Are ELL strategies important: Well, ELLs have to learn the same academic content as all other students, but they have a major disadvantage: They have to learn English at the same time. Because of this, it is more difficult for them to keep up. We are going to go over 3 ELL strategies that benefit all students, with a focus on English-language learners.
1. Strategic grouping
Students may feel uncomfortable speaking or presenting something in front of the class if they do it individually. The solution is to split students into groups, and have them tackle larger tasks.
One of the best ELL strategies out there is to take this method one step further and make heterogeneous groups that contain both students who are proficient in English and those who still have more to learn.
The result is that English language learners can use their peers as models for how to use English words and phrases the right way, both orally and in writing.
In order for this ELL strategy to have the best effect possible, give these groups tasks that require communication and teamwork. Jigsaw puzzles and other collaborative tasks help ELLs become more proficient in English by working together with classmates.
2. Structured class discussions
A great way for students to improve their vocabulary and communication abilities is to hear their peers use the academic language they are struggling with.
This happens organically both in school and outside of school, but organizing certain class discussions is one of the most effective ELL strategies if you want to get each and every student involved.
One of the best examples of structured class discussions is the Socratic Seminar. It helps English language learners functioning at intermediate and advanced levels of English acquisition prepare for the challenges they’ll face on the PARCC assessment and other rigorous state exams.
Instructions for Socratic Seminar:
- You pick a piece of text or literature everyone knows or a common experience and you organize the class into a circle with four students in the middle. These four will discuss a given set of questions for a short amount of time. It’s important that no one else talks during this time, including you.
- During the discussion, four other students are designated as observers and are given a checklist that they will complete according to the performance of the speakers. The rest of the class will take guided notes on the discussion.
- When the time passes, the observers, together with you, offer the speakers feedback, and then have students change roles.
Note: New ELLs should not be left to their own devices to participate in such a language-intense activity. Rather, they should be paired with a kind, helpful student who will do the majority of the talking for the pair. That way all students participate, but the expectation to produce language is not as high.
Ideally, each student got the chance to be a speaker, an observer and a notetaker. Each of these positions helps ELLs develop communication and thinking skills they will need later on in life.
3. Scaffolding knowledge
English language learners need support as they become more adept at the language. “Scaffolding” understanding through different aids, often referred to as Comprehensible Input, is more of a combination of different ELL strategies that intertwine for a greater effect.
Scaffolding comes in many shapes and forms. Some effective ways you can help are through the use of:
- Graphic organizers – Using organizers, especially with beginner ELLs but helpful for all students, is a great way of helping them get their bearings and understand how to do different tasks.
- Visual aids – There are many ways of incorporating visuals into your classes in order to make teaching more effective. We have an article on the best methods, and we highly recommend you read it.
- Peer help – We have already discussed it, but you could also introduce a “buddy system”, meaning that the class goes on as usual, but the students are organized in pairs and each one is encouraged to help their pair excel.
The important part is to stop using these methods once you think the students have learned all they can. Otherwise, they will start impeding their further development.
How to best implement these ELL strategies
There is much nuance to the use of these strategies. In order to get the most out of them, you have to know your class, their strengths and their weaknesses as well.
Some strategies might not be effective at all for your students, while others might be just what they need. Don’t be afraid to ask the class for their opinion. They might not know how beneficial the strategy is, but their enthusiasm can be a sign that it will work.
So make sure you are using the best strategies in a way that really gets results. Contact us to learn more about our ELL Teacher Strategies Course Online. If you are an administrator of a school or district, contact us today at 800-279-7135 to learn which of our programs will help you the most when it comes to providing your teachers with guidance on helping their English learner students.