I have been teaching English Language Learners for about eight years now and I have had many unique experiences throughout those eight years. I often look back upon my years and realize how different it was from the year before. That is one reason I love teaching ELLs. Another reason I love ELLs is because I often get to see new faces in my classroom every year but also familiar faces. Now, I have my struggles and there are times I have to reach into my ELL teacher toolbox and come up with strategies to help me. I wanted to share with you some tips, tricks, and strategies I think you should keep in your ELL teacher toolbox as well.
8 ELL Teacher Toolbox Tips, Tricks and Strategies
I guess the first ell teacher toolbox tip is a given. Your students are in a new setting. This can be very scary and cause them to feel anxious and uneasy. Your facial expressions can easily help a student feel a little more comfortable and at ease in this new setting. Learn the students’ names, and practice with them. A name is very important to a child and we want to make sure we and the other students can say it correctly. Saying a student’s name with a smile day after day will make that student feel more comfortable in your learning environment.
The next trick you need in your ELL teacher toolbox are visual supports. Remember that old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” well it is more like a million words for ELLs. Make vocabulary word walls with pictures and allow students to use it and interact with it whenever possible. Use different themes and group the words accordingly to help your ELLs make connections. Some examples are classroom words, verbs, fruit, body parts, prepositions. You can find some amazing lessons on these topics in my TPT store. Plus, I have an amazing year-long curriculum which includes ALL these topics at a bundled price. You can read more about the curriculum and why you will LOVE it in this blog post.
This is a strategy every teacher should be using. Graphic organizers are a very important tool to have in your ELL teacher toolbox. There are so many. Some of my favorites are venn diagrams, T-charts, circle maps, timelines, and mind maps. Although, I could probably list another hundred of my favorite graphic organizers. I think that would make for a pretty boring post. Graphic organizers help students organize their thoughts and answers. ELLs need this type of organizational tools to support their comprehension and writing. Plus, you can use them in small groups, pairs or independently.
Yes, this is another tool you need in your ELL teacher toolbox. You have to plan lessons and activities that are engaging. Some ideas are playing games with students, role playing, singing, writing and illustrating their own books. Anything that will make school seem less like school. It will help motivate ELLs and make them feel a little more connected to the learning if they are actually enjoying it! I love using my roll and read resource to create engaging activities for my students.
Theme Based Lessons
This trick in the ELL teacher toolbox goes right along with engaging activities. Teaching in theme based units, which are multiple lessons supporting the same main topic can allow your students to connect different pieces of content and give them opportunities to practice different vocabulary, reading strategies, while connecting everything back to a single topic. It can also provide more meaning for the students.
Now this tip is very important. So keep it right in the front of your ELL teacher toolbox. You want to give students plenty of wait time before expecting them to answer. When you ask a question, pause before calling on a student to answer. Let all students think about the question before making one answer. This will give all students the time to process the question you asked. These students need more time to think about what is being asked. I even have to remember to use this tip a little more effectively in my classroom.
Another amazing trick for your ELL teacher toolbox is to let students engage and work with each other. If you have the ability, pair your new student with a student in your classroom who speaks his/her native language. They will feel more comfortable knowing someone who speaks their language can interpret and help them if they need it. Obviously, this can not always happen. So, just pair the new student with someone who is a helpful and caring friend!
Let Them Speak
Finally, my last tip is to just give your students plenty of activities and opportunities to speak. Engage with your students in academic conversations, fun conversations. Another type of conversation that will get students using vocabulary. You can also use sentence stems if you have some students who struggle with keeping up or starting a conversation. Don’t always call on students, let them turn and talk. Don’t forget to give specific feedback as you are monitoring.
ELL Teacher Toolbox
An ELL teacher toolbox is never full and as you teach and learn alongside your students, you will gain more tips, tricks, and strategies. I’d love to know about any strategies or tricks you use in your ELL classroom! Leave a comment below.