Anyone who has been around children who are learning to talk knows that the process happens in stages—first understanding, then one-word utterances, then two-word phrases, and so on. Students learning a second language move through five predictable stages: Preproduction, Early Production, Speech Emergence, Intermediate Fluency, and Advanced Fluency (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). How quickly students progress through the stages depends on many factors, including level of formal education, family background, and length of time spent in the country.
It is important that you tie instruction for each student to his or her particular stage of language acquisition.
We can support students by giving them the means to communicate. Initially, it is their basic needs (washroom, drinking water, quiet space) but it should grow to encompass their emotional needs as well. As educators, we need to provide the supports in order for these students to demonstrate how they are feeling and to give them the tools to manage their relationships with those around them.
Modelling effective communication is essential. Show students how to use ‘I messages’, give compliments and practice often. Modelling healthy relationships Good friends Do, Good Friends Don’t
Practice encompasses practicing positive social-emotional behaviours like showing gratitude and working on conflict resolution through role playing. But it also includes practices such as yoga and mindful moments, such as sit spots.
Our students come to us from many backgrounds and at various challenging points in their lives. Newcomer students have experienced an enormous transition in order to arrive in your classroom. They likely do not speak the dominant language used in the room, adding another stressor to communication. Including supportive visuals, using the student’s first language and allowing them to share their personal stories are ways that we support inclusion and help the students see themselves in the classroom.
English Language Learners need lots of support and practice to develop the language needed to express themselves. They may have the basic vocabulary (sad, happy) but we need to help them identify specific emotions in order to guide their social-emotional learning.
Thesaurus wheel are a useful visual tool to help ELLs with new vocabulary. They will include the student’s first language, a visual, synonyms and antonyms.
When English Language Learners are new to your class, they will need time to adjust to the classroom environment. If they become stressed or overwhelmed, this visual can give them some tools to regulate their behaviour without the need for language.
Scaffolding strategies are essential to support English Language Learners. Strategies for Improving Vocabulary Acquisition in English Language Learners is a great resource full of strategies and tips when teaching ELLs.