We are lucky enough to live in a country that allows other’s to intermingle into the cultural make-up of Canada. Within our classroom, we see a multitude of different faiths, ethnicities, cultures, traditions and often even languages. Although English is an International Language, many of our newly arrived Refugees and Immigrants have a hard time reading and writing English. Unfortunately, while as a teacher we try to do the best that we can for them, sometimes it’s harder when we have a language barer. We have support teachers who try to ease students into a new language and often times it works wonders, but there are times when it take longer than usual.
We will all be faced with a situation to this degree at some point, especially with Canada opening their doors to so many new people. As I’ve been thinking about how I wish to tackle this situation in the future, I think I’ve made a list of things I wish to try. I think its these little things that we can do in our classroom to incorporate and welcome ESL students. Just imagine how these children feel regardless of age, about coming to new a country with customs so different from the ones you have grown up with. These newly arrived children are just as much a part of our classroom are other students and we want them to contribute to society just as much as we wish other students to participate.
Here is what I think we as teachers should do to try to help our new learners:
Culturally Conscious: I think that it is important to be aware of all the cultural differences that you have in your class. If you aren’t too sure about the cultures in your classroom, that’s okay. Take time to learn about the different customs and traditions that populate your room. For me personally, it is important to celebrate these differences with my students and have them share their culture with their peers. This makes also provides a comfort zone for the new students and it allows other students to share their identity. With this, you might be able to find someone in your classroom who shares similar traditions as your newcomer. This will help you assign a buddy to help the new student with the know-how of the school and the daily schedule. This will assist the new student in finding their way around the school and classes. Check in the student from time to time to make sure they are okay as the day goes on. It might even be nice for you as a teacher to learn some common phrases and words from their native language to help communicate. Google Translate is a great way to learn these and even to use as a medium of communication with the student back and forth.
Let Them Speak Their Native Language: I’ve seen this happen a lot when I was in Grade School. I’m sure my teachers had good intentions for not allowing ESL to speak some of their native language but I found that it was often frustrating for that student. I’ve often heard people say that students who have a stronger foundation of their native language will have a shorter route to acquire English. I think that if you block students from expressing themselves in whatever language – let alone whatever way. Discouraging them their language might actually result in negative feelings about their culture and might discourage them from acquiring English all together. When the time is right, they’ll expose themselves in small bursts.
Be Hands On and Use Manipulative: According to William Glaser, we learn 80% of what we experience, and 95% of what we teach others. No matter how shy them seem to be, give them the opportunity to be involved in projects that will get them in talking as much as they can to their peers. Start simple and work your up to bigger projects. Some ideas might be things like Art like drawing, painting and sculpture, and acting such as charades. These can be fun activities to lighten the atmosphere and get them participating. You can also have pictures symbols placed around the classroom so that the ESL student can point to objects when they need have a laps of communication. Have a picture of a desk, or a pencil, and other objects to make communication easier for the both of you. This constant repetition will also introduce them to new words and will widen their vocabulary.
Be Connected With All Their Teachers: Whether you teach them every subject or they transfer from teacher to teacher, make sure that all the teachers are on the same page and are working together to make sure these students are being helped as much as possible. Try to work with your teaching team to provide some sort of consistency in the students routine and the way you approach the language barrier. If your school is fortunate enough to have an ESL Teacher, keep up with that them as much as possible so that you have a good idea as to where they are making progress. I would also have the students parents come in to meet all the teachers in their child’s schooling. Have a translator available to help make communication accurate and successful. I personally feel when the parents are in on what their child is accomplishing at home, things will flow smoothly in the students life.
These are just some of the aspects that I want to cover in my classroom when I have students who are ESL. We will always have new faces and new voices in our country and our schools. This can be a learning experience for you, your students, and the ESL student and their family.