English is often considered a difficult language to learn. Even bright students can struggle to master concepts and retain new ways to process language. There are several ways to help struggling English language learners.Here are 5 tips for teachers to help them out in a culturally diverse classroom.
Since every individual has a unique learning style, it is imperative for teachers to present material in a variety of ways. Learning styles normally include visual (seeing), auditory (listening) or kinesthetic (doing). While students will often use combinations of all learning styles, they normally have a dominant style of learning. Traditional classroom instruction, with speaking and lecturing, tends to cater to those who are auditory learners. Using visual presentations and a variety of drawings will cover a wider range of learning styles. Practical visuals such as videos, photographs and menus can be incorporated into lesson plans.
Understanding language at the rate most people speak is difficult unless an individual is already fairly fluent. Reading Rockets reports that fluency in speaking usually comes before fluency in oral reading. Before a child can thoroughly understand English when reading and writing, he or she should be able to fluently speak the language. One way a teacher can help students in this area is by slowly and clearly articulating each word and phrase when speaking. This is especially important during read-alouds that children are already familiar with. Speaking slower will also give students more time to process information and will help with overall comprehension as well. Sometimes teachers make the mistake of repeating misunderstood information in a louder voice instead of speaking slower.
SWIRL is a method of teaching that covers the basic elements of language learning. These elements include speaking, writing, intonation, reading and listening. Hills Learning states that the emphasis of this method is on speaking and listening. The SWIRL method reinforces this with a focus on a variety of activities that would emphasize both speaking and listening. Using this method also includes a focus on intonation, or pronunciation, as a way to more effectively grasp the language. While the emphasis is on speaking and listening, teachers need to incorporate all aspects of SWIRL on a regular basis so students receive a balanced approach to language instruction.
A few students will likely be more comfortable using written English, while most others will have a greater understanding of spoken English. Presenting material both verbally and in writing will cater to the strengths of each type of student. Giving instructions both ways will also reinforce what is already being presented in the classroom. Edutopia suggests keeping instructions written down during the entirety of a lesson. Students can then refer back to the instructions while they are working.
Great teaching methods and learning strategies are extremely important but they’re not enough for a truly successful classroom experience. Great!Schools points out that a child may have learning difficulties due to nonacademic reasons. Parents and teachers should be aware of any vision or hearing problems a child may be having. Are there any stressful family situations occurring in the home that may be hindering a child’s ability to learn? Difficult relationships with other students or bullying are also factors that should be considered. Getting to know each student and building strong relationships will enable a teacher to more quickly pinpoint when there are problems that could affect learning.
Following each of these steps will provide teachers with the tools to more effectively reach struggling English language learners in the classroom. It’s important to remember, however, that strategies that work well with one student might not be effective with another.