We hope you’ve had a restful summer and have taken some time to reflect on the previous school year as well as think ahead to what awaits you this fall. Over the summer, we have had the opportunity to do the same in our work with teachers of English learners (ELs) in several states. We know that successfully supporting ELs requires so much professional and personal expertise, but the extra effort will definitely enable you to prepare your ELs for success.
To help you gear up for this academic year, we’d like to share our top five strategies to position your ELs for success whether you are a content, ESOL, or bilingual teacher. For each strategy, we give a brief explanation and then an example of what it could look like in practice. You can also click here to download our corresponding infographic.
1. Learn about your ELs and their families.
It’s crucial to know your ELs before designing effective instruction for them, and that background knowledge should extend to their families as well. All teachers of ELs should know their students’ English language proficiency level, home language literacy skills, educational and family background, and strengths as well as challenges. To learn more, you can create a plan for conducting home visits with your colleagues as soon as possible to engage with and get to know ELs and their families. For more information, see our blog posts on three easy steps to getting to know your ELs and their families and effectively communicating with EL families.
2. Set goals to embed more EL strategies into instruction.
We know that scaffolding instruction is one way to provide ELs access to engage with challenging content material. We suggest you add a new scaffold to your repertoire this year. For example, you could focus on increasing the use of of academic conversations to build ELs’ language and content knowledge or using scaffolded formative assessments to inform your instruction of ELs. Consider collaborating with a colleague so you can support each other in achieving your goals, which leads us to our next strategy.
3. Set expectations for collaborating.
It’s important to determine what the tasks are in co-planning lessons, who has expertise in which area, and who will lead each task. For example, when planning units, you could determine how the ESOL teacher might share her expertise on academic language throughout the lessons and how the content or grade level teacher might develop content objectives. If you don’t have the luxury of co-planning time, you could share some scaffolds for the lesson’s texts such as graphic organizers that might benefit your ELs.
4. Make sure your classroom is culturally responsive.
All ELs should feel included and see their cultures represented in the classroom, and administrators should help set the culturally inclusive tone at the school level. One seemingly simple way to start the year right is to ensure all teachers and administrators pronounce ELs’ names correctly and that hallway and office signs are posted in students and families’ home languages.
5. Make visuals for classroom routines.
ELs may need extra support so they know what’s expected of them in terms of classroom routines that may be unfamiliar to them. Consider creating a visual that ELs can refer to that outlines expectations for routines such as as turning in written work and asking questions during instruction, for example.
While there are many more ways to help ELs at the beginning of the school year, we’ve shared our top five strategies to set your ELs up for a successful academic year. Please share how you ensure your ELs will have a successful year! We look forward to collaborating with you this year to further support your ELs.