Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where is Your Knee?

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 TeachingTip #19 - Appreciate and utilize student differences when teaching vocabulary. Students will remember different words based on their interests and needs. This blog post on Raki's Rad Resources will give you suggestions on how to use these differences to your advantage.

ELL Teaching Tip #19: Appreciate each child’s differences
As teachers, we know that all children are different, but often we forget how much these differences affect what children learn.  These differences can especially affect what words our English Language Learners learn.  Students will learn and remember the English words that they need or the words that mean something to them the most quickly.  Words that don’t have any meaning to them will slip through their memory and never really settle into their long term memory, or at least take longer to settle there. 

This is the reason that the girls in my class know words like dress, skirt, makeup and tiara and the boys don’t.  It’s also the reason that the boys know the words ninja, soldier and magic trick that the girls often don’t.  In imageaddition, my student often know words that help them out at school, where they use English, but not words that would help them out at home, where they don’t.  So, it’s not unusual for my students to know words like connection, punctuation mark, and cylinder, but don’t know words like knee, spoon and shovel.
Help your students increase their vocabulary by using those preferences and background knowledge.  Here are some ways to do that:

- Activate prior knowledge on EVERY lesson.  Giving kids some context to connect their new learning to will help them remember the words and concepts you are teaching.

- Teach those “home” words that can be taught and reinforced through reading and every day activities.  My differentiated vocabulary packets are a great resource for this.

- Play games that include body part and object names – like Simon Says.

  - Find out what your students are interested in and find books with good vocabulary on those subjects.  Use these books for read alouds and guided reading, as students will be more likely to remember the vocabulary that is connected with topics that they are interested in. 

Do you enjoy the weekly TESOL Teaching Tips? Do you want to know Heidigraymore about teaching English Language Learners? I will be speaking on this topic 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 ticket information.

Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!
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