Teaching English language learners

Contributed by:
This conceptual paper presents diverse approaches and strategies for preparing competent teachers who work with
either English Language Learners (ELLs) or students who speak English as a Second Language (ESL). The pedagogical approaches discussed herein include practical and hands-on activities for teachers at any level.
1. International Education Studies; Vol. 12, No. 7; 2019
ISSN 1913-9020 E-ISSN 1913-9039
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
Principles and Practices of Teaching English Language Learners
Abha Gupta1
College of Education and Professional Studies, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Correspondence: Abha Gupta, College of Education and Professional Studies, Old Dominion University,
Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA. E-mail: [email protected]
Received: March 12, 2019 Accepted: April 25, 2019 Online Published: June 29, 2019
doi:10.5539/ies.v12n7p49 URL: https://doi.org/10.5539/ies.v12n7p49
This conceptual paper presents diverse approaches and strategies for preparing competent teachers who work with
either English Language Learners (ELLs) or students who speak English as a Second Language (ESL). The
pedagogical approaches discussed herein include practical and hands-on activities for teachers at any level.
Bilingual learning improves ELL’s cognitive development as well as their self-esteem. The paper outlines
underlying principles for the best practices with an emphasis on ESL students and also to other learning situations
and students. Teachers can modify their instructional methods to adjust ELL’s learning needs. Specifically, even
though the discussion is framed in the context of ESL students in U.S. classrooms, it is applicable to TEFL
(Teaching English as a Foreign Language) environments in schools and other centers of learning.
Keywords: English as Second Language (ESL), English Language Learner (ELL), Teaching English to Speakers
of Other Languages (TESOL), bilingual learners, teaching strategies
1. Introduction
1.1 Issues in Teaching English as a Second Language
The increasingly diverse environment of today’s classrooms provides a rich opportunity for teachers and students
to engage in effective learning. With a growing number of English Language Learners worldwide, there is a critical
need for general education and resource teachers to know how to effectively build and implement literacy
programs that are inclusive of students’ language and culture. Understanding that culture goes beyond the
knowledge of ethnic attire, music, food, and language; it includes the total being, comprised of the totality of the
student’s background, heritage, ancestry, educational, political, and life. The importance of teaching ESL students
is critical in the current climate with increasing accountability by way of student performance on standardized
tests. ESL students are expected to be on grade level proficiency within three years and teachers are held
accountable for their learning (Curtin, 2005).
There are a variety of terms that have been used for non-native English speakers, ranging from LEP (Limited
English Proficient), ESL students (English as a Second Language), Bilingual students and English Language
Learners (ELL). For practical purposes, we use the term ESL students for a student whose mother tongue is not
English. As educators, we understand that ESL students have to double their efforts in school, to not only learn new
information but also learn the academic language of the school. Freeman and Freeman (2011, p.19) state, “ESLs
face double the work of native English speakers. They must learn English, and they must learn academic content
through English. In addition, they often live in neighborhoods where the schools are underfunded and are staffed
by inexperienced teachers.” On the same note, teachers of ESL students face double work of teaching core
competencies enlisted in the curriculum to meet the benchmarks and teach English to non-native speakers. It is a
double-whammy. While we realize that no two students are alike and that no two students have the same needs,
there are commonalities among learners that help us approach our teaching in a more informed way. The paper
proposes foundational principles and practices for teachers who work with ESL students in their classrooms.
1.2 School Culture and Educational Environment
It is important to consider how the culture of the school eases when a new ESL student enters into the classroom to
create a sense of belonging. Using a framework of compare and contrast can be instructional and useful in learning
about two cultures. There are commonalities and differences in comparing different cultures. Reaching out to
parents by using a few phrases in their native language while greeting them can instantly break down the social
barriers between the teachers and the parents. Now with Google Translate, it can be easily done. Creating a
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welcoming climate for students new to the country and culture provides the first step in easing into a learning
situation. Seating students next to another student who has a similar background can ease the jitters caused by an
alien culture and language.
2. Method
This conceptual paper focuses on the description of pedagogical strategies stemming from a theoretical framework
that has evolved out of second language learning research. Research on ESL/ELL strategies is based on the
findings that building on learners’ background by providing comprehensible input and multiple opportunities for
interaction is the key to second language proficiency. These findings lead to the development of a set of strategies
built on the framework of principles of learning the second language outlined below.
Seven principles of second language learning have been identified as critical to successfully teaching ESL
1) Know your student and motivation to learn the second language
2) Create a welcoming classroom environment
3) Build Background Knowledge
4) Provide Comprehensible Input by building vocabulary
5) Include frequent opportunities for Interaction and Discussion
6) Use Multiple Modalities during instruction
7) Conduct ongoing review and assessment
These principles provide a basis for developing a broader theory for second language learning.
Cummins (1980) discusses the context-embedded language and its effectiveness with ESL learners. For instance,
repetition of classroom routines provides non-English speakers with meaningful language learning opportunities
because the words and phrases that accompany such routines are constantly repeated within a concrete context. For
instance, a word like ‘lavatory’ will become a part of their lexicon, if used by a teacher on a routine basis every
time for a bathroom break. Using synonyms or rephrasing keywords differently reinforces meaning. Creating a
low-stress environment necessary for students to feel ready to participate in a larger group setting provides a less
threatening environment for a student to take a risk. Established routines facilitate learning as students know what
to expect and begin to thrive in that environment.
2.1 Know Your Student and Motivation to Learn the Second Language
One of the most important things to do is to get to know your student you are sharing your classroom space and
time with. Getting to know your student will go a long way in building a strong relationship and bonding with
them. This knowledge will greatly help educators respond in an informed way as they work with their English
language learners. It is one thing to read about English language learners and discuss theoretical models in the
setting of a university classroom; it is another to work with the students directly and apply what teachers know.
However, when teachers take the time to study each student carefully, they gain a new perspective on all their
English learners. Knowing your student not only makes you a better teacher but makes the student a better learner.
By knowing one learner, teachers can gain insight into commonalities among other learners that helps with
effective teaching and learning.
Using the Funds of Knowledge (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2013) framework is a great place to start this process.
Funds of knowledge are created by the out-of-school daily living experiences that students have in their families
and communities. For instance, an ESL student may not be aware of the terminology used in mathematics in the
classroom or textbook, such as ‘fractions’ or division but is aware of the concept in real-life. A teacher will
incorporate real-life examples to incorporate such concepts in classroom instruction. Building connections with
your students and their families aren’t always at the top of a teacher’s “to do” list, but it must be. Children with a
strong home to school connections thrive at school and as preschool teachers; we can lay the foundation for a
positive school experience for our students by making this a priority.
Instead of a subject-centered, a student-centered classroom is more productive. Subject-oriented teachers tend to
focus on learning the subject content, passing tests, doing worksheets rather than tuning in to their students. They
usually engage in individual work rather than encouraging group work. Generally, novice teachers are unable to
attempt more student-centered approaches because of discipline management issues (Curtin, 2005). However, with
prior instructional planning, one can overcome this issue. Differentiating instruction, by allowing students to
choose how to display their own learning or how they want to address the tasks based on ability, provides for a
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student-centered approach.
Research shows that motivation directly influences the proficiency levels of students in the target language (Wen,
1997). Motivation is considered one of the main determining factors in picking up a second language.
When a teacher tries to know and learn about a student’s background, it makes a big difference. Student and family
members come to see that they are valued by the school system when a teacher makes an attempt to say a phrase or
just one word in the home language of the learner; it helps to break the ice. Just being able to say hello in another
language is enough to make someone smile. A teacher’s attempt to make an effort to use your student’s language
and a desire to connect with the other’s culture pays huge dividends for student learning and student achievement.
Now with technology and Google translate, it has been made significantly easier to learn how to pronounce a word
or a phrase in another language. A teacher is not expected to know multiple languages that various ESL learners
speak. However, using a single word or a phrase in another language indicates teacher’s sensitivity and attitude
towards speakers of other languages and that alone can make a huge difference in creating a student-friendly
2.2 Create a Welcoming Classroom Environment
An important step in helping ESL students succeed is building their confidence and comfort level by making them
feel welcome in the classroom. This pays great dividends in terms of academic success as they build positive
relationships with their academic community, teacher, peer, paraprofessionals, resource teacher, and other
classroom volunteers.
Making the instructional classroom environment, welcoming and comfortable to students is critical in learning as
it helps to build a relationship with ESL students. Let there be a sense of openness, students should perceive the
teacher as caring and thoughtful that you care about them and want to be there for them. Some ways are to bring a
students’ culture into the classroom by using visuals and pictures of student’s cultural tradition or festivals or foods
with labels in both languages is a good start. Labeling items in the classroom in two or three languages benefits
them visually. They come to see that their language, heritage, and culture is valued. It also allows for opportunities
for them to share about their culture. Always be consistent and fair with all students.
Grouping students with a respectable and trustworthy partner can help guide when the teacher is not available. This
is beneficial not only for ESL student but also for the partner, as both are learning about each other’s culture and
vocabulary, or when feasible, inviting a staff member from the school who speaks the student’s language to work
with the student. Grouping or pairing students with friends that speak the same language greatly helps the ESL
student in case they are not getting what the teacher says. Other students chime in to translate the assignment in the
native language to assist them with directions. Technologies like Remind and ClassDojo all have the ability to
translate material for teachers, and teachers can print, email, or text the information they need to send to their
parents as necessary.
Keeping instructions simple and clear is helpful. Posting the visual colorful class schedule in a prominent place in
the room is helpful. Also, reviewing it daily as a set routine will reinforce it.
Learn to say their name correctly. It makes a monumental difference. Students see that you not only respect their
ideas, thoughts and knowledge but most of all their identity, who they are, represented by their name. Teachers can
relate to their students by playing the music from the student’s culture during center time or transitional times or by
displaying books from the country/culture of students in the classroom. Remember, students follow the tone set by
the teacher in the classroom. Students observe not only the verbal directives and interactions but the non-verbal
cues from the teacher.
Finally, during formal or informal oral presentations or conversations, teachers may correct the content of what
ESL students say, if necessary rather than how they say in terms of pronunciation or grammar. Constant
interruptions or corrections will deter students from speaking up and sharing their ideas (Gupta 1999).
2.3 Building Background Knowledge
There is a virtual consensus that background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension. Effective teaching
takes students from where they are and leads them to a higher level of understanding (Krashen, 1985; Vygotsky,
1978). All learners have prior knowledge, gained from schooling and life experiences and teachers can build on
those experiences. Reading becomes especially difficult when children are not able to comprehend because they
are not familiar with a topic or theme that is being taught. Activating prior knowledge and building new
background knowledge for ESL students is a crucial component of literacy development. The more readers know
about a topic, the easier it is to read a text, understand it, and retain the information. Previous studies (Alexander,
Kulikowich, & Schulze, 1994; Shapiro, 2004) have shown that background knowledge plays an enormous role in
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reading comprehension.
When introducing a topic or new subject to students, research shows that if we discuss the topic and concepts prior
to teaching it, students are better able to relate to the topic (Cain & Oakhill, 2011; Gupta and Lee, 2015)).
Sometimes it is called, domain-specific knowledge or topical knowledge. Without such prior knowledge, it
becomes more difficult to construct meaning from the text for ESL.
Since children come from varied backgrounds and cultures, through oral and written activities, teachers can draw
out from students what they already know about the subject. Their understanding is tinted by a cultural filter they
come from.
Neuman et al. (n.d.) online mention that, “Even the most immediate oral language exchanges, like “What do you
say?” to a young child who just received some Halloween candy, require some level of inferencing. From infancy
on, oral language comprehension requires children to actively construct meaning by supplying missing knowledge
and making inferences. This is an example of cultural specific usage of language requiring familiarity with
Halloween and the distribution of candies to children. If you have a specific set of vocabulary words that you plan
to teach, you can pre-assess students’ familiarity with the words prior to teaching the lesson. Neuman et al. (n.d.)
have used a basic chart that lists the word and options on a knowledge continuum. Students can fill it in prior to the
lesson and after the lesson has been taught to check where they fall on the continuum.
Table 1. Vocabulary awareness screening
Vocabulary Never heard Think I’ve heard I’ve heard I’ve heard of it and I can tell I’ve heard of it, I can explain it, and
Word of it of it of it you about it I’ve used it
1) Prepare students with the upcoming topic by relating it to their current experiences. For instance, while
introducing a topic on photosynthesis, talk about how the food is made for us to eat. Discuss how food is
prepared in different cultures represented by students in the class. Then connect it to how do plants make their
own food to survive. They do it through a process of photosynthesis, where ‘photo’ means light and synthesis
means to bring together. Thus, photosynthesis is the process by which plants prepare their own food using
carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight. Breaking the word into smaller units of meaning assists
ESL learners with the understanding meaning of root words.
2) Use anticipation guides: An Anticipation Guide is a strategy that is used before reading to activate students’
prior knowledge and build curiosity about a new topic. Before reading a selection, students respond to several
statements that challenge or support their preconceived ideas about key concepts in the text. Then check for
their understanding, after the topic has been presented in terms of how their thinking has been changed or
confirmed based on the new information. For instance, for teaching a concept like photosynthesis to younger
students, one can generate statements such as do plants need food? Can plants cook their own food without
cooking pots and pans? Can plants make food without air? Will plants need sunlight to make their food?
2.4 Provide Comprehensible Input by Building Vocabulary
An effective teacher considers the unique characteristics and cultural aspects of the ESL students. The teacher is
aware of the student’s needs and makes an effort to make her verbal communication more understandable based on
the student’s linguistic needs. Making the message understandable for students is referred to as Comprehensible
Input (Krashen 1985). ESL students need to work on making meaning of what they are doing all the time.
Increasing participation and engagement rates of ESL students is done by increasing comprehensible input.
Clear enunciation and repetition, as well as, rephrasing concepts and words help tremendously if the
communication is at students’ proficiency level. If teachers find that the instructional text that they are using in the
classroom is difficult for ESL students to follow, then they can use technologies like ‘Rewordify.com’, which
provide free online service that improves reading, learning, and teaching by simplifying the complexity of the text.
Insufficient background knowledge of the target culture may also hinder students in getting the meaning of the
text. For instance, a text-passage on “Groundhog Day” will mean little to a student from another country and
culture in the US without the appropriate background knowledge. It is a popular tradition celebrated in the U.S. on
February 2nd, based on the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this
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day sees its shadow, then winter will persist for 6 more weeks. This is part of cultural literacy and building prior
knowledge before introducing the topic.
Before reading or introducing a specific text to ESL students in the content areas, one needs to provide time and
space to acclimate to the learning that they are expected to partake in. Primarily, students need to understand the
vocabulary that will be utilized to comprehend and respond to the material found in the text, passage, book, or even
just conversations that occur during their partner or group work. Further, students need to understand where they
are expected to be going with the work, in other words, students need to understand the structure of the material
presented, and how they can access the learning during the upcoming lesson. ESL students need goals that are
tailored to them, and they need to be able to understand those goals. In summation, the lesson’s foundations must
be built in order to create a significant enough scaffold to support interactions and learning during the assignments.
Some teachers pre-teach their students specific words that they think students will struggle with on the test, for
instance, [navel]. A prior discussion on body parts with formal and informal labels promotes student understanding
of the target anticipated text. Thus, letting students know that a ‘belly button’ is also called a ‘navel’ will help with
vocabulary development.
The best ways to assist students during informal classroom tests is by reading test questions aloud, explaining
definitions of words, or even acting out the text. This provides additional meaning to the learners and helps with
the comprehension of the task. Some instructors give students a visual to go with the text, and they usually know
the correct answer when they can see it.
Cognates are very helpful. Cognates are words in the English language (target language) that look and mean the
same as a word in a student’s first language. Usually, they sound similar in the two languages. For example,
[gratitude] in English means the same as [gratitud] in Spanish. In a similar fashion, one can also bring students’
awareness to false-cognates, such as [exit] and [exito]; in Spanish ‘exito’ means ‘success’. Similarly, for the
English word [soap], the Spanish word is [sopa] which means ‘soup’, thus the two words look and sound very
close but they are semantically very different. These are classed as ‘false friends’ or false cognates. Students could
compile a list of words in their reading journals that they believe to be cognates and false cognates. At the end of
each reading session after a given week, they could spend five minutes checking with a partner in a Spanish
language dictionary (if the focus is on Spanish cognates) to check meanings. Selected words can then be placed on
a board in the classroom.
Word wall is another effective strategy for building vocabulary as it encompasses speaking, listening, and reading
skills, in order to further students’ comprehension of the target vocabulary. A Word Wall is an interactive, ongoing
display on the wall that shows words and/or parts of words, used to teach concepts, spelling, reading, writing skills.
These words provide support and references for students during learning. One could begin by creating multiple
word walls. At the beginning of the year, the classroom could simply have a cognates board, which students would
fill in as a group during the first week. This activity promotes a learning community by helping students tap into
their background knowledge around their current language mastery and can feel proud of their accomplishment.
Over the course of the time, students could add many more cognates that they find, expanding further the list of
words that they have in their growing receptive vocabularies. As teachers introduce content during their core
subject classes, they could begin to add word walls for each of their subject areas, social studies, science, math,
geography, as academic vocabulary wall.
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Figuree 1. Mathematiics vocabularyy word wall sam
mples in Engliish and Spanishh
For vocabbulary growth,, teachers cann display wordds that have bbeen selected from each levveled group in n the
classroom. For the youngg elementary EESL students, tteachers can buuild high-frequuency word waalls that are slightly
more com mplex than thee words they currently know w, and slowlyy progress thrroughout the yyear towards more
complex, aacademic languuage. The weeekly words from m the wall cann be read, actedd out, if possibble, defined with an
illustrationn or diagram (in a picture or first languuage-English ddictionary, as necessary), or used in multiple
Vocabularyy Journals is another
a engaging strategy, wwhich is an exxtension of woord cards (flashh cards) in a spiral
notebook tthat depicts thhe word on onee side and a piicture/illustratiion related to tthe word on thhe other side of
o the
page. Studdents can add newn vocabularyy words alongside the definiition and proviide a sentence uusing the word d or a
visual thatt will assist thhe student in reemembering thhe word. This strategy can bbe used at elem mentary as we ell as
secondary level. Studennts can be assiigned new woords every weeek which theyy can add to thheir journal. These T
journals caan be separatedd by the subjecct since every ccontent area haas its own subject-specific voocabulary. Teac
can also asssign a “Word for the Day”, each day a new w word becom mes the focus oof learning. Using the word orally
and frequeently in converrsation is the kkey to acquiringg new vocabullary.
2.5 Include
de Frequent Oppportunities forr Interaction aand Discussionn
The literatture on effectivve culturally rresponsive insttructional pracctices supportss the teaching style that is highly
interactivee as well as thee use of cooperative groups, aand individualiized testing annd assessment pprocedures (Ga arcia,
1992). Forr ESL studentss it is imperativve that they praactice target laanguage with oothers in an oraal language forrmat.
The interacction maintainns student attenntion and allow
ws students to ap apply what theyy have learned in a real context. In
small grouups or in a pair,, students whoo feel hesitant oor are shy to sppeak up in a larrge group, tendd to open-up easily.
These oppportunities assist in overcomiing students’ annxieties and feears to speak oorally in front oof others.
There are a number of strrategies that prrovide a platfoorm for interacttion. These straategies range ffrom, ‘turn-pair and
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share’ to book circle, jigsaw reading, story scripts. Teachers can easily tweak them to suit their subject, focus, or
task. Turn-Pair-Share can be conducted after a class has read a specific book or a specific content area topic. Each
student turns to his or her partner to discuss thoughts, ideas, and feelings. This format is less threatening for
reluctant learners or students with anxiety, compared to presenting to a large classroom where all the eyes are on
the student. The small group prepares the student to eventually share in a large group or in front of the class. Book
Circles are powerful formats where students sit in a circle and face one another to share their thoughts or comments
on the book/chapter that has been read by everyone in the group. There is no right or wrong answer in this setting,
instead, students share their feelings, thoughts evoked as a result of reading the text or any connections to their
prior knowledge that they were able to make based on the text. Jigsaw Reading is where students are each given a
part of a text or story. Each student reads his or her part then they meet in small groups to discuss what their part
was about. Story Scripts strategy allows students to take a story or poem and turn it into a dialogue where students
take turns to speak their part. These are some ways to involve students during instruction in class. Students enjoy
them as it keeps them on their toes as they take the responsibility to share their part. Each student is accounted for.
It is an effective way for a classroom teacher to assess student understanding of the subject matter or their
comprehension skills.
2.6 Use Multiple Modalities During Instruction
A teacher who can “purposefully exhibit a wide range of teaching styles is potentially able to accomplish more
than a teacher whose repertoire is relatively limited” (Smith & Renzulli, 1984, p. 49). Due to the availability of
multiple platforms of communication and learning, innovative ways to deliver instruction are evolving. Dunn and
Dunn (1979) found that only 20-30% of school-age children appear to be auditory learners, that 40% are visual,
and that the remaining 30-40% are tactile/kinesthetic, visual/tactile, or some other combination. Researchers have
found that early on children tend to be mostly tactile/kinesthetic and gradually they develop other strengths such as
visual and auditory (Price, Dunn, and Sanders (1980). Multiple learning modalities (such as read it, write, do it,
and talk it, see it, hear it, interact with it) are used in the integrated approach. Teachers can use multimedia and
other technologies in lessons incorporating websites to enrich visual support for the learners. Teachers use
interactive teaching style and various learning modalities to meet the needs of their ESL students. New modalities
have changed multimodal digital platforms that present educators with the possibility of providing meaningful
opportunities for engagement and creativity employing different cognitive, audio-visual senses and ability to
Teachers can now provide audio feedback to students which is shown to provide more elaborate detailed responses
where teachers provide not only more information but the richer language and greater elaboration of concepts
(Swan-Dagen, et al., 2008). Technologies like ClassDojo have the ability to translate material for teachers, and
teachers can print, email, or text the information they need to send to students’ parents as necessary. Rewordify.com
is free and child safe online software that improves reading and learning. One can enter difficult or complex
sentences or text passages in the highlighted box, and the program rewords the text into simpler text and voila! One
can even click on a phrase or a difficult word to hear it, thus addressing the pronunciation aspect as well.
Students can create scripts and manage illustrations to go with the scripts. Engagement level in the students goes
up as they work on media projects. Students can use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, blog posts as social
media to share thoughts and ideas or create digital stories. Online forums for discussion provide an opportunity for
a wider range of responses than a traditional discussion where the first respondents set the tone for an entire group.
ESL students may feel more comfortable as they post their views in online forums. It provides space for the
development of unique learner’s voices, ideas, thoughts, and opinions.
2.7 Conduct Ongoing Review and Assessment
Assessment is an essential component of any instructional practice to evaluate its effectiveness. It has to be
formative, ongoing rather than a summative, one-shot evaluation. It is a two-pronged process by which teachers
can do self-assessment, deliberately reflecting on what they are teaching as well as do students’ assessment, to find
out what they are learning in turn. It provides an effective way to monitor students’ progress and what changes
need to be made. It could be a formal or informal evaluation to track a student’s progress and understanding.
Learning should be assessed on a regular basis. Teachers should keep their own written record of student
interactions and abilities. Students should be assessed on what they have taught and what is relevant to the grade
level content. Use multiple modalities to assess students – using diagrams, visuals, oral and written components –
aids the overall accessibility of student work. Multiple assessments should be used. For instance, teachers can use
students’ scores from the previous years, current test scores from reading and writing, as well as classwork,
observations to determine where a student is academically. At the same time, teachers can follow any legal
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accommodations and use professional judgments based on the outcomes of assessment and their own developing
knowledge of students to provide quality instruction. Teachers can also teach students to self-monitor by using
teacher provided rubrics. Students can become better learners and improve their knowledge and skills when they
reflect on what they are learning. By taking a step back from the learning process, both teachers and students can
objectively view the progress.
3. Results and Discussion
With an ever-increasing number of ESL students, it is imperative that teachers and instructional leaders become
aware of effective ESL teaching strategies to help this population in their classrooms. We have discussed strategies
that address different learning styles (audio, visual, kinesthetic, tactile) via various modalities. First, modeling
what students are expected to do when given a new task or a skill is greatly helpful to them. Modeling, rather than
simply telling the students what to do, promotes stronger learning and higher self-confidence. Similarly, speaking
slowly and clearly assists student comprehension. Providing wait time affords them an opportunity to think and to
process before responding. Use of visuals, gestures, PowerPoint slides, podcasts, voice inflection, intonation, and
body language as non-verbal cues enables a better understanding of the directions and the content. An additional
strategy involves reinforcing student comprehension by following up verbal instructions with written instructions.
All instructions must be explicit and clear. Creating a low-stress environment is necessary for students to feel ready
to participate in a larger group setting; it also provides a less threatening environment that facilitates risk-taking by
the students. Established routines facilitate learning, as students know what to expect and begin to thrive in that
environment. In classroom settings involving a peer who speaks a similar first language and is also competent in
the second language, can be a morale and motivation booster for other learners. ESL students are full members of
the classroom community. It is important to let them know that they are expected to learn and work just like
everyone else in the classroom. Learning another language is a need, not a disability. With these principles in mind,
a teacher can play a huge role in the success of the ESL students.
4. Conclusion
As our classrooms become more diverse, educators need to consider the needs of ESL students by providing them
the opportunities to learn and creating a shared learning environment. Taking small steps based on the framework
of seven principles discussed in this paper will yield effective results in classrooms. As one teacher stated, “if you
focus on the who, the what will start to care of itself”.
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