Navigating Language Learning Challenges for Kids in a New Environment. Learning a new language can pose challenges, yet it offers valuable rewards, especially for kids who move to a new country with a different language and culture. For such children, learning the local language is essential for their academic, social, and professional success in their new home. With the ability to communicate effectively in the new language, children can better integrate into their new communities, succeed in school, and open up new opportunities for their future.
However challenging learning a second language may seem at first sight, young children are well-prepared to acquire it. All they need is effective strategies combined with a little bit of patience, love, and support. Before delving into the most effective strategies and tips for parents, let’s examine how most schools approach teaching English as a second language to children.
Navigating Language Learning Challenges.
How is ESL Taught in Schools?
The approach to teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) to children can differ significantly depending on the educational institution, district, and region of the country. Although there are some general guidelines, each school or district may interpret and implement these procedures in its own way. The availability of resources, teachers, and materials also differs.
Distinguishing Between Pull-Out and ESL Push-In Services
When it comes to ESL education, there are two main approaches that schools often employ: pull-out services and push-in services. In the pull-out model, a certified ESL teacher removes a student from their regular English Language Arts (ELA) class and provides instruction in a separate room alongside other students who require similar support. This small group lesson replaces the student’s general education class for that period.
In their turn, push-in services involve a designated ESL staff member co-teaching a class alongside the general education teacher. This collaborative approach allows the regular instructor to develop lesson plans that cater to the needs of the entire class, while the ESL teacher provides accommodations and support to students who require additional services.
Designated Resource Rooms for English Language Learners
Upon their arrival in a new country, some students may have limited or no knowledge of the English language. As a result, they require substantial support to bridge this language gap. In addition to acquiring language skills, these students also face the challenge of keeping up with essential subjects such as mathematics and reading. To address these needs, many schools provide a resource class that serves as a complete replacement for the regular mainstream classroom. Within this class, students of similar language proficiency levels are grouped together to work with an ESL instructor for as long as needed or as mandated by requirements.
Bilingual and Dual Language Initiatives
What could be more advantageous for language learners than the opportunity to learn English as a second language alongside native speakers who are also keen on acquiring the students’ mother tongue? For Spanish-speaking individuals, this possibility becomes a viable option through dual language programs.
Typically implemented in local community campuses, though occasionally found in private or charter schools, these programs promote the value of bilingualism. Students are placed in groups where half of the day is dedicated to instruction in Spanish, while the other half focuses on English. The underlying principle is that complete immersion facilitates rapid second language acquisition, benefiting both English and Spanish speakers.
Approaches for Teachers in General Education
Irrespective of the available programs for students in your school, it can feel daunting to find the most effective methods to assist English Language Learners (ELLs). Consider these ideas to provide valuable support:
Implementing a Buddy System
Harnessing the power of peer learning can be an invaluable asset in your repertoire as an educator. As you familiarize yourself with your students, identify those who show natural leadership skills and strong academic abilities. Introducing a buddy system within your classroom involves pairing students and specifically selecting a peer for your English Language Learners (ELLs) who can make them feel at ease and help them with group work and assignments. Through these partnerships, language learners can learn everyday greetings, become acquainted with colloquial language, and refine their grammar skills.
Teaching Vocabulary Thematically
If you teach vocabulary in isolation, it often proves ineffective, especially for students learning English. When planning your lessons, aim to connect vocabulary to the themes you are teaching. For instance, when introducing new sight or spelling words, associate them with a topic or context directly relevant to what students are currently learning. This approach helps reinforce the vocabulary in a meaningful way and enhances students’ overall understanding.
Harness the Power of Technology
In recent years, apps have significantly evolved, particularly those designed to provide additional support and assistance to students. Parents and teachers alike can explore district-provided apps or opt for individual purchases. These diverse programs encompass a wide range of functionalities, from translator tools to engaging grammar games. Here are a few recommended apps to consider:
Preview and Review
Introducing and revisiting vocabulary is crucial for all students, particularly for those learning a new language. Prior to reading a text in your class, pre-teach specific words to help children understand them in context when they encounter them.
Once you have assessed students’ comprehension, it is important to have a strategy for reteaching and retesting. Follow your school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) process, adhering to campus and district guidelines. Within those parameters, create a plan for targeted review to reinforce specific skills or concepts.
To ensure children can identify words and comprehend their usage during grade-level activities, such as read-aloud sessions, employing specific strategies becomes crucial. Consider the following approaches to help solidify word meanings:
Incorporating ESL Techniques in Whole Group Reading
When engaging in whole-class reading and instruction, incorporating targeted strategies is vital to ensure children can recognize and comprehend words during grade-level activities, such as read-aloud sessions. Consider the following techniques to enhance word retention:
- Use facial expressions, gestures, and visual cues, such as pointing to pictures and words, to establish meaningful connections.
- Display tangible items, objects, or relevant examples that align with the concepts being taught, providing concrete references for better understanding.
- Illustrate explanations on the whiteboard, utilizing simple drawings or diagrams to facilitate comprehension.
- Ensure that the language used is appropriate for the student’s level, employing clear and concise sentences.
Use scaffolding techniques
To facilitate student learning, divide larger projects and assignments into more manageable and smaller components, and tailor specific accommodations and assistance based on each student’s needs. Consult with your campus ESL coordinator to inquire about potential resources such as bilingual dictionaries or assistive devices that can aid students along the way. Before presenting information to students, review it, and be prepared to reteach any content required for mastery.
Collaboration Between Parents and Teachers
It is essential for you as a teacher educator to foster open and friendly communication between the school and parents of ELLs, even when language becomes a barrier. Many schools provide staff members who can assist with translation during conferences, so don’t hesitate to seek support from these colleagues.
It is equally important for parents to maintain open communication and support their children’s language development as well as academic progress. Adjusting to new environments, unfamiliar faces, and different educational policies or curricula can initially feel overwhelming; however, it is crucial to ensure that students do not fall behind during this transition.
Here are some valuable tips that can benefit both teachers and parents:
Promote the Development of the First Language
At first, glance, focusing on enhancing a student’s proficiency in their native language may seem counterintuitive. However, it is crucial for ELLs to continue developing their reading and writing abilities in their home language. Parents and teachers should recognize that English should not take the place of a student’s culture and native tongue. The ultimate goal is to become bilingual, and it is essential to embrace and celebrate a student’s home culture.
Educational Television Programs and Applications
Parents have the opportunity to engage in learning alongside their children through educational videos and interactive apps. Here are a few highly regarded and recommended resources:
- Kids Academy
- Sesame Street
Encouraging Parents to Engage in Reading with Children
Some parents may face challenges when it comes to reading, either due to limited literacy skills or a preference for their native language. In such cases, wordless picture books can serve as an excellent tool, allowing children to create their own narratives in both English and their home language, fostering storytelling sessions within the family. Furthermore, parents are encouraged to read books in their family’s native language as frequently as possible.
Teaching ESL may not feel easy, especially for general education teachers who must cater to a diverse range of personalities, abilities, and challenges. Thankfully, there are various techniques and strategies that can be easily implemented to effectively support ELL students.
Among other apps, Kids Academy offers a wide range of learning resources that can complement the topics taught in the classroom or be utilized by parents with their own children. Visit the Kids Academy website and explore their Talented and Gifted app and access top-quality ESL videos, worksheets, games, and more! Navigating Language Learning Challenges for Kids in a New Environment.
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