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  • Writer's pictureKyle Larson

Finding Clarity in Confusion: Guiding Language Learning

Updated: May 14

Students arriving at a new school in a new country can make for a daunting educational experience.

Imagine walking into a school in another country as a teenager. You understand one one, no one can understand you, and you are expected to take in the information that is presented to each class you enter. You are introduced to a teacher who will be helping you learn the language, but they don't know or understand you either. The confusion follows you around as you do your best to negotiate a place with a new language, set of expectations, unsaid responsibilities, and general attitude. "How am I supposed to succeed?" you think.

How are any of these students supposed to succeed?

Students have been trickling into school at difficult and inopportune times for decades, and teachers have been creating systems and tricks to help them for just as long. Below are some concrete tips that teachers use to keep students on the straight and narrow, as they encounter the difficulties of being educated in a new place.

7 Concrete Tips for English Learners in School

Schedule students into the correct classes

Scheduling English learners into the correct classes when they start school is crucial for their academic success and overall well-being. Proper placement ensures that students can grasp fundamental concepts without feeling overwhelmed. It also fosters a supportive learning environment where they can build confidence and actively participate. Accurate placement prevents frustration and disengagement, promoting a positive attitude towards learning. Moreover, it allows teachers to implement appropriate teaching strategies and resources, maximizing the students' potential for language development and academic achievement. Proper class placement lays the foundation for a successful educational journey.

Give Students a Language/Class Planner

Providing students with a simple language planner can significantly enhance their engagement with classroom materials. This planner should have spaces to write important new vocabulary words, weekly goals, due dates, and cultural norms that are expected in US schools, for example, in regards to classroom expectations, required materials, how to behave in the class, and generally accepted study tips. A langauge/school planner can be a wonderful resource for your students to turn to if they forget what else to do.

Check in weekly about every class

Weekly check-ins with langauge learners are essential for their academic and emotional well-being. These regular interactions provide opportunities to address any challenges they might face, such as difficulties understanding lessons, social integration, or adapting to a new environment. Consistent check-ins allow teachers to offer timely support and adjust instructional strategies to better meet students' needs. They also foster a sense of belonging and trust, encouraging students to express their concerns openly. By monitoring progress and providing encouragement, teachers can help English learners stay motivated and engaged, ultimately leading to improved academic performance and a more positive school experience.

Ask their teachers how they are doing

Checking in with the other teachers of English learners is crucial for ensuring a cohesive educational experience. These regular communications help ESL teachers understand the specific academic challenges their students face in content classes. By collaborating, both teachers can share strategies and resources to better support the student's language learning and content comprehension. This partnership enables tailored interventions, ensuring students receive consistent support across subjects. It also helps identify and address any gaps in understanding promptly. Ultimately, these check-ins foster a unified approach to teaching, enhancing the overall educational experience and academic success of English learners.

Provide a calming space for students to be

Providing a calming space for students is essential for EL teachers, as it creates a supportive environment where English learners can decompress and refocus. Many EL students face the added stress of language barriers, cultural adjustments, and academic pressures. A calming space allows them to take breaks, manage anxiety, and regain emotional balance. This environment fosters a sense of safety and belonging, helping students feel more comfortable and confident in their learning journey. By offering a refuge from the daily challenges they encounter, ESL teachers can enhance students' well-being, enabling them to return to their studies with a clearer, more focused mindset.

Give students reading materials

Providing reading materials for students to use in their own time is crucial for language development and independent learning. It allows students to practice reading at their own pace, enhancing comprehension and vocabulary. This practice fosters a love for reading and continuous learning beyond the classroom. Teachers can subscribe to AIR Language, a valuable supplement that offers diverse resources to match individual proficiency levels. Utilizing AIR Language supports students' growth, helping them bridge gaps in understanding and build confidence. This approach ensures consistent progress, making students more adept at handling academic challenges and improving their overall language proficiency.

Celebrate Success and Progress

Celebrating success and progress is vital for teachers in motivating and encouraging their students. Recognizing achievements, no matter how small, boosts students' confidence and reinforces their efforts, fostering a positive attitude towards learning. Celebrations highlight personal growth and milestones, making students feel valued and acknowledged. This practice helps maintain high levels of engagement and perseverance, especially when learning a new language can be challenging. By celebrating progress, EL teachers create a supportive and motivating environment, where students are inspired to continue improving and reaching their goals. It also strengthens the student-teacher relationship, promoting a more enjoyable and effective learning experience.

Supporting English learners from day one is essential for their academic success and emotional well-being. By placing students in the correct classes, providing planners, and conducting weekly check-ins, teachers can create a structured and supportive learning environment. Regular communication with content teachers ensures a cohesive approach to education, while offering a calming space and independent reading materials fosters confidence and personal growth. Celebrating students' successes further motivates them, building a positive learning atmosphere. Through these strategies, educators can help English learners navigate their new environment, overcome challenges, and thrive academically and personally.

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