TAGS: Making Lectures Comprehensible

Non-native English speakers, particularly those who are new to the U.S. university setting, sometimes find it difficult to comprehend lectures. Below are a few strategies to make lectures more easily accessible to linguistically diverse students.

  • Provide an outline, a gapped outline, or a list of key words and phrases that the students can use during the lecture. Refer to the outline/key words explicitly throughout the class period so students can follow along.
  • Use multiple modes for conveying information. Write important terms on the board, include them in a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation, or consider using other types of visual aids. This is particularly important for vocabulary that is discipline-specific.
  • Use framing words or discourse markers throughout the lecture to indicate when moving from one point to another.
  • Build redundancy into the lecture through examples, anecdotes, repetition, and paraphrases. Use discourse markers to show that you are rephrasing or giving an example (“Let me say that a different way”, or “Now let’s look at an example of that issue”)
  • Monitor your own speech for slang, idiomatic, or culturally-laden expressions. When using these types of phrases, consider writing them on the board and explaining their meaning. If there isn’t time for explanations, try restating or rephrasing.
  • Allow students to record lectures.
  • Use variation in speed, pitch, and volume to emphasize key points and terms.
  • Provide students with examples of successful note taking strategies or article annotations.
  • Stop frequently to check for comprehension, but rather than asking “Do you understand?” (which often results in blank stares or "Yes." without accurate understanding), ask students to list or restate the main ideas, give them notecards and 2 minutes to write down specific questions, or ask them to respond to specific questions about the course material.