What to do if a newcomer with zero English attends class?

By: Mario MA

(Student is 5-7 years old)

RELAX! This is important for teacher and for the student! You can only expect so much. The initial step is for the student to feel comfortable, acclimate him/herself to the classroom routine, hear the sound and rhythm of English, make friends, etc. Teacher job is NOT to teach them English. They are ACQUIRING English.

I believe the teacher should contact Learning Specialist to see about increased support from the Bilingual Paraprofessional. This is a high needs student, and should be seen for a period each day when possible. However, this is only a small portion of the day. Only so much can be expected of the Paraprofessional. AGAIN, they are not teaching them English, but helping them to acquire English.

Assign the student a buddy, not necessarily a same language peer. This will help them acquire English, and get them to speak English more readily. Do not have them depend too much on a native language peer to translate, or they will not strive to understand English, and will just wait for the translation.

Do not expect them to keep up with classroom work, but they can be a part of classroom activities, either by listening, or watching. For example, they can draw pictures when the activity is completed, and then label the items in the picture.

Involve them in as much of the classroom routine as possible. Have them be the line leader, take notes to the office or other teachers, return books to the media center, etc., once they know the building layout.

Introduce them to the basic words and concepts that are attached. This should be done in conjunction with the Learning Center/Bilingual Parapro, and reinforced in the classroom.

Do not compare the student’s progress to other students in the class. Keep a file of their work, and look at it from time to time to see progress in relationship to the student themselves. This will make you, and them, feel like you have accomplished so much!

A picture dictionary is very useful. It does not have to be English to language picture dictionary, since the picture will do the translating. Have them make personal picture dictionaries. They can cut pictures from magazines of things they like, and a buddy can help them label and read them. A “Who Am I?” pattern book is very helpful, too.

Communicate in any way possible with parents. The Bilingual Department may be able to help with this. Many parents can read English, or will get someone to help them read if you send home communication about a child’s progress.

Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills

This is the basic language that is necessary before a child can learn English. It is the first vocabulary and skills they acquire, and may take from one month to 18 months, depending on the student capabilities. These are all also developmental and if a child would not know these in English yet, do not try to teach the English Language Learner. They will acquire it when the other students do.

Following Class Activities are Recommended
Greetings,

ABC’s,

Concepts of print,

Numbers,

Colors,

Family,

Self (emotions, gender, description, etc),

Weather,

Calendar,

Foods,

Animals,

Likes/Dislikes,

Classroom Objects

People (teacher, principal, friend),

Shapes,

Body parts,

Concepts (big, small, high, low, over, under),

Telling time

Suggestion & Ideas to Teachers:

  1. Teacher should enunciate clearly, but do not raise his/her voice.
  2. Add gestures, point directly to objects, or draw pictures when appropriate.
  3. Write clearly, legibly and in print – many students have difficulty with cursive.
  4. Develop and maintain routines.
  5. Use clear and consistent signals for classroom instructions.
  6. Repeat information and review frequently.
  7. If a student does not understand, try rephrasing or paraphrasing in shorter, simpler sentences.
  8. Check often for understanding, not by asking “Do you understand?” but by having the student demonstrate their learning to show comprehension.
  9. Try to avoid idioms and slang expressions.
  10. Present new information by connecting it to known information.
  11. Announce the lessons objectives and activities, and list instructions step by step.
  12. Present information in a variety of ways.
  13. Provide frequent summaries of the key points of a lesson, and always emphasize
  14. key vocabulary.
  15. Recognize student successes and praise them often.
  16. Also be aware that in some cultures, overt individual praise is considered inappropriate and may be embarrassing to the student.
  17. Get to know as much as possible about each student
  18. Provide multiple types of assessment
  19. Have high expectations for all students
  20. Use ongoing assessment to guide instruction

What‘s your experience? Please share.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you!! I’m really struggling with my 10 year old student. She doesn’t understand even a single English word. This helped a lot. All the best!

    Reply

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