Working with emerging English language learners is hard work, but there are a lot of things teachers can do to support these kiddos. Unlike beginning ELL students, emerging students are a bit more settled and have a higher vocabulary. They’ve especially become more comfortable with slang and everyday language.
This can be a tricky level as these students are high enough to not need as much support or as “babyish” support, but they definitely don’t have the ability to be working at the developing level or higher.
Here are some of my favourite things teachers can specifically do to help support emerging English language learners.
CONTINUE TO USE VISUALS AND GESTURES
Just as when you’re working with beginning English language learners, you still want to utilize visuals and gestures with emerging language learners.
While they may have more vocabulary, visuals and gestures will still help with new words and phrases they don’t yet understand.
Continue to utilize things like a visual schedule, posted routines, and pointing to important points. You can also include visuals and pictures on things such as handouts and worksheets. Just make the questions and work slightly more challenging than you would for a beginning English language learner.
UTILIZE WORD WALLS
Word walls are an excellent way to build vocabulary for all students, not just English language learners.
While they can seem elementary or young, they can also be used successfully in junior high or high school.
I’ve seen several ELL teachers create word walls where they post the word in English and then have students post the translation in their home language. This is super fun because you can create a map of sorts with all your students’ home languages.
You can also utilize word walls of different types. Some may be only course content vocabulary, while others may incorporate frequently used academic words. Or, for emerging and beginning students, high frequency English words in general.
There are so many unique and fun ways to use word walls; don’t let this tool pass you by if you think they should all be dead and buried past grade three!
PROVIDE SIMPLIFIED SUMMARIES
Emerging English language learners know more vocabulary than when they first arrived, and are generally more adept at using tools like translators and understanding classroom expectations and routines.
However, they still certainly are not advanced enough yet to understand the “regular” content.
While it’s worthwhile for students to sit in regular classes and become immersed in the content and language, we can’t expect that they’re going to really understand what’s going on.
Therefore, it’s beneficial to provide them with simplified summaries and notes for what you expect/hope they’re able to learn and follow along with.
Whenever possible, I give these to students before the class. Then, they have time to read through, translate, draw sketches, and so on on the paper before hand. They can also follow along in real time during class, rather than sitting lost and confused wondering what’s going on.
Of course, we’re very busy so I know it’s not always possible to provide these all the time beforehand, just do your best!
It’s always funny to see people joke about speaking loudly and slowly when conversing in a new language, but it really is true.
I have some very basic French and Spanish skills, but throw me into a market where people are speaking at their regular pace and I’m completely lost.
Try your best to remember to slow down your speech when talking with English language learners. This really goes for students at any level. I’m a notoriously fast talker and I’ve had coworkers from other countries ask me to slow down; I forget all the time!
Try to ask your kids before you even start lecturing or explaining to tell you if you’re speaking too quickly. Not only will this let them know that you’re okay with them asking you to slow down, you giving them that reminder will also help to remind you to do it!
It can be easy for emerging language learners to avoid speaking due to embarrassment or other discomfort. It can also be easy for them to get by with writing assignments, tests, and other non-speaking work in class.
However, increasing their speaking skills are vital for growth in language as well as in confidence in the classroom and with peers.
Whenever you can, encourage them to speak with you, in partners, and in small groups. It will definitely be challenging before they’re wholly comfortable, but they’ll gain confidence as they speak more.
For some suggestions on how to incorporate more speaking work in your classes, check out this post of mine on ways to build and assess listening skills with ELL students.
USE SIMPLE PHRASES
Finally, when working with emerging language learners, ensure you’re using simple words and phrases to communicate.
If the language we use is too challenging, our emerging ELL students won’t be able to follow along. They also may feel too shy or embarrassed to let us know. In fact, they may not have the words to let us know.
Therefore, always ensure you simplify not just the vocabulary you’re using but the phrases themselves. Use simple and straightforward sentences and directions until students are better able to understand and complete what you’ve asked.
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