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Teaching English Language Learners

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Jessica Carpenter

on 2 July 2014

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Transcript of Teaching English Language Learners

Teaching English Language Learners

Of the over 300,000,000 people in the United States in 2013, 1.6%, or 5,000,000 people, were immigrants. (worldometers.info) With a population that is rapidly growing (and not necessarily native-born), it is extremely necessary to look into methods of teaching English Language Learners in our classrooms.
Your classroom is a community of learners, regardless of language of origin.
Classroom Context & Group Work
In classrooms that include English Language Learners, it is important to consider the types of groupings you will use to deliver instruction. "Two basic needs you will want to consider are (1) safety and security and (2) a sense of belonging" (Peregoy & Boyle, 2013).
How can I support comprehension?
We have already discussed the possibility of allowing English Language Learners to demonstrate comprehension in their native language, but what we should consider now is how to also teach reading comprehension in English.
So where do I start?
The idea of having English Language Learners in your classroom may seem daunting at first, but what it will come down to is your attitude toward the students.
How can I build on the strengths my ELLs will bring to the classroom?
A classroom that includes English Language Learners will need to account for several things, such as how the students will fit into their new classroom culture and environments, and how the teacher will accommodate the material. Consider the following:
What strategies DO NOT help comprehension?
While there are many strategies, such as modeling oral reading and incorporating relevant materials into the classroom, there are also several "strategies" to beware of.
How can I support vocabulary?
For all students, but especially English Language Learners, it is essential to teach a wide variety of vocabulary strategies for reading and understanding new and unfamiliar words.
Today's Goals:
To answer the following questions:
What is an English Language Learner?
Where do I start?
How can I build on what ELLs bring to the classroom?
How can my classroom environment help?
How do I support comprehension and vocabulary to ELLs?
First of all...
There are a variety of terms used to describe "students who are in the process of learning English as a new language" (Peregoy & Boyle, 2013). We will use the term
English Language Learner (ELL)
. It is important to note, however, that these students may "vary in English language proficiency" (Peregoy & Boyle, 2013.).
Before we begin, please remember this:
English Language Learners are students, too. They deserve a place in your classroom environment, just as your native English speaking students do. As teachers, we are developing a community of learners that does not discriminate.
It all begins with YOUR expectations!
A common misconception is that English Language Learners can't be successful because of the language barrier.
Set the bar HIGH!
As a teacher, you
believe that ALL of your students can succeed. This positive attitude will translate to a positive classroom environment.
Use your knowledge!
English Language Learners are most successful when they are taught by teachers with a strong understanding of literacy development, especially with regards to comprehension and vocabulary strategies.
Teachers should also understand the writing process and have a vast knowledge of children's lit.
Remember: A positive view of one's self leads to success!
It is vital to the success of your students that their cultural backgrounds are valued.
"Our first task as teachers, then, is to become aware of our students' personal histories and cultures so as to understand their feelings, frustrations, hopes, and aspirations" (Peregoy & Boyle, 2013).
An ELL's 1st language is an asset, not a handicap!
ELLs bring with them fluency and (often), the ability to read and write in their native language. This fluency has created a foundation for their learning.
Rather than tear this foundation down and start anew, BUILD ON IT!
Allow the skills the student already has to transfer to classroom tasks.
For example: Utilize the first language in written assessments, such as summaries.
By permitting the student to complete summaries in their native language, students are better able to demonstrate comprehension and will become more confident in the classroom setting.
Ask yourself this:
"Who am I in the lives of my students?"
How do you create a community in your classroom that supports your ELLs?
Begin with a library that represents the learners in your community.
Include books in the native languages of your students.
Include books whose illustrations look like the students in your classroom.
Include books that are bilingual for language development of all students.
Large group instruction and independent work, as ELLs can get frustrated by the pace of the native-speaking students, thus leaving them to feel isolated.
Instead, try...
...partners and small group instruction. These permit ELLs to work at a pace which is comfortable to them and less overwhelming.

Also, if possible, allow your ELL students to work in same-culture partners. This type of pairing allows the students to feel comfortable and safe in your classroom.

Make the reading materials relevant.
By choosing reading materials that have relevance in the students' lives, you are promoting connections to the text that reach ALL of your students.
These connections activate the students' prior knowledge and allow them to then make inferences and draw conclusions, which demonstrate comprehension.
Model oral reading.
By modeling oral reading and allowing students to follow along in the text, you remove from the students the pressure to "perform". This allows them to focus on and practice understanding the second language.
Oral reading also provides the students with a "window" into the reading process, as demonstrated by a proficient reader and English-speaker.
Beware of "Language Fatigue"
"Language fatigue" occurs for English Language Learners when they spend most of their day immersed in English, without a chance to utilize their native language. When a student reaches this point, it becomes increasingly more difficult and more frustrating for students to learn.
To avoid this, make sure to allow breaks in the day where the students may use their native language.
Beware of "Concurrent Translation"
"Concurrent translation" is a term which refers to the teaching practice of saying a phrase in English, and then immediately translating it into the ELL's native language.
While many teachers think that this strategy is helpful, it does not encourage the ELL to learn the second, more difficult, language.
The essentials:
The following strategies are vital for all students and provide the students with the ability to read and practice language with the class and independently.
Context clue strategies
Word Walls
Personal Dictionaries
A Hands-on Approach:
These strategies allow the students to become active participants in the vocabulary learning. They provide visual cues and context for the students.
Physical Demonstration
ex: "drag"
And last, but not least:
Do not discount the importance of a good bilingual dictionary. English Language Learners can use such a dictionary as a reference to make connections between vocabulary they understand in the first language to the vocabulary they are encountering in the second.
Based on Jim Harvey's speech structures
Peregoy & Boyle, 2013
As the facilitator of your classroom community, how you view the cultures, strengths, and skills of your students will impact their achievement.
As with any classroom activity, however, remember to vary your partnering and teaching styles throughout the day. It is hard to create a cohesive community by staying in partners all day....
*Note, however, that concurrent translation can, and should, be used when needed as a clarification tool.
In the small, rural school where I teach, I have encountered a lot of students, but none of them have yet been English Language Learners. Yet after watching the video, I feel confident that if this were ever to change, I could be adequately prepared for such students. I know now the importance of keeping one's expectations high because the students will perform at the level we expect from them and the importance of valuing the students' cultures in my classroom to develop an environment of acceptance and safety.

With that in mind, if I could change my classroom and practices today, I would ensure that my students had access to a wide variety of culturally diverse books and materials. I would consider the value of each student's heritage and ensure that this was represented in my room decor and in my choice of literature for whole-class activities. Additionally, I want to make sure that my vocabulary instruction includes traditional strategies such as using context clues, as well as physical manipulations of words. I think that these strategies have the potential to be beneficial to all students, regardless of native language.

As for questions, because I teach 10th grade English, I still wonder about teaching English to students who are not elementary-aged children. While the strategies
we have learned from the text and the video are helpful, I am curious to know what
teaching ELLs looks like in a high school setting.
Gender, age, fertility rate, immigration. (2014, June 19). . Retrieved June 20, 2014, from http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/#age

Peregoy, S., & Boyle, O. (2013). Reading, writing, and learning in esl: a resource book for teaching K-12 english learners. Boston: Pearson.

Teaching english language learners. (2014, January 1). . Retrieved June 19, 2014, from www.learner.org/workshops/teachreading35/session6/sec2p2.html
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