For students who are English language learners (ELLs), the grade school years are a vital developmental period. Research has shown that acquiring a new language becomes more difficult with age, and those early childhood periods are a time of pivotal cognitive development. For educators teaching English to these young students, making the most of this time is crucial. However, young learners, like all students, pose their own set of challenges when it comes to reaching them effectively.
The online Master of Science (M.S.) in Childhood Education and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) (Dual Certification) program from the College of Mount Saint Vincent (CMSV) prepares graduates to meet the needs of grade-school students who are learning English. The program explores the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, language, and career development among students who vary by gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, English proficiency, and diverse levels of ability to fundamentally understand how these students learn and connect with them.
The program also deep dives into scaffolding and lesson planning, with an opportunity for students to practice all of these skills and implement this knowledge in a real-world capacity through a Teaching Fellows residency.
What to Know About TESOL Education
TESOL education is critical for speakers of other languages because it gives them the training to use English grammar and vocabulary. Getting an education and certification in TESOL sets educators up for success as they gain valuable skills, a competitive advantage, chances for higher salaries, and more global job options.
Awareness of the challenges and trends in TESOL education is critical for educators to succeed. Here’s a look at a few of the obstacles educators face when teaching grade-school ELLs:
When communicating with students in a language to which they are new, achieving clarity can be a challenge. As the online education resource EnglishClub notes, “From the perspective of a foreign language learner with limited English proficiency, there’s a major difference between ‘put your book on the shelf’ and ‘would you mind placing your book back on the bookshelf?'” The two statements may be similar to the instructor, but just a few extra words can create confusion or over-complicate the situation for students.
Creating Effective Instructional Materials
When the difference between the educator and students is as fundamental as their first language, engaging in real communication is a challenge in and of itself. Lecture comprehension among ELL students is often low, and traditional instructional materials that rely on text can also often be ineffective. Teachers should think critically about the types of support they need to offer students to disseminate their lessons.
Language barriers between students and educators can complicate classroom management as well. For example, communicating expectations, applying restorative practices, and disciplining students can all be difficult when students might not readily understand what a teacher wants to say. This can be especially true among energetic grade school students.
Strategies for Effective ELL Teaching
These challenges can be complex, but educators use various strategies to overcome them. The education publication Edutopia outlines a number of effective methods for cultivating an effective learning environment for ELL students:
Cultivate Relationships and Be Culturally Responsive
Students must feel comfortable to learn and meaningfully engage with course content. This need is especially true for ELL students, as the language barrier and cultural differences often leave them at risk of feeling shut out of a lesson.
For that reason, Edutopia says, “It’s critical that both the curriculum and the classroom environment honor and reflect the lives of the students.” Educators should set a tone that learning a new language is an addition to students’ identities, not a subtraction or erasure. Ensuring that students’ cultures are represented in a classroom library, for example, is a good way to signal to students that teachers see them and value who they are. Learning about students’ interests by speaking with them and their parents is another strong strategy for forging meaningful and respectful relationships.
Emphasize Productive Language
Pushing students to achieve and communicate at a high level is important to do from the onset, according to Edutopia. Students might be hesitant or intimidated to attempt these activities, but that shouldn’t discourage instructors. Instead, educators can offer additional support and scaffolding to help students grow.
Sentence frames are an outstanding option for these activities. If an English teacher wants students to construct an organized essay, offering short phrases that can begin sentences for students builds their confidence, models expectations, and develops understanding.
Differentiate and Use Multiple Modalities
Differentiation and multiple modalities are all about giving students additional ways to express their understanding. Reading, writing, and speaking a second language are all different skills, so it makes sense that students’ abilities might vary depending on the form of communication. Their underlying understanding of a lesson objective or course content, however, might be strong.
If students don’t have the means or medium to demonstrate that, educators might not properly be able to assess them. Therefore, chances to show understanding through writing, speaking, drawing, and listening, for instance, can provide much more instructive insight.
Graduates of an advanced education program in TESOL will be prepared to help ELL students in several ways. Students in CMSV’s program have an opportunity to complete coursework for eligibility to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam.