Thoughts on: Using an L1 in the ESL classroom


I have to admit that I feel inclined towards an English-only classroom, for the most part. My current students come from a variety of countries and first languages, so my own language skills do not allow me to be of much assistance in their L1s. However, today in class I decided to allow the use of my students’ various L1s during a writing assignment. Their assignment was to write imperative sentences describing how to do a task. We had watched various “How-To” videos and practiced making sentences together (in English). However, the variety of possible topics for the “How-To” writing assignment left many of the students lacking the basic vocabulary to express themselves. The basic idea behind assigning their writing in their L1 was that they could focus on meaning for the first draft, and then we could all work together to work out the specific vocabulary in English.

So far, the assignment seems to be going alright. The students had no problem writing their first draft in their first language, but the process of changing their sentences/ideas into English was laborious at best.

What are the benefits of allowing students to use their L1 in the ESL classroom? What are the drawbacks? Would it have been easier and more effective teaching to practice only certain verbs for the imperative sentence practice (most of the students chose to write about making food anyways)?