Sociocultural Influences on ELL Students

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  • 0:03 Intrinsic & Extrinsic Factors
  • 0:29 Personal Motivation
  • 1:53 Age & Learning Disabilities
  • 3:16 Prior Education &…
  • 4:21 Class & Sociocultural…
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
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.

This lesson explores the different sociocultural factors that can positively or negatively influence ELL students. Along with a brief analysis of each factor, this lesson provides you with some recommendations when dealing with specific types of ELL students.

Intrinsic & Extrinsic Factors

There are two main types of sociocultural factors that can influence language learning: intrinsic and extrinsic factors. As its name indicates, an intrinsic factor is a personal matter the learner has internally. Conversely, an extrinsic factor is an external matter that surrounds the learner. So, let's explore those factors along with some strategies you can apply in order to aid your ELL students.

Personal Motivation

Among the intrinsic matters an ELL student has, one major one is motivation, which refers to the personal reasons why a student wishes to learn English. Those personal reasons include, but are not limited to, getting a better job or a promotion, being able to interact with native speakers of English, wishing to fully become part of the English speaking country where they now live, planning on taking education further, etc.

Regardless of the reason why your ELL students attend your class, as long as students' personal motivation is high, they have a great advantage in learning. The reason is that personal motivation implies that the student voluntarily signed up to study English, and thus, they have a personal goal they wish to achieve.

Personal motivation is easy to identify when you ask your students, 'Why are you learning English?' or 'What do you hope to achieve in this class?' Students who say things like, 'I have no option' or 'I have to' clearly lack personal motivation. You can easily spot this lack of motivation through their behavior and attitude in class as they usually show no enthusiasm.

Whether or not there is motivation, praising students for their learning achievements can do wonders for their personal motivation. It is not unusual to see a sincere smile or light in the eyes of students who initially have the wrong motivation to attend your class when you praise their achievements. Phrases like 'That's correct!' or 'Excellent job!' can grow intrinsic motivation in students.

Age & Learning Disabilities

Age is an important factor. It's no secret that as we grow older it's harder for us to learn new language skills. However, age is not an complete impediment to learning.

There are several approaches to teach classes with diverse ages. First, you can often pair students of the same age to do classwork as they will identify with each other because of age.

Second, while there is no magic number of new words students can learn, Cambridge English Language Assessment recommends a daily vocabulary lesson with 10-15 words for students who under puberty, and 8-12 words for students who are past puberty.

Third, depending on class age, you can choose specific activities that appeal to your students. For instance, your ELL children may be very happy to read or talk about Harry Potter, whereas an ELL adult class will probably find it more appealing to read or talk about a politician, actor, etc.

Like regular students, ELL students may have learning disabilities. It's important to have a full report on ELL students to understand any limitations they may have. For example, an ELL student who is dyslexic in their native language will have difficulty reading fluently and spelling correctly in English as well. However, practice can lead the student to overcome both difficulties. Most importantly, all ELL students have the right to try the usual English practices and work you assign regardless of the learning disabilities they have.

Prior Education & Mother Tongue

ELL students who have a prior educational background in their own language probably have better studying skills than those whose previous education is not very solid. Also, a solid education often means students understand better how language works.

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