To those of us who have taught new English Learners for some time, we may forget how challenging it is to teach your first ELL – especially if you don’t speak the language of the student in front of you. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful to share a few ideas over the next week on how to make the school lives of ELLs easier from the beginning.

For New English Learners, it’s all about you!

Your English Learners are watching you. How do you respond to them? Are you kind, open, welcoming? Learning a new language is difficult enough in the best of circumstances. However, if an ELL feels threatened in the classroom, research suggests that language acquisition is impeded. Creating an absence of threat in your room will ensure that the student will learn English as quickly as possible.

You might wonder if being kind, open, and welcoming is enough. Well, it’s the biggest start. Taking care that your facial expressions match not only your words, but your tone of voice, is important, as well. Sarcasm is very confusing to English Learners because facial expressions don’t match the tone of voice nor the words. In order to effectively teach ELLs, eliminate sarcasm from your classroom. It will actually make it a nicer place for all students.

You may be your English Learner’s only friend at the beginning of the year. Being different, as is the case in many communities who have few ELLs, is tough for a student. So how other students see you treat your ELLs gives them an idea about how they should treat students who can’t yet communicate in English. I’ve watched English Learners who were initially ignored by others become included and well-liked simply by modeling how to treat a student who is different.

These simple ideas will help you set the tone for the year and help your students get off to a great start. Tomorrow I’ll share some ideas that will help you teach students how to navigate your classroom.

For a comprehensive online course on teaching ELLs, check out our ELL Strategies online course!