Sunday, August 19, 2012

Techniques to Bring Beginners/Early Intermediates Into Classroom Discussion

With some schools dropping ELD programs, ELLs are now going directly into mainstream classes.  Though teachers have had some training in supporting ELLs in their classes, they generally have not had much experience with working with the lower end of the English language development proficiency spectrum:  beginners and early intermediates.  In a classroom of 30+ students, it is often times a bit difficult to bring those 2 or 3 students into classroom discussions beyond "yes/no" questions and pointing/drawing. 

Well, the only way to develop their English is to actively engage them in class routines beyond the "pair up with a student who speaks his/her language."  The buddy approach can be used occasionally, but it should not be the only tool.  Why?  One reason is that the student doing the translating is not in a position to fully listen to the teacher so s/he is not able to fully focus on the lesson.  Further, that student is not a teacher.  In addition, unless a teacher can monitor what is being translated, the teacher has no idea as to whether or not the translation was accurate.  A second reason why this should not be the only approach is that by using students to translate, the English skills of the ELLs do not improve.

Though the tips in this article could be applied to many students, they most benefit the ELL who is much more likely to be quiet in class due to discomfort because of language barrier and cultural differences.  A few of the suggested guidelines to more actively engage ELLs in class are to uphold high expectations for all to participate in class beyond the raising of hands (think-pair-share, choral reads, etc.).  Keep a record (checklist) of who responds, how often, and in what manner.  Allow sufficient wait time so that ELLs have time to process the question and arrive at an answer.  Accept phrases and then model more complete sentences.  There are many more approaches here and of course, teachers may have their own approaches that achieve the same goal. 




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