Teaching English Language Learners is demanding, no matter how good your students are at practicing their language skills. Besides various cultural barriers, teaching a language to people who use a different language to think requires both skill and effort.
This is why teachers are in a continuous search for improvement, and why they struggle to give their English language learners a better experience.
To help you out, here are 4 proven ways that can help you make your English class fun and effective:
Get your students to speak
Those of you who teach English, but are not native speakers of the language, surely understand how important it is to practice your conversation skills. This way, you can learn faster and overcome the initial fear of communicating in a language you do not master.
Asking English language learners to speak during each class session is vital for an effective teaching and learning experience.
The goal is to make speaking less frightening or embarrassing. Simply asking each student questions can get boring, so choose more creative ways to facilitate speaking like games, role-playing, making them discuss funny pictures, or having a group contest.
One caveat: Students who are new to the language should not be put on the spot to speak aloud on their own. Research shows that this will impede language acquisition. No worries, though. They can respond in a chorale fashion without doing any harm. Joining in with chanting and singing as they are ready works like a charm and engages a different part of the brain.
Help your English language learners develop their writing
Besides speaking, ELLs also need your guidance when it comes to their writing skills. This part of the learning process is more difficult and takes both time and patience.
English language learners will have to be able to convey meaning in writing too. The two skills have to develop in parallel, so make sure you give your students written homework at the end of each course in order to get them to use the info they’ve just acquired.
Writing helps students better understand the grammar rules that govern the language. Plus, it can be a creative exercise which will get them to think directly in English.
Moreover, developing writing skills in any language is a must in today’s society, since most jobs imply good written communication skills, as messages are delivered mainly via email.
New English language learners can copy sentence stems from the board and finish them with nouns and verbs – as long as they know what they mean!
Help students learn from their mistakes
It’s normal to make mistakes, and it’s unavoidable to make them when you’re inexperienced. Everyone wins when patience and understanding are shown each time English language learners say or write inaccuracies because this is an important part of their learning experience. Learning a second language is hard work!
Highlight the benefits of their errors by telling them they’ll be less likely to repeat them next time. Another useful tip to try is letting students get to the end of their speech or essay and then asking them to spot the mistakes they made. It will definitely raise their awareness and make them focus more on their English. If they can’t spot their errors, try to choose two or three error patterns (for example, using ‘he’ for both ‘he’ and ‘she,’ or not using plurals when needed) or glaring errors to work on. You can get to the others as these skills fall into place. Otherwise, students who are making many errors will feel defeated and not try as readily.
Create a context for new words
For beginner English language learners, it helps to begin by introducing and practicing vocabulary words before actually demanding the use of more complicated grammar rules and structures.
In a mainstream classroom setting, it is not always possible to teach vocabulary in isolation from the natural and challenging language of the classroom, so using comprehensible input to teach vocabulary will help students keep up with your lessons.
Using cooperative learning structures and other strategies like the ones we teach in our workshops makes learning new words fun and exciting. Just giving out a list of terms that need to be memorized will make things dull, and has proven to be the least effective method of teaching vocabulary – especially for ELLs.
Try to make students connect words to contexts. Make them discover new terms as they speak by helping them create a story.
If you want your students to learn vocabulary terms related to food because it is in literature that they are reading, for example, ask them what they’ve eaten or cooked last weekend, and try to get them to name each ingredient. Alternatively, tell them to imagine a conversation in a restaurant and have them play a role-playing game. Then relate that conversation to their literature.
No matter what method you choose, focus on being interactive, and don’t forget to give share some of your experiences related to what you are learning. Telling students things about you will make help build the relationship that is crucial for ELLs to learn.
We hope this post proved to be useful, and that you’re already thinking about implementing some of the above tips in your next lesson.
If you’re ready to learn more about becoming a better teacher of English language learners, contact us right away to learn more about our online ELL Strategies course. If you’re a district or school administrator, we can help your teachers and students soar! Contact us now at 800-279-7135 to start a conversation about how Educational Training Specialists can help you achieve your goals.