English Language Learners (ELLs) come from diverse backgrounds, countries, cultures, and experiences. For example ELLs can be Canadian born students who have come from a non-English home, immigrants, refugees or those learning a new dialect of English (British Columbia, 2009). Approaching ELL instruction with curiosity and openness to learn about the diversity in the classroom sets assumptions to the side and fosters an inquisitive and open learning environment that creates a sense of openness apposed to predetermined beliefs.
Aim to Understand
Similar to forgetting assumptions, aim to understand your ELLs. Look for cultural differences to support in bridging the gaps in their understanding, which can smooth their learning and cultural transitions (British Columbia, 1999). Also, look for similarities in culture to build on commonalities (British Columbia, 1999). Learn about the ELLs heritage and celebrate their heritage (British Columbia, 1999). For example; invite ELLs to be the experts about their cultures, celebrate holidays and festivals, embrace differences between cultures as a way to learn more about the world.
Create Positive Encounters
ELLs need to be supported in building their self-worth (British Columbia, 1999). Just like other students in your school ELLs need to be supported in their personal growth in conjunction with their language development. Look for ways to create positive encounters with ELLs and build relationships with them. For example, ask them about themselves, point out what you like about their work through descriptive feedback and acknowledge them by name outside of the classroom.
Talk with your ELLs. Support them to build their communication skills (British Columbia, 1999). Let them practice with you where they can make errors without fear of isolation. Build communication into your relationship and allow students to feel safe to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions with you and within the classroom. Learn from communication with your students and be flexible and ready to adapt when you learn more about them, their interests, needs and goals.
In Meyers’ (2010) article she says, not all teachers are ESL teachers and therefor are neither ESL trained nor specialists. One of the major elements that I have found to effective ELL instruction is the inclusion of structure. Although structure is not specific to ELLs, and could be considered a “good” teaching practice, it is a major piece in maintaining classroom management and a supportive learning environment for ELLs. Structure can take many forms such as; class schedules written on the board, scaffolded lessons or explaining organisation systems. For example, many ELLs come from a different educational structure and using binders versus workbooks can be a new concept. Structure also mirrors the rote style of learning common in China; placing Chinese ELLs in a more familiar setting as they integrate.
British Columbia Ministry of Education Special Programs Branch. (1999). English as a second language
leaners: a guide for ESL specialists. Retrieved from https://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/ell//policy/special.pdf
British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2009). English as a second language policy and guidelines. Retrieved
Meyers, M. (2010). Myths and delusion: English language instruction in Canadian schools. Canadian
Education Association, 46, 2, 31-34. Retrieved from http://www.cea-ace.ca/sites/default/files/EdCan-
Ms. Kolshuk's Blog
Welcome to my blog where I post about my teaching practice, ideas, findings and discuss topics of an educational nature. Please feel free to comment and/or email with any topic suggestions.