Monday, February 20, 2012

TESOL Teaching Tip #14 - Talk to Their Parents

My class consists of 19 students, of which only 1 speaks English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 speak at least one, if not two other languages in their homes. Most of my students speak Arabic, but many also speak French. I have 3 who speak French and not Arabic, 1 who speaks Spanish, and 1 who speaks a Philippine dialect. All of my students speak SOME English, but to varying degrees. My job is to teach them English, while also teaching them everything we normally teach in school (reading, writing, math, science, social studies etc.) Fortunately, I am certified to teach ESL and have some experience with English Language Learners. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. So, from now on, I will now be doing a Teaching Tip Tuesday geared especially towards teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #14 - Communicate with the families of our students. ESL or ELL students need you to communicate with their parents as much as or more than any other students. Read this blog post at Raki's Rad Resources for tips on how to make this happen.

ELL Teaching Tip #14: Communicate with their Family

This week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip is a day early, because tomorrow, I have a BIG announcement.  Don’t forget to stop by and find out what’s new at Raki’s Rad Resources!

One of the biggest mistakes teachers make when dealing with English Language Learners is to forget to communicate with their parents.  Yes, many English Language Learners come from households where no one speaks English.  However, just because they don’t speak the language doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in or able to help with their child’s education.  Will you meet English Language Learners with families who are unwilling to be involved?  Sure, it happens with all populations of families.  However, I can say from my experience that if a child is in the position to be an language learner, it is because their parents are trying really hard to give them an advantage.  Many parents see English as a ticket to success for their children, guaranteeing them success in a world that they themselves may not have access to.  Many parents of English Language Learners sacrifice a lot to have their children in a position to learn English and they will work extra hard to ensure success.  These parents are a great asset, that it behooves us as teachers to utilize.  But the question remains, if they don’t speak English, how do we reach them?  Here are some tips to do just that:
1  Send home communication in the home language as often as possible.  (Use translator services if they are available, if they are not, try Google Translate, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing!)
2.  Send emails rather than make phone calls, allowing parents to copy and paste into Google Translate, or have an English speaking friend or relative translate for them.
3.  Encourage parents to send emails and write notes in the home language.  Emails are easy to again copy and paste into Google Translate.  Notes can be typed in (unless they are in a language with a different alphabet system).TESOL Teaching Tip #14 - Communicate with the families of our students. ESL or ELL students need you to communicate with their parents as much as or more than any other students. Read this blog post at Raki's Rad Resources for tips on how to make this happen.
4.  Make an attempt to talk to the parents when you see them in person.  I can’t tell you how many parents I have talked to where I have spoken a little Spanish (or French, or Arabic)and a little English and they have done the same in return, and we have found some common understanding.  Most parents will appreciate that you make the effort, even if it doesn’t turn out perfect.
5.  Get a translator for conferences, but speak to the parent.  Whenever you have a translator, speak directly to the parent, just as if they didn’t need a translator.  Chunk what you have to say into small sections, so that the translator will be more likely to get all the information clearly transmitted to the parent.
6.  Invite parents into the classroom.  Parents don’t need to understand every word you are saying to come and watch your class perform a reader’s theater or present a project.  Get them in the door with something simple, and then begin encouraging non-threatening volunteer opportunities, like cutting out lamination.  If you work it slowly, you may be able to offer opportunities such as explaining math problems to students in the home language or reading a story to the class in the home language.
I hope these tips will help you increase your parent communication with your language learning student.  As a parent of 2 boys who are currently attending school in a language I don’t speak, I can tell you it is challenging to be the parent in this type of situation.  As teachers, we can make it easier on these parents, and thereby on these students, by including them in our classroom communication.  Involved parents are more likely to work on homework with their children, help them when they are stuck and be supportive of what is going on in the classroom.

Do you enjoy the weekly TESOL Teaching Tips? Do you want to know more about teaching English Language Learners? I will be speaking on this topic on March 22nd at the Everything’s Intermediate Expo, and I’d love to have you “join” us. It is a virtual expo, which will help us connect no matter where we are! Click HERE for more information.

Check out more TESOLTips HERE.