Working with English Language Learners in the (Elementary) Classroom
written by: Finn Orfano
• edited by: Laurie Patsalides
• updated: 9/11/2012
As a teacher, you're faced with the task of meeting the needs of all your students, no matter how diverse. English as second language (ESL) learners may provide an extra challenge for you. Use these strategies to help your ESL students improve fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
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Help elementary English language learners recognize letters, sounds and common words. Encourage students to work on speed and accuracy in the recognition stage. As elementary students, everyone works to improve their fluency skills so try integrating some of these into the classroom. Use model reading with English language learning students, choosing texts to meet their reading levels. Ask a teacher, parent, volunteer, student-teacher or an older student to read the passage first with accuracy and automatically. Then, ask the student reads the passage. The student reads the passage a second time as quickly and accurately as possible.
Another idea, explain role-play to students. Read a story to the students. Choose students to play the parts of the characters. Ask students to read their parts before re-reading the story. Re-read the story with the students while reading the parts of the characters. Remind the students to use expression when reading, observe punctuation and accurately pronounce the words.
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Learning and understanding vocabulary is essential to successfully using the English language. English language learners continuously work, building a working vocabulary for everyday use. Ask English language learners to illustrate new vocabulary words. Students draw what the word means or a picture using the word. Allow students to cut pictures from magazines and newspapers to illustrate the new vocabulary words.
Act out new verbs or sentences. Help students understand a verb's meaning by completing the action. This is a great activity for the entire class, adjusting verbs or sentences based on student's abilities or knowledge. Pair students up and encourage one student to act out the verb, while the other guesses the action.
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Filling in the gaps for English language learner's background knowledge is essential to comprehension. Many stories rely on student experiences and interests to build excitement about a story. Work with English language learners prior to reading to give them the necessary background to be successful. After reading the story, ask English language learners to re-tell the story in their own words. Help them with details or the next action if they get stuck.
Another post reading activity, encourage students to describe their favorite character or a similar experience from their own life. Allow students to tell you as much information as they can. Then, ask guiding questions to help students complete the assignment.