Q & A

Questions about ETE teachers and students

1. Is it necessary to be a native-English speaker in order to teach ETE?

No, it isn't. Some of the most effective teachers we know are not native speakers of the language they teach. While native-English speakers do have some advantages, we often tend to forget that those who have learned English as a second or foreign language also have some important advantages. They know firsthand what it's like to be a learner of another language. In addition, if they share a common language with their students, these teachers know which aspects of the language will be most challenging, and they have the advantage of being able to give explanations in the students' native language. (See Can non-native-English speakers be good ESL teachers?)

2. Is it necessary to take an ESL/EFL teacher training course before teaching this book?

When we wrote the Teacher's Guide, we assumed that those teaching this book would have no special training as ESL/EFL teachers. For that reason, we have included fairly detailed instructions for teaching each type of exercise and activity in ETE. However, we believe that the most effective teachers are those who intentionally focus on growing professionally throughout their teaching career. In the appendixes of the Student Text and Teacher's Guide, we have recommended a number of key resources (mostly books and websites) to help teachers continue to develop the kind of expertise that will make them even more effective in the classroom and in individual tutoring. (See Where can I find resources to help me become a better ESL/EFL teacher? and When my students ask questions about English grammar, I don't know how to respond. How can I learn more about how English grammar works?)

3. Is it necessary to know a lot about theology in order to use this book?

While it would be helpful for teachers to have a basic background in biblical studies or to have taken an introductory course in theology, neither is necessary for teaching ETE.

4. Is ETE for students who already know some English?

This textbook is for high-intermediate and advanced learners of English. Many of these students have a basic knowledge of everyday English, including the ability to read non-academic publications, but they may have difficulty reading academic writing. In addition, they often have a limited vocabulary that is lacking in academic words as well as theological terms. While they may be using English in some of their academic work, they usually find it challenging to very challenging to comprehend theological concepts in publications written in English.

The Teacher's Guide provides two tests that can be used to determine if learners are at a high enough level in English to use ETE. If their English ability is somewhat below the recommended level, the Teacher's Guide suggests procedures to adjust the material for their needs. These procedures can be used with whole classes or with individuals within a class.

5. How can I determine if my students have sufficient proficiency in English in order to use this textbook?

We suggest that you use the tests provided in Unit A of the Teacher's Guide. By administering these two tests, you can usually identify students who comprehend the ETE readings at an independent reading level, which means that they require only some assistance from the teacher in order to be successful in understanding what they read. While the lower end of the independent reading level is the ideal level for ETE instruction, many classes that use this book will be at a somewhat lower comprehension level.

The two tests in Unit A will also help you to identify those who operate at an instructional reading level, requiring more help—often considerable help—from the instructor in order to succeed. If your students are at the higher end of this level, you should be able to use ETE with few changes. For students at the lower end of the instructional reading level, the Teacher's Guide offers a number of suggestions for adapting ETE to meet their needs.

You may also find that you have students who are at the frustration reading level. Those at the high end of this third group will require an excessive amount of assistance from the instructor and those at the low end of this group may find it almost impossible to read the text. Obviously, those at the frustration reading level are not ready for ETE.

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Questions about the the goals of ETE

1. What are the goals of ETE?

The primary goals of our ETE Student Textbook are to help ESL/EFL learners become more proficient at reading theological publications written in English and to give them an overview of the content of introductory books on theology and Christian doctrine. In working toward these goals, learners will develop reading skills that will be beneficial in all types of reading, including the reading of other academic publications. They will also expand their general vocabulary and academic vocabulary, and they should become more adept at figuring out complex grammatical structures used in academic writing. Furthermore, they will gain a good foundation for continuing their study of theology and they will learn many of the most common terms used in theological writings.

2. My students have a good grasp of English reading and grammar skills as well as general academic vocabulary, but they have never studied theology. How can this textbook help them?

Major portions of each chapter in the Student Textbook are devoted to a discussion of the theological topic of that chapter (e.g., Salvation) and the presentation of the theological vocabulary for that topic. Given that your students do not need to focus on English reading, vocabulary, and grammar skills, we suggest that you use only the parts of the book that are most relevant for their needs, which in your case would be the theological readings and the theological vocabulary sections. You may also want to use the exercises that accompany these sections, as they will help students learn the theological content. These sections will give them a broad introduction to most important concepts and provide a foundational knowledge of the range of theological vocabulary that they will encounter in their later coursework.

You may find, however, that other sections of the book are valuable for some your students, either as a presentation of new information or as a review.

3. Will their study of ETE help my students to read non-theological academic publications?

Yes, the study of ETE should be a considerable benefit in reading other materials, academic and non-academic, written in English. The large number of reading strategies and vocabulary strategies introduced in this book are followed by an even larger number of practice opportunities. Students who apply these strategies in their study of ETE should also be able to apply them to other types of academic and non-academic reading. For example, students who learn how to recognize the main idea and supporting details of a paragraph about theology (a reading strategy which they will practice throughout the book) should be able to apply this strategy to paragraphs in other disciplines. Likewise, those who expand their vocabulary by learning the academic vocabulary featured in each chapter of ETE will be able to comprehend the same words when they occur in readings from other disciplines. (For samples of ETE materials, see the following: some of the more than 25 reading strategies, a few of the many vocabulary strategies, a set of academic vocabulary words and accompanying exercises.)

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Questions about the the content of ETE

1. What types of practice activities help learners develop their English skills?

Three main categories of ESL/EFL practice activities occur in multiple locations throughout the book: reading skills, vocabulary skills, and grammar skills. Reading skills include five types of activities: reading strategies, pre-reading exercises, readings with glosses, post-reading exercises, and review exercises. Vocabulary skills include vocabulary strategies as well as a variety of exercises to learn academic vocabulary and theological vocabulary. Grammar skills focus on helping learners to understand complex English sentences with multiple clauses. (See pp. 18-22 in the Teacher's Guide.)

2. Are there a large number of readings in the book? What are they like?

The Introduction and first nine chapters have two or more readings written especially for this text. The sentences are less complex than those found in most theology books and articles, concepts are explained carefully, and the vocabulary is generally less complex. For words that students are less likely to know, we have included glosses in the right-hand margin.

In the last three chapters, we introduce some original writings from other authors. Chapters 8 and 9 have readings written especially for ETE as well as excerpts from other theology books; Chapter 10 has only excerpts from a theology textbook. These original writings do not have glosses, but we have included pre-reading and post-reading exercises.

3. How does ETE help learners to develop their general academic vocabulary?

Each of the ten chapters in ETE includes a section on general academic vocabulary. For each chapter we have selected 20 or 24 words that meet two criteria: they occur in one or more of the reading passages of the current chapter, and they are from Averil Coxhead’s Academic Word List (a widely used list of vocabulary that occur frequently in academic publications across a wide range of disciplines). Many of the academic words chosen for ETE occur in more than one chapter, and some occur multiple times in nearly every chapter of the book. To help students learn these words, we include vocabulary exercises such as Word Forms, Fill in the Blank, Vocabulary in Context, Word Definitions, and Dictionary Use. See ETE pages 30-32 for the Chapter 1 words and practice exercises.

4. ETE focuses primarily on the reading skill, but are students also required to speak and write in English?

In quite a few exercises students are asked to write a phrase or short sentence. We assume that they will do this in English. Occasionally they are encouraged to discuss what they are learning with another person or to write a few sentences. If it is especially difficult for students to express themselves in English, we suggest that the instructor consider allowing them to use their native language for discussion or for writing a short paragraph. Of course, this can work only when there is a common language other than English and it works best when the instructor also speaks this language.

5. Many native English speakers find theology to be a difficult subject. How have you made the theological content less challenging for those whose native language is not English?

In a number of important ways we have made the theological content of ETE easier for ESL/EFL students to comprehend and remember.

ETE covers approximately the same topics as many introductory theology books. Although most of the other books provide a discussion of each topic, they do not have a separate section that explains the theology terms used in that chapter. (View the theological vocabulary section from one ETE chapter.) In addition to explaining each term in simple sentences which are free of difficult vocabulary and idioms, we have provided a number of practice exercises to help students learn the new vocabulary.

While all theology books contain readings divided according to topic, the readings in ETE have been made simpler in several ways: The sentences are less complex (i.e., fewer clauses and fewer passive verbs) and also shorter than in many theology books, the vocabulary is simpler, and short definitions (called glosses) are provided in the margin for the less common words. In addition, there are pre-reading and post-reading exercises to help students understand the reading passages and remember what they have read. (View a reading from one chapter.) Finally, each chapter has a review section which includes one or more exercises on the theological content.

When all of these changes are added together, they make ETE significantly easier to read than nearly any other introductory theology book.

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Questions about teaching ETE

1. Is it a good idea to combine the teaching of ETE with other types of ESL/EFL instruction?

In the Introduction to the Teacher's Guide, pp. xviii-xx, you can read about four typical sequences for instruction that prepares students to read theological publications written in English. One type combines the study of General Purpose English or GPE (the common core of language skills essential for many disciplines) and the study of theological English. This can be ideal for those students who need to continue to focus on their weaker areas of English while beginning their study of ETE.

Elsewhere in the Teacher's Guide (p. 16), we suggest that in the weeks or months before beginning to teach ETE instructors may want to introduce some of the reading and vocabulary learning strategies. They may also want to focus on some of the academic vocabulary from ETE. This will help students with their other reading assignments and it will also make for a more smooth transition once they begin using ETE.

2. I have only a few weeks to prepare my students to read theology in English and we couldn't possibly cover all that is in ETE. What can we do?

Even if your students use only part of the textbook they can derive a great deal of benefit, making it easier for them to read theological publications written in English. To determine how to spend your time most wisely, we suggest the following steps:

1. Learn as much as you can about the English-language demands that will be placed upon your students when they begin their work in theology. You can do this by asking them about the areas where they believe they need the most help. If you can do so, consult with their future theology instructors, talk with other students who have taken these courses, examine the course materials (or similar materials) including syllabi, assignments, and tests. You may even be able to visit theology classes.

2. Learn as much as you can about your students areas of strength and weakness in English. In particular, you want to know about their ability to read and comprehend academic publications, their knowledge of academic vocabulary, their knowledge of complex grammatical structures, and their knowledge of biblical and theological content.

Knowing what your learners will need to do in English, i.e., the task, and what they bring to the task, i.e., their proficiency in English, will help you determine where you will need to provide instruction to help bridge the gap between their current level of language ability and what is required in their theology classes.

In determining which portions of ETE to use, we suggest that you select only the sections of the material that are most essential for the needs of your students. For example, you may want to use only the focused readings and the sections on theological vocabulary. You may want to omit some sections for the entire class, or you may want to individualize instruction by requiring some students to do sections that are optional for others (e.g., grammar exercises). One instructor told us that he chose to have all of his students work through the Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2. This gave them a broad foundation for studying theology. Then with their remaining time, they focused only on theological vocabulary, which was the area of greatest need for these students.

3. My students are not strong enough in English to use ETE. What should I do?

The primary purpose of ETE is to help students gain the ESL/EFL skills they need to read theology books and articles written in English. If your students' level of English reading proficiency is not strong enough for them to use ETE, this means that it will be much more difficult for them to read theological publications written for native-English speakers. Instructors facing a similar dilemma have usually taken one of two choices: (1) They have students focus on improving their general academic skills in English, usually with a focus on reading, vocabulary, and grammar, and then at a later time these students study ETE in preparation for their more rigorous theological studies that require them to read materials written for native-English speakers. (2) They allow students to use their native language instead of English. For example, the instructors may have the key reading materials translated into the students' native language, or they may allow stronger students to work alongside those with a lower proficiency in English, translating for them as needed.

4. Where can I find answers to the exercises in the ETE Student Textbook?

Section C of the Teacher's Guide has answers for all exercises.

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Questions about supplementing ETE instruction

1. Can you give me some guidance about selecting additional ESL/EFL textbooks and supplementary materials that might be useful for my students?

While there are many excellent choices in ESL/EFL materials, finding the right ones for your needs can be a daunting task. We suggest that you begin by reading about textbook evaluation and selection, pp. 126-129 in the ETE Teacher's Guide, written by our colleague, Dianne Dow. If you do not have access to the Teacher's Guide, we suggest that you read a similar article by Dianne Dow, "Evaluating Classroom Teaching Materials," located on the Institute for Cross-Cultural Training website. Each of these reading selections will help you make a well-informed choice, and each is followed by an annotated bibliography of teaching/learning materials for various aspects of English.

2. What should I do to give my students additional instruction in English grammar?

If your students need a systematic focus on English grammar, we suggest that you consider using the Azar Grammar Series (3-book series, Pearson Longman) or Grammar Dimensions (4-book series, Heinle ELT). If your students need to work on only a few areas, you may find the help you need on the Internet, including a large number of practice exercises. A good site to start with is http://www.rong-chang.com/grammar.htm.

3. What should I do to give my students additional instruction in general vocablary and reading skills?

Nearly every major publisher of ESL/EFL materials has one or more series of books that focus on reading and vocabulary. Some of these would be appropriate for your students, but others would not. Given that your students need to be able to read academic publications in English, you need to select materials that will help them reach their academic goals. You should not choose learning materials that focus on everyday English. We suggest that you select resources that include a focus on the Academic Word List (AWL) compiled by Averil Coxhead. (ETE also includes work on the AWL.) The Victoria University website lists textbooks based on the AWL and some useful websites with exercises for the AWL.

4. Can you recommend an appropriate dictionary for my ESL/EFL learners?

For a brief discussion of the different types of dictionaries and some recommended dictionaries for ESL/EFL learners, see Selecting a dictionary in the Additional Resources section of this website.

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Questions about going beyond ETE instuction

1. Where can I find resources to help me become a better ESL/EFL teacher?

There are many types of professional preparation resources for teaching ESL/EFL. We suggest that you begin your search by looking at Appendix 5 of the ETE Teacher's Guide, which lists a variety of useful books and websites for new and experienced teachers.

2. When my students ask questions about English grammar, I don't know how to respond. How can I learn more about how English grammar works?

An excellent resource for teachers is Keys to Teaching Grammar to English Language Learners: A Practical Handbook by Keith Folse (University of Michigan Press, 2009). This user-friendly introduction to English grammar assumes no prior study of the subject. There is also an accompanying workbook. We recommend that you work through one or more of the three books in the Azar Grammar Series, such as Understanding and Using English Grammar.

3. I am not in a formal class but am studying the ETE Student Textbook on my own. Would it be helpful for me to also buy the Teacher's Guide?

Perhaps the primary benefit of purchasing the Teacher's Guide would be to have the answer key for all exercises. However, if you find ETE to be especially challenging to read, you might also benefit from the several pages that suggest ways to adapt the text for those who are at a lower proficiency level in English.

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