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Monday, February 14, 2011

Supporting Struggling English Language Learners in the Classroom

We all have those students who, no matter what we do, fail our classes. This is a major issue currently in my school (and is a problem district wide as well). Though I am sure that there are those few who just "don't get it", there are far more who are lost in a sea of academic text, language, and grade level content. These students are dropping out of school at frightening rates and the vast majority of these students are Latinos and African American males. Why? What can schools do? What guidance can be provided to teachers to support these students? Something must be done to stop this brain drain.

First, we need to accept the need to make some changes in our instructional deliveries. This is not easy for some to do since no one has asked them to do so for years. However, the demographics have changed. An instructional approach that worked 25 years ago might be the most effective way to reach such students now. Where do we start in self-retooling? One site is one that we put together at ELL TEACHER PROS Recommendations for ELLs and ESL . Here you will find a wealth of information for teachers of ELD/ESL and mainstream teachers with ELLs in their classes. There are also supports for ELLs in those classes such as graphic organizers, conversation starters (both conversational and academic), writing activities, etc. Another great resource for teachers of these students is found at COLORIN COLORADO-Supporting ELLs in the Mainstream Classroom: Language Tips. The more strategies a teacher has in an instructional toolkit, the more likely the ELL will do well in a mainstream class.

Second, we must find ways to support ELLs in their efforts to access content. One approach I have used is having students do webquests on the content of a given lesson. This takes some time to create, but you can do it yourself through the Knowledge Network Explorer . Here you may also use already prepared ones done by other teachers (sometimes there is a dead link or two in their webquests, but dead links are common). I have also found several for math (algebra here) since I have ELLs who need to have problems read to them so that they might answer them correctly. I have one such student this year who must have algebra problems read to him. Once that is done, he passes. I have found a site that reads problems aloud which will free up the teacher a bit to monitor the progress of others while keeping an eye on him ALGEBASICS-ALGEBRA TUTORIALS

A few last comments on supporting struggling students. Don't give up on them. There are many school staff resources available. Some of obvious (like counselors), others not so such as the registrar, other teachers, students with great grades in the subjects that the ELL is having difficulty with. Never give up. There IS a way to reach that kid. To not try is to condemn young people to lives of menial jobs and poverty wages.

If you have any additional ideas, please feel free to share. As teachers, we need to work as a team.

Denise
ELL Teacher Pro

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