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5 Tips to Support Your English Language Learners (ELL)

Providing effective, differentiated instruction in a multi-ability, multilingual classroom can be a juggling act, and may seem overwhelming at times. You can, however, adopt some simple strategies which will can have a huge impact on your English language learners (ELLs). Read on to find out more!

1. Create a structured environment with regular routines and expectations

A predictable routine and consistent classroom procedures can be very helpful to English language learners because they provide a safe foundation from which ELLs can build confidence. Simple things like a daily morning routine, defined procedures for putting away classroom supplies, and designated times for handing in homework help to make for an organized classroom where ELL students can focus on practicing their skills, instead of being worried about simply grasping what is going on around them.

2. Provide short, clear, actionable instructions

When instructing ELL students, it is important to keep their level of proficiency and language background in mind. Keep your instructions brief and concise, and try to open with action verbs that will help your students understand what it is you want them to do. Avoid idiomatic or slang expressions, as their figurative meanings can often be confusing to ELLs. Similarly, bear in mind that your ELL students may not have the same cultural background or historic and geographic knowledge as you, so may not easily understand some references.

3. Frequently check for understanding

Providing effective feedback is a crucial part of ELL instruction, so it is important to check for understanding on a regular basis. Avoid simple “yes or no” questions, and instead, ask questions about the content that will provide a more accurate gauge of what your ELL students understand and what they are struggling with. Use this information to offer constructive feedback and encouragement.

4. Identify ways to build student confidence in a group setting

Group work can be very beneficial to ELL students by promoting peer-to-peer interaction that helps in developing language skills and learning new concepts. However, it is important to make sure that ELL students feel comfortable and confident that they are contributing in these settings. Assign these students tasks and roles within the group that are appropriate for their proficiency level. As their proficiency increases, they can take on different roles and tasks in order to develop different skills. It may be helpful to have one-on-one conversations with your ELL students in advance to give them the opportunity to ask any questions and make sure they fully understand their part in the group. The key here is to give ELLs work that is appropriate for their ability, to increase their confidence, and to make them feel like a contributor.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of pictures

Pictures are worth a thousand words, but it’s sometimes easy to forget that images are also the most basic way to engage your students in what they are learning. Supplement your instruction with visuals like illustrations, photos, and infographics to help your ELL students decipher words and concepts that are new to them. Although this may require some extra effort and creativity, images can be a powerful tool to build understanding, and they will help support students’ different learning styles.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum International’s online programs for English language learners? Ask our International Team about our solution, Exact Path, and how it can help by calling us on +44 (0)1572 492576.


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