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Tips for English Language Learners

As traveling becomes more and more a part of everyday life, we’re finding that we’re coming into contact with more students from different language groups. Teaching English to so many different groups of people can be a challenge for any teacher. As a matter of fact, statistics show that the number of English-Language Learners in the US is on the rise. As teachers, we need to find a way to meet the needs of all students that are entering our classrooms. There are however, several common problems that come with teaching English Language Learners that may not present themselves in other classrooms.

Changing Perceptions

More often than not, teachers that are not prepared to include English Language Learners into their classrooms will often mislabel the student and attempt to teach them using the same methods one would use to teach a child with a disability. Teacher Vision explained this fact,

“The most common problem in providing meaningful access to the curriculum has been the practice of viewing English-language learners with learning difficulties as simply low-performing native English speakers. It is critical that teachers avoid this reaction when working with students who do not use English proficiently.”

While there may be a number of challenges involved with teaching students who do not have a strong foundation in English, it is not a question of their ability to learn but a matter of teaching them the fundamental concepts involved with learning a new language. When a student is treated as though he has a disability, his own perception of himself changes and it could slow down his progress in learning English.

Another result of this misguided view is that the teacher will have a tendency to expect less from the student than they should. This prevents the student from getting the high quality education they actually deserve. Teachers of these students need to recognize the uniqueness involved with learning languages and rather than trying to simplify the learning process, which is a common practice when dealing with those with disabilities, find ways to dispense information in a way that the student can grasp at his/her own potential.

ELL in the Core Subjects

Teaching English Language Learners the Core subjects utilizing the same basic techniques that you would use in teaching any other student. The key is not so much in the subject area as it is in the delivery of the content. This can become a challenge to the teacher who is not prepared and when there are a number of different languages represented in the classroom the problem can be compounded. But with some basic adjustments to the standardized lesson, ELL students can master the concepts and subjects at hand. Here are a few suggestions.

Focus on the student’s abilities: No matter how enthusiastic and motivated a student may be, it is important to match their enthusiasm with their immediate abilities. Endless drills and copying material does not make for a better education, especially if they have not reached the level of work you’re giving them. Take into consideration the student’s ability and tailor the lessons to that and allow them the time to grow to where they should be.

Speak in Standard English: When verbally addressing the class, always speak in a normal voice with Standard English. Resist the tendency to modify your language with over simplistic words in ways that are not commonly spoken. You also want to discourage the use of slang in the classroom.

Seat the Student Where They Can Both See and Hear You: ELL students need to utilize as many of their senses as possible in order to grasp the lesson. That means that they need to also tap into your nonverbal cues to help them grasp the lesson. When they can see your lips move, watch your body language, and sense your enthusiasm they are more likely to comprehend the lesson at a much faster rate.

Use Visual Aids: Take advantage of visual aids as much as possible. While it may be good to speak with clear and concise words, even these can be enhanced with photographs, models, or other visual cues. In subjects like science and history, visual aids can relay a lesson a lot more quickly than words alone.

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