Tuesday, July 29, 2014

5 Tips to Help ESL Students on the First Day of School

As a teacher at an International School, many of my students were English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers were living in a non-English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here is this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip: 

A new school year is about to begin, and since there are 5 million English Language Learners enrolled in US public schools alone, not to mention the number enrolled in schools in Canada, the UK, Australia, South Africa, and the many International Schools around the world, there is a good probability that you will have at least one child in your class who has limited or no experience with English.  In fact, according to the US State Department, if you teach in a big city, you will likely have 10 – 15 % of your class enter with limited or no experience with English, and if you are teaching at an International School outside of an English speaking country, you can up that to 25 – 75%.  After three years of teaching at an International School in Morocco, I picture the first day of school to be one where 75% of my students only understand 10% of what I say.  Whether your class roster includes one English Language Learner or twenty, here are some tips for helping your ESL students get the most out of their first week of school.

beginning of the school year

1.)  Try to find out how much your students know.  If possible, send home an ESL Parent Questionnaire with parents during Meet the Teacher night or on the first day of school.  This will give you a chance to know exactly how much English exposure students have had.



2.)  Take time to teach the names of school supplies (pencil, backpack, notebook) and important people around the school (nurse, principal, lunch lady).  Use my Back to School Vocabulary packet, which has 4 differentiated levels – so that you can use the same type of packet for all of your students – ESL and native speaker.  You can download this packet for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.btscover

3.)  Repeat important directions 3 or 4 times, using models and speaking slowly.  ie.  Put your pencil (hold up pencil) into the cubby (point to cubby) with your name on it (point to name labels).


4.)  Have a variation of your getting to know you activities that will work for non-speakers.  One year, I planned these cute collage people, where students would create a picture of themselves with pictures from a magazine and then cut out words that described themselves to put around their picture. The 30% of my class who spoke NO ENGLISH couldn’t do words that described themselves, so they simply found pictures and spelled out their name on the outside - easy differentiation.

door 2

5.)  If you have enough native speakers, seat each ESL student next to a native speaker so that they will have someone to watch and model their actions after.  If you have any multilingual students, spread these students out so that non-English speakers will have someone to look to with questions.


What do you do to help your ESL students during the first week of school?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources