Supporting ELL Students: Bridging the Gap Together
How many ELL Students are in the U.S.? In 2012-2013, there were 4.85 million ELL students in U.S. schools, comprising nearly 10% of students in U.S. public schools. They are the fastest-growing student population in the country, growing to 60% in the last decade.
Where Do ELL Students Live? ELL students attend schools in all 50 states. They are heavily concentrated in states such as California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, New York, and Illinois. California has more than 1.5 million ELL students. However, a number of states around the country, particularly in the Midwest and Southeast, have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of ELL students enrolled.
The Need for ELL and Bilingual Teachers
The number of ELL students are highly disproportionate to the amount of ELL and/or Bilingual teachers in the US today. Without the number of necessary trained ELL/Bilingual teachers, as well as lack of first language support, mainstream teachers play a crucial role. They must take part by working with the ELL teacher, to ensure social and academic language success. ELL students will be successful given that all teachers provide the necessary platform and ongoing continuum of support. This support must come from an ELL pedagogical view, as well as, an emotional, social, and developmental lens.
Supporting ELL Students
The ten tips and strategies below are intended to help mainstream teachers and ELL teachers come together to meet the needs of the ELL population. Teaching ELL Students and English Language Learners Strategies..
1. Cultural Awareness All teachers should take a moment to self-reflect about their own understandings and questions in reference to cultural differences and expectations. Teachers must take time to learn about different cultures, gestures, and traditions. Together, teachers and students can learn from one another and celebrate differences. Encourage all students to share their culture with classmates.
2. Show Compassion Teachers and mainstream students can imagine and discuss leaving a home country. Discuss how overwhelming it must feel to leave family members behind while trying to assimilate, learn, and socialize in a foreign language. Be aware that ELL students will be in culture shock and feel highly alienated for some time. Garner patience and understanding. ELL students will need time to talk, as a silent period is highly expected.
3. Provide a Safe Space Assess where the ELL student’s abilities are in relation to basic survival skills and needs. Assign a friendly and welcoming buddy to assist with common school locations, requirements, and routines. If possible, keep an extra eye out during busy transition times to ensure students make their way to the correct location. Try and find someone in the school, another classmate, parent or volunteer that can speak the student’s language. Connecting the student with someone who speaks his/her native language will provide a great deal of comfort.
4. Display Respect For All Cultures Reaffirm the message about support. Focus on kindness, understanding and remain patient. Model this for all students. Encourage all students to talk about their culture, traditions, and languages. Have parties celebrating the different cultures in the class, share music, historical family photos, dances, games, food and traditions.
5. Connect ELL Students with the Community If parents and/or guardians of ELL students do not speak English, request an interpreter for all school communication, including parties, conferences and special events. Invite parents to school community functions to encourage and foster a sense of belonging. If possible, introduce other students and/or families who speak the same language as the ELL student. Sharing cultural commonalities will provide strong bonds for students, parents, and teachers.
6. Assess ELL Students Informally Assess ELL students on an informal basis when they first arrive to class, and ongoing during the school year. It is imperative to primarily check for understanding in regard to basic and social needs. Pay attention from the sideline to see if they know numbers, letters, and/or short English phrases. Continuously check for comprehension and growth Raise the bar when they are ready.
7. Don’t Discourage Native Language Use With good intentions, many teachers make the mistake of discouraging native language use at school. ELL students who have a stronger foundation of their native language will have a shorter and less challenging route to acquiring English. Don’t discourage native language use, as this can result in negative feelings about the student’s language, culture, and life. In addition, it can cause delay in English language acquisition. Provide free time for ELL students to read and write in their native language.
8. Use Manipulatives, Visuals, Games, Music and Hands-On Activities in the Classroom According to William Glaser, we learn 80% of what we experience, and 95% of what we teach others. ELL students do exceptionally well when this theory is followed. Involve students in projects that will encourage them to talk as much as possible with their classmates. Some ideas for projects are the following: cooking (following easy directions), art (drawing, painting, sculpture), musical activities (music provides an amazing platform for learning), and acting (for example, charades).
9. Provide Various Opportunities For Talking and Consider Seat Placement It is very important to consider seat placement in the classroom for ELL students. All too often, ELL students are seated in the back of the classroom, which leads to a lack of contribution, listening, and participation. Try and seat ELL students close to the front of the class, especially with other students who are inviting and enjoy conversation. Provide the most opportunities as possible for talking and listening to others in the class via group work. The silent period may end in a shorter time.
10. ELL Teachers and Mainstream Teachers must Communicate Working together is the foundation of support for ELL students. Mainstream teachers should be open to the ELL teacher’s suggestions, let him/her share in the modification of classwork, and invite the ELL teachers to meetings and classrooms. If there is a concern, a question, or a need for advice, communication is key. Build this open communication bridge together, as both teachers are there to support and help the ELL student succeed.
There is a growing debate over the terms ELL vs ESL. What are your thoughts on this topic?