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[Back to School] 6 Tips to Support Your ELLs This Year

[Back to School] 6 Tips to Support Your ELLs This Year

Summer is almost over, and back-to-school preparation is right around the bend! While you’re working on planning for this upcoming school year, it’s important to think about specific ways that you can support the English language learners (ELLs) you’ll have in your class. We’ve compiled six top tips to help your students start off the new year on the right foot.

1. Introductions are key

This tip may seem like a given, but it has been proven to be integral to the success of your ELLs. Look closely at any language-proficiency test results and get to know your students’ academic timelines (including what gaps may exist in their learning, what their past experiences were like, etc.). Get to know your students on a more personal level as well—ask about their home and family life, their interests, and the things they hope to achieve this school year. Letting your students open up to you will help them feel more comfortable and ready to learn in your classroom.

2. Focus on the visual aspect of your classroom

Designing and organizing your classroom for the upcoming year has to be the best part of back-to-school planning (hello, Pinterest inspiration!). While you’re creating a classroom that will be the envy of other teachers, make sure that everything, such as supplies, homework folders, and your daily schedule, is clearly labeled in English and in your ELLs’ native languages. Pictorial labels can help your ELLs follow along with what is happening in the classroom at any given time.

3. Partner with support staff

Will your students be supported by a dedicated ELL or ESL specialist this year? If so, make it a priority to reach out to these specialists who will be working with your students outside of the classroom before the school year begins. Connect and build relationships to keep the lines of communication open so that you can more effectively partner to meet your shared students’ needs. These staff members can also be a great resource for you to gather new communication ideas, language-learning best practices, and simple strategies to overcome any challenges you encounter throughout the year.

4. Connect with your students’ families

Parent involvement is a huge factor in all students’ academic success, especially so for ELLs. Building a relationship with these students’ families early on can help overcome early challenges, including language barriers and engagement. Use multilingual materials in your early take-home packets, reach out about setting up a meeting to introduce yourself, and make translators available during parent-teacher conferences. Students can sometimes step in and help with translation with their families, so let them be a part of this process. Let your students’ families know that participation in their child’s education is valued and appreciated early on in the year.

5. Learn about your students’ cultures

Your ELLs are a wealth of knowledge about their home countries, customs, and traditions. Encourage them to share their knowledge with the rest of the class (as much as they’re comfortable sharing). Understanding the cultural context of your ELLs will help you better meet their individual needs, and ensuring that your ELLs feel understood and at ease in the classroom will help them be motivated and ready to learn.

6. Educate yourself on language acquisition

Learning a new language is a complex, and sometimes slow, process. Educate yourself on the process of language acquisition and use those insights when planning new lessons or curriculum. Work to make your classroom a language-rich environment, full of listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities to support ELLs. Be sure to reference classroom visuals and provide clear and consistent directions and expectations for learning. Finally, make it a priority to include diverse examples in your lessons to increase overall classroom cultural competency.

A critical aspect of successful ELL instruction is practicing patience and understanding with your students. Keep in mind that they are likely experiencing huge changes in their lives, and school is just one of them. Fostering an inclusive, welcoming, and kind classroom environment will help your students navigate the transition and achieve academic success.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s online solutions to support your English language learners? Find out how you can promote English proficiency with ESL ReadingSmart and the WIDA-approved Reading Eggs!