Some Multilingual/English Language Learners (ELs) may be attending a new school for the first time in the United States this year. This can be overwhelming initially, not only because the EL might be in a new town and country, but also because of the language barriers and cultural differences. However, there are many ways your school can offer resources to assist newly arrived ELs.
Provide Easy-to-Access Tools and Resources
Handouts with vocabulary and pictures, illustrated dictionaries, graphic organizers, and other tangible resources are essential to improving English proficiency for ELs during the new school year. You can find a list of recommended tools here. Also, programs like Get Ready! for Elementary or Secondary students offer print and digital resources that help newcomers to develop their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills and to access content-area vocabulary.
Foster Collaboration with Peers
Allowing students to get support and collaborate with peers as necessary will also assist newcomer ELs in adjusting to school. For example, a teacher can assign a classmate to help guide an EL through the daily routines or school procedures. A peer helper might also be able to clarify teacher instructions or assignment directions in the ELs native language. If no one in the class speaks the same language, a peer can help by demonstrating how to complete certain tasks or by using gestures to help their EL classmate make the connection between an English word or phrase and their own language. In addition, a classmate can help EL students outside of the classroom by showing the best route to take to their next class or how to follow school rules and procedures in the hallways and cafeteria.
Be sure to allow students to work together on collaborative assignments and group work to allow the ELs to participate and develop oral communication skills. For those students who are still learning in a virtual setting, you can place ELs in small breakout rooms or groups where they can clarify an assignment or activity directions and requirements.
Encourage Students to Take Advantage of School Programs
Motivate your English Language Learners to take advantage of times when school staff may be able to offer extra assistance, such as during EL support programs, before or after school tutoring, or open office hours.
Practicing English on a daily basis, whether with a classmate or a group of students or by using an English-learning program, will increase English proficiency at a faster rate. To start the school year off right, ELs should tap into all of the resources – human or otherwise – available around them.
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By Angela Padron