Effective Teaching Strategies for English Language Learners

English Language LearnersNot only is the number of English language learners rapidly growing in the United States, but these students also face a double challenge of learning the language and their academic content. Many teachers have traditionally taught language learning through a separate process than teaching academic content. Unfortunately, this process makes it difficult for students to learn academics until they are familiar with the language. Studies have found that consistently incorporating the two is more efficient and effective. Here are a few teaching strategies for ELL students that allow you to incorporate language learning with academic learning.

Speak Slowly and Encourage Use of Native Language

When speaking in English it is important to slow down the speed. Speaking slowly will allow the students to better understand what is being said as well as comprehend the meaning behind the word. It is also important to not ban students from using their native language in classrooms. Forbidding a student to use their native language prevents the student from feeling safe enough to take risks as well as comfortable when making a mistake. Whenever possible, encourage the student to repeat the words in English along with their primary language. This will help the student understand the meaning of the words and allow them to relate the word spoken in English to the way it is spoken in their primary language.

Use Visual Aids

Kids of all ages love images and thanks to technology you can (and should) take advantage of it. For example, printable study guides are an excellent way to highlight assignments as well as encourage the use of the English language. Students can use printable study guides as a “take home” resource that will allow them to further grasp the important areas of their textbook, especially for upcoming assignments and/or exams. To utilize printable study guides even further, consider putting letters and pictures on the study guide that go along with it.

Verify Understanding

One of the most important things to do is to verify the student understands their lesson. Instead of waiting until the end of the lesson and asking if there are any questions, stop frequently between the lessons to ask the students a question relating to the lesson. This will prevent the student from merely nodding their head in response to your questions and instead require a verbal answer, which will allow you to know for sure if the student understands what is being said.

Modeling, which is demonstrating and explaining what is being taught is a great way to show students what they are expected to do, especially when learning new skills. Encourage English language learners to provide work samples and demonstrate what they have learned. This will not only help the student have a stronger understanding of the lesson but by demonstrating they have an understanding of the lesson will increase their self-confidence.


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