Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TESOL Teaching Tip #30 - I Promise–You Know This!

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 #30 - Help your students make connections between what they already know and what you're teaching them. Connections help our brains process and remember. Find more details on how to help esl or ell students make connections at my blog - Raki's Rad Resources.

ELL Teaching Tip #30: Tell Them How it Connects

****  Sorry I’ve been so absent lately, my family has been busy getting moved.  Check out pictures of our new place on my personal blog – Journey to Morocco.  ****

When you are teaching English language learners, it is really easy for them to think they “don’t know anything”.  However, every English language learner comes to you with at least SOME background knowledge.  Many come with a lot of background knowledge, they simply may not have the word in English for the concept you are discussing.  Rather than holding this lack of 
Encourage English Language Learning Students to Make Connections Between the Home Language and Englishvocabulary against them, we need to try to connect what they already know to what they are learning.  

Here are some tips to doing this:
1.  Activate prior knowledge with images and stories.  Before you even start talking about vocabulary words – give your students an image to hold on to – whether it is a physical image (a picture on the projector, or a page from a book) or a mental image (read a story or poem that builds that image in their head) doesn’t matter.  Once students have that image in their head, they begin to give it labels in their home language.  They start to think about the concept.  This way, as you start handing out labels in English, they are able to connect their home language label with the English label and build a stronger understanding.

2.  Encourage students to discuss their connections.  When you are working on vocabulary, encourage students to say aloud the word in both English and the home language.  Not only will this help them make the connection stronger, but it may help other students of the same home language make connections they wouldn’t have made otherwise.

3.  Talk about home.  Make it a point to talk to students about what is going on at home.  This will help you know what your students know, thereby giving the ability to make more connections with what is going on with them and what you are teaching about.  (It’s also a great way to work on spoken English!)

4.  Revisit content you have already covered.  In addition to making connections to what is going on in your students’ lives, or what they learned at home, help students make connections with what they have learned with you.  English language learners often only grasp 40 – 60 % (or less) of what we say.  But, if we can connect what we say today with what we said yesterday, they are more likely to grasp it and remember it.  (It will also help you know if they understood what you taught yesterday.)

Successful Strategies for English Language LearnersDo 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!

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources