Developing English language learners have enough foundational language skills to fictions fairly well in the classroom.
However, they still need supports, especially around academic vocabulary, language conventions, and new concepts and content.
Here are some of my favourite ways teachers can explicitly support developing English language learners.language conventions:
PROVIDE EXAMPLES OF FINISHED WORK
Students at the developing language stage have enough skills to complete a lot of work independently, however, they still need to have exemplars to see how exactly to complete work.
This isn’t just beneficial for English language learners, all students will benefit from having a piece of work to reference when they are feeling stuck or confused.
I like to have an example binder or duotang on an easily accessible bookshelf for all routine and/daily work we do. For example, this could be examples of how to do spelling or word work, daily writing prompts, and so on.
In addition, for larger projects or assignments, I always provide students with examples of a completed project. Also helpful is sharing with students examples of excellent work, average work, and not yet there work to show them a clear difference and how to meet the criteria you’re looking for.
POST FUNCTIONAL PHRASES ON WALLS
This is especially easy to do if and when you only teach English language development classes, writing, language arts, or other language based classes.
Like a word wall, posting commonly used and functional phrases helps out a lot of students when they’re completing writing assignments or speaking.
Depending on what you’re teaching, you can post these in different ways. For example, in English class, posting phrases often used such as “the author states…” or “the theme in… is… and can be seen…” are helpful. Meanwhile, in math, you may want to post things as “the answer is… because…” or “the difference between… and… is… because…”.
These are helpful for all students, not just English language learners, and they help kids express their thoughts in clear and concise ways.
CREATE EXPLICIT LEARNING OUTCOMES
Students need to know exactly what it is you are hoping for them to achieve. If their goal is not clear. Is constantly changing, or doesn’t make sense to them, it isn’t meaningful.
Share with your students exactly what learning outcomes you are teaching and expecting them to master. Important here with developing English language learners is that the vocabulary you use in these outcomes can be understood by them.
You may have to alter the language in your curriculum outcomes to share with them. You may also have different language acquisition outcomes you want them to master that are part of a separate curriculum.
Make sure they know these so that they can properly strive to meet them.
WORK WITH A GROUP OF SAME HOME LANGUAGE LEARNERS
If you have students who all share the same home language, group them together as they learn English skills.
They can support one another and you can support them with their home language to English work (such as vocabulary sheets).
Further, having peers with the same home language work together tends to help students build confidence, make friends, and feel more comfortable at school.
OFFER PREPARED SUMMARIES
Students at the developing language level can start working on much of the same content as their peers, however, they need for it to be simplified so they can access it.
When possible, I give students summaries before we begin a new unit or text. For example, if we’re reading a novel as a class, I provide them with simplified chapter summaries before we read the chapter as a class. Then, they have an understanding even before we begin and are better able to follow along.
The same goes for chapters in textbooks or summaries of new concepts being taught. It’s not always possible, but providing them with this before it’s taught to the whole class is best to tap into their background knowledge.
TEACH CONCEPTS VIA COMPARE AND CONTRAST
As humans, we have a natural tendency to categorize. This can be both negative and positive in different contexts, but it can be useful in teaching new concepts to developing English language learners. Actually, it can be helpful for all learners!
Kids naturally learn some concepts in relation to others.
For example, big is the opposite of small, quiet is the opposite of loud. Learning in opposites can be helpful. Then, when you start further comparing and contrasting, kids learn the academic vocabulary of comparing and contrasting, as well as course vocabulary and concepts.
This is a great way to build several skills and get students to think creatively.
PROVIDE MODIFIED TEXTS
Many developing language learning students are ready for some of the concepts or curriculum we’re teaching, but have difficulty accessing the regular education texts.
Whenever possible, give students modified texts to use instead of or in addition to to support them.
Many texts can now be read out loud online and have translators, visual dictionaries, and other tools attached. These are incredibly helpful for English language learners and weaker students.
Other times, it’s beneficial to offer students completely different texts (such as a different novel for a novel study) which are easier for them to understand, will build their language development skills, and will still hit curricular outcomes.
Well, what do you think? Did I miss any great strategies or tools teachers can use to support developing English language learners? Let me know!
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