AESL 543 is the intermediate level conversation course in Irvine Valley College’s Adult ESL program. This course is designed to help students maintain  conversations on a variety of practical topics pertaining to daily life.

Basing the course on lessons learned in my experiences in developing my own curriculum for AESL 545, I decided to take the same general principals and simplify some of the processes in order to capture a wider range of comprehension and skills at the intermediate level.

In most conversation classes, students are bound by a limited number of topics, predetermined by mass-produced published textbooks. Instead of limiting the students’ choices, I build this course to be more accessible with a Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC), and instead put the impetus of learning and developing ideas on the students based on their own personal interests.

In small groups, students discuss what topics they struggle with in English, or what they want to learn how to talk about, and then they are tasked to find resources that explain an aspect of that topic. Group members then share the resources with each other, and decide on one guiding source to help them “center” their learning.

Having students build their own units together as a group helps them to learn to talk about and share their learning as they are going through it, flipping the class from passive regurgitation of pre-developed scripts, to active development of new and directly impactful English.

Once developing some comfort around the topic, students are then responsible to create podcasts around their unit topic. In groups they will choose how they want to develop their content, giving them autonomy and authority in their own learning. Podcasts are published to the world for anyone to listen to.

AESL 543 helps students become more confident with their speaking at the same time as challenging them to go beyond their normal comfort zone.