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Expert Q&A

What are some things I can do to make the new ELLs in my class feel comfortable?

As a rule of thumb, individuals feel comfortable in situations where they feel welcomed and valued, comfortable about taking risks, successful, respected, and free to express their opinions and desires — an environment they feel they belong to. The conditions are not different for language learners. Teachers need to first attempt to lower students’ affective filters and create a learning community in the classroom before they can attempt to teach content. How can they do that? Below are some ideas.

  • Learn how to pronounce students’ names correctly.
  • Express a warm, friendly, and caring attitude towards students.
  • Value their participation in the learning process, even if it is through nonverbal responses.
  • Make instructional accommodations to facilitate SOESOL students’ learning.
  • Invite parents to become partners in the teaching of their children.
  • Incorporate aspects of the each child’s culture into the curriculum.
  • Learn about each student’s native culture and a few utterances in his/her native language.
  • Create an inclusive learning community in the classroom.
  • Use a variety of instructional strategies to meet the diverse needs and learning styles of the students.
  • Establish equal eye contact with all students.
  • Provide opportunities for equal classroom participation for all students.
  • Vary group composition so that students can work with all students in the learning community.
  • Periodically change the physical arrangement of the classroom to emphasize different student-student interactive patterns.
  • Maintain open channels of communication with students.
  • Attempt to make home visits to have a more holistic view of the learner.
  • Make the school community aware of some unique characteristics of the students’ cultures through bulletin boards or other resources.
  • Make suggestions for bilingual materials that can be added to the school library.
  • Share the success and progress of second language learners with the school community.
  • Adopt a multicultural teaching approach.
  • View diversity as an asset for learning and not an obstacle.
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