Every year I have teachers ask me how to help their English Language Learner newcomers. Always remember to raise the rigor and make the content accessible based on their WIDA Can Do descriptors. Some states have a different way to measure language skills so make sure you ask about that. Here are a few simple ways to immediately help your precious students!
1. Smile! Remember that your students are in a new and unfamiliar setting. They can be very afraid and uneasy. Your body image and facial expressions can immediately put a child at ease. Start with learning their names. Let your students pronounce their names correctly and have your other students practice it. Our names are so special to us, and this will be a wonderful way to set a new student at ease. You may want to have your new students bring a special item from home to share about their culture.
2. Use many visual supports. The old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” holds so true with your ELLs. Make vocabulary word walls with pictures. Grouping words into themes helps to make connections with ELLs. (For example, classroom words, verbs, fruit, body parts, prepositions, etc.)
3. Use sentence stems with your ELLs. This can be helpful in all four domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
4. Use graphic organizers, such as Venn diagrams, T-charts, circle maps, timelines, mind maps, etc. English Language Learners will need support in writing. This will best be used in a small group, pairs, or one-to-one.
5. Use engaging activities, such as playing games, role playing, singing, making books, etc. It is fun, it is motivating, and it helps our ELLs feel connected to the learning.
6. Give plenty of wait time when asking your student for an answer. When you ask a question, intentionally pause before calling on a student to answer. This will give your new student time to process what is being asked. I have to remind myself of this often.
7. Pre-teach vocabulary. I love Margarita Calderon’s seven steps process of teaching vocabulary. If you have not read her book, I highly recommend it. Look for the section on teaching vocabulary with the seven step process.
8. Use peer support. If possible, pair your new student with a student in your classroom who speaks his/her native language. It is great if you can have the student interpret at times. If you do not, then pair them with a student who would be a helpful friend.
9. Plan lessons around a theme. Teaching units, which are several lessons revolving around the same topic, can allow the students to connect content and communicate without having to worry so much about the language structure. This can help provide more meaning for the students. This works well with social studies and science-based lessons.
10. Give your students plenty of opportunities to speak. Engage your students in academic conversations. This is another time that sentence stems can be very useful. Instead of asking children to raise their hand to answer a question, you may want to have them turn and talk with a partner. Give specific feedback as you are monitoring.
Have fun trying these ten tips!
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