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Promoting ELL Community Involvement: Benefits & Strategies

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

In this lesson, we explore some benefits and strategies that teachers can use to create partnerships with English language learner communities. This practice supports language development and academic achievement of ELL students.

Why Involve ELL Communities?

Pablo is an English language learner (ELL) from Colombia. Pablo works hard to learn English and has good friends at school. However, when Pablo goes home, he feels a bit out of the community because his parents are also in the process of learning English plus their adjustment to the US is progressing more slowly than Pablo's.

Like Pablo and his parents, any person who is new to a country has to go through what is known as the expat adjustment cycle. This is a process in which a person who is new to a place experiences a wide range of feelings on the way to adjustment, apart from the need to learn a new language. In short, ELL communities have to make lots of adjustments before they begin to feel part of their new country. For this reason, involving ELL communities in school activities is important in the process of integration, because schools bond families through events, meetings and other activities.

Let's look at the benefits of ELL community involvement in schools.

Benefits of Involving ELL Communities

Pablo takes home a letter from his school. The school invites parents to a parent evening so they can speak to teachers about their children's progress in school. Pablo is very excited about this because he wants his parents to know how they can help him at home.

Any activity a school initiates and that involves parents or families of ELL students is an opportunity both for the ELL community and the school. The ELL community benefits through integration because school activities and events are a source of relevant information and interaction. The school benefits because it gets to know the ELL community members and can gain their cooperation by finding out ways for ELL community members to contribute to the school.

In the end, these benefits of integration and cooperation can positively impact the overall community because there is a sense of alliance between the diverse members that are part of a community.

In addition, when ELL communities as a whole participate in school activities and events, ELL students develop their sense of comfort in the school community. Since feeling part of a community is positive, ELL students feel motivated to make academic progress and consolidate their learning of English.

Now, let's explore strategies teachers can apply to build partnerships with ELL communities.

Strategies to Build Partnerships

Teachers can pursue partnerships with ELL communities but gaining support from school administrators first is important. Here are examples of a few strategies teachers can apply.

Promote Integrating School Events

Pablo takes home a school invitation for his parents to participate in the International Day Event, in which different cultures present at the school can display their traditional food, play their traditional music, demonstrate customs, etc. Pablo really would love for his parents to participate and encourages them. This would make Pablo and his family feel like they are part of the new community, which, in turn, is interested in learning about their background.

This example is just one of many events that teachers could organize to include ELL communities in school life. When people participate in this type of event, they are usually in a positive mood and are enthusiastic to open themselves to integrating in the new community. Another event could be to invite parents of different backgrounds to give a presentation to students who are studying history or geography topics related to a given culture.

Ensure Appropriate Communication with ELL Communities

When Pablo's parents attend parent evenings, Pablo's teacher always makes sure to have an interpreter ready to clarify important school information. This is important because the teacher knows Pablo's parents are ELLs themselves. A partnership between teachers and ELL community members is not possible if the communication is somehow unclear. Thus, appropriate communication at all times is a key strategy in ELL community involvement.

Encourage Parents to Exercise Leadership

Pablo's mother is now part of a school committee on diversity and inclusion. Teachers can and should always encourage ELL parents to take part in leadership roles at schools. When ELL parents exercise leadership, they not only are actively involved but also can be a source of information for other ELL community members.

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