10 Tips for Building Communication and Relationships with Your English Language Learners

Because the population of English Language Learners (ELLs) is growing rapidlyacross the country, schools and educators in some areas are having trouble keeping up. Limited opportunities for professional development or limited funds for additional resources can make it difficult for teachers to help their ELL students catch up to their native English speaking peers.But there are many things teachers can do to foster a solid relationship with ELLs and their families and give them what they want: respect, patience and encouragement on their path to English learning success. Keep these simple tips in mind during your daily interactions:

  1. Teach both speaking and listening skills to build a solid foundation that will lead to reading and writing success.
  2. Share photos and videos of the student to build a rapport with the family.
  3. Get to know the culture of your ELLs and encourage them to share it with the class.
  4. Write down what you’re saying and thinking so your ELL and her family can see it as they hear it.
  5. Extend wait time. When you ask a question, give students a chance to think about it and answer.
  6. Get creative! Provide visual supports, let students act out answers, give students choices, and make things fun with singing and action activities.
  7. Use multiple ways to communicate with the family: oral (phone calls and face-to-face meetings), written (texts, emails, notes and letters), use their home language in addition to English, if possible, through an interpreter or with the help of the ELL.
  8. Let the ELL and his family see you as a person. Shop where the students’ families shop and attend local events in the community. Engage with the student and his family outside of school so you can also get to know them as people, not just as a student and his parents. Spending time with the student and his family, even using small, simple communication, will help to bridge the language gaps. While notes, texts, and emails are good, the best way to build a relationship and clear communication with the family is to spend time with them.
  9. When possible and appropriate, give ELLs materials ahead of time so they can practice and review before it is presented to the rest of the class.
  10. Make the #GoodCallsHome Twitter pledge by committing to make a minimum of 2 positive calls per week all year long. Tell parents something good their child did in class.

Do you have more tips on how to build communication and relationships with ELLs and their families? Please share with us on the GrapeSEED Facebook page!

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