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Special Education Tips for ESL Children

written by: Jack O. Rella • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 8/29/2012

Learning English as a second language can be a challenge for any child, but kids often prove to be willing learners when given the right lessons and just a little encouragement. Consider here ideas for tools such as flash cards and the most important ingredient, the teacher's personal interest.

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    Preparing the Teaching Plan

    This is one of the first crucial steps in special education teaching. A special education teacher needs to develop an effective teaching plan well in advance of the start of the school term. This will depend to a large extent on the age of the children, but some general rules apply for all children.

    Visual aids are among the most helpful tools special education teachers have, and thinking through a curriculum beforehand will help the teacher narrow down the most effective methods. This will also help to avoid special education teacher burnout from having too many tasks to invent “on the fly” in order to allow for a language barrier.

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    Teaching Tools

    Suggested visual aids can consist of games to play using picture-type flash cards. The teacher elicits oral recitation of certain words that coincide with the pictures. One approach for teaching these students involves breaking down subject matter in the curriculum into daily or weekly sections, with each lesson focusing on a different topic. Related topics can be arranged concurrently so that words learned in previous lessons can be applied in the subsequent lessons.

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    Other Teaching Tools

    Games that include singing, chanting and other means of reciting words in a structured yet enjoyable way is great fun and helps the students remember what they're learning. Simple verses from recordings (CD, vinyl disc, etc.) will get the children interested in repeating the correct sounds, and repetition is one of the keys in ESL instruction. Story-telling is another fun way to present words that can be associated with objects children are familiar with. Fairy tales, story books, or even popular movies can be used to illustrate words in a visual way.

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    The Teacher’s Personal Involvement

    Perhaps more important than anything else for special education teaching is making the children feel comfortable learning a new language. Creating as much fun as possible in the curriculum will lessen the foreign nature of ESL learning and will motivate the students to want to learn as much as they can about their second language. This can be accomplished simply by greeting the children every day in English, welcoming them to the class, and sending them home each day with a repetition of greetings that will accustom them to both hearing and using English words in an everyday manner.

    Teaching ESL doesn’t have to create special education teacher burnout. Making the experience as fun-filled as possible will encourage the students to learn all that they can about the English language, and it will also allow the teacher to enjoy the experience along with their students.