That’s the number of English language learners enrolled in K-12 schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In other words, at least one out of every 10 students in classrooms today is an English language learner (ELL). As the number of ELLs continues to increase at lightning speed, the pressure is on for classroom teachers to examine their practices and find new ways of meeting the needs of this ever-growing population of students.
As an English as a second language (ESL) specialist, teachers often come to me full of questions about what they should be doing to help language learners in their classrooms. They worry that because they don’t speak another language, they won’t be able to provide the support their ELLs require. Yet, I know that with some reassurance and some new strategies, all teachers are capable of being outstanding instructors of English language learners.
In order to help educators on their way to becoming more confident instructors of ELLs, I’ve put together a list of the top ten things ELL students need from their classroom teachers.
Here are the first five:
Two seemingly innocent words that cause both teachers and students alike to tremble with apprehension. The ghosts of bad group work past conjure haunting memories of disagreements, distractions, and indifference. Yet, as educators we know student-to-student interaction is a crucial component in increasing both engagement and academic language development.
So, how do we avoid the pitfalls of bad group work and foster an environment of stimulating discussion and student collaboration?
50,000 words by high school graduation.
That’s the challenge English Language Learners (ELLs) face if they want to catch up to their native English-speaking classmates. That’s almost 4,000 new words a year if a student begins school as a kindergartner!
But what about the English Language Learners who don’t enroll until middle school or high school? For these students, the vocabulary challenge is even more demanding. To meet it, teachers must learn and use the most effective strategies. Over the years, I’ve tried many different approaches and techniques and compiled the following list of my top five favorite vocabulary strategies for ELLs.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the famous American poet, once said, “The human voice is the organ of the soul.” As a teacher, this quote speaks to me and reminds me that one of my greatest responsibilities as an educator is to encourage all of my students to find their voices and learn how to use them. I also know, after having been in classrooms for over ten years, that this isn’t always an easy task.
While some students are eager to raise their hands and participate, others are happy to sit quietly and never say a word. This can be especially true of English learners, who are still learning a new language and may tremble in fear with the thought of making a mistake or embarrassing themselves in front of their classmates.
So what can we do as educators to ensure that all voices in our classrooms are heard?