Characteristics of ELLs
English Language Learners have different characteristics and educational needs like any other student. The definition of an English Language Learner is someone whose first language is not English, and may need extra help in the classroom with reading, listening, and comprehending information. ELLs require special attention, and need more motivation and determination. They’re usually not willing to volunteer, and may need extra help in the classroom. ELLs might require a longer amount of time to finish assignments, projects, worksheets, and other activities. Sometimes speaking in front of others can be a challenge for ELLs because English is most likely not spoken at home, and therefore they also struggle with subjects related to English. English can be an ELLs second, third, or fourth language, and not only is the ELL learning English, but they are also learning the common core things that American students learn everyday. Their education is a process that the teacher will have to consider in their individual lesson plans.
Culture and Family Factors
ELLs are very diverse and have many different cultural backgrounds depending on where they came from or their family’s background. Therefore, American culture can be overwhelming or outside of the ELL’s comfort zone, this is known as culture shock. Cultural knowledge is a great way to get your ELL to feel comfortable in a classroom where they might feel extremely different from those around them. Having all your students in your class bring in items that resemble their own culture is a fun way for you ELLs to realize that everyone is different and their culture shows that. Culture for ELLs can be food, dress, values, religion, and home life. It is important to research your ELLs family and culture to get an idea about what your ELL might be going through when they come to class.
ELLs go through stages of acculturation which is also known as the U-curve hypothesis. Each stage is fairly different for every ELL. This first stage is known as the honeymoon stage which is when everything is very new and exciting to the ELL. They are fairly happy, but also do not know what to expect. The second stage is hostility which is when the ELL starts to hate their new home, and they might not want to learn the new language. During the hostility stage, ELLs become very upset and homesick. The third stage is humor. During this stage, the ELL is starting to progress and realize that it is okay to make mistakes when they are learning. They begin to feel more comfortable and accepting of their new home. The final stage or fourth stage is home, and this stage is when the ELL can finally feel fully accepted and apart of their new environment.
Classroom Environment and Best Practices
In the classroom, teachers should try to incorporate basic hand gestures, visuals, and auditory lessons. When teaching ELLs their education requires a lot of assistance, and as teachers we want to make all our students feel included. A great way to do this is by having students respond to questions or lessons as a group so students, especially ELLs, do not feel signaled out or embarrassed. Getting the ELL’s parents involved in their son or daughters education is also an important aspect for any teacher’s classroom. Ways that you can get parents involved are through back to school nights, meetings, and having a staff member contact home in the family’s native language. Families are great support systems for ELLs, and for their education in the classroom.
ELLs are tested through the World Wide Instructional Designed Assessment Stages of English acquisition. The stages are 1) Pre-Production, 2) Beginning, 3) Developing, 4) Expanding, 5) Bridging, and 6) Reaching. Each stage includes ways to group ELLs, and meet their educational needs based off their stage and scores. The Pre-Production and Beginner stages are when ELLs might be in the silent period meaning they can’t produce much language. Therefore, as teachers there are things that we can do to improve learning. We can slow down our speech, and give ELLs bilingual signs like nonverbal language to help them follow along with the lesson. Other stages like Developing, Expanding, and so on are advanced stages where the ELL is learning to become more and more native. Assessments allow us to know our ELLs better, and help them progress.
Check out my own work on English Language Learners