Virtual ESL: Hosting Great Conversations

For the past three years, English as a Second Language programming has been offered through the library system. Virtual conversation groups and one on one classes were added during the pandemic and have yielded positive student outcomes. Conversation groups provide a valuable service to the area’s immigrant and non-English speaking populations. They offer a safe and structured opportunity for second language patrons to build their speaking and listening skills, which are critical for passing the United States citizenship examination, attending educational institutions, and securing employment. Conversation groups may be hosted virtually, thus reaching patrons who would be unable to participate due to transportation issues, proximity to the library, family commitments, and work schedules. Unlike traditional classes and individual tutoring, the facilitator does not need a high level of subject area knowledge. Conversation groups may be run effectively with a minimal investment of preparation time, and attendance is virtually unlimited. This presentation with provide participants with the basics of structuring and hosting a one-hour conversation group meeting. Key points will include advantages of virtual sessions compared to the traditional in-person format, how to choose appropriate discussion topics, facilitation of conversational flow, and dealing with challenges that commonly arise during meetings.


Claudia Ratay
Pasco County Libraries
Claudia Ratay works for Pasco County Public Libraries at the South Holiday branch where she is responsible for adult services including educational and social programming. She currently teaches a successful virtual English as a Second Language program for adults. Prior to joining the library system, Claudia worked as a corporate product development chemist as well as a public school teacher, adjunct professor, and ice skating coach. Her lifelong passion is languages. Claudia first discovered foreign language study in middle school and began her university career as a French major. Her current linguistic focus is learning Welsh, the heritage language of Wales. Claudia holds a doctoral degree in Polymer Science from Clemson University.