Helping An English Language Learner Adjust In Class




You might be wondering about ELL and how they adjust to their new life in a new country, with a different language. ELL means English Language Learner, and some educators specialize in dealing with kids who immigrate to the US from other countries. What non-teachers don’t know is that some educators get nervous when they are assigned students that don’t speak the American-English language. It’s like teaching a parrot how to speak – they can talk, but they won’t understand the logic behind it.

Anyway, if you’re a teacher who happens to come across this particular dilemma, it might be helpful to remember these useful tips. After all, an ELL educator provided the suggestions (thank you Miss Deb Hanson!), and even if you’re not an ELL teacher, it can be your “just-in-case” thing.


Buddy Up System

The ELL child will need a “friend,” and that friend must be an English-speaking classmate who knows the language of the ELL and can function as a translator too. His or her buddy must be a good student and a role model at that who is patient, kind, understanding, and considerate. The buddy must be willing to help you and the ELL.


Actions, Gestures, And Drawings

You can’t talk to the child in English all the time. The buddy may be busy, and sometimes, you’d be left alone with your non-English speaking student. In times when you need to communicate, draw pictures, act out your thoughts, or make gestures of some sort so that the ELL will understand.


Google Search For Images

When you can’t act out what you mean, use Google search for images. It is more comfortable to impart knowledge and learning to an ELL if they have an idea of what it looks like in actual. Visual images can assist in learning, and they’d be excited about it. Young ones love gadgets and technology.

But then again, a word of caution. Not all images in Google are safe for kids to view. Screen the pictures first before showing to the ELL.


Minimize Usage Of Idioms

ELL won’t understand idioms like – can of worms, cat got your tongue, hold your horses, and the likes. It may confuse the child. If ever this happens, explain what the idiom means to avoid further bewilderment on their part.


Speak Gently And Plainly

Use simple words and be gentle. Avoid raising your voice and don’t rush.


Let The Student Speak English

ELL’s will try their best to speak English. If they make a mistake, don’t criticize and correct them, especially in front of other people. It may be natural for you to correct someone when they make a grammar mistake, but for this one, just hold on. For example – Sister goes work new clean house. You can respond by saying – Wow, that’s great! Your sister now works by cleaning houses?




Writing Basics

If the student can’t speak English, it is highly likely that he or she has difficulty writing in English, as well. Just don’t rush your ELL. In time, he or she will be able to write. Do the I LIKE – I DON’T LIKE to exercise. Explain to the child that he or she has to write down the I LIKE things on the left side and the I DON’T LIKE things on the right side. For example, I LIKE TURKEY SANDWICH. I DON’T LIKE CHILI DOGS. In this way, the child will learn more English words by writing about their likes and dislikes.

Next on, the exercise can be a practice for using verbs, familiarizing with body parts, numbers, colors, clothing, sports, and more. For example, I CAN DANCE. I CAN’T SING. I CAN PLAY SOCCER. I CAN’T PLAY FOOTBALL. I HAVE SIX SISTERS. And so on.


Dictionary Use

It will be beneficial for you and the student to have a dictionary in the ELL’s native language. Keep it handy inside your classroom.


Lesson Modification

It is imperative to modify and simplify your lessons so that the ELL can easily understand it. Use Google images, pictures, and such tools for the student to visualize the word/phrase/sentence.


Be Positive Always

Teaching an ELL won’t be easy. In fact, it will be tough, and everything in your patience meter will be tested. Just stay positive and be a teacher who wants to help. A smile can go a long way, and your body language says it all. Be welcoming, and your student will never forget you.