Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Best Practices for All Children!

We often hear from teachers that they are ill-equipped to teach English language learners (ELLs). One of the reasons given is their inability to speak another language. While this is helpful, it is not required to be a successful teacher of ELLs. When teaching young ELLs, it is important to keep in mind a few basic principles. And these are not unique to ELLs, but are really ‘best practices’ for all learners.

Speak Clearly
Some of us, speak quickly and with excitement in our voices. I am one of those teachers. But when presenting content, we need to remember that ELLs and many other young children need processing time. Slow down your speech a bit. This helps children think about each word that was said.

Provide Wait Time
Make sure when asking question, you give children plenty of time before you expect an answer. Sometimes you can say, I am going to ask a question. Pause. Then ask the question. Point to your head and say, Lets all think. Children understand that a question will be asked, and they are given time to prepare their answer.

Use Partner Practice
In the above scenario, ask children to whisper their answer to someone sitting next to them. This gives ELLs the chance to practice their English skills before speaking out in front of the class. And remember, when you call on only one child, he or she is the only one getting speaking practice. By asking children to share with a partner, everyone benefits from oral language practice. This extra step helps everyone.

Use Pictures and Objects
When you use pictures or real objects to help children understand vocabulary, this helps them develop the ability to use a variety of methods to learn new words. They become attuned to visual signals and develop this modality as part of their learning repertoire. This means you can use pictures of frogs, videos of frogs, or a model of a frog if reading a book about them. For most children, this also adds excitement and they will be more inclined to become engrossed in the text.

Use Body Language and Facial Expressions
When we show or act out vocabulary, children are more likely to understand what words mean. For example, we can hop like a frog. And, then add to this. Have children hop, too, while saying the word. This type of comprehensible output helps children make meaning. Facial expressions also add understanding. Talking about something sour? Make a face and then have children make this face, too.

As you can see, you already do many of these ‘best practices’ but you may not realize these are important strategies for teaching your ELLs. Just be explicit about what you are doing!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 03.
Head Start - VIII.A. & B.

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