Sunday, January 3, 2016

Supporting Second Language Learners

Supporting English Language learners (ELL) in the classroom requires careful planning, explicit instruction and continuous support.  Teachers of ELL students need to be familiar with the stages of language learning as well as the challenges second language learners encounter especially when trying to master a new language in addition to grade level content.
To make connections to the students we teach, teachers need to be aware of their own teaching practices.  Intonation, speech patterns and rate of speaking all influence how second language is acquired.  How concepts are explained and what strategies are utilized by the teacher will certainly influence acquisition as well. Think about your personal experiences in learning a new language,  how did you feel when you had to speak, what was helpful, harmful and just overwhelming?
The first time I was required to learn a second language was in high school. Spanish was a fun class that was rich with music, pictures and videos. However I  remember feeling overwhelmed with learning grammar and trying to make sense of a textbook that was filled with words I did not know.  My tongue felt like sandpaper as I tried to pronounce Spanish words in my thick Boston accent.   I remember feeling relieved when the teacher would ask a question, wait and not call on the first student who raised their hand.  This gave me time to think and most importantly translate her question from Spanish into English.  What strategies made you feel successful?
Instructional Strategies such as SDAIE can enrich a discussion and support the learner in making content much more meaningful. Teachers can also frontload information by preteaching vocabulary and accessing prior knowledge related to new content as a way to support ELL. This is often referred to as "anticipatory set" in a lesson plan.  
Certainly being aware of a students' background in terms of their ability as well as their home life and interests is a great first step.  The more you can frame instruction at the level of students proficiency  the better you will support your students in acquiring new knowledge.  The context from which information is shared is important to consider, does the textbook make information accessible, is vocabulary emphasized with visual cues to prompt recall, is information chunked in a way to make information digestible?
Where do you students come from and what prior knowledge and experience have they had? Have you thought about how you can bring awareness to a topic using visual cues, prompts and imagery that will support all learners in engaging with and applying the content in a meaningful way.  Many of the strategies we provide for our ELL's such as pictures, graphic organizers, and cooperative learning (to name a few) is just GOOD teaching which all students can benefit.
In this presentation I share best practices and good food for thought when it comes to teaching English Language Learners.
As my nana would say "manja, manja"



  1. it's true that in the ways you mention, English is one of the easier languages in the world. However, you left out one key element--that English, plain and simple, makes no sense

    ielts speaking question

  2. As a teacher is important to help and support those children who do not understand, speaks the language. We need to provide them different ways to help our students.
    I want to help young children and their parents who do not know the language, I want to support them, guide them by speaking their home language. I want my students to feel that they are in a safe environment, where my students can come to school and enjoy it been there. But if I have a student who speaks different language them my. I communicate with the parents get to know them and see what the child needs. I try to learn some key phrases in the child language, such as food, bathroom, sleep, sit down. Do games examples, the “Simon says” Spanish and English. This way, a Spanish speaking child can feel welcome and the child won’t be separated from the rest of the group.
    Teaming a child up with other students who speak his language, read books in the child language and translate then the other children can understand. Teach the other students’ simple phrases, to help their friend.

  3. Thank you for the great post about how to support English language learners in the classroom. As a bilingual and immigrated teacher, I appreciate all the great points you mentioned in this post and the necessity of them for all teachers to have in their mind when teaching bilingual students. I agree that careful planning, explicit instruction and continues support to ELL students are the key points for teacher to be supportive. Also I had less knowledge about the stages of language learning which would be very helpful for teachers when teaching ELL students. One thing is really important for all teachers when working with ELL students is to have patience as you mentioned in your presentation. teachers have an important role to build confidence in their students specially to the ones that learning the new language.