Five Ways Teachers Can Make It Easier for English-Language Learners

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Have you ever visited a place where you did not speak the language? Not only do you have trouble communicating or understanding words, but there are also lots of cultural misunderstandings that can occur as well. Students who are English-language learners not only deal with these challenges on a daily basis, but are expected to learn math, science, history and other content in an unfamiliar language – and sometimes an unfamiliar place – as well. This Education Week article written by first- and second-grade teacher Justin Minkel illustrates several ways teachers can make English-language learners feel more comfortable and successful. Humor is his No. 1 suggestion: Getting kids to laugh and relax helps to lower the pressure felt in academic situations. Organizing small-group activities, rather than those involving speaking in front of the whole class, can also help with nervousness. One of the most important things to remember about English-language learners, though, is that they are as capable academically as non-English-language learners – they just might not be able to fully communicate all that they are thinking or can do. Giving these students opportunities to speak and interact with other students in their native languages can help develop and strengthen content-specific knowledge and skills in classes like math, history or science.

Do you know any teachers or school programs that do a great job working with students who are English-language learners? If so, we would love to spotlight them! Please email their names, contact information, and a brief description of the great work they are doing to colleen.gilligan@nashvillepef.org.