Bringing Everything Together
Whether you teach history, math, English, or biology, your classroom audience of ELLs means you'll need to focus on and engage certain elements of language acquisition. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to ensure you're touching all the bases while imparting essential academic wisdom to your students.
Speaking and Listening
When you lecture a classroom of ELLs, be sure the vocabulary you use is appropriate for the level of your students. Speaking and listening can be viewed as interconnected in an ELL classroom setting. If you use jargon or advanced vocabulary without explanations, students can quickly fall behind. When this happens, learners may become discouraged or feel that their abilities are inadequate for the task at hand. To avoid these obstacles to learning, try some of the following classroom strategies:
- Write down key words and phrases on the board.
- Ask a student to summarize information you have just given using his or her own words.
- Preview new vocabulary before each lesson and review how that vocabulary was used after each lesson.
- Put students into small groups to discuss the main points of the lesson.
- Provide students with a lesson outline and encourage them to take notes during class.
Speaking and listening are equally important, so try to provide students with equal opportunities to practice both their speaking and their listening skills. This can be accomplished through assignments and guided activities.
When students make speaking errors, be careful not to be overly critical. ELLs can be sensitive about making language errors, and public criticism may cause them to take fewer risks and volunteer less frequently in class.
Reading and Writing
As with speaking and listening, reading and writing go hand in hand. Provide your ELLs with plenty of opportunities to practice and develop their reading skills. Motivated readers often make better writers. Be sure to expose your students to a variety of reading sources, and if possible, allow them to sometimes choose their own reading materials.
Try to set aside 10 minutes of class time a few times a week for in-class reading and writing sessions. Additionally, having students write summaries and paraphrases of reading material is a great way to combine English reading and writing disciplines. If you use this strategy, allow students to compare their summaries and discuss the similarities and differences. The more interactions students have with each other, the more they'll be exposed to different communication styles.
The more you integrate speaking, listening, reading, and writing elements into your lessons, the faster your English language learners will progress.
Provide plenty of practice activities and opportunities for them to strengthen their skills:
- Use appropriate vocabulary for their level
- Don't be overly critical
- Write down key words and phrases on the board
- Put students into groups for discussion
- Allow students to give summaries and paraphrasing of lessons or reading material
- Set aside time for in-class reading or writing sessions