English Language Learners require support, both in & outside the classroom.
It is critical that we help ELLs comprehend what they’re hearing and learning in the classroom. There are several ways in which we can achieve this.
Strategies for English Language Learners
1. Build Relationships beyond the classroom & Appreciate their Culture
Build relationships not just within the classroom, but also beyond. It is essential to get to know your ELL. Learners are most engaged when they feel a personal connection to a lesson or unit, a connection that’s driven by a teacher’s intention to build relationships.
Create a supportive environment that appreciates diversity. It’s important that students feel they can freely express themselves in an environment where their diverse backgrounds are respected and celebrated. Pair them up with a buddy, preferably a buddy they choose themselves and are comfortable working with and getting along with.
2. Regular Check of Understanding and Feedback
Just like with your native English-speaking students, it is important to have a regular check of your ELL’s understanding.
It’s also important to highlight that it’s okay if they don’t understand. By consistently checking in, you ensure that your student is learning and grasping the content. It also ensures that you are building a supportive environment.
Don’t assume everything is going well. Give regular and a variety of feedback.
3. Model for them
Model for the students what they are expected to do or produce. This essential strategy works wonders. Getting into the habit of sharing your thought processes aloud and thoroughly explaining what is to be done would help them break down what is being expected of them.
4. Modifying Instruction and Teaching Methodology
Another strategy that can be used is accommodation. This is essentially adapting language (spoken or written) to make it more understandable to learners whose first language is not English.
Another thing that can be done to modify instruction is chunking content and steps into manageable sections. Also, offering choices, wherever possible.
It also helps to provide anchor words and charts which would equip students with some basic concepts before a new concept is being taught. Pre-teach vocabulary, wherever possible, and provide sentence stems to help them structure their sentences.
It will also be helpful to provide children with quick reference in the form of a few pages of illustrated vocabulary words organized by theme, which they can quickly pull out when the need arises.
When communicating with ELLs, add gestures to bolster communication. This helps reinforce the auditory with the visual. Draw or write keywords frequently as they come up during instruction to help students further comprehend what you’re saying.
5. Slow it down!
Speak slowly. This small but vital change can make a world of a difference. You can record yourself speaking to understand your speed and then adjust. Also, adding in an extra three to five seconds after a question is posed offers students time to think.
However, for ELLs, it means something more. It also gives them time to translate, process their thinking, translate back into English, and develop the courage to answer. They might just stop thinking, or worse answering if called upon too soon.
6. Using Multiple Learning Styles
Children learn better when they engage with the learning material in multiple ways.
Lessons that involve all the skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) and drawing, for example, would give students several opportunities to enhance their understanding of the concept. For ELLs, those additional interactions provide a little breathing space so they can negotiate the communication block.
Experiential learning is another strategy to support ELLs. It’s important to provide opportunities for ELLs to acquire vocabulary and build knowledge through hands-on learning or activities that are tactile and encourage students to create solutions to proposed problems or tasks.
Similarly, using visuals like charts, infographics and images can help ELLs with communication challenges to understand what is being discussed and also to express themselves. By pointing to an image on a chart, students can let you know what they are feeling, how much they’ve understood, and so on.
Posters of mouth formations or videos of someone creating sounds of English letters can be put up around the classroom. This would especially be helpful considering that masks have become a necessity and the mouth of the teacher often isn’t visible.
7. Focus on the production skills from the start
Productive language skills like speaking and writing are hard to master in the path to building language fluency but are absolutely essential. Consequently, they should be in focus from day one, even if students feel hesitant about them.
8. Bilingualism in the class
Learning a new language along with its culture should be seen as in addition to what students know, rather than as a replacement for the language they already know.
When a topic is being introduced, encourage students to preview some introductory or related materials in their home language before they come for class. This, again, would make a world of difference in their participation and understanding.
Allow children to trans language, or alternate, between English and their native language. This is an essential strategy for ELLs as they can often feel intimidated when asked to speak. When students are allowed to use their first language to help with learning their second language, it lessens some of the anxiety that can occur.
When putting across complex ideas and thoughts this helps a lot as it takes away the pressure of the medium of communication and allows them to just focus on communicating their ideas.
9. Leverage technology
Incorporating technology is an important strategy for supporting English Language Learners in the classroom. Use the internet to let children view videos of activities, events, and places around the world. This can help students visually as well.
For ELLs, listening all the time can become very taxing, so teachers should add as many support visuals as possible. Technology enables this as images and text can be projected on the screen when learning new concepts. Document cameras make a world of difference in showing ELLs exactly what you’re talking about rather than trying to explain it.
Besides this, using features of technology such as closed captions, voice typing, recording the sessions, and watching replays, using microphones for voice amplification systems can help ELLs understand the nuances of what is being conveyed.
With the above strategies, your ELLs are bound to elevate their learning efforts and make way for a brighter future!