Sunday, May 3, 2015

English Language Learners---Part Four

There is a part four! :)


I wanted to add a few more things to my writings on working with ELL students.


Here are some of my practical tips for teachers:

-Find out where your ELL student is at. This can be accomplished two ways- A. The district or ELL teacher should complete a WIDA assessment on the student. Ask if they have it on file. You can also talk to the teacher from the year before to see what the child's literacy skills and grasp of English are. B. You can assess the child. Most of us do a preliminary assessment of a new student anyway. I suggest a phonological awareness assessment like DIBELS or the Literacy First PAST skills. Then move on to assessing Phonics, Vocabulary, Comprehension and Fluency, if possible.

-A common myth is that an ELL student must read or speak fluently in his/her home language before beginning to in English. This is not true. 

-I really disagree with homework in general...I feel like a student's homework should be to read every night. They will remember the great stories they have read, never recalling a "great worksheet." So think about how much harder you are making it on an ELL student by sending home homework. Other family members may find it difficult to assist the student. 

-Make the classroom a print-rich environment. There should be word walls, anchor charts, posters--anything that can be used as a reference for students. I ALWAYS tell teachers to use pictures or clip art on the word wall. I know it is not always possible-especially with sight words, but do your best. The word wall should also contain words that complement learning--not just sight words or spelling words anyway. 

 If you are sitting at a desk, could you read these tiny words? If you could not decode the word, how would you figure it out? By having clip art or pictures for support!!! 


Is this easier?? YES!!! I don't care if you teach 3rd or 5th grade--please use pictures as a support for vocabulary.

-Build on background knowledge. A student may not know the English vocabulary word for something but they may still understand the concept or content. An example of this is during a science lesson, a student may not know the word "Baking Soda" but understand the white powder added to the liquid (vinegar) makes a chemical reaction occur.

-Focus on teaching the five components of literacy-phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. All students need to be strong in these areas in order to be successful. I would also add writing instruction because reading and writing go hand-in-hand.

-New students that speak no English may go through a quiet period where they are being immersed with new vocabulary. This silent period can last anywhere from 6 months to two years. Students then become more confident in the new language and begin to procure and use academic language. This period can last 5-10 years. So it could take a non-English-speaking student awhile to catch up to an English-speaking student. This is why DIRECT instruction is so valuable. 

-There is a difference between correction and humiliation. One method that has been most effective with ELL students is that when they pronounce a word or sentence wrong, instead of an obvious correction, repeat the word or sentence correctly back to them--much like you do with toddlers learning language. Language in school is not natural and needs to be learned--needs to be taught.

I am sure I have more thoughts I am leaving out--I may just make a YouTube presentation to get them all in, and even then I might still have more observations to share because I am way too passionate about education. :)



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