In today’s unprecedented and challenging times in education, administrators, teachers, and others in the field are admittedly searching for strategies and teaching tools, even gimmicks and gadgets, that claim to help children ‘catch up’ academically and socially. Rather than recreating the wheel, though, why not take some cues from a group of teachers who have been ‘catching children up’ academically and socially for years? Who would that be, you ask? The answer is English Language Learner teachers! Consider this: often, ELL newcomer students enter US classrooms from places where the education system is quite different and, in some cases, limited. Perhaps formal education is only for male students, or for the wealthy, or for a certain religious group in their home country. Newcomer students may be joining US classrooms from places where interrupted education is somewhat common due to widespread violence, like gang or military conflict. When newcomer children enter US schools, they may not just be experiencing English as an instructional or conversational language for the first time; they also may be experiencing what it is like to be a student for the first time—or in a very long time—as well. Because there simply isn’t enough time in the day to sit down and review every single item that may have been missed along their journey in education, best practices for ELLs have been developed and very successfully implemented over time, as a means to get students ‘up to speed’ in a realistic and even enjoyable way.
Would you agree that this has a familiar ring to it? Kids whose learning has been interrupted through no fault of their own. Teachers with limited time to get them up to speed.
“Good teaching” for ELLs could be just the answer that everyone seems to be searching for right now!
So, what are some of key techniques, used by ELL teachers, that are just waiting to be tapped
in to? Let’s take a look:
Looking at Students Through the Lens of Assets and Not Deficits
Good ELL teachers understand and capitalize on the fact all students bring a wealth of life experience and knowledge from the world into the classroom, regardless of the kind of formal schooling they did or did not receive. During the pandemic, students have acquired lots of new knowledge and skills that we may be overlooking. Many have gained a greater sense of independence and responsibility, advanced their technology skills, developed an increased sense of empathy for others, and even discovered hobbies & skills (painting, dance, instruments, and so forth…thank you YouTube & TikTok!) Children’s existing strengths and abilities are the perfect platforms for more learning to be built upon.
Emphasizing Social-Emotional Learning
Many ELL newcomer students have experienced varying degrees of stress or trauma in their home countries and in their journeys to the United States. Many social-emotional learning strategies for ELLs include building positive relationships with classmates and self-regulating. When children are confident with themselves & their interpersonal skills, that confidence bubbles up and spills over into academic areas! These concepts can certainly be applied to all students.
Providing Prior Knowledge and Comprehensible Input
Prior knowledge isn’t only what students bring to our classrooms. It’s also knowledge that we strategically provide to them through comprehensible input, so they can access even newer content that we’ll be teaching. All students are better learners of something new when that new information can be connected to something they already know. ELL teachers are very mindful of this! Through lots of meaningful repetition, clear & simple pictures, and fun props & realia, comprehensible input is provided, background is built and strengthened, and new learning begins to occur. What a benefit these strategies would be for all students right now!
Using Formative Assessments
Formative assessments are a wonderful way to gauge student understanding without the stress or pressure of a test. Informally assessing through drawings, games and conversations that are carefully woven into lessons is common in ELL settings. Again, why not take what has proven to be powerful and impactful with one group and apply it across the board?
Students have always deserved “good teaching”, and that’s more crystal clear now than ever before. So spread the word! The expertise and experience that has been used by ELL teachers and others is just waiting to be utilized and shared.
Want to learn how GrapeSEED integrates comprehensible input, social-emotional learning, formative assessments, the progression of learning and JOY into English Language Acquisition lessons? Click the contact us bellow!