By Sydney Snyder | February 13, 2017

At SupportEd we frame all of our work — from professional development to technical writing to research in the field — on the following five essential guiding principles:

1. ELs bring many strengths to the classroom.

2. ELs learn best when they are taught in a welcoming and supportive school climate.

3. ELs should be taught language and content simultaneously.

4. ELs benefit when their teachers collaborate to share their expertise.

5. ELs excel when their teachers leverage advocacy and leadership skills.

These principles, which also form the basis of our upcoming book, speak to what we love most about the work that we do with ELs and the educators who teach them. In this blog post we will focus on the first principle in greater depth by explaining how we incorporate the principle into the work that we do. We’ll then share tips for building on the principle in your own context.

Principle 1: ELs bring many strengths to the classroom. This principle is centered around the idea that ELs enter the classroom with a rich background of cultural and linguistic experiences that may sometimes be overlooked by their schools and teachers. At SupportEd we recognize that drawing on ELs’ prior experiences and knowledge can assist and motivate them when they engage with new content. We encourage teachers to use such tools as culturally responsive instructional strategies, formative assessments, and home language materials to support them in recognizing and valuing what ELs have to offer. We also encourage educators to frame their interactions with ELs from an assets-based perspective by shaping instruction around ELs’ rich backgrounds.

Ways to build on our first principle. To integrate our first guiding principle for EL education, that ELs bring many strengths to the classroom, you’ll need to build on ELs’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In order to do so, you first need to know your ELs. This month, we suggest you choose one EL that you don’t feel you know very well and try and find out a little more about him or her. Some ways to learn more about this student might include:

  • Attending a school or community event that the student attends
  • Having an informal conversation with the student during lunch or on the playground
  • Learning a little of the student’s home language
  • Arranging for a social visit with the student’s family in their home (if your school supports this)
  • Developing learning tasks that provide opportunities for the student to share information about the people and things that matter in his or her life

What other strategies do you use to learn about, recognize, and value ELs’ strengths, including their cultural and linguistic backgrounds? Share them with us on Twitter @SupportEduc or on Facebook!