ELL Teacher Pros September, 2016
Contributions of ELLs to Society Mawi Asgedom (T.E.D.)
Too often of late we hear that immigrants are a drain on society, a dangerous threat, predators, terrorists, etc. As an educator who has spent her entire life working to support immigrants’ efforts to learn the language, graduate from high school, and go on to college, I can say that immigrants are one of America’s greatest strengths. Mawi Asgedom is living proof of this.
Here is a man who came to the United States as a refugee from Ethopia with no English. One can only imagine what went through his mind as all he heard, saw, and experienced was new and, in a way, alien. The ELLs who come into our classes are often a bit overwhelmed. Such students have so much to share, but are hampered by their lack of familiarity with this culture. The one vehicle to ease the stress and assist such students in being fully integrated into our school culture (and society at large) is via the typical ESL/ELD classroom (or being with teachers trained in supporting such students in their mixed classrooms). Dr. Asgedom was fortunate to have support from caring educators who never gave up on him and that led him to Harvard where he earned his doctorate. With such experience, he has made it his mission to support immigrant youth through his travels around the states addressing educators at every level.
So what can individual teachers do to support immigrant students in their classrooms? Here is a short list (feel free to add to it):
1. For mainstream teachers with ELLs in their classrooms, here are 12 ways to accommodate them.
2. Build a family-like atmosphere in the classroom where are openly encouraged to help their classmates. When small group work is called for, be sure that each small group allows the ELL to contribute with the help of the group. Using this approach, not only does the student acquire English via content activities, but also the native speaker learns about different cultures in a personal way.
3. Adjust assignments in ways that allow the ELL to show understanding of the content without getting bottled down in language. Language will evolve over time through both direct (ESL/ELD teachers can assist here) and indirect instruction (content classes).
4. Build a classroom full of cultural contributions of all the groups (and then some) present in the classroom. Be sensitive to cultural holidays that may not be part of their culture. If a teacher wants to do Christmas, that teacher should also recognize the special holidays of other religious groups/cultures. Such sensitivity teaches students to be culturally more receptive to different experiences and not fear them.
5. Make an effort to learn to pronounce the names of ELLs correctly. For some languages it may take some effort, but students will love and respect a teacher for trying.
6. Keep ELLs relatively close to the front if the classroom is set up the traditional way. This way it is easier to monitor them. Place them next to students who love to socialize. Socializers LOVE to talk so when small group work is called for, this group jumps at the opportunity to actively engage the quieter ones in the group’s discussion. Sometimes, believe it or not, kids are better at getting a message across than teachersJ
7. Discuss student’s progress with other teachers who have him/her in their classes. It will offer insight into different ways to reach the student.
8. Encourage parents to text/call you if they have concerns.
I have worked with immigrants for over 35 years and have truly enjoyed every moment of it.
Hope September has gone well. Only 8 more weeks until Thanksgiving (humor intended).
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