In the Edutopia post, 4 Strategies to Help ELLs in the Mainstream Classroom, JoyLynn Nesbitt writes that a beginning ELL can virtually become an intermediate ELL in a matter of a few months. We at Lingual Learning have seen the impacts of her tips in our own classrooms, and our curriculum specifically incorporates three of them. Are there any tips you would add to this list?
1. Read, read, read. Study after study corroborates the positive impacts of reading. It shapes the brain, and it gives ELs a huge language boost. And one of the best things about reading is that even bad books are good books. Students can’t go wrong, as a long as they’re engaged in reading. Even for early English learners, graphic novels and children’s books can deliver hefty content in a way that’s easy to parse. The key to all that reading: Relating it to the classroom. At any point when you talk about broader conventions of the written word (punctuation, capitalization, paragraphs, topic sentences, conflict, humor, descriptive paragraphs, and more), ask students to give examples from their own reading. It’ll be relevant in a way that engages them.
2. Engage the senses. Keep lessons multimodal. Use realia. Have you noticed how children (and adults) perk up whenever a screen gets switched on? There’s just something more fun about learning with technology. (And we’re into classroom fun and games!) Whether you use an image search on the web to share photos of key vocabulary or use specific apps for specific goals, when ELs are concerned, every kind of input serves in their favor. In part, our curriculum is served up as an app, because it’s way more fun to explore an iPad than a three-ring binder!
3. Talk less. Not the students–you! Go easy on the lecture. Keep it clear, keep it focused, and keep it short. Especially when we’re instructing ELs, too many words and explanations actually hinder understanding, besides reducing engagement. Admittedly, it’s hard to do less talking. We want to be sure our students understand, we fill gaps of silence with explanation, and we get used to the sound of our own voices. As we developed our curriculum, we constantly cut down teacher scripting, because we really wanted the lessons to permit as much student talk as possible.
4. Write, write write. Allow students to write the way they want to write, about content they choose. Teach them how to self-edit. This is a natural time to in struct them on learning strategies and metalinguistic awareness, word families, and share differences between their first and second languages. There’s a natural investment on the part of students since the words are their own, instruction can be differentiated, and practicing productive skills is key to mastery of language and concepts. That’s why each of our lessons ends with a writing task.
The only tip we would add to this list is boosting oral language in the classroom!