Creating an Inclusive Instructional Environment for English Learners

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

In this lesson, teachers will learn how to create an instructional environment that involves all students. Some of the techniques covered are creating native speech rules and using activities involving dictionaries, translation, and group work.

Inclusive Instruction

Teaching ELLs (English Language Learners) of any level requires several different skills and considerations. Some of these considerations will inevitably be based on the age and English skill level of your students. One of the first items to think about is how students perceive both you and their classmates. Younger and inexperienced learners in particular can be very reticent to speak English in front of others for fear of making vocabulary or pronunciation errors.

However, if you periodically remind them that everyone is in class to learn, you'll be able to create an inclusive instructional environment for your ELLs. The more comfortable your students, the more likely they are to feel included in the instructional process. An inclusive environment begins with you, the teacher, so be sure to make students feel both welcomed and equal, regardless of their native language backgrounds.

Native Speech

If you teach ELLs who come from multiple native language backgrounds, you already know that some of the unique challenges that come with this territory involve consistency and fairness. It's important for students to feel that the opportunities to use their native languages are equal among all students. For instance, if you allow Spanish-speaking students to chat in Spanish but chide the Chinese-speaking students when they do the same, you're likely to have some resentful students on your hands.

In order to foster an atmosphere of equality, be sure that whatever rules you apply to the use of non-English languages in class is clearly defined and consistently enforced. If students understand the guidelines for speaking their native languages, they'll be more inclined to follow the rules. You can consider allowing students to use their native languages in the following situations:

  • Before and/or after the bell rings.
  • When one student understands a concept and can explain the concept to a classmate who is having difficulty in their shared native language.

Inclusive Tools

Depending on the age of your learners, you can provide opportunities for them to use their native language in order to better understand English. This can be accomplished through a variety of activities.

Dictionary Activities

Students use dictionaries to translate words from their native language into English.

Translation Activities

Students translate folklore or other cultural tales into English. If desired, you can have students tell the story in the native language first and then in English.

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