Teaching English language learners (ELLs) is considerably different from working with other students. You could be an excellent teacher for native English speakers, and still feel unprepared to help ELLs improve. Because of that, we’re going to talk about a few proven tips that you can apply to your classes in order to boost learning:
Inform yourself about your English language learners
In order to know which tactics will work best for English language learners, you first need to know a few things about them.
Let’s start with the most important information you need to find out, includes:
- Their knowledge of English (tested by use of an English language assessment);
- The amount of formal schooling they have had in the US or their native country (ask for a report card and get help deciphering it, if necessary); and
- Knowledge of their first language (many districts test a student’s first language level).
- Helpful, too, is knowledge of what languages are spoken in the home (ascertained by a Home Language Survey).
After gathering all of this information, you might think of each student as falling into one of three main categories:
• Students with a decent level of education in their native country, but little to no experience with English. The major challenge these students face is learning the language well enough and fast enough to pass standardized assessments, including those that may lead to college entrance.
• Students with limited academic knowledge in their home country and about English. They will require more help as they have to learn the language as well as other subjects. Crucial for this category of student is ‘back-filling’ content knowledge while hastening acquisition of the English language.
• Students who have been in the country for some time. They know the language fairly well, but they need to learn academic English. Focus for this group is academic language acquisition and a thorough assessment of content knowledge to fill any gaps that may exist.
Once you have a strong picture of the level of each individual student, you can adjust your teaching strategies in order to better cater to your students’ specific needs. The ELL Strategies course we offer is one surefire way to help you get the strategies you need to teach any English language learner well.
Speak to English language learners in a way they will understand
Using Comprehensible Input strategies will be very helpful to English Learners. Comprehensible Input (Krashen) includes, in part, slowing one’s speech, using uncomplicated phrases, and gesturing when necessary.
If you know the student’s language, or have another student who can help, there may be times to rely on these factors – especially for the purpose of clarification. However, don’t use it too much or else it might end up impeding the learning process rather than helping it.
If you don’t know the language, you might learn some words and basic phrases. Being greeted with a “Hello” in their language will be a nice morale boost – and relationship builder – that will let English language learners know that you care about them.
Another important point is actually asking if they understand everything or if they need any clarifications. When doing so, make sure you word it in a friendly way.
If they feel pressured to get everything right from the beginning, they’ll become less active in class and even learn less English.
Learn about their culture
Another great way to strengthen your bond with English language learners is to learn a bit about their culture. After all, moving to a new country can be a scary experience for anybody, and by making them feel more at home, you’re helping them open up to the idea of learning the language. Again, showing in interest in who they are helps build relationship. Even better? Ask them to teach you a little about their culture.
The knowledge you gain about your students will prove invaluable to you as you adjust your teaching strategies to better meet their needs. By using the tips we talked about, they will be as eager to learn as you are to teach them.
These are only the basics though. There are are other skills you must acquire as well, something that can be done by taking our highly-rated, strategies rich online ELL strategies course.
If you are an administrator seeking to provide this valuable training for staff, please get in touch with us and we will provide you with recommendations that will assist you in helping your teachers reach their students.