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Working with English Language Learners in the Classroom

Jul 19, 2008
According to a national census in 2000, almost twenty percent of the population in America speaks a language other than English in the home. With this fact in mind, it shouldn't be surprising that that there are a lot of children in school who may not speak or understand English very well. In fact, in some schools, one out of every four children is an English language learner. Unfortunately, this situation presents challenges for both students and teachers.

For the teachers, English language learners usually require more individual time, attention and creative teaching. And, if the class is large, providing these things can be a difficult task. For the student, the language barrier makes everything from asking questions and learning the material to socializing with other students a constant struggle. That is why building basic speaking, writing and reading skills is such an important part of working with English language learners.

One of the best ways to develop reading and oral comprehension skills is through computer programs. With a computer program, a student can listen to words, play games and read entertaining material with interactive activities. In addition to entertaining and teaching the student, many of these programs can generate progress reports for the teacher and help children become proficient computer users. They can also be used independently which frees up a little of the teacher's time.

There are also good strategies for developing writing and speaking skills in the classroom. For example, if you want to accelerate a student's speaking skills, be sure to ask them questions that require more than a yes or no answer and encourage them to share things about their culture with the class. This exercise enriches the class's understanding and builds confidence in an ELL student. As they learn, keep in mind that grammar mistakes can be a sign or development rather than signs of failure.

The best way to develop writing skills is simply through practice. Start off with letter-tracing worksheets and slowly move to free-hand words and sentences. Have the kids write things that they want to like stories or notes to friends and parents. That will help them see how useful the skill can be and encourage individual effort.

ELL students definitely have a harder task than English-speaking students when it comes to education because they are struggling to understand and master the English language in addition to learning the new material covered in the curriculum. On the other hand, teachers need to careful to give the English-speaking students sufficient time and attention too.
About the Author
If you are looking for an effective tool for teaching English language learners, Scholastic (http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/zipzoom/) has just the thing you need. More than 7,500 children have used and loved Zip Zoom English. The author, Art Gib, is a freelance writer.
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