ELL Students in the Classroom
You have a new student. He speaks no English. You don’t speak his. Problem? Growing experience? Difficult? Challenging? Possible?
As a teacher, you will come across many different children. Children who have their own personalities, are unique in their own way, and even may not speak the same language as you. And that’s okay. Being the same would be boring. But how can teachers who may not know a lot of Spanish, German, Russian, or any language different than their own teach these students?
Bilingual education in various settings produces a wide variety of outcomes in terms of language proficiency, cultural awareness, and scholastic achievement. It creates diversity and shows that not every child is the same. What better time to be introduced to bilingual education or students then in pre school? In my placement, there are about four students who are bilingual and can speak English and another language. Because of this, it helps the teachers out a lot. For a student who doesn’t speak a lot of English, a bilingual student can talk to and help this student out, sometimes even more than the teacher can. I have experienced the teacher asking a student how to say a work or a phrase so that she is able to talk to each student. This is huge.
This requires the student to think and be able to use their own language in assisting someone else. But as a teacher, there are so many ways to help these students who are in your classroom. Your students and even yourself, may be uncomfortable at first, but taking it day by day and learning, will have everyone in your classroom learning better.
Making it visual is key. In my classroom, the teacher has every labeled along with a picture. Speaking everything out makes it more difficult for children in the classroom to comprehend. Having visuals, whether pictures, demonstrating, or writing it out improves the learning of those who are not proficient in the common language.
Building in more group work is a great benefit and will go far in the classroom. Sometimes students learn best from each other. This also helps there social skills and is constantly creating new opportunities for them to learn and grow in any language.
Most importantly, learn about the cultural background of all your students. Making them feel at home and secure in the classroom is huge and will go a long way for them. Knowing where your student comes from, literally and physically, will enhance the student-teacher relationship. It will show trust and your willingness to want to know them more.
A classroom is so unique with a variety of different learners. Some days it can be difficult but nonetheless rewarding when a goal is reached. Having ELL’s in the classroom may be challenging, but treating them like everyone else in the classroom is important.
To find out more:
Rowe, L. W. (2018). Say It in Your Language: Supporting Translanguaging in Multilingual Classes. Reading Teacher, 72(1), 31–38. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1673
Listen to this post as a podcast: A note on terminology: The acronym ESL is used less often now in schools than it used to be, because we recognize that many students who are learning English already speak several other languages, so English would not be a “second” language.