What To Do When They Are New

Tips to help your newcomer English Language Learners.
I feel so fortunate to teach newcomer English Language Learners. They work so hard and absolutely love coming to school each and every day! And there is nothing more rewarding than seeing them acquire English as they learn grade level content.

It can be challenging work though…especially when new students come midyear and are not speaking English yet. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help your newcomer English Language Learners. My dear friend Elizabeth and I would like to share what works for our newcomers…and to learn what works well in your class too!

Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for newcomer English Language Learners:

Use Hand Signals to Encourage Participation
My newcomer ELL students often feel hesitant to participate in class discussions, so I am always on the lookout for ways to get them to participate non-verbally as well. This year, I've been using more hand signals to get my newcomers comfortable in sharing their knowledge…and it has worked like a charm!
When we review a math paper, we show a one for the same response and a two for a "slightly different answer" (as we politely phrase it in my 5th grade class!). I've noticed that my newcomers are the first to remember and use these signals in our daily routine. It is wonderful to see them participate along with the rest of the class!

Label Everything with Visuals
The more labels you use, the more organized your students can keep the room, right? But labels can also serve another important purpose. They can help your newest ELLs gain basic vocabulary.

With pictures on these labels, newcomers are also able to access materials with ease, even if they are just beginning to speak English. Visual labels also allow them to help keep the room organized, along with their mainstream classmates:

Every single sign I use in my classroom has a visual to help my ELL newcomers (in a bright and fun colors, of course!). This resource features a large collection of labels my newcomers and I use all throughout our classroom this year:

You can also see my other visual labels here: Classroom Organization

Use a Document Camera for Clear Instruction
I cannot imagine teaching without my document camera. It's been said again and again, but a picture really is worth a thousand words, especially for students with limited English. 

We use our document camera for note-taking, science experiments, math activities…anything that requires a visual so my newcomers can follow along with ease. 

Of course document cameras can be costly...but there are some options if you don't have this kind of technology. One of my favorite alternatives that I have used over the years is the iPevo camera:

This little camera is less than $70! And the all of the visual instruction you can provide your newcomer ELL students…well that is simply priceless! You can read more about this document camera in this post: Cheap Document Camera

Scaffold Instruction
My newcomer English Language Learners experience the greatest success when my instruction is carefully scaffolded. Each time we learn new content, I activate prior knowledge, teach vocabulary before the lesson, model how to complete a task, provide practice in groups, and so on:

I gradually release until my ELLs are comfortable in working on a task independently:

In addition to breaking up my instruction in order to scaffold, I have also found it helpful to break up math concepts. For instance, before teaching powers of ten this year, I really needed to teach my newcomers about exponents. This led to my newest series:

This resource features two tiers of notebook pages with built-in scaffolding, all ready for you to just print and instruct. 

Make Meaning with Morphology
Once my newcomers have started speaking more English (especially that academic language!) I know it is time to break out my morphology resources. The study of affixes and roots helps all of my students acquire challenging vocabulary.

Our class uses Spelling with Morphology for both spelling and vocabulary instruction. It features an entire year of tiered lists, all related under similar categories:

These categorized lists really help my ELLs make connections between the affix/root and its morphological meaning, helping them acquire some advanced, grade-appropriate vocabulary.

I also love to decorate our classroom with morphological posters, to provide meaningful visuals. My latest resource features three sets of ELA posters my class constantly refers to throughout the school year:

What are your favorite strategies for working with English Language Learners? Elizabeth and I would love to hear your tips!
Fun in Room 4B and Beyond

a Rafflecopter giveaway

No comments

Back to Top