Tuesday, June 26, 2012

TESOL Teaching Tip #29 - All English Learners are Not “Created Equal”

My class this year consisted of 20 students, of which only 1 spoke English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 spoke at least one, if not two other languages in their homes, and go to school in English, although they don’t live in an English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #29 - Know your students' language and literacy background. The more we know about our students, the more we know how to motivate and engage them. Stop by my blog - Raki's Rad Resources to find more information on getting to know your esl and ell students.

ELL Teaching Tip #29: Start Out With the Info

At the beginning of each school year, you get a list of students with no information.  If you’re lucky, you might get a star next to the names of students with an IEP or who attend ESL or Gifted and Talented, but rarely do you get more information than that.  If you’re like me, you may run to the teachers from the previous grade and ask for more information.  However, those teachers may or may not be back, or available for you to ask, and so we often start each year fresh. 
With any student, it is nice to have additional information about their background and home situation.  However, when dealing with English Language Learners, it can completely change how you should be teaching them.
For example, if you get a fourth grader who has been learning English for less than six months and has Arabic as their academic language, you are going to need to spend some time working on those basic alphabetic and phonetic principles.  Whereas, if you get a fourth grader who speaks Spanish at home, but learned how to read in English and Spanish at the same time, you will not need to do alphabetic or phonetic principles, but you will spend more time on vocabulary, idioms, and activities that will bring their spoken and written English to the same level as their Spanish (if it isn’t already).
There are other things that can impact a child’s language development as well – for example if their parents don’t read or write in the home language or English, this can impact their language development.  Knowing their math ability in their home language can also be helpful.
Language Survey - Gather Information about Your English Language Learners by Giving Parents this Free Survey
How, though, do we get that information about our students?  Well, one way is to take some time to go back through their student records.  Another way is to issue a “Language Survey” with your beginning of the year paperwork.  On the language survey, you can gather information about what language(s) is spoken and read at home.  (Great information to help with parent communication too!)  You can also find out when your students started speaking in their home language, and in English.  This language survey, translated into both French and Spanish, is included in my Parent Communication Forms Packet.

Language Survey - Gather Information about Your English Language Learners by Giving Parents this Free Surve

Language Survey - Gather Information about Your English Language Learners by Giving Parents this Free Surve

Successful Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners - VideoDo you enjoy the weekly TESOL Teaching Tips? Would you like to view an hour long presentation on this topic? I recently presented on Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners at the Everything’s Intermediate Expo. Now you can grab the presentation for just $3.95 from Teacher’s Notebook.

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