Sawsan Morrar wrote an extensive article in today’s Sacramento Bee headlined How Sacramento-area schools find ways to engage hundreds of families who don’t speak English.
As she was preparing it, she asked me what advice I would offer educators who were teaching ELLs.
Here’s the portion of my response that made it into the article:
Larry Ferlazzo, a Sacramento City Unified ELL and English teacher who runs a popular education blog, said that immigrant students often have a strong growth mindset given their worldly experience. “Look at new immigrant students through the lens of the assets they bring and not through their supposed deficits,” Ferlazzo said.
Obviously, there’s never enough space in a newspaper article to include everything. I thought readers might find it interesting/useful to hear all the advice I had offered:
Here are some of the things I generally recommend:
* recognize that ELLs have as much intelligence as any other student at school – they just don’t know English YET. However, it’s very likely that they can speak more languages now than any of their teachers will ever know (so many are multilingual).
* Look at new immigrant students through the lens of the assets they bring and not through their supposed deficits. Lots of research has shown that immigrant studies tend to have stronger growth mindsets and creativity because of their life experiences than students who only have lived in one country.
* Be supportive and be very sensitive to anything that can worsen student trauma. Before discussing events in their country in class, check in privately with each student. Many may very well be excited about discussing it, while others may not. Provide students with an option of “opting out” with an alternative activity in different classroom.
* Show patience, and do everything possible to build trusting relationships with students. Recognize that some of their actions may be based on their cultural background and lack of understanding of US school culture and not defiant noncompliance. If you don’t speak their home language, use tools like Google Assistant Interpreter Mode (which is a much better way to use Google Translate to have a conversation than just the Google Translate app itself) to just chat.
* “Preview” lessons you are going to do in English with similar content in their home language. There are tons of free online resources in most of our students’ home languages related to any content we are going to teach.
* Use visuals, speak more slowly than you might ordinarily do, and provide a lot of wait time before you expect student responses to questions.
* Play lots of games! * If students don’t understand you, don’t just say the same thing in a louder voice! Use visuals, body language, images, and translation tools. Assume students are trying their best.
What would you add?
Great tips, thank you for sharing! As a teacher in central California, I find that about 95% of my new immigrant students speak Spanish as their first language. I find that when first building relationships with this students, it goes a long way to greet them with phrases in Spanish. It takes such little time as a teacher to learn a few welcoming sentences in Spanish (if you don’t already know them), and I find that students perk up when they see a teacher making an effort with their home language.