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Teaching ESL Students in Mainstream Classrooms

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers will learn how to use instructional strategies to support all students. These strategies will meet the needs of English as a Second Language (ESL) learners in mainstream content classrooms.

Mainstream Classrooms

A typical content-area classroom, such as math, science, social studies, or language arts, consists of a variety of learners. Many times, English as a Second Language (ESL) students are included in the regular education classroom along with their native-speaking peers. Some of these students have recently arrived in the United States and speak little to no English, while others are even more advanced than their classmates. With such a diverse classroom, how can you ensure that you are meeting the needs of all students?

Let's look at some strategies that can help you differentiate instruction in your mainstream classroom.

Activate Prior Knowledge

Many students who are new to the U.S. will not understand American cultural, geographical, and historical references found in lessons, books, and other resources. For example, if you are reading a book in class that references Mount Rushmore, the Boston Tea Party, or the Chicago Cubs, ESL students may be confused.

Try to preview books and resources before teaching so you can determine what topics need to be pre-taught. You can help motivate all learners by asking them questions about their opinions, ideas, and experiences as they relate to the subject. ESL students will be able to learn from their classmates, and regular education students will be engaging in a pre-reading strategy to enhance their comprehension.

You can even give students books about the topic in their native language so they can prepare.

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