English Communication Enhancement Workshop

The Foreign Language Program at University of Houston-Clear Lake, which is part of Human Sciences and Humanities, partnered with Science and Computer Engineering to present an English Communication Enhancement Workshop for international students. The program was designed and carried out by Christine M. Paul, Director of the Foreign Language Program, in close collaboration with Dr. Kwok-Bun Yue, who is a professor of Computer Science and Computer Information Systems, and who facilitated sponsorship by the National Science Foundation.

The classes were held on campus for 8 class meetings for a total of 12 hours of instruction. Twenty students enrolled, with the following nationalities being represented: Vietnam, Pakistan, China, the Czech Republic, Holland, and Poland. The majority of students were graduate or undergraduate students from SCE, with the remaining students representing the School of Business, as well as three students with previous diplomas in humanities fields from institutions of higher education in Europe.

The primary goal of the workshop was to engage international students in a series of fun-filled conversational activities in order to enhance verbal ability and communication skills. The curriculum emphasized oral skills through games, group exercises, and role playing. Poems were used as a warm-up each day, followed by a look at common American English idiomatic expressions. The main activity of the day was a group game, for example, “Dear Abby”, “To Tell the Truth”, signs of the Zodiac, object in the bag, “Remake the World!”, six boxes, ‘What’s my Line?”, and “The Price is Right”. The goal in each activity was to help the international student to speak with more ease on a variety of topics, while relaxing and having fun at the same time.

Homework was given each day; specifically, short articles for reading practice were carefully selected with the students’ particular interests in mind. These articles lent themselves nicely to group discussion. The students were asked to go to the library and check out a book for pleasure reading, and then to present the book to the class with their recommendations. One weekend assignment was to research some current event for presentation the following week. At the end of the course, the students were asked to make a short oral presentation on their future professional and personal goals.

Evaluations for the class were very high, with much approval of the curriculum and the wish that the course could be offered more often. Suggestions were made to do more idiomatic expressions, and this will be incorporated into future workshops.