How to Integrate English Language Learners

Tips on Supporting ELLs in the General Education Classroom

Teachers realize that many of their struggling ELLs need more than just reading support. An individual plan ensures that teachers are doing all they can to support their ELLs as they gain word and text based skills from year to year. By understanding the struggles English language learners experience, teachers can help these students succeed by structuring activities a bit differently for them.

Use Small Group Instruction

The benefits of small group instruction allow for more student-teacher interaction as well as opportunities for students to become much more involved in the general education classroom. In a small group setting, teachers can provide guided practice which can motivate and support struggling English language learners.

As a group work procedure, teachers can create simple systems like a “buddy system” where an ELL is paired with a native English speaking student. This eases isolation and helps an English language learner adjust to his/her new classroom. Teachers can also use pair and trio work where one child speaks the English language learner’s mother tongue and is more proficient in English. Provide opportunities for ELLs to compare and contrast themselves using a Venn-Diagram. Display the diagrams and have students report to another pair what they learned.

Use Small Group Teaching Skills

Teachers may find they need to diversify their instruction by providing more guided practice in areas of reading support. For example, when teaching ESL reading skills, teachers may find they need to include more in-depth reading strategies than they would ordinarily do during whole class instruction.

To cope with the difficulty of understanding advanced texts, making connections between ideas and lack of vocabulary knowledge, teachers can use the same reading text for the class while adapting some of the reading and vocabulary activities and providing more direct guided instruction in small groups. This allows individual ELLs to progress according to their ability.

Incorporate Theme Units Based on Multicultural Content

One great way to cater to student diversity is to incorporate multicultural content for either small group or whole class instruction. Either way, teachers can help ease the cultural and social isolation by planning motivating lessons that incorporate the theme units around an ELL’s country, national food or culture. Students can prepare the national food or learn the targeted vocabulary. This also helps to create a classroom community.

In this authentic mode of instruction, teachers can also teach values of tolerance and diversity through multicultural books.In doing so, they can also create a sense of belonging by reading multicultural literature. With the increasing number of English language learners in schools, teachers need plenty of authentic fiction and non-fiction that caters to student diversity.

To recap, ESL students face several common problems when they learn a new language as they transition to a new culture and connect to the classroom community. They also may lack a transition group. Teachers can support English language learners by giving them various instructional and learning opportunities using small group teaching skills and instruction so they can ultimately survive and thrive in the general education classroom.


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