once an English language learner reaches a higher proficiency level, they might feel that it’s more difficult to progress and see improvement. However, ARW challenges students to enhance their academic writing skills through three major papers and reading assignments designed to help students improve with constructing arguments. Notably, the textbooks used in the course are extremely similar to those used in American college classrooms. Therefore, in this track, students will be presented with opportunities to practice the same writing strategies that domestics students do. The class might be out of students’ comfort zone if they don’t generally enjoy writing, but it can be a positive way to start improving, with an enthusiastic and encouraging class environment.
LuAnn said the most helpful benefit from ARW are the one-on-one conferences. During the conference, each student has a chance to discuss the issues and questions about their writing skills with the instructor, which helps improve their writing objectives.
Similarly in Academic Listening-Speaking, students are able to practice taking notes on lecturers and participating as they are expected to do in an American college classroom which is not something all students are familiar with. Students also learn how to interact with other students and participate in class discussions. They practice how to work as a team, give feedback and criticism appropriately, and present materials to their peers. In some countries, educational culture does not necessarily require students to express their thoughts and opinions interactively. However, active participation is an important value in the American classroom.
IEI student, Mario, started in Level 600 Academic English track this semester and he’s in love with his classes. He said the IEI programs are well organized, and if students follow the curriculum they can improve their English in a very efficient manner. Also, one of the reasons why he loves the Academic track is that the class challenges him in a positive way. He firmly believes that what he is practicing right now will be beneficial for pursuing his master’s degree in the future. Mario is a great example of how the IEI can empower students through their English language skills that will lead to a successful future.
The Everyday English track is a great way to learn both the English language and American culture. Jim Sosnowski, an Everyday Reading and Writing (ERW) teacher, explains this course as an excellent opportunity for students to learn about American culture by digging into the text of an English language novel and other reading material. Along with readings, students are also expected to write a short reflection every week which encourages them to reflect on their experiences and culture and how that relates to the novel they are reading. Another great aspect of the class is that students can practice writing emails for different contexts and audiences.
Valerie Abbot, an Everyday Listening and Speaking (ELS) teacher, said she truly enjoys teaching her class because of the unique features of the Everyday English classes. Since the class focuses on daily conversation based on culture, students are very engaged. Students watch video clips from recently released TV shows and movies, and discuss new expressions as well as cultural aspects of media. The class discussions sometimes develop into a cultural melting pot as students from different cultures bring their own perspectives into the class discussion. This produces wonderful intercultural communication. The communication strategies that students learn and practice is like “coffeeshop talk.” The conversation starts with small talk, finding common ground, sharing opinions, and then transitions to deeper topics.
Everyday track student, Ahmed, has been enjoying learning English in the Level 600 Everyday English track almost a year. He loves his classes because he can focus on improving specific areas of communication such as small talk and storytelling. He especially believes that the Everyday Listening and Speaking class provides an entertaining learning experience through the use of movie clips and discussing American culture. His goal it to attend the University of Illinois to become a translator. His IEI coursework has been an excellent resource for him regarding interpersonal and intercultural communication, which he will definitely find useful in his future career.
How to Decide?
Whether students choose Academic or Everyday, the ultimate goal of both is singular: learning English! Academic and Everyday tracks are just two different options to reach this ultimate goal, and at IEI, students can freely choose depending on their future plans.
General English Language Learning Tips
Here are top five English language learning tips from both Academic and Everyday track teachers:
- Everything is a learning opportunity; keep an open mind!
- Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone.
- Make goals for yourself. Small and specific goals will motivate you and bring you closer to larger accomplishments.
- Take advantage of the many opportunities that the IEI offers.
- Maintain strong self-discipline, and also practice good time management.
No matter what a student’s needs and interests are, the IEI is here to help!