Useful hints for ESL teachers: Part 2
Thursday, May 23, 2019
For part one, please click here.
Students need extra help understanding facets of language that go beyond grammar and syntax. Teachers may have to make extra efforts to help LEP learners. Teachers can look at their own cultures as a starting point.
Teachers who regularly reflect on their own cultural perceptions, interpretations, and blind spots can also share these reflections with students, modeling for them that it is not only acceptable to think about one's own cultural blind spots but that it can be instructive. We learn by doing this and gradually become better at making cultural interpretations through reflection and practice (Hauser, M. 1999).
Another thing that a teacher can do is let his or her personality show. Stay on task, but it is OK to be different.
If you let your inner personality shine through, you will be different – guaranteed. Don’t be a robot that spews lists of verbs and explanations on when to use each tense. Be yourself and let your students get to know you and what makes you different from other teachers (Pesce, C. January 2, 2018).
Teachers should be sensitive to the students’ needs. Some may need more grammar; others may need more speaking while still others may need emotional support and advising.
Teachers help their students, but they also need to teach the students how to help each other in groups.
Millennial students are used to working in groups, thus group and cooperative learning should be utilized to help them gain knowledge through collaboration (Mitchell, P. 2011).
Students can learn how to learn the resources that are available such as dictionaries, maps, grammar guides and composition strategies that are also available online.
Student engagement is essential to a learner-centered classroom.
A growing body of research in education and the social sciences suggests that students’ curiosity can be stimulated in ways that strengthen their connectedness to lessons, interactions with each other, and willingness to commit to learning goals (Abla, C January 22, 2019).
One way is to provide a puzzle or a mystery to solve.
Try posing a broad question to groups of three or four students, such as: "What would happen if a butterfly’s habitat was suffering a severe drought during the pupa stage?" (7 Ways to Spark Engagement)
Ask questions that require deep thought rather than a rote answer.
Try using questions that begin with "What if," or "How might," and aim for questions that don’t have an undisputed yes or no answer and that don’t rely on simple recalling of facts. The goal should be to foster mature thought and collaborative discussion? (7 Ways to Spark Engagement)
Encourage students to be self-reliant.
Empower Your Students: Successful ESL teachers don’t coddle their students. They don’t translate words into students’ native language. They don’t finish sentences for them. They don’t complete their homework exercises for them. And they don’t tell them how to do all of these things. They show them how to do it and provide the necessary tools (How to be a successful ESL Teacher).
Another helpful strategy that teachers can use is team teaching.
Also known as a co-teaching model, the ESL teacher and grade-level teacher team teach the class. As equal partners, they plan and take turns teaching both native and ESL students (Gebhard, J. 2009).
A related strategy is mentoring. Current experienced faculty can work with new and adjunct faculty to help them adjust to the requirements and the curriculum of the program they are entering.
All faculty are required to attend an orientation at the beginning of the semester. Work with the new faculty, however, begins as early as the hiring decision is made (Nehrebecki, 2008).
Community college teaching is a viable option. Community colleges often have more than one program. Besides an ELI, they may have ABE/ESOL and college prep ESL. Non-faculty positions related to ESL may include learning center specialists, curriculum coordinators and advisors.
Another thing that teachers can do is stay current on the latest technology, which is rapidly changing. We have gone from tapes and computer disks to podcasts and the cloud.
The applied use of technology in the teaching and learning process is not a new idea. In fact, the use of technology as an instructional mediator or communication connector in distance and online learning is quite familiar in current educational and training programs. What is new, however, is the rate at which technology and technological possibilities are changing (Raynard, R. 2008).
ESL teachers can bring other disciplines into the ESL classroom. For example, basic civics can be included in adult education ESOL as the students are likely to remain in the host country and pursue citizenship.
There are already shortages of all types of language teachers nationwide — in 2016, 32 states reported not having enough teachers for English learner students, while world language and bilingual educators are in desperately short supply in almost every state (Language Magazine, March 6, 2018).
There should be incentives to encourage teacher and potential teachers. The current system makes it difficult for those who want to enter the profession in the K-12 system.
Finally, teachers need to have positive attitudes themselves before they can transfer them to their students.
Teachers who hope to foster positive capacities in their learners must first develop those capacities internally in themselves. By contrast, if that teacher is disengaged and lacks vision, this is readily transmitted to students through the socially mediated encounters of the classroom, with a potentially devastating impact on students’ own learning and processes of sense-making (Hiver, P. 2017).
Teachers should not be afraid to seek support from specialists in the school.
At times, we have support from other colleagues or specialists in the school, such as special needs teachers or English language development specialists. These professionals can be an excellent resource for us as we consider how we will best meet the needs of each student in our class (Herrmann, E. July 19, 2017).
Support is critical, but teacher training programs and workshops should also deal with ESOL.
The first issue identified in educator preparation is specifically the lack of educator preparation in their pre-service training to understand the needs of the DLL and EL student population. The report states that professional development, coaching, and continuing education for education providers, teachers and administrators serving DLLs and ELs have not developed a coherent set of strategies for improving their effectiveness with DLLs and ELs (Arias, M.B. February 2018).
Content area teachers should look on new LEP students as a positive development.
You have language learners in your classes? Congratulations! Imagine all the new angles and perspectives you can include in your teaching this year, the different ways you can tap into students’ critical thinking abilities, and how you can design impactful learning experiences for all the children in your classroom (Pillars, W. September 6, 2017).
An important factor in teacher retention is support, mentoring, and sharing of experience and expertise. Also, student performance improves along with teacher performance.
In addition, support programs, such as induction and mentoring, have been found to not only improve teacher retention, but to also improve student performance in math and English language arts (Standards for teacher induction programs released).
One final hint
One may feel that it is necessary to speak louder when dealing with second language learners, but a better method is to speak normally and be willing to repeat or rephrase. That way the students will not feel that you are talking down to them.
Use clear, normal speech in communicating with ESL students. Moderate your speed if you are a fast talker. It may be necessary to repeat yourself or rephrase what you said. Help to shape what the student wants to say (Frankfurt International School, December 28, 2018).
It helps to have visual aids and realia if you are in a designated ESL classroom.
Fill your classroom environment with print and with interesting things to talk about and read and write about. Creating a language-rich environment will allow your ESL students to learn even when you aren’t directly teaching them.
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- School districts weigh pros, cons of later start times for high schools
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- 5 kinds of difficult managers — and how to retrain them
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